A Mini Kakaako Kitchen At The Y

Jo McGarry
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Friday - September 30, 2005
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There’s something very familiar about Sharon’s Kitchen at the Nuuanu YMCA. There’s the menu board, with its breakfast and lunch offerings written boldly in black on simple white oversized boards. And the made-from-scratch mashed potatoes (recognizable almost anywhere) - offered with specials like pot roast and gravy. And the shoyu chicken with white or brown rice, mac salad and Nalo greens seems awfully familiar, too. There’s even something recognizable about Sharon herself. Around the eyes she bears an uncanny resemblance to her brother, well-known chef and owner of two of the city’s most popular restaurants, 3660 On The Rise and Kakaako Kitchen. And then it all falls into place.

“I was coming back to live in Honolulu,” explains Sharon, “and I e-mailed Russell and jokingly said ‘do you have a job for me?’” Don’t joke with Siu about work. He quickly installed Sharon in the YMCA where she runs what is effectively a mini Kakaako Kitchen.

“Yes, lots of the items are the same as Kakaako,” says Sharon from behind the lunch counter. “And we have the same quality of food you expect from Russell.

We even have Lisa’s (pastry chef Lisa Siu) brownies and pastries.”

Sharon’s Kitchen opened just three weeks ago and is already doing brisk business with downtown residents and regulars of the Y. Open for continental style breakfast at 6:30 a.m. with cooked items available from 7, the offerings are as good as anything from Kakaako Kitchen, only less expensive.

A breakfast sandwich with two strips of crispy bacon, Cheddar cheese and a fried fresh island egg on white bread is just $2.95, and two eggs with bacon, link sausage, Portuguese sausage or Tulip luncheon meat and two scoops of rice is $4.75.

Sharon Schiavoni recently opened Sharon’s Kitchen in the Nuuanu YMCA
Sharon Schiavoni recently opened
Sharon’s Kitchen in the Nuuanu YMCA

There’s freshly brewed coffee (Siu has his own blend) for $1.25, and fruit smoothies made with low-fat yogurt for $3.25.

Lunch offers a variety of daily specials (look to the handwritten menu board to see what’s new) and the staples that have done extremely well at Kakaako Kitchen for years. Plate lunches, sandwiches, soups and salads are all served in Styrofoam to-go boxes and prices range from $2.95 for a grilled cheese sandwich (made with Cheddar cheese and not, as Sharon mentions, “that other kind”) to $6.50 for pan-seared mahi mahi with tartar sauce, rice and mac salad.

Sharon’s Kitchen, unlike Café Laniakea at the YWCA on Richard’s Street, does not offer its patrons a beautiful setting for lunch. Where Café Laniakea is housed in a historic building that has been a fixture downtown for more than 80 years, Sharon’s Kitchen has a more clinical setting. Utilitarian tables and chairs provide nothing more than a place to sit, and you’re likely to see a variety of people who’ve either just been to the gym or who are on their way to the pool passing by. It’s more cafeteria than restaurant, although the food easily lives up to Russell’s excellent reputation. Certainly if you need a place to go for a good lunch and time is of the essence, you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere faster - and the parking is great!

Homemade soups change daily, and there are excellent local-style offerings such as hamburger steak ($5.25), sweet and sour spareribs ($5.25) and beef stew ($5.25).

If good food is a priority at breakfast and lunch, and you don’t need glorious surroundings, then Sharon’s Kitchen should suit you very well.

For now they’re open for breakfast and lunch, and late into the afternoon while they measure reaction and test the need for longer hours.

“Right now we’re trying to find the right time to close,” says Sharon. The kitchen is open until about 5.30 p.m. now, but that may change.

You’ll not find anywhere as well-priced serving homemade soups, sauces, fresh island fish, locally grown produce and daily specials.

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