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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 8, 2010

Open letter to Obama: Next stop Zippy's?


By Wayne Harada
Special to the Advertiser

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

For fast, affordable and ono local food, Zippy's is hard to miss. And, as Harada notes, you can find one open almost any time of day. Add to that new economy-friendly prices, coupons and specials.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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An open letter to President Obama and 'ohana:

I'm sure you all enjoyed your 11-day Island vacation. You played tourist in your home state, and a staycation never hurts the economy here.

And you frolicked and dined well. Golf, basketball, gym; Alan Wong's, Island Snow, Lucy's Grill.

But as folks who adore local traditions, you missed an outing to Zippy's, the comfort-food emporium where fried chicken, chili and Zip Min reign supreme. Please, if you holiday in Hawaii next Christmas, your next stop should include Zippy's.

Let me tell you why.

Zippy's has been a godsend for local and visiting diners over the years but particularly last year, when the economy went south, making it tough for anyone to eat out.

Prices were cut; coupons helped ease the bill; special mini portions made outings manageable. This all helped our individual budgets.

I dine regularly at the Koko Marina restaurant because I live in Hawaii Kai, but also frequent the Kāhala, McCully, Dillingham and Vineyard ones, though depending on my whereabouts, have visited the Waipio, Kapahulu, Pearl City, Pearlridge, Ala Moana and Kāneohe sites, too. If you rebook your Kailua hideaway, there's one in Kailua town, too.

While I still relish an outing to Alan Wong's, Le Bistro, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Wolfgang Steakhouse, 3660 on the Rise, Hy's Steak House, Hoku's, Keo's Thai Cuisine, Maile's Thai Bistro all popular, successful dining spots in town Zippy's remains one of my favorite spots because you can find one open almost anytime. For comfort, affordable and fast food, there's no place finer.

I've had breakfast business meetings there, have conducted interviews there, and it's the go-to place for saimin (or a full meal) after a late-night movie. You slip in, you blend in, nothing fancy. OK, not exactly the place for presidential briefings, but ask your friends Bill and Hillary Clinton; they dined at Zippy's in Hawaii Kai.

The Zip Min, the house special saimin with a tempura shrimp among the goodies, is the soup of choice. But I prefer the pork saimin, with portions of roast pork and char siu replacing the shrimp. And, yes, the Zip Pac and the Surf Pac, larger mixed plates, fill the tummy, though now nearly $9. The Zip Pac includes Spam. Remember Spam?

This past year, menu prices have dropped on selected items, and with frequent online coupons you can download, you may get price reductions of all sorts: buy one, get one free; buy one, get 50 percent off the second; buy one, get a free mini spaghetti. These temptations would help even the presidential budget, n'est-ce pas?

Last year, Zippy's also introduced mini-breakfast options to suit the local palate, with Portuguese sausage, Spam, corned-beef hash, link sausage with eggs and rice, of course.

The mini is the new model of affordability: enough to whet the appetite, yet not a wallet-breaker.

Zippy's occasionally has specials the miso garlic chicken and the Hawaiian-style stew are two savory examples and you should indulge. Yums. If you want a lighter meal, small portions of some daily specials are available; or you may opt for complete meals in two varieties, one offering any kind of dessert available.

Zippy's also is senior-friendly; when you turn 65, as I have, you can apply for a savings card that gives you a 10 percent discount on meals (except special promotion meals, like the current spaghetti and chicken mixed plate $5.49 special); liquor sales are excluded. Purchases at adjoining Napoleon's bakery whether you buy a pie or a quarter-sheet birthday cake qualify. So the card is a must-have for the elderly, and I know 50-somethings who can't wait to get this value-plus bonus (there is a small processing fee).

For schools and other community organizations, Zippy's also is a source for fundraising. It's easier to sell (and desirable to buy) tickets for Zippy's chili than huli-huli chicken; the ticket allows you to chili out on your personal timetable.

And do sample the Napples (apple, coconut, chocolate), a delectable turnover dessert, which makes a desirable omiyage for Neighbor Island-hopping (locals do this). Or, you could hand-carry boxes of Napples home to the White House; there must be ample storage aboard Air Force One, and the security folks won't confiscate yours.

Perhaps Team Obama never made it to a Zippy's because the destination never has been on the radar. If you're open to it, it would be an honor and pleasure to host you and your gang at a Zippy's next Christmas. Really.

With aloha and respect,

Reach Wayne Harada at 266-0926 or wayneharada@gmail.com. Read his Show Biz column Sundays in Island Life and online at http://showandtellhawaii.honadvblogs.com.