A Stroll On Fort Street Mall

Susan Sunderland
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Wednesday - April 29, 2005
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Ono grinds are found where there are office ladies in line and students milling around. We found such a gathering place Downtown at the corner of Fort Street Mall and Pauahi Street. Some refer to this location as Upper Fort Street Mall, adjacent to the brown exterior Frear Center Building. No need to scurry around. Sidewalk cafes are all in a row.

From sushi to sandwiches, there’s convivial dining on mall benches and umbrella tables. Many opt for take-out to the office or to a nearby park, like Iolani Palace. Food’s the way you want it at lunch break — fast, cheap and portable. Operating hours vary, but generally these vendors are open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Here’s what’s cooking at this nifty, thrifty kau-kau corner:

2-Go BarBQ cook Young Ae Hwang
specializes in Korean food

2-Go Bar BQ
1138 Fort Street Mall

Korean food is the specialty at this corner spot with a cool, inviting setting. There are tables for indoor dining, although more people are hovered at the glass-covered okazuya where one can select items for takeout. It’s perfect for a what-you-seeis- what-you-get meal for indecisive types.

Barbecue short ribs, chicken, and beef are popular, along with meat, fish or oyster jhun. Shrimp tempura, shoyu chicken and fried mandoo also are tasty treats. Assorted Korean and Japanese vegetables complement entrée choices. There are mini (from $4.75) and regular plate lunches (from $5.75), along with 10 hot soup dishes (from $3.75) including mandoo kook soo (noodles and dumplings) and yook gae jang (beef vegetable). Best value is 2-Go Special ($7.75) heaped with barbecue short ribs, chicken, beef, meat jhun, fried mandoo, four vegetables and two scoops rice.

Thelma Yadao cooks up fried squid with a
smile at Rada’s Piroscki

Rada’s Piroscki
1146 Fort Street Mall

This downtown landmark is perhaps the only place where one finds the delicacy known as piroscki (peh-RAWSH-kee). These Polish meat turnovers predate Hot Pockets. Forget those frozen dough things for a while and try these fantastic, deep fried dumplings.

Three types of piroscki are offered: beef-cheese-cabbage, beef-mushroom, and chickencheese- mushroom ($1.60 each). It reminds me of a savory meat-stuffed malasada. Yummy. Lunch specials ($3.75) offer combos such as tossed salad, fried squid, and piroscki. Wanna take mini piroscki home for pupu? You can buy a dozen for $7. Fried squid is $1.40 per order.

David Fritti and Alexia Detoisien enjoy plates of chicken
Thai curry and barbecue chicken at Fort Street Cafe

Fort Street Café
1154 Fort Street Mall

OK, you fried rice connoisseurs, here’s a gem. Fort Street Café has the critics’-choice “best fried rice in town.” Chinese rice is flavorfully enhanced with bits of shrimp, egg, green onion, Spam and a special Asian sauce that gives it a hint of sweetness. Kick it up a notch with some Sriracha hot sauce. It’s a meal in itself at $5.25 per plate.

There are plenty of other choices at this busy food stand offering Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Daily specials (from $5.25) can be green curry, stir fried eggplant and tofu, Thai sweet and sour hot wings, or oxtail soup. Of course, there’s Vietnamese “pho” with its fragrant broth made from fresh marrow bones and brisket flanks that are simmered overnight. Noodle dishes (from $5.25) are served with fresh mint, bean sprouts, shredded lettuce and cucumbers and garnished with crushed roasted peanuts, onion flakes and parsley.

Popular plate lunches (from $4.25) are barbecue boneless chicken or pork with spring rolls, spicy lemon grass chicken, and Pad Thai with shrimp, chicken or pork.

Bale Sandwich proprietor The Nguyen
prepares a fresh French bread sandwich

Bale Sandwich
1154 Fort Street Mall

This is a franchise of the popular Bale French Sandwich & Bakery chain. Its warm and toasty sandwiches on French bread or croissant are distinctive and delicious. They call these bahn mi or Vietnamese sandwiches.

Meats such as steamed pork, barbecue pork or meatball are placed in a freshly baked baguette with crispy, crumbly crust. Crunchy julienne vegetables such as pickled daikon and carrots are added to make a tasty treat. Deli meats such as smoked turkey, pastrami and roast beef also are available. The lemongrass chicken sandwich ($3.50) is a winner, as is the special sandwich ($4) of ham, pate, cheese and steamed pork.

Deep-fried vegetable, meat and fruit (banana) rolls are available from the take-out counter, as well as sweet treats such as sweet potato or taro tapioca pudding ($1.25).

HPU student Porter Macpherson enjoys his daily sushi
while manager Kumson Kim takes care of business at Korean Sushi

Korean Sushi
1154 Fort Street Mall

This is a hole-in-the-wall store in the lobby of historic Blaisdell Hotel. It offers freshly made sushi and bento that are perfect as a mini meal or snack. Good choices are Korean sushi ($3 for 10 pieces), shrimp tempura sushi ($1.75 each), and spicy ahi bento ($2.75-$4.25).

Korean sushi is different from Japanese sushi. Korean sushi doesn’t have raw fillings, besides the raw vegetables. The rice is seasoned with a little sesame oil and salt. Fillings are thin slices of marinated beef, spinach, egg and carrots. All are wrapped in nori (seaweed).

Owner Young Yoo personally rolls each sushi, welcomes customers, handles orders and transacts sales. Don’t you love it when there’s a staff of one — the proprietor?

Bon Bon manager Mandy Tong offers aromatic
coffee drinks and fresh pastries

Bon Bon Café
1154 Fort Street Mall

Next door is Bon Bon Café, a coffee and pastry stand in the lobby of the Blaisdell Hotel building. A Starbucks it is not, but aromatic coffees and mocha brews attract a steady stream of customers. House coffee is made from 100 percent Molokai, Kauai or Kona coffee beans.

Coffee drinks (from 96 cents to $4.50) include espresso, latte, cappuccino and mocha variations. Chai latte, Tazo tea, Italian soda, spiced cocoa and Tropicolada also are available. They go well with a sweet roll, bagel or bun from the pastry counter.

Once here, you won’t be able to ignore the main attraction in this building. It’s the original birdcage-style elevator that serves the four floors of the Blaisdell Hotel Building, now occupied by Hawaii Pacific University facilities. The ornate, fleur-de-lis accented elevator with marble tile flooring is the only one of its kind in the Islands. It requires an operator who pushes the brass handle that lifts and lowers the elevator. Three sides of the elevator are wrapped in wrought iron so you can see the floors pass by.

Yes, the elevator still works, but there are specific hours of operation six days a week. No operator, no operation. In today’s modern world of push-button technology, this is a pause that refreshes.

P.S. Local Express at 1148 Fort Street Mall, offering local plate lunches, will undergo renovations and menu revamping. The owner says the new format is “secret” until May reopening.

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