Even though, for the last decade or so, I have lived 20 miles from downtown Honolulu, I have had a small business in Chinatown during these years. Although it hasn't been where I've lived, it's my neighborhood. The other business owners and customers I have met over the years have become family, lovers, friends. When one of our beloved shops or restaurants closes or moves locations, we grieve like one of our dear friends has left us. When a new place opens up, we all buzz about it and do what we can to cross promote our fellow entrepreneurs. We have watched our comrades move up in their careers and grow and expand, and we have seen places come and go, while people's lives weave in and out of our own, and we have watched as our neighborhood has evolved to what it is today.
Some of us have had several incarnations in the neighborhood and during all of our ups and downs, celebratory meals, drinks to drown our sorrows or to sow our oats, or shopping sprees after our own big sales, we turn to one of our neighboring shops, bars or restaurants where we enjoy our own moments in life, and where they enjoy them along with us.
I have been working on a series of articles for Hawaii Aloha Travel, as their food blogger, focusing first on my favorite neighborhood: Chinatown. I started with an article about Lucky Belly, easily promoting my favorite eats and drinks from their menu, but maybe even more importantly talking about the connection between food, drink, and all of the best and toughest times in our lives.
My next article was on Scratch Kitchen and Bake Shop, another of my very favorites. As I wrote the article I had my usual sentimental feelings about my neighborhood. Of course I wrote about their amazing food and drinks, but what I really love about the story is that it is a success story of one of our own. Brian Chan has family food history. His family owns Little Village, as well as Epic, where Brian was the chef and part owner until he opened up his own little Chinatown baby one year ago: Scratch Kitchen and Bakeshop, located at 1030 Smith Street, Honolulu.
|Chef Brian garnishes his beautiful Pound Cake French Toast dish|
When they opened, we were all abuzz. A great breakfast place in the neighborhood?! AND they are open on Sundays when Chinatown turns into a bit of a culinary ghost town? Finally!! With creative, sexy food and booze for breakfast?!
|Pound Cake French Toast|
Obviously we became regulars for all of those reasons alone, but what I realized while digging into my favorite BLT Benny, navigating the awesome Chilaquiles, and beholding the art of their Pound Cake French Toast, and eyeballing my other favorite on the menu - the Big Island Beef Burger at the next table over, was this:
The food rocks my world, but it's these PLACES, and the people that work there that feed my soul. Talking story with Brian as he sends over shots of Jameson (yes, it's breakfast, don't judge), getting a smooch on the cheek from friends and my own employee who also works there, remembering all the different meals and who we shared them with and what was happening in our lives as we sat at the tables or bellied up to the counter...THIS is what feeds our souls, and why we come back again and again, and why we love this neighborhood of ours.
And so cheers to YOU Chinatown and all of your inhabitants, residents and business owners. I'm savoring my role of eating, drinking, and spreading the word about each of you, don't worry, I'm coming for you next....
Do you have Chinatown connection stories? I would love to hear them!