National Awards, Great Pizza, A New Tropics

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - July 29, 2009
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Dave Stewart

I just returned from a two-week break in New York, and it’s nice to be back in a place where rush hour is relatively relaxed and drivers are patient and polite. But for all NewYork’s crazy traffic, horn blowing and often overwhelming number of commuters, there’s a warmth and friendliness there that I don’t remember from previous trips. And the food is just incredible. With competition so stiff, any restaurant that doesn’t serve amazing food simply doesn’t stay in business. More to come in the weeks ahead of where the city’s best dining spots are, but for now, food news at home is as interesting as ever ...

Hank Adaniya, owner of Hank’s Haute Dogs (locations on Coral Street and in the International Marketplace in Waikiki) has been voted one of the top 10 best places to have a hot dog in America on Bon Appetit‘s new “Top Ten New Places for Hot Dogs” listing ( If you haven’t been to Hank’s, then hustle over as soon as you can. He has no rivals in the state, and with the very first “snap” of the all-beef (or turkey or chorizo or lobster) creations, any dog lover is sent into blissful hot dog heaven. There’s something about the crisp crack as you bite into one of Hank’s beautifully constructed wieners that brings a smile and immediate satiation.

The menu at Hank’s is eclectic, to say the least, with daily specials that include rabbit and veal sausage, alligator andouille, lobster sausage, duck and foie gras, and an island-inspired Kobe beef dog served with hoisin-ginger mustard, sesame napa cabbage, pickled daikon-carrot and furikake. As I said, not your average dog. Try the french fries when you go as well as the truffle mac and cheese and the hibiscus lemonade, if you’ve room - all great stuff. Last year Brasserie Du Vin made it onto Bon Appetit’s Top 10 list as one of the best new wine bars in the nation. We are undoubtedly on the culinary radar, but there’s still much work to be done to bring many of our other restaurants up to speed. In my fantasy restaurant world I’d like to see Hank partner with Dave Stewart, Chuck Furuya, Alan Takasaki, Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero. Can you imagine the food, the wine and the atmosphere? ...

Speaking of Stewart, the owner of Brasserie Du Vin and Bar 35 is on a permanent hunt for new locations, and rumor has it he’ll open a restaurant soon in Waikiki. Look for another bar, too, in his favorite stomping ground, Nuuanu. That should keep the city’s new pizza barons at J.J. Dolan’s happy, as Stewart prefers bars to restaurants. With late-night Cuban food, pizza and his own brasserie serving good food late into the night, business should boom for nearby restaurants. If you haven’t tried J.J. Dolan’s yet - it’s at 1147 Bethel - then mark it as another must-try on your calendar. The pizza comes from the hands of Jay Niebuhr, the bar management experience from Danny Dolan. If you like your pie with a thin crust, traditional toppings and a friendly Jersey attitude, there’s none better in this town. ...

I might already have mentioned that I was impressed with newly renovated Tropics Bar and Grill at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Apart from having one of the best opening parties of the year (for which kudos should be given to marketing director Lora Gallagher and director of public relations Cynthia Rankin for organizing a memorable evening), chef Jeffrey Vigilla honored his commitment to promote local produce. At the party, local farmers were in attendance to answer questions about their food. Dean Okimoto‘s greens were featured in a huge display, and Hamakua Mushroom grower Bob Stanga was on hand to greet each guest. With the buying power the food and beverage department at Hilton Hawaiian Village has (there are 18 restaurants on property), some local farmers can look forward to a brighter future.

Happy eating!

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