A long tradition of comfort food in Kaimuki
Friday - March 09, 2007
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Sekiya’s oxtail soup comes with rice, tsukemono, cilantro
and hot tea
When Katsuko Sekiya began her family business,a new bill had just been passed in Honolulu that allowed the sale of food and other commodities on Sundays,the first commercial flight to the Mainland left Honolulu for San Francisco, and a plate lunch cost 10 cents a portion.
The year was 1935. By the time Sekiya’s moved to Kapahulu Avenue in 1947, plate lunches had yet to break the $1 mark, and a bowl of steaming hot saimin was yours for just 30 cents.
“We have original photos and menus from around the 1940s,” says current owner of the family business, Joy Morihara,“and it is amazing to look back and see the changes.”
And while you can’t get saimin for cents anymore, (it’s $3.75 a bowl nowadays), nothing much else has changed at Sekiya’s in more than 50 years.
“The restaurant has been in our family for 72 years,“says Joy, who grew up on Maui, but remembers coming to stay in Honolulu for the summer and spending time with her grandparents at the store. “It was always fun, always exciting to be here,” she says.
So what makes Sekiya’s so popular?
Joy says there are a number of reasons.“Of course we have generations of families who’ve been coming to the restaurant since they can remember,“says Joy,“but we also have Kaimuki high school students who come back as adults looking for the same taste and flavors they remember.”
There’s something comforting in finding the same taste in the same dishes, year after year.
Joy Morihara, Lisa Melanson and Mary Reitz at Sekiya’s
Sekiya’s also has one of the few old-style delis left in Honolulu - where a la carte items such as musubi (40 cents), potato macaroni salad ($1.05), shrimp tempura ($1.45) and tsukemono (50 cents) are made daily along with some of Sekiya’s specials - dishes like shoyu hot dogs (55 cents), chicken sukiyaki ($12.95) and lima beans ($4 per pound). You can order butterfish in parts (belly, fillet or tail), and the cone sushi ($1) has earned a reputation as some of the best in Honolulu.
Lines for the okazu dishes begin at around 10:30 a.m. and continue throughout the lunchtime rush.As the restaurant begins to fill with regular customers, two or three servers are kept busy filling to-go boxes with everything from egg rolls to char sui and homemade tsukemono.
“Part of the reason people like to come back again and again is that we make all of our sauces and stocks from scratch,“says Joy,“so we get the same flavor that they’re used to.”
There’s nothing fancy about Sekiya’s. With fading paint and a look that’s not been updated much in decades, there’s comfort, too, in the unpretentious atmosphere.
“Most of our customers know what they want as soon as they come in,“says Joy,“they don’t really even need menus.”
The menu is huge at Sekiya’s. Ask any regular their favorite and some will swear that the oxtail soup is the best, others that the hash tempura (deep-fried corned-beef hash) is well worth the trip.
The girls at the deli counter tell me proudly that customers drive from all over the island for Sekiya’s soft and sweet cone sushi.
There are dozens of noodle dishes, salads, sukiyaki, donburi and local-style chicken pork and beef dishes, and you can even sip on a root beer float or enjoy an ice cream sundae as you remember your childhood days and a taste of an older Hawaii.
Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen
2746 Kaimuki Ave.
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