The Friendly Flavors Of Wahiawa

Susan Sunderland
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Wednesday - May 17, 2006

From left, Conhita Valera, Marceline Pesana and Perla Alonzo help Elena Salvador celebrate her birthday at Dong Yang Inn
From left, Conhita Valera, Marceline Pesana and
Perla Alonzo help Elena Salvador celebrate her
birthday at Dong Yang Inn

Wahiawa is a special place. Two generations of my family have roots there and fond memories of life in pineapple suburbia. Wahiawa has been around for more than 100 years and is the oldest settled area in Central Oahu. The name means “noisy place,” referring to the rough seas said to be heard there at one time.

Wahiawa is a charming country town that’s folksy, self-contained and easy-going. Its hospitality is genuine and warm, exemplified by town ambassador Yuki Kitagawa. He met us to talk story about his neighborhood and the Wahiawa Pineapple Festival.

The annual festival - Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Wahiawa District Park - showcases the historic area that once represented a major slice of Hawaii’s pineapple industry. To celebrate that heritage, Wahiawa has an occasion that’s spirited and fun to the core.

Hometown heroes like chef Alan Wong return to recall memories of small-kid time. Wong attended Leilehua High School and worked summers in the pineapple fields. Earning $1.60 an hour, he recalls the hard, back-breaking work of being a picker in the Dole fields in Wahiawa.

Wong will be cooking this Saturday and sharing the feeding frenzy with Fred DeAngelo of Ola at Turtle Bay Resort, Elmer Guzman of the Poke Shop, and Randal Ishizu of JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa.

Other attractions at this year’s Pineapple Festival are:

* Pineapple creations from Leeward Community College culinary chef instructors and students.

* Free narrated trolley tours of the Wahiawa area.

* Free pineapple dipping station and chocolate fountain.

* Pineapple parade along California Avenue.

* Keiki “pineapple ohana” art contest

Chris Lum flips burgers at North Shore Cattle Co.
Chris Lum flips burgers at North Shore Cattle Co.

* Historic displays by Dole, Del Monte and agricultural organizations, including an old-fashioned pineapple cutting machine.

* Reunion of pineapple field and cannery workers.

* Book signings by Richard Dole and Betty Shimabukuro.

* Musical entertainment by local school and community groups.

* Pineapple flipping contest and geta races.

* Pineapple dessert contest. * Arts, crafts, and food booths.

You’ll also meet three Wahiawa food vendors. Sample their offerings at the Pineapple Festival or visit the actual restaurants.

Dong Yang Inn 546 Olive Ave.

Daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

We don’t know what Dong Yang means, but we do know that the Korean food here is great. Loyal patrons keep the place buzzing day and night, and the take-out counter seems like a community gathering place. Neighbors and friends exchange hellos while waiting for orders of meat juhn, kalbi ribs, barbecue chicken, and Korean delicacies.

Owner Yong Suk Potts started the restaurant in 1975 with American husband Henry Potts Jr. of Wahiawa and two sisters from Korea. Today, the family operation continues with the involvement of her eldest son, Henry III, and many relatives.

Recalling the restaurant’s inception, Potts said, “I don’t like open restaurant. I know restaurant is a hard job.” Thirty-one years later, it hasn’t gotten any easier, but every day is a labor of love to keep customers fed and satisfied. In addition to the restaurant, there is a thriving catering business for parties, weddings and other special occasions.

The Dot’s crew, from left, Iris Johnson, Erleen Galbiso, Jim Harada, Becky Fukiwara and Joyce Esteban
The Dot’s crew, from left, Iris Johnson, Erleen Galbiso,
Jim Harada, Becky Fukiwara and Joyce Esteban

Meat juhn ($5.75) with hot sauce is a best-seller. The “tender-inside, crispy-outside” marinated ribeye beef sits on a mound of white rice and salad. The generous serving could easily be two meals. Also popular is single-bone kalbi ($7), delicately seasoned short ribs grilled over kiawe charcoal.

Special dishes include Tok Kook ($7) or rice cake soup, combination Mandu-Kook Su noodles served hot or cold ($5), and Bibimbop with Egg ($5.75) or mixed rice with meat, vegetables and special sauce.

At the Pineapple Festival, look for Dong Yang’s combination plates, meat juhn, and fried mandu. You’ll be shouting, “Dong Yang! That sure is tasty.”

Dot’s Restaurant 130 Mango St.

Daily, 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. “Next best place to home,” brags its menu. This landmark restaurant in Wahiawa dates back to the mid-1930s, when it was the site of a roller skating rink. Eventually, it expanded to become a full-service restaurant, serving local residents, visitors, and military personnel from Schofield. The family owned enterprise today includes Marian’s Catering, which was started in the mid-‘60s at the site of Jameson’s By the Sea (formerly Haleiwa Sands).

Dot’s is known for its Japanese and American food, as well as broke-da-mouth house specialties. Proprietor James K. Harada raves about Sizzling Hamburger Steak ($9.75) that comes out of the kitchen smoking and sputtering with flavor. The eight-ounce homemade patty is topped with onions and gravy. He also recommends Large Shrimp Tempura ($10.95).

Yuki Kitagawa
Yuki Kitagawa

Steak and seafood, including Porterhouse Steak ($16.45) and Grilled Butterfish (market price), are popular choices. Other entrees (from $7.15) are local grinds such as beef stew, tripe stew, chicken katsu and a Special Plate of spareribs, teriyaki chicken and minute steak.

Look for Dot’s local plate lunches and combination platters at the Pineapple Festival.

North Shore Cattle Co.

At Dole Plantation Daily, lunch.

Located on the grounds of Dole Plantation is a hamburger and hot dog stand that beats any of those fast-food places. North Shore Cattle Company serves 100 percent Hawaii-grown, healthy beef that tastes great and is free of antibiotics and hormones. The company, co-founded by Calvin and Kay Lum, raises grass-fed

Angus cattle at its sprawling ranch above Haleiwa.

North Shore Cattle Company’s beef is dry-aged to enhance flavor and texture. The beef has a rich “beefy” flavor not normally found in grain-fed beef. The all-natural beef is featured at Alan Wong’s restaurants, Pizza Bob’s Haleiwa, Kona Brewing Co., Town, and Waimea Falls Grill.

Tourists making a stop at Dole Plantation can’t resist the aroma of beef cooking on the grill. At a canopied kiosk, Chris Lum is flipping burgers and cooking beef sausages for the hungry crowd. One-third pound ($4) or half-pound ($3) patties fill a soft bun, to which diners add a choice of condiments. One-fourth pound all-beef sausage ($4) or regular hot dogs ($3) are also available. Teri beef or teri chicken sandwiches ($4.50) are special orders.

Also found at the food stand are tropical fruits, such as papaya, mango, coconut and sugar cane. I particularly like the variety pack that has slices of each fruit and is a perfect car snack while touring the North Shore. There was something so genuinely friendly and symbolic of the tropical fruit combo. You can’t buy it at a grocery store. You’d only find it in the country.

Look for the North Shore Cattle Company at the Pineapple Festival, and taste its extraordinary beef. It’s as special as the place known as Wahiawa.

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