A Hello Kitty Cafe, The Ranch House Returns

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - February 03, 2010
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Russell Siu of 3660, Kakaako Kitchen

Despite the economy, there are a number of new restaurants getting ready to open their doors. Among the new concepts is an Irish-Mexican-themed restaurant, Pablo McGinty’s, set to open in early Spring at Ward Centre, and Sanrio Café ( think Hello Kitty) in Pearlridge Center.

I have something of an aversion to all the pink Hello Kitty apparel that seems to have so much appeal worldwide, so I’m not the best source to comment on the idea of eating in a pink, kitty-kitschy themed space. It’s encouraging to note, though, that Café Laufer owner, Cyrus Goo, is in charge of pastries and breads at the café, so it will certainly be worth a visit when it opens sometime soon.

Two new restaurants opened earlier this month at Ward Centre, in the spots vacated by Brew Moon and E&O Trading Company: Ka and Paparazzi are both helping breathe life back into Ward Centre. I was at the center last week and noticed Kakaako Kitchen running a Sweet Chili Chicken plate with rice and salad for just $5. It’s all part of a promotion at Ward Centre where participating restaurants are offering one dish each day for $5. The current climate may still be gloomy, but the upside is we haven’t seen restaurant specials like these in years.


The newest steak house in town, BLT, held its grand opening last week and joined the now diverse group of steak houses in Honolulu. A couple of years ago, Hy’s and Ruth’s Chris were pretty much the places to go for quality steak and service. Now there’s almost no end to the number of restaurants serving great steaks and high caloric sides: Wolfgang’s, d.k Steakhouse and Morton’s, to name a few, and that’s not even considering restaurants like 3660 On the Rise, where the signature Steak Alaea is consistently excellent. Even fine-dining bastion Michel’s at the Colony Surf has added a signature bone-in rib eye to its menu. ...

And by the time you read this column, a new restaurant with a familiar theme will have quietly opened its doors. The Ranch House (version 2010) opened Jan. 27 on the site previously occupied by Sergio’s Italian Restaurant (formerly Sam Choy’s). Owner George Vandeman has a nostalgic bent for reviving restaurants. When he opened Sergio’s at Hilton Hawaiian Village, it was with the hope of reinventing the original Sergio’s at the Ilima Hotel, which closed in 2000. The Ranch House was owned and operated by Spencecliff Corp., owned by Spencer Weaver, the biggest name on the Hawaii restaurant scene for almost half a century. Weaver’s daughter Chantal has given her blessing to the project, along with some favorite recipes.

“When we did research in the community,” explains Buddy Moore, Restaurants Hawaii VP of sales and marketing, “we kept hearing that people wanted to see more comfort food on menus, and many of them mentioned The Ranch House as an example of the kind of restaurant they missed.”

Expect to see braised short ribs, huli huli chicken, meat loaf, chicken-fried steak and beef stew among the entrees, as well as fresh fish. Fruit cobblers, brownies and bread pudding make up the dessert menu. And in much the same style as the original Ranch House, local music will be a feature. “The Ranch House was home to some great local music,” says Moore. “We’d like to continue that tradition, too.”

The Ranch House is open from 5 p.m. nightly for dinner. You’ll find the full menu and more details at www.ranchhousehawaii.com.

Happy eating!

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