Editor’s Page: Remember When

Garlic fries, toothpick ceilings and the life (and deaths) of two Downtown hotspots.
Christi Young

It all began with a question during a weekly HONOLULU Magazine meeting. “What is going on with Aloha Tower Marketplace?”


Like most of the people who work in town, we were intrigued by the changes happening at the former home of Chai’s Island Bistro and Kapono’s. The idea that the historic landmark-turned-nightspot was becoming a college dormitory was already fascinating. And then the transformation of both Aloha Tower Marketplace and Waterfront Plaza (which some of us stubbornly still call Restaurant Row) marks another evolution for two formerly prominent sites.


Each generation remembers these downtown destinations differently. For me, Restaurant Row was where I went to feel like an adult. When I was in school, the cool kids in their 20s hung out at Blue Zebra and World Café. I finally made it to dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House after Winter Ball, and squeezed in one evening of blowing toothpicks into the ceiling before Rose City Diner closed. Others at HONOLULU recall chic crowds sauntering into Tom Selleck’s Black Orchid restaurant or grabbing cocktails at Studebaker’s. But for our younger co-workers who never experienced the glory days of the early ’90s, Waterfront Plaza was simply a spot to see $1 movies.


It is the same for Aloha Tower. Developers pitched turning the area around the historic tower into a world-class harbor complex for decades. Instead, it mainly served as working piers and the parking spot for the Falls of Clyde. When Aloha Tower Marketplace finally opened in 1994, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin announced, “Downtown Honolulu will rise from the dead at night.” Indeed, for several years, my friends and I packed in for garlic fries at Gordon Biersch, local musicians at Kapono’s and the eye-catching kataifi-and-macadamia-nut encrusted prawns at Chai’s Island Bistro. But those who turned 21 a decade later didn’t spend nights on the waterfront. First Friday had redirected the foot traffic to Chinatown. Throwback

In 2008, HONOLULU wrote about the struggles of Restaurant Row, including the impact of Aloha Tower Marketplace in the article, Restaurant (Death) Row


By this time next year, Hawai‘i Pacific University will have pulled out of Fort Street Mall and moved into the two former hot spots. What will that mean for the next era of Downtown? Senior editor Don Wallace takes a look back, and forward.


The challenges and triumphs of education are always changing. Every year in April, we take a moment to examine the stories of our public schools. Funding is always at the forefront and this year the topic has been passionately discussed through several proposals to set aside tax money for classrooms. Staff writer Jayna Omaye takes a closer look at how schools are funded and takes us beyond the test scores to six campuses taking unique approaches toward learning.


At HONOLULU, we are excited to welcome back an alumna of our own. Martha Cheng has returned as our new/old food and dining editor. Martha and I started together at HONOLULU—she was the dining culture editor and I was the fashion blogger. I mooched food samples from her, asked her constantly where to get lunch and celebrated when she decided Wednesdays were the days to make Liliha Bakery waffles in the office. Since she left in 2015, Martha has continued to tell stories about Hawai‘i’s cuisine for publications including The Wall Street Journal and Food and Wine and wrote The Poke Cookbook. For her first feature with us again, she decided to tackle the world, profiling three restaurants that bring the flavors of Uzbekistan, Iran and Morocco to the city. I, however, am just hoping she turns our office into the new waffle hot spot. I’m packing syrup, just in case.

  Christi Young


Got a good story? Reach me at christiy@honolulumagazine.com


SEE ALSO: What’s in The April 2019 Issue