3 New and Coming Eateries in Chinatown and Downtown Honolulu
Keep an eye out for sushi hand rolls and cocktails, pour-over coffee and French toast and pancakes.
Three eclectic local eateries have just opened or are on the verge of opening in Honolulu’s Downtown/Chinatown neighborhood. First, Chinatown: Offering matcha, dry-aged sushi and cocktails, Obake Honolulu celebrates its grand opening this Saturday, April 1 in the transformed former Ethiopian Love space on Smith Street. Over on Fort Street Mall, Aloha Bakehouse & Grill is in soft-opening mode with breads, breakfast food and artisan coffee drinks in the former Soffritto space across from Scarlet Nightclub. And the paint is still drying at Drip Studio HNL, a farm-to-cup Hawai‘i specialty coffee and fancy toast shop next to Scarlet.
Skull & Crown Trading Co. owners Noa Laporga and Angelina Khan took over the lease of the former Ethiopian Love restaurant a while ago, but transforming the space took time. The walls, floors and exterior are covered with murals by local artists, and a groovy hip-hop and downtempo soundtrack plays as the staff, headed up by executive chef RJ Abad and beverage director Gabriel Keller (both of Skull & Crown), serves dry-aged sushi hand rolls and craft cocktails. The vibe is modern with touches of retro, mixing formal Asian elements with urban chic.
The dry-aged hand rolls are made with fish like ‘ahi, New Zealand king salmon, local swordfish and Japanese hamachi, all of it aged at least seven days. There are two vegan options as well, a mushroom “unagi” roll and a surprisingly delicious smoked carrot lox roll. Craft cocktails complement the sushi and there are several Japanese sake and Japanese beer selections, as well as stronger spirits.
Grand opening Saturday, April 1 from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. (walk-ins only, no reservations), then open Tuesday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. 1112 Smith St., @obakehonolulu, obakehonolulu.com
Drip Studio HNL
With a passion for pour-over specialty coffee, cold brews and coffee mocktails, Vincent Higa has been opening his first coffee studio in stages. First he served farm-to-cup drip and pour-over coffee from a takeout window. Then he added specialty teas, fancy toast, sandwiches and pastries to the mix as he and his staff, friends and family build out Drip Studio’s cozy nook. Inspired by a Copenhagen coffee shop, the dining area includes a mural by Sarah Farris and bookshelves, flooring and furniture that Higa designed himself. Future offerings will include an expanded menu of nutritional treats; more sustainable, responsibly sourced small-batch coffees from around the world, and coffee tastings for the curious connoisseur.
“I come from a trades and technical background—carpentry, cabinetry, furniture, auto glass—and I also work on my own cars and built my own home. Now I’m at a point in my life where I want a change,” says Higa. “At first my question was how can I be different? But when I put it that way, I was having problems coming up with the answer. But then I changed my question to how do I bring value to the community? And it’s by offering the option of pour-over coffee in its pure form.”
Closed Thursday, March 30, then open Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., 75 S. Pauahi St., @dripstudiohnl, dripstudiohnl.com
SEE ALSO: Reviving Downtown And Chinatown
Aloha Bakehouse & Grill
Business partners Dylan Sapp and Doug Choi took Aloha Bakehouse & Cafe from a farmer’s market pop-up to a back-alley kitchen in Waikīkī to their current flagship in Kaka‘ako. Now there’s a second cafe on the ground floor of Topa Tower and a brand new third location, Aloha Bakehouse & Grill, that just soft-opened Monday on Fort Street Mall.
The plan is to offer breakfast (French toast, pancakes and fresh baked goods with the signature house-made flavored peanut butter with macadamia nuts), BYOB brunch (“You bring the Champagne, we’ll bring the orange juice,” says Sapp, who will also provide pineapple juice for bottomless mimosas), artisan coffee, and lunch sandwiches, salads and pastas. Sapp and Choi say the newest Aloha Bakehouse may also host evening events once it gets up and running.
Currently in soft opening. Open Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 73 S. Pauahi St., @alohabakehousefortst, alohabakehouseandcafe.com