Nishida Brings Side Street To Kapahulu

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - July 28, 2010
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After a health scare, Colin Nishida opens a Side Street on Kapahulu

When Colin Nishida opened the Kapahulu version of his Side Street Inn last week, friends and family gathered for a blessing and a taste of the comfort food that has made Side Street famous.

But before the revelries began, almost everyone took a moment to be thankful - not for the fact that Nishida had pulled off the long-anticipated opening, but rather that the popular restaurant owner was there at all.

Just a few months ago the kitchen was deserted, renovations at a standstill, as Nishida lay in a coma battling for his life.

Today he walks a little slower than before, and he carries the scars of those who’ve survived months in intensive care, but with his wife Mel and a uniquely loyal staff, Nishida is ready to rock at Side Street on da Strip.

“It was quite a long deal with my health,” he says, “but I’m over it and the restaurant is finally opening.”


He’s quick to give credit to the devoted Side Street staff. “They’re amazing,” he says, “I wouldn’t be doing this without them.”

Nishida inspires that kind of loyalty. His humble, unpretentious manner is the same whether he’s being interviewed on national television or sitting at the bar with customers. And in a city of popular chefs and respected restaurateurs, Nishida is perhaps the best loved of all.

But don’t ask him what all the fuss is about. He still finds it amusing the attention that Side Street gets.

“It’s amazing, really, that simple food, the kind of comfort food we’ve always eaten, gets this much attention,” says the guy who’d rather you didn’t call him a chef.

Pork chops and fried rice, the dishes Nishida enjoyed as a child, are some of the foods that have made Side Street one of the most successful restaurants in town.

“I didn’t realize we were eating such good food growing up,” he says. “Sundays we had church, then fried rice, we had pork chops maybe once a month, and on weekdays we had lots of different foods. Japanese one day, Chinese the next.”

And having lots of people over for dinner set a trend for the future restaurant owner.

“The whole neighborhood was always welcome at our house,” he says. “They’d come in anytime and always get something to eat. That’s just the way we grew up.”

Today the whole neighborhood still wants to eat at Colin’s, including the city’s best chefs. National food and wine magazines, plus appearances on the Food Network and with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel, ensure constant traffic from vacationing foodie tourists. The celebrities, however, leave their fame at the restaurant door.

“This lady just called me the other day and asked me if Alan Wong really eats at my restaurant,” says Colin, his big kolohe grin appearing. “I told her, ‘Yes, we get plenty Alan Wongs eat at this restaurant.’”

Plenty indeed. All of them there for the same thing.

“It’s just good friends, good food and good times,” says Colin. “That’s all we’ve ever been about.”

Happy eating!

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