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Did this: Taste of East Oahu

Taste of East Oahu

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Taste of East Oahu took place at Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church on Kalanianaole Highway. It was the perfect setting for foodies to gather on a warm Saturday evening and taste dishes from eateries across the island.

Eat the Street April

Toro Y Moi

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Did this: The 220 Experience

Did this: The 220 Experience

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By Melissa Chang
Nonstop

"Truly fine cuisine starts with fresh quality products picked at the peak of ripeness," said chef Hans Stierli of the Royal Hawaiian. With this in mind, The 220 Experience brunch was born.

— Photo by Justin Dotson

First Sundays @ Trump

First Sundays at Trump

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By Cymri Chang
Special to Nonstop

I got my month off to a banging start at First Sundays, one of the newest monthly events to hit Honolulu. Located at the Trump International Hotel in Waikiki, Saturday night turned into Sunday afternoon, as Honolulu's weekend warriors rolled in to experience the beautiful views, great buffet, and solid beats by some of the hottest DJs in town.

First Sundays definitely caters to a different kind of brunch crowd. For $37 (includes mimosas), the spread included some unusual and creative choices, like pad thai and charsiu mini manapuas, which were quickly grabbed up by the crew sitting at my table.

Trump International Waikiki
Every first Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
$37 for brunch (free valet parking), 21+

New eats: Le Crepe Cafe downtown

Le Crepe Cafe downtown

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Le sigh. Not quite a year and a half ago, deep in breezy Manoa, a tiny creperie came to the valley, and with it a love story. You see, Marysol Ruiz had left California to study in Paris, where she fell in love with Soufiane Bouharkat, who worked at a creperie. Sadly, their time ended and the two parted ways, but wait! Fast-forward a few years, Bouharkat arrives on these shores to visit a friend, and guess who he runs into? Ruiz has settled on these same shores. The two reignite and out of their love for crepes and each other, Le Crepe Cafe is born.

Fast-forward again to last week, Tuesday to be exact, and voila! Ruiz and Bouharkat have opened a second creperie downtown. And quoi? They opened seven weeks after their first baby is born? Ooh la la!

I like this story, and I like that tiny creperie in Manoa, but that's not why I'm braving downtown parking and lunch crowds. Word is the new Crepe Cafe has more than double the crepes of the first, plus waffles, paninis and salads.

This one's a double-dip: I've reviewed these crepes before. For these visits I bring friends to go in and order, while I lurk at a distance with my fork and knife. Ici, crepes! Bring it!

Le Crepe Cafe
1160 Fort Street Mall
www.lecrepecafe.com

Did this: The Empty Bowl Project

The Empty Bowl Project

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Empty Bowl Project started in Michigan in the 1990s and has become an international grass roots effort to fight hunger.

“The first year we did this in 2009, we sold more than 700 bowls in an hour and 42 minutes,” said Hawaii event spokeswoman Beryl Ono. “We had only one cashier and we didn’t know what to expect. The line was so long, but people were willing to wait for their bowl of soup.”

— Photo by Ryan Look

Did this: Roy’s Japan Relief Dinner

Roy's Japan Relief Dinner

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By Mike Sumida
Special to Nonstop

When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti last year, Chef Roy Yamaguchi (@roysroy) hosted a highly successful fundraising dinner at his restaurant in Hawaii Kai. This time, tragedy struck Japan, and Chef Roy has once again stepped up to “extend aloha” at his flagship restaurant. There was no set price to attend the sold-out event. People were asked just to give as much as they could afford, with 100% of the donations going to the American Red Cross relief effort.

“Our goal is to be a contributing member of the community and a good neighbor,” the menu said, setting the tone for the evening.

New eats: 4Kings Kitchen

4Kings Kitchen

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By Melissa Chang
Nonstop

A new little restaurant recently opened in Moiliili near Kokua Market and Spices, and it's already a hotspot for lunch and dinner. Don't be fooled by the name; this isn't related in any way to the 4 Kings that used to be on Waialae Avenue. It features local ingredients in favorite local dishes that are kicked up a notch to set them apart, thanks to its chef.

4Kings Kitchen
2671 S. King St.
808-951-5464

Did this: Off-Premise dinner at Oasis

Did This: Off Premise at Oasis

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Here's the deal: Every month, different Oahu chefs are invited to create four- or five-course menus for a group of foodies who'll pay $45-65 to attend. It's in a different spot each time, so you need to find out about each event via their Facebook page or email blast. Last night's dinner was created by chef Ala Sutton of Le Guignol, at $65 a head.

Did this: Honolulu Festival Friendship Gala

The eating goes on

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By Diane Seo and Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Despite the tragedy unfolding in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, Honolulu Festival organizers decided to proceed not only with the festival, but with Saturday night's Friendship Gala at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Although the crowd was thinner and the mood more subdued than in years past, the eating went on, with 10 top Hawaii restaurants offering everything from seared tenderloin to lobster miso soup to a Godiva chocolate cheesecake.

Photo by Ed Morita

Did this: An Evening of Sustainable Cuisine

The scene

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The ballroom was filled with eco-conscious — and hungry — eaters who support sustainable cuisine and the culinary arts program at KCC. Even "Hawaii Five-0" cast Alex O'Loughlin and Grace Park were in attendance.

Romancing the cheese @ The Kahala

Cheese, please

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By Diane Seo
Nonstop

I love good cheese. It's one of the only gourmet foods I regularly have in my refrigerator, and if there's a cheese plate on a menu, I'll almost always choose it for lunch, dinner, dessert, whenever. So when I heard that The Kahala Hotel had recently started offering a cheese menu, with selections from the renown Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, I emailed one of my main food partners in crime, Melissa Chang, to see if she was up for a taste.

"oooohhhhhhh OK," she wrote back.

So off we were on a Sunday evening to fill ourselves with fat in one of the more posh settings on the island.

Indulgence and decadence. Hooray!

— Photo by Melissa Chang

The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
808-739-8888
Cheese menu is served after 5 p.m. at Hoku's, or The Veranda.

New eats: Umami Cafe

Umami Cafe

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

The buzz from one corner of town starts early.

"Umami opened today at Harbor Court," @ShawnNakamoto, who works nearby, tweets on Feb. 7.

Yeah? What is it?

"New sandwich/coffee shop."

Ah, so. This part of downtown, right at the foot of Bethel and Nimitz, isn't exactly a hotbed of grinds. Umami's downstairs from the empty Palomino/Cassis space, in fact, where Satura Cakes used to be until December.

"Their offerings are so Japanese," @ShawnNakamoto tweets a few days later. She's been investigating. "Beautiful packaging. Like Shirokiya but more upscale. Kawaiiiiii!!"

And a few days later: "They have a natto ahi rice bowl and a spicy ahi sandwich. And a lobster salad sandwich which I'm dying to try."

Then she twitpics the specials menu. Sparerib soup. Ahi belly nitsuke. Eggplant parmesan. What is this place?

Umami Cafe
55 Merchant St.
808-537-6555
www.umamicafehawaii.com
Umami Cafe Hawaii on Facebook
www.twitter.com/umamicafehawaii

La Tour Cafe

La Tour Cafe

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Three things I hear about La Tour Cafe before I ever set foot there:

1. It's owned by the family that created Ba-Le, which through its 25 Vietnamese sandwich shops and wholesale baking for hotels, airlines and pizza chains, pretty much feeds leavened goods to the whole state, so

2. La Tour knows its bread, and

3. Parking sucks.

Since Tanaka Saimin and Party City opened in the same old Weyerhauser building on Nimitz, parking has been as scarce as mango chutney at the Punahou Carnival. Now that La Tour and Bangkok Chef have also opened, parking stands to be twice as bad.

So what's the question? Whether La Tour's sandwiches, pizzas, desserts and other fare are worth the hassle.

La Tour Cafe
888 N. Nimitz Highway
808-697-5000

Hawaii Chocolate Festival

Hawaii Chocolate Festival

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Hokulani Bake Shop offered fresh mini chocolate cupcakes with chocolate or vanilla butter cream. These were going out faster than their one staff person could keep up with.

Scenes from Eat the Street

Eat the Street Kakaako

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Maybe you know the back story. How last month's Eat the Street food truck rally was a first for this town, how 1,200 people overwhelmed the dozen trucks and vendors in that tiny lot on Kapiolani and told organizer StreetGrindz.com that Hawaii was ready for more.

But did you know last night's numbers surpassed most mainland street food rallies? Eat the Street Kakaako flew off the charts. And if some lines were long, it was sane, people, it was mellow, and ultimately so yum. Totally off the charts.

— Photo by John Garcia

M&M eats: Jin Din Rou

M&M eats: Jin Din Rou

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by Melissa Chang
Nonstop Honolulu

There's a new Taiwanese restaurant that's getting a lot of buzz and has a line out the door. It's known for xiao long bao, a popular steamed Shanghainese dumpling filled with soup and a ball of ground pork.

Mari Taketa is excited about this Japanese-owned chain, the first in Hawaii and the United States, and is willing to pay the allegedly high prices for dim sum. I'm skeptical, being more price-conscious (read: Chinese). Does this place live up to the hype? And more importantly, is it worth the price?

Jin Din Rou
1491 S. King St.
808-947-1133

New eats: Jade Dynasty

Jade Dynasty

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By Melissa Chang
Nonstop

Jade Dynasty, the latest big Chinese restaurant to hit Honolulu, had its soft opening after Christmas and its grand opening last month. Now that the menu has been tweaked and initial crowds have died down, the Nonstop crew decided to give it a try and have dim sum lunch.

Jade Dynasty
Ala Moana Center — Ho'okipa Terrace
808-947-8818

Maui eats

Ululani's shave ice

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Ululani's shave ice, with locations in Kahului and Lahaina, is famous for their super-fine shave ice and unique, homemade flavors. Choose from an overwhelming menu of about 40 flavors, from the basic strawberry or vanilla up to tamarind, tiger's blood and red velvet. As you can see, the staff vigorously pokes holes in the ice before doing their generous pour, so you get flavor in every bite.

Ululani's shave ice
815 Front St.
360-606-2745

Yakitori Yoshi

Yakitori Yoshi

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

So it's not much to look at, easy to miss even, but the word in J-lulu is that Yakitori Yoshi — latest in a string of izakaya openings in the last couple months — is simple, solid and easy on the wallet.

Which means, naturally, we're so checking it out.

Yakitori Yoshi
1427 Makaloa St.
808-941-6891

Downbeat Diner

Downbeat Diner & Lounge

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By Tracy Chan
Nonstop

It's 1:30 in the morning. You just finished clubbing in Chinatown, but you're not ready to go home yet. You're starving, in the mood for some comfort food, but you're sick of Zippy's.

Enter Downbeat Diner, one of the newest additions to Chinatown's dining and nightlife scenes.

Downbeat Diner & Lounge
42 N. Hotel St.
808-534-0222

Night in Chinatown

Night in Chinatown

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Chinatown last night, three blocks up Smith, three blocks down Maunakea, plus all of Chinese Cultural Plaza: Were you there? If you were, you know that...

Eat the Street

Eat the Street

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

An epic night, this town's first Eat the Street food truck rally, and if you were anywhere near the vicinity of Kapiolani Boulevard last night, you knew it.

How epic? For the first time ever in Hawaii, 10 food trucks plus more food booths converged in the parking lot across 24 Hour Fitness. Organizer StreetGrindz.com hoped for 800 eaters; by 7 p.m. there were more than 1,000: foodies, tweeps, lurkers and more, enough to earn a Swarm badge on Foursquare.

Totally chill crowd, which was good because the lines were epic too. As night fell, the wait for food at the most popular trucks stretched to more than an hour, and then the sold-out signs started going up.

Overall assessment? More, please. Honolulu's hungry for mainland-style food truck rallies. Last night absolutely proved it.

— Photo by Ernest Sanada

72 hours in Seoul

Things I loved

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Street food! I'd heard Myeongdong, the district where I was staying, was great for shopping, but it wasn't until Aaron and Annie led us into the glittering alleys that I realized we were in street food central.

First there was a lone cart selling freshly roasted chestnuts. Farther on there was another one loaded with rolls of Korean sushi and dokbokki, the signature street food of rice logs and fishcake in a sweet-spicy sauce. Then a man frying sausages. Then plates of fresh-fried mandoo. Then grilled squid, roasted gingko nuts, fried fishcake — it went on and on, one after another, alley after alley.

Realizing the scene, I stood in one spot and spun slowly around, trying to take it all in. I couldn't speak.

M&M eats: Mary’s Kitchen

Mary's Kitchen

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Six p.m. on a rainy Monday. 99 Ranch food court in Mapunapuna may not be the center of the universe, but it's dinnertime! Where is everybody?

Melissa: Why did you bring me here?

Mary's Kitchen
1151 Mapunapuna St.
808-839-7777

New twists: Mochi treats

Mochi treats

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

New Year's may be a fading pop and sizzle in your memory, but there is a place for mochi the rest of the year. At least you hope so, if you have a couple of bags from your aunty or neighbor sitting in your freezer.

Never fear, Nonstop is here for you yet again. This time, we used our test kitchens to come up with new twists on mochi that are yum enough to not only warrant a raid on the freezer, but go to the store and buy some. Japanese groceries like Don Quijote sell bags of individually wrapped dried mochi that will keep pretty much forever in your pantry.

And just so we're clear, there's way more to mochi prep than just boiling. You can pop the white discs in the micro (set it on high for 22 to 25 seconds, depending on your machine, then stand ready to hit the stop button when it reaches near-explosive proportions), fry in butter, or try my favorite way...

Home Bar & Grill

Home Bar & Grill

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They're back — the guys who brought you Kanpai on Ward have moved on and have opened a new hangout. Chris Tai, left, and John Estrella, along with kitchen crew Brandon Hamada and Neil Nakasone, opened Home Bar & Grill last week to a door-busting crowd. Already loyal customers are coming in for darts, karaoke, and the menu items that originally made their Ward restaurant so popular. Open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, the guys also have valet parking in the back so you don't have to fight for the few spots out front.

Home Bar & Grill
1683 Kalakaua Ave.

New eats: U-MA-MI Restaurant & Bar

Food on a stick

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By Catherine E. Toth
Nonstop

I'll admit it: I love anything on a stick. Hot dogs, fried cheese, chocolate-covered bananas, deep-fried Twinkies. The ease of getting said food in my mouth is only made that much easier. So you can imagine my excitement to hear about a new izakaya that offers that — and just about only that.

U-MA-MI Restaurant & Bar
1006 Kapahulu Ave.
808-734-5100

Best mochi dishes

Best mochi dishes

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Happy (almost) New Year! House cleaned, Christmas put away, now it's time to get your mochi grind on.

For those lucky enough to eat in this town, options go way beyond ozoni soup and gao. Here's our lineup of the best mochi dishes in Honolulu.

Fujiya peanut butter mochi

A dab of creamy peanut butter enrobed in sweet red bean paste, all hiding inside a pillowy mochi skin dusted with sugary kinako roasted soy powder: best of old and new, savory and sweet. Sold at Times, Don Quijote and Longs, but wait 'til later in January — Fujiya is still busy filling New Year's mochi orders.

Fujiya
454 Waiakamilo Road
808-845-2921

First look: Tokkuri Tei’s new digs

Tokkuri Tei's new digs

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

6 p.m. last night, Dec. 27. Scent of deep-fried soft shell crab floats down the stairs above Hee Hing. Last time here, this sleek, ginormous space was Ranch House. Before that, Sergio's Italian. Before that, Sam Choy's. Now it's Tokkuri Tei, a Honolulu izakaya institution in its third spot in 21 years.

Let's pause to take in the cosmic significance. Tokkuri Tei = hole-in-the-wall. Even before it moved into its old location just up Kapahulu — a loud, elbow-to-elbow cubbyhole with boxes stacked outside the bathroom — Tokkuri Tei occupied an even smaller cocoon at the corner of Sheridan and Rycroft.

If it started out quirky on Sheridan, with a menu no one cared if you understood (sushi platters designated only as "Show," "Chew" and "Joe," and the explanation for tofu steak: "It's tofu steak"), Kapahulu turned it eccentric. Placards autographed by celebrities and ordinary customers covered every inch of wall space, and the menus — crumpled Xeroxes in cheap plastic sleeves — now told you under Dessert to "Go next door."

So what now? A prestige address that's shiny, sparkly and double the space? Is it still really you, Tokkuri Tei?

Tokkuri Tei
449 Kapahulu Ave.
808-732-6480

New twists: Popcorn toppings

Popcorn toppings

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Popcorn rut got you down? Tired of opening your microwaved pouch for the same synthetically flavored drudgery you've been popping for years?

Not to worry — serendipity sends Nonstop to your rescue. It's our job to dream up new heights of popcorn bliss, or so we tell ourselves, and then test our ideas to see if they meet our discerning standards.

So anyway, that's what we did. We're happy to report that after about a dozen experiments, our taste-testing lab produced six topping combos ranging from yum to killer. We did sweet, we did salty, we did sweet-salty ... which pretty much covers it.

Before you click on for the results, you should know that while it's OK to dig out the microwave bags, you'll get far better results for the sweet versions from popping your own. If you don't have a popcorn popper, here's what you do:

1. Go to the store and get some vegetable oil and unpopped popcorn (comes in a jar or a bag like marshmallows).

2. Go home, turn the stove on medium and heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pot with a lid.

3. Cover the bottom of the pot with about a half-cup of unpopped corn and set the lid over most of the pot.

4. When the corn starts to pop, gently shake the pot on the burner to keep the kernels moving.

5. As soon as the popping slows to once every few seconds, turn off the stove and pour the popped corn into a bowl.

6. Use the residual heat of the pot to melt your butter and drizzle over hot popcorn.

How easy is that? Now click on for our yummy new twists on popcorn toppings.

Shinn

Shinn

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

I'll get to the point: Shinn is really good, already one of the best izakaya in town. The vibe is uber chic and sexy without trending too garish. Restraint: It's in the pebbled black walls, the river rocks in the bathroom basins, the one splash of color in front of the door.

That red squiggle means "heart" — the only sign that Shinn is related to the bento shop Kokoro-Tei just down Beretania. Same owners. Kokoro = heart = Shinn. This red heart, you step on when you walk in the door. Sassy!

Sushi Izakaya Shinn
2065 S. Beretania St.
808-946-7466

Yogurstory

Yogurstory

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By Melissa Chang
Nonstop

Almost overnight, a new restaurant popped up next to Sorabol on Rycroft Street. Yogurstory? What a weird name. Sounds like another self-serve frozen yogurt place. Yet, it looks so big, too big for froyo. Upon closer inspection, we see a sign that says they serve brunch and lunch, and are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. After a couple of test runs getting coffee, my friends and I decided it was time to really check this place out.

Yogurstory
815 Keeaumoku St.
808-942-0505

Nonstop foodie gift guide

Foodie gift guide

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Twelve days left 'til Christmas, people — have you taken care of the foodies on your gift list?

Not to worry, Nonstop is here for you. And we're not talking Le Creuset pots, Shun knives, spice rubs or sauces. We're aiming straight for live-to-eat foodies, arguably the most serious eaters of all.

In no particular order, here are our tips for 10 foodie gifts for all budgets.

Gift certificates. No-brainer, right? Wrong. Restaurants are fabulous, but get a little more creative. Tailor your choice to your foodie's passion.

For decadent foodies — Truffle salt, anyone? Duck pate? Smoked ahi spread? Let your foodie decide.

Williams Sonoma
Ala Moana Center
808-951-0088

Whole Foods
Kahala Mall
808-738-0820

R. Field Wine Co.
Foodland Beretania 808-946-4654
Foodland Farms Aina Haina 808-373-2222
Foodland Kailua 808-261-3211
R. Field also accepts Foodland gift certificates

New eats: Izakaya Naru

Naru

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By Mari Taketa
Nonstop

Three things I know about Naru before I set foot in the door:

  • — Zero buzz, at least in English.
  • — It's straight out of Tokyo, where this company already has four izakaya.
  • — Every izakaya in this choice spot next to University TCBY — Hanabi, and before that Bamboo, and before that Takojaya — has been very good, and every one has closed.
  • Which brings us to Naru. Open since October, and so popular (and tiny) I can't get in without a reservation. Highly intriguing. Irresistible, actually. I make two reservations.

    Izakaya Naru
    2700 S. King St.
    808-951-0510

    New eats: Ono to Go

    Ono to Go

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    There's a new food truck in town, but this time, it's different. They're not serving anything new, trendy or themed; it's what I call bar food on a plate lunch. They quietly opened a few weeks ago to be able to work with customers on the evolving flavors, but people have been finding them and they sell out of food every day. I was nosy, so I got some Twitter friends together to track them down and try it for ourselves.

    Ono to Go
    1346 Kapiolani Blvd.
    Behind Butterfly Lounge on Makaloa St.

    Did this: spread the word arts & food bash

    Spread the Word

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    So here's the thing: Nonstop gets invited to this arts bash called Spread the Word, only we have no idea what it is.

    It's at the Hawaii Convention Center, which is also a co-sponsor, so right off it's pretty major. Tickets are $85 a pop, not exactly in a starving artist's budget. And it's put on by Real Word. Magazine, which for the last year has been featuring the art of uber-hot local painters, photogs, slam poets, fashion designers, musicians, body artists — you get the picture.

    But get this: 17 chefs are in the mix, including Fred DeAngelo of Turtle Bay's Ola, who with his wife Cheryl here publishes Real Word. Will the food be as hot as the art? That's what I'm here to find out.

    Staff picks: Best comfort food ever

    Our favorite soul-soothers

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Warm childhood memories, long day pick-me-ups, solace for tummy aches and fevers. Comfort food means something different to everyone. We polled Nonstop's team of 10 for this first Staff Picks gallery, and came up with a range of favorites that reflects Hawaii on the palate, often in its simplest, most unadorned form.

    Surprises? Three of the picks were Korean dishes. Only one was a sweet. And nobody chose saimin.

    And you? What all-time fave resonates from your palate to your soul? Read on to find out ours, then leave a comment and tell us yours.

    Best ribs in Honolulu

    Honolulu's best ribs

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    By Ed Morita
    Nonstop

    With the triumphant return of the McRib at McDonald's, I got a hankering for barbecue ribs. But although there are hundreds of Honolulu restaurants with "BBQ" in their names, most don't serve real barbecue.

    Whether it's Kansas City, Memphis, North Carolina or Texas-style, good barbecue has three primary qualities — a smoky flavor from cooking with wood chips or sometimes charcoal; a great sauce; and fall-of-the-bone tenderness from slow cooking over indirect heat. With this in mind, I went on a quest to find the barbecue in town.

    Amber-Lynn Hyden’s Top 5

    Storto's Deli

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    Hyden can't miss hitting Storto's Deli while on the North Shore. It's one of her favorite places to grab a quick sandwich on the go.

    Storto's Deli
    66-215 Kamehameha Highway
    , (808) 637-6633

    M&M eats: Sushi ii

    New eats: Sushi ii

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    We recently got a tip from our friends at the Sake Shop: A new sushi bar has opened up in the Keeaumoku neighborhood. It's in Samsung Plaza, where our former beloved #1 I Love Sushi once stood. The owner is the former sushi chef from the once wildly popular Natsunoya Tea House sushi bar, and — bonus! — it's BYOB.

    It's in my neighborhood, which Mari Taketa and I both love. Mari, in fact, misses the comfort of I Love Sushi. Whether either of us stopped in with friends or just to grab a bite mid-afternoon, the friendly mama-san bustled over us and made off-menu dishes like her homey nabeyaki udon.

    Now Mari and I grab a bottle of Dassai 50 sake and head over to check it out.

    Photo by Stephen C.

    Sushi ii
    655 Keeaumoku St.
    808-942-5350

    My favorite spots for out of town guests

    Where can I take visitors from out of town?

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    Since I eat out a lot, people always ask me where to take their friends or family who visit Hawaii. It's a hard question. One one hand, you want visitors to try food that's unique to Hawaii. But sometimes, there are picky eaters in the group or they have small children, or you have to consider budget.

    I usually have visitors from all over the Mainland. I also have family that grew up here, but live in places where Asian food is scarce, and Hawaiian food is nonexistent. So here's my short answer to where to take out-of-town guests.

    Did this: Off-Premise underground dinner

    Off-Premise

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Gritty backstreet Waipahu, sun's gone down, acres of warehouses loom. Here suddenly, a beacon: the familiar Soul Patrol lunch truck, dishing up grinds on white tablecloths. I've found my first underground dinner.

    What: Off-Premise underground dinners by local chefs

    When: Last night and monthly from January

    Where: You never know. Check the Facebook page for Off-Menu

    Cost: $45 per person, including tax and tip

    Did this: Dessert Fantasy

    Dessert fantasy

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Happy, heady holiday season! Dreams of sugar plum fairies, scrumptious tarts, gooey-chewy cookies and candies and fudge...

    All came true yesterday, an 85-degree day, smack in the heart of Waikiki. The occasion: Dessert Fantasy 2010, every morsel and crumb an homage to the glorious joys of sugar.

    Nonstop double-teamed the occasion, pairing me with pastry pro Ed Morita to cover dozens upon dozens of yums.

    Did reality match the fantasy? Come check it out...

    My fave izakaya dishes

    Fave izakaya dishes

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Top 5 reasons why I love izakaya:

    No. 5. Sake rules — but your beer-, wine- and liquor-loving buds won't be left in the cold.
    No. 4. Cozy, dimly lit spaces make you feel cocooned.
    No. 3. They yell at you when you walk in. In a good way.
    No. 2. Tapas-style dishes let you chase your taste whims all evening.
    No. 1. When you know where to go and what to eat, the food rocks.

    I'm a creature of habit, I totally own it, so when a break from food-hunting steers me toward something light and casual, I often end up at one of five izakaya. They're all hugely different, which makes me love them more.

    The only problem I see with my list of fave izakaya dishes is that they represent only a fraction of what's out there. Which brings up a proposition I'll save until the end. Meanwhile, click on to see my lineup of tried-and-true dishes at these spots around town.

    Star Noodle: a Maui foodie destination

    Welcome to Star Noodle

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop Honolulu

    Early this year, the owners of the Old Lahaina Luau opened a new restaurant above Lahaina Cannery Mall. It started out as a 3,500-square-foot culinary center and warehouse, but they later decided to have an intimate restaurant in front to cater to locals and visitors. The team researched hip and trendy noodle spots in Asia and New York, and brought a piece of that action to Maui.

    I stopped by during a trip to Maui a few months back to see why this eatery has become a favorite among Maui locals and a destination for visitors.

    Star Noodle
    286 Kupuohi St.
    Lahaina, Maui
    808-667-5400

    New eats: Tanaka Saimin

    From the boulevard to the highway

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    By Ed Morita
    Nonstop

    Many fans of the legendary Boulevard Saimin already know about the recent opening of Tanaka Saimin next to Party City on Nimitz Highway.

    We've heard a lot of rumors swirling around about the relationship between the two restaurants. Let's settle any confusion right here: Tanaka Saimin, which opened Oct. 10 and features saimin and other old-time homestyle local dishes almost identical to Boulevard Saimin, is the result of two sisters splitting up with their own businesses. One kept Boulevard and has changed its name to Dillingham Saimin, and the other got a space in the old Weyerhauser building — now being redeveloped by Ba-Le — and opened Tanaka.

    As it is, most customers couldn't care how Tanaka came about. When we visited for dinner on Day 9, a week night, the tables and waiting area were packed.

    Tanaka Saimin
    888 N. Nimitz Highway
    808-524-2020

    New eats: Kokoro-Tei

    Kokoro-Tei

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Driving down Beretania one day, I spy a new sign. Kokoro-Tei, it says. Fresh bento, coming soon.

    Hello! Since the demise of Iga Bento on Keeaumoku, and before that Imari in the same spot and Tokiwaya on Beretania, townies have had to either drive over to Kapahulu for the made-to-order bentos at Iyasume, or settle for the premade box lunches sitting out at Times, Shirokiya, Don Quijote, Nijiya or Marukai.

    Purely for journalistic reasons, and for the greater good of all townies who miss convenient, fresh bento, I decide to investigate this new Kokoro-Tei further.

    Kokoro-Tei
    2424 S. Beretania St.
    808-951-5656

    New eats: Makittii

    New eats: Makittii

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    5:30 last night, corner of Kuhio Ave. and Kanekapolei. The site of the former Perry's Smorgy is packed. Crowds throng the entrance on day one of the Makittii seafood and sweets buffet, spilling onto a crowded sidewalk. Locals, tourists, families, couples — and Nonstop's Diane Seo, who's on time for our meetup.

    Stuck in cross-town and Waikiki Friday night traffic, I'm late. Parking's non-existent. I make seven passes through Waikiki and have given up when a spot opens only two blocks away. Hello, Kitty!

    Forty minutes after our 5:30 reservation, Diane has just gotten seated.

    Photo by Diane Seo

    Makittii
    2380 Kuhio Ave.
    808-923-2260

    Foodie films @ HIFF: Where to eat after

    Foodie films @ HIFF

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    We're scarred, we are, by this recurring vision of funk: It's October, it's HIFF season, and we're in a theater enthralled by scenes that have just played out. Luscious food, exotic stories, all entwined and making us drool. Closing credits roll, we're staring at each other with one burning question, full of desire: Where can we get that same exact food now?

    Nonstop is here to save you, foodie film buffs, from the crestfallen confusion of your nightmares. For you we scoured 214 film synopses, and for (most of) the six droolworthy films we found, came up with equally droolworthy restaurant pairings.

    Spoiler alert: Two movies defied even our vaunted skills. For the rest, sit back, enjoy, drool without worry. Here's where to get that food.

    Did this: Matsutake feast @ Zenshu

    Matsutake feast @ Zenshu

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Days grow short, winds blow chill, and under special pine trees in climes cooler than ours, matsutake mushrooms begin to appear.

    So what, you say? Why all the hype, why the beaucoup bucks? A shroom is a shroom, after all, it's a fungus.

    Not so fast, grasshopper. To the poetic and sentimental Japanese, matsutake is the edible herald of autumn. They'll shave little bits into soup and breathe in the fragrance, bathe bits in batter and fry them tempura-style, savoring every whiff and every taste, because in Japan, this mushroom sells for up to $90 a pound.

    So when Marukai throws a one-time feast in its honor, pairing its own sakes with each of five courses featuring the matsutake, there's only one thing to say: Hai!

    Who makes the best garlic chicken?

    Who makes the best garlic chicken?

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    About a month ago, in preparation for his visit home, Hawaii expat and I Can Haz Cheezburger website founder Eric Nakagawa tweeted, "Who makes the best garlic chicken?" He got a variety of responses, so I thought I'd help him out and parse through the suggestions he received.

    After driving to various hotspots on the island and meeting garlic chicken aficionados along the way, I think I can help Eric cut to the chase when he arrives. You hear me, Eric? I sport a pungent new scent in my pores, just to lend you a hand. Here are my rankings from our readers' choices.

    My favorite late-night eats

    Late-night eats

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    By Ed Morita
    Nonstop

    It’s 2 a.m., and the bars have just closed. Despite the hour, you crave something to eat before making the drive home. But where to go?

    Did this: Chopsticks & Wine

    Did this: Chopsticks & Wine

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    Every October for nine years, the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce has put on one of the biggest food and wine events in Honolulu. Chopsticks & Wine has grown to a mega-event of 1,300 people with 16 food stations and hundreds of wines, beer and sake. It was my first time, and from the moment I set foot in the ballroom, I could feel the incredible energy. It was overwhelming.

    Tip for first-timers: If you can get out of work early, aim to get there as early as possible. I thought I was early — a half hour — but when I got there, the parking lot traffic was slow going. Once parked, the rest of the night is an amazing blur of people and food.

    M&M eats: Fook Yuen

    Fook Yuen

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    Last night, I went to Fook Yuen with some Chinese friends. I hadn't been there in years, but after my recent Lobster King review, they planned this outing so we could compare.

    Upon hearing about dinner, Mari Taketa got excited and wanted to go. She and I had eaten at Lobster King and Ming's, and we found that her taste in Chinese food was (in my words) undeveloped. This was her chance to eat with Chinese people who knew what to order, to see us dine like pros in our own milieu. I was mortified. Mari thought Lobster King's e-mein was airy and luxurious, whereas the rest of us thought they were goopy. At Ming's, the dishes she named her favorites were, shall we say, different from the ones the Chinese people chose. It stressed me out to think that she might have wildly different opinions of the food from the rest of us.

    "That's perfect," said our editor, Diane Seo. "Let's make it a joint review."

    Gasp.

    —Photo by Mari Taketa

    Fook Yuen Seafood Restaurant
    1960 Kapiolani Blvd.
    808-973-0168

    New eats: Morimoto Waikiki

    Morimoto Waikiki

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Opening night for Morimoto Waikiki, and it's Masaharu Morimoto's latest moment to shine. A Michelin star for his Tokyo restaurant, another restaurant newly opened in Napa in July, and now this, the most buzzed-about new restaurant in Honolulu this year.

    For local foodies, the coming of an Iron Chef restaurant is like manna from the Kitchen Stadium gods. Nonstop's Melissa Chang and I headed to the Waikiki Edition Hotel to check it out for our first ever head-to-head review.

    Photo by Ed Morita

    Morimoto Waikiki
    1775 Ala Moana Blvd.
    808-941-5900

    Did this: Taste of Helumoa

    Taste of Helumoa

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    Royal Hawaiian Center celebrated its 30th anniversary with the Taste of Helumoa Food & Wine Festival in the Royal Grove last night. It doubled as a fundraiser for Aloha Festivals and showcased the restaurants in the Center, along with the Sheraton and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

    Each food booth had a wine pairing next to it, which you could purchase for an additional $5. So we ate. We drank. And as the night went on, we saw a lot of our friends there, too.

    Fave okazuya finds

    Fave okazuya finds

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    A childhood memory: It's early morning, air is cool and cars fill the streets. Field trip today, so there's a frozen can of juice in my backpack and $5 in my pocket for lunch. If I'm lucky, Honda Delicatessen will still have sweet potato tempura. Fried Spam, musubi, namasu and sweet potato tempura: I'm golden.

    Whose memory is this? Yours? Ask any longtime local about their favorite okazuya, and they'll either throw out their current fave, along with a list of items that constitute the perfect plate, or they'll tell you they grew up near another one that's long since closed, like Honda.

    For you out there who love okazuya, for you who know mainly your neighborhood faves, for you who are wondering if okazuya today can help you recapture memories and flavors past, I visited five local favorites to find the answers.

    I wouldn't be a credible food hunter if I didn't also revisit each place until I could bring you the top picks. What did I find? Let's go take a look.

    Did this: Taste at Kapolei

    Taste at Kapolei

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    Eleven years already, Taste at Kapolei? Where have we been? Your grassy knolls overlooking dreamy lagoons, white tents beckoning as far as the eye can see, and crowds of happy, hungry people streaming toward the mix of heady aromas.

    Thirty-two restaurants have staked out spots on the green carpet. Who's here? What's delish? And most important, can we fit it all in?

    Come with and see.

    First taste: Hapa Dog

    Hapa Dog has its day

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    Several months ago, a new hot dog counter popped up in the food court in the Waikiki Shopping Plaza, and word has slowly spread about its taste and value.

    Pay attention when you descend to the food court from Kalakaua Avenue, or you'll miss it. As soon as you get off the escalator, it's on your right. All dogs are quarter-pound sausages, filleted and grilled to order. Your best bet is to go early, as we've seen them sell out — not just because they're good, but also because all the dogs on the menu board are just $5, including chips and a drink. That's right, a complete meal for just $5 in the heart of Waikiki. Take a look at what you get for the price.

    Hapa Dog
    2250 Kalakaua Ave.

    Who makes the best ramen?

    My favorite ramen

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    By Ed Morita
    Nonstop

    Ramen is the perfect comfort food, with slurpable noodles that satisfy your inner kid and broth that instantly warms your core or nurses a hangover after a night of partying.

    Even after eating 27 different ramen for this gallery, I'm not tired of it. In fact, I had ramen for dinner the night I wrote this. But with the multitude of ramen places and myriad of variation here in Honolulu, it was difficult to compare, rate and rank them. For instance, Sansei's crab ramen with Asian truffle broth is probably one of the best ramen anywhere, but it's hardly fair to compare that to the offerings from a mom-and-pop restaurant on a side street in Kalihi. So to name the best bowl, I leveled the playing field and just ordered basic, bare bones char siu ramen without any fancy additions.

    Here's what made my cut.

    New eats: Lobster King

    Lobster King

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop

    I had wanted to try Lobster King since it opened a few months ago, but I figured I'd wait until the crowds died down. They haven't. At least, not for dinner. On any given night, even Mondays, you can drive past and see the staff frantically serving a full house.

    The kanji actually says "lobster palace." We think the owners named it "Lobster King" to indicate its specialty as well as its address, and figured it was close enough.

    Lobster King
    1380 S. King St.
    808-944-8288

    Best pizzas in town

    Pizza: a quest

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop

    All pizza, all the time. Twenty-seven pizzas in two weeks I tried, and that doesn't count the ones already committed to memory. In all, the total was more than three dozen.

    I ate pizza in parking lots (3), pizza in bars (5), pizza from a bakery, pizza from a bowling alley. Every meeting I had, I brought pizza.

    The only ground rule was that a pie had to be local — i.e. no mainland chains. The ones that were forgettable disappeared from memory like puffs of flour above a pizza maker's table.

    But when the carnage was over, eight lingered on the brain: the Top 5, all so good the only way to rank them is by the fondness of the memory, so no ranking; plus three runners-up.

    Ready? *Drum roll, please* Click on for this town's best pizzas.

    New eats: Side Street Inn on Da Strip

    Waiting for Side Street

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    By John Garcia
    Nonstop

    Side Street Inn’s new location on Kapahulu has been busy every single night since opening in late July, and it hasn’t died down yet. You can see the line while driving by. My first impression: The place is packed — make reservations unless you want to wait.

    Second impression: Parking around the old Hawaiian Dredging building, where SSI on Da Strip occupies a ground-floor space, is a bear. If you go, you’ll have to find street parking or valet at $5 a pop. Not bad if you plan on staying a while with friends. Probably best to carpool.

    Side Street Inn on Da Strip
    614 Kapahulu Ave.
    808-739-3939

    New eats: Honolulu Burger Co.

    Here's the beef!

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop Honolulu

    Hello? Right across from Times on Beretania, in the old Mekong restaurant space, new signage announces the Honolulu Burger Co., established 2010. July 29, to be exact.

    And the buzz: all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef! O guilt-free sin! Plus what? Truffle fries, sweet potato fries, blue cheese fries, and shakes?

    It's too much. The promised land beckons.

    Honolulu Burger Co.
    1295 S. Beretania St.
    808-626-5202

    Did this: Joy of Sake

    August 19: the muse strikes

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    By Mari Taketa
    Nonstop Honolulu

    This soft summer's eve
    We'll sip in rising rapture
    O joy of sake!

    — Photo by Ed Morita

    New eats: Da Kitchen

    Da Kitchen comes to Honolulu

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    By Melissa Chang
    Nonstop Honolulu

    Known on Maui for its big portions of local-style food, Da Kitchen recently expanded to Honolulu in the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse on Isenberg Street. It opened to rave reviews, so we thought we'd check it out for ourselves.

    Da Kitchen Honolulu
    925 Isenberg St.
    808-957-0099
    www.da-kitchen.com

    My favorite North Shore eats

    North Shore eats

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    By Catherine Toth
    Nonstop Honolulu

    There are only two reasons why I make the 37-mile trek from Aina Haina to the North Shore: surf and food. And since it’s summer — meaning, the conditions along the seven-mile stretch of world-famous breaks are better for snorkeling than surfing — I’m only heading out there to eat.

    There are more options out here than you’d probably expect from this sleepy coastline community. You'll find burger joints, lunchwagons, okazuya, saimin stands, trendy cafes and fine-dining restaurants — all between Wahiawa to Hau'ula.

    Some spots — Ted’s Bakery, Giovanni’s shrimp truck and Matsumoto Shave Ice — are so well known (read: crowded) that most locals avoid them altogether.

    But even these tourist destinations can offer something refreshingly new — Ted’s has a crispy egg-dipped sandwich filled with shrimp, dijonnaise, onions and melted provolone cheese with a guava butter sauce, for example — for which even born-and-raised resident like me will fight the sunburned crowd and wait in line.

    Here are a few other dishes I’m willing to sit in traffic for: