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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 5, 2010

Get your red hot nostalgia fix right here

By Wayne Harada

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

From left, Sharon Fujii, Martin Wyss and Jeanie Wyss of the Swiss Inn are missed.

Advertiser library photos

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Coco's Coffee House on its last day, Aug. 31, 1986. It fed folks for 26 years at Kapiolani and Kalakaua, where the Hard Rock is now.

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Are we in retro mode right now?

The Ranch House has been rebooted as a destination for Island-style comfort food; not a free-standing "ranch house," like the original in Äina Haina, but in a second-story walk-up on Kapahulu Avenue, where Sam Choy's and Sergio's used to be.

"Hawaii Five-O" is gearing up as a new old TV show, with a new generation of actors to carry on the tradition of Jack Lord and company.

Aloha Stadium is bringing back periodic drive-in movies in its parking lot. Kids, go ask Grandma and Grandpa what a drive-in movie is.

Comebacks are often driven by yearnings for the past. Do we simply miss something or someplace that's no longer available just because today's arena forgets roots and neglects comfort? Are closures, then isolated returns, just part of the cyclical nature of life?

On that note, I was thinking of some entertainment and dining bygones:


Canlis. Waikíkí's first fine-dining destination, with waitresses clad in kimonos with obi.

Swiss Inn. Not just because of the simple Swiss pleasures, but because of the salad dressing (still available in stores) and owners Martin and Jeanie E. Wyss.

Maile Restaurant. You'd don a jacket to get into the upscale mood; it helped put the Kahala Hilton on the destination map.

M's Ranch House, the original in 'Äina Haina. Oh, to have the little freshly-baked bread that came as soon as you sat; the scratchy "Happy Birthday" recording, played on your birthday, and the toy chest for kids; and in later years, live music with The Mäkaha Sons. Comfort food, comforting local music.

Andrews. Not the downtown spin-off, but the one at Ward Centre. Steaks, seafood, good times.

Tahitian Lanai. Oooh, the eggs Benedict for brunch were to die for.

Yacht Harbor Restaurant. The menu's a blur, but there were views of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Ala Moana Park — a special place for special occasions.

The Third Floor. Just going for the naan bread was enough.

Coco's. The go-to place after a movie, a play, or after you cruised Ala Moana Park. Always open.

Pearl City Tavern. A "country" eatery where vast numbers could dine on American or Japanese fare, and see live monkeys at the bar, bonsai collections on the roof.

Spindrifter. For business lunches or casual dinners, this mid-range Kähala spot made way for progress, despite a loyal clientele.

Le Bon Restaurant. Home of the singing waiters, who'd chirp, then scurry to the kitchen to fetch your soup or entrée.

The Pottery. You could literally take home your dish, if you ordered something that came in a hand-made piece of pottery that was yours to keep when you're pau kau kau.

Golden Dragon. In a town that still boasts scores of Chinese places, one closure in a hotel (Hilton Hawaiian Village) leaves a void: the best beggar's chicken, baked in clay, whacked with a hammer.

Wisteria. Oh, those delish Okinawan shoyu pork and Japanese pork or chicken tofu dishes. Where waitresses passed out bango numbers to ID their tables.

Waikiki Sands. A very early, early buffet emporium, where, for $1, you could have it all. Not a dream, but the original bargain dining.

Suehiro. Japanese comfort food, from butterfish steaks to pork tofu.

Columbia Inn. The Roundtable; the Broke-da-Mouth Stew; home of the Dodgers; Tosh, then Gene Kaneshiro.


KC Drive Inn. Am I the only one who still longs for the peanut butter shake with a waffle hot dog?

Hana Broasted Chicken. Because no one else (sorry, Zippy's and KFC) made chicken skin so chicken-skin-ono.

Swanky's. A downtown counter place, where hot dogs, burgers and french fries ruled, way before the coming of McDonald's, Burger King, Jack in the Box and Wendy's.


Alexander Young Hotel bakery. Because its lemon crunch was da best.

Sweetheart Bakery. As far as I'm concerned, the red velvet cake (and creamcheese frosting) was born here.

Bill's Bakery. Where to go for French doughnuts, when Kapahulu mostly meant Leonard's Bakery and Rainbow Drive In, period.

9th Avenue Bakery. Dutch bread; the round loaf with the crinkly crust.

Yum Yum Tree. The original Kähala outlet (where Chili's now sits) had a popular restaurant and bakery operation with the every pie variety imaginable.


Trappers. A jazz mecca; a place to be seen, a hangout for celebs.

Duke Kahanamoku's. There would not have been a Don Ho if he didn't inhabit Duke's. Period.

Garden Bar. A launching pad for wannabes; count Carole Kai, The Krush, Barry Kim among the alumni. Waikíkí sorely needs a site to expose and develop the future Don Ho, Danny Kaleikini, Loyal Garner, Dick Jensen.

Maile Lounge. Dance floor, Kit Samson's Sound Advice, Paul Conrad, Anna Lea; nooks to schmooze and kibitz.

Waikiki Beef 'n Grog. A hot spot: live music, dancing, bouncers at the door.

The Noodle Shop. Less was more; the teeny birthplace of the "Frank DeLima Show," where Imelda Marcos showed up one night ... yes, with shoes on.

Queen's Surf. The original hang-loose place; I saw Elvis Presley there one night; Kui Lee performed there, but the resident star was Sterling Mossman, in the Barefoot Bar.

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