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Downtown Epilogue

For many Honolulu workaholics, Downtown@HISAM (the Hawaii State Art Museum) was an oasis for those of us who wanted fresh, delicious, local slow food for lunch. In a world without, what’s a working stiff to do? Ed Kenney, chef-owner of the now-defunct Downtown, and parent Town in Kaimuki, shares his story and tells us how to cope.


Now that Downtown’s gone, do you have any recommendations for downtown alternatives?

[Chefs are] probably the least authoritative source of where to eat, because we’re so embedded in our own restaurants.

Come on, Ed! I mean, we miss you, but we still need a local, healthy lunch! Do you have any ideas?

A locally sourced restaurant for lunch in downtown is a difficult concept to achieve. Lunch is a short period of time. People will only spend so much on lunch. When you’re talking about a menu based on local products, you’re talking about making things from scratch.

If you’re doing local, you’re really doing everything from scratch. It’s an expensive operation to run . . . Most every lunch spot downtown is a mom and pop place with the pop in the kitchen and the mom out front, but if what you want is local food cooked from scratch, table service, linen napkins, there’s really not many options.

Okay, so do you have any plans to get back into the city?

There’s definitely a market, and there’s people that have become family after five years of coming in. So, definitely I’d love to get back down there. Right now, I’m just thinking about getting through the holidays.

What kind of location would you look for?

{It would have to be} a sophisticated landmark that sees the restaurant as an amenity in a traditional restaurant sense, but it’s gotta be a place where I can do dinner, as well.

What did the farmers say about Downtown closing?

Some of our farmers were very upset; we were their biggest account.

What do you want to say to all the people that miss Downtown and want it back? Do you have any message of hope?

[Laughs] Oh, you can still come to Town and see Isaac Shea, who was at Downtown from the beginning. He’s still around. And you know, don’t give up hope, we haven’t. Hopefully, we can find something downtown that works.