Instead of resolutions that are made to be broken, why not cultivate a habit that’s easy and fun to follow? For me, that means adding more variety to my fast-food diet, as I replace guilty pleasures with tasty, fresh grub from local lunch wagons.

What we think we know about the traditional restaurant–as a place to go for one menu prepared by one chef–is challenged more frequently these days, and we’re not talking about pop-up events and trucks. Perhaps the most exciting idea is the actual modification of the restaurant archetype, like that taking shape at Taste.



Restaurants / Literally, mochi is a beaten rice cake. Culturally, it’s respectful fare, made fresh for the New Year.

Honolulu has recently seen a propitious rise in vegan-friendly restaurants. Take Downbeat Diner, where most menu items can be made sans animal product by request, or Yuzu, where the veggie sushi platter leaves diners content to forgo fish.

At quick-bite (okay, fast food) restaurants, one often gives up fresh, healthy ingredients in exchange for ease and low cost. Thankfully for the time-pressed and hungry, the owners of these recently opened restaurants are prioritizing food quality while somehow finding a way to speed the time from order to plate.

In ancient times, the ahupuaa of Waiahole was known for the uniqueness of taro grown there: kii kalo paa o Waiahole, or “the hard taro of Waiahole.” At the mouth of this region sits the Waiahole Poi Factory, a place that is, in its own way, the modern spirit of this solid kalo. It is more than a place where you can get hand-pounded or machine-milled poi and a Hawaiian plate–it is a movement.

As a lover of ahi, typically yellowfin tuna, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of ahi poke, bite-size pieces of the raw fish marinated in seasonings, limu, sesame seeds and soy sauce. What I’ve learned: Every seafood preparer in Hawaii who makes it believes he or she offers the finest ahi poke around.

Honolulu’s next generation of chefs–the culinary students at Leeward (LCC) and Kapiolani (KCC) Community Colleges–are at your service. The Pearl, LCC’s fine dining restaurant, is the polished output of the Culinary Arts Program, coordinated by Tommylynn Benavente.

For a Hawaiian Thanksgiving, various spots around the island will be hosting imu, authentic underground ovens in which the public can have their Thanksgiving birds or beasts cooked overnight. An imu is a deep pit that primarily uses steam to cook whatever is placed into it–pigs, bananas, taro; the choices are endless.

If America is indeed a melting pot, as the old metaphor goes, then Hawaii floats in the section of the pot where the kimchee, sushi, and dim-sum simmer together, creating the feeling that jumping between the different bars/restaurants on Oahu is like skipping all over the continent of Asia. Of all the styles and genres of places to go, perhaps none strike a patron with the same felling of Japanese authenticity as an izakaya–a traditional Japanese bar and restaurant, similar to a western pub, where, along with an eclectic array of sakes and beers, a variety of appetizers fill the menu.

When I first see the new restaurant 53 by the Sea, I think of the scene in the most recent film version of “Pride and Prejudice” in which Elizabeth falls in love with Mr. Darcy after seeing his £10,000-a-year estate.

The tradewinds have picked up again (thank heaven), just in time to allow things to cool off enough to satisfy my intense curry cravings. I’ve tried curries all over the island and nothing makes me feel quite as cozy as Lemongrass Vietnamese & Thai Cuisine in Kailua.

Local bakeries are built upon tradition. Tradition springs from family and customer loyalty, the hope being that, even when times change, traditions won’t.

“I need two-four pieces of sassy BBQ chicken!” No, it wasn’t another “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke. It was an order, shouted to the kitchen, for one of the most popular dishes at Li’l Soul, a small, crowded eatery that opened in September in the Remington College building downtown.

Honolulu is pretty easy on Italian restaurants. Much too easy: when restaurants unload a plate of pasta so heavy the waitress can barely carry two at a time, the noodles swimming in sauce the texture of cream of tomato soup, and charge less than $15 for it, Honolulu’s happy.

Da Falafel King The first time I tried Da Falafel King, it was a lunch truck at an Eat the Street event many months back. Now, Da Falafel King rules over a territory that includes a vendor in Waikiki, a truck in Moiliili and most recently, a small dine-in on South King Street.

What does a healthy food system look like? Farmers and agricultural industry experts from all along the food chain — anyone concerned about the challenge of getting food to the table in Hawaii — will ponder the future at the 2012 Agricultural Conference tomorrow and Friday, Sept.

Although raised in a Korean family, I’ve never much enjoyed eating in Korean restaurants. I chalk it up to having been spoiled by the pleasures of our home kitchen: our great-grandmothers rolling out the thick, elastic man doo dough and teaching us to fill and shape the dumplings with a mash of diced pork and kim chee; our mother’s succulent braised hot-spicy shortribs we called chong ji dim (kal bi jim); best of all, of course, my grandparents’ barbecued beef.

In the crabtastic world of medieval eating, I am but one claw lost at sea. It’s like one day I woke up and all these new crab joints had popped up in Honolulu.

Back home in Nippon, ramen shops are located on practically every block downtown. These spots are small, making the most out of a simple menu.

It often seems that you have to hit the trendiest spots for “fine dining” quality cuisine. This means making a fuss over reservations, worrying about dress codes, dealing with snooty hostesses, and, if the restaurant is in Waikiki, finding parking that won’t cost as much as your meal.

Indian restaurants are so few and far between in Honolulu that they’ve got fiercely loyal customers. Folks swear by Team Taj Mahal’s size-of-your-face naan or Team Maharani’s burn-your-tongue curries, and heaven help the poor fool who dares to dispute.

With the exception of New York’s Central Park, it’s hard to think of a town with a public interface like Honolulu’s Kapiolani and Kuhio Beach Parks. It’s fractal and uneasy, this zone between the ocean, Waikiki, the Parks, the Shell and Zoo and Aquarium, but the bottom line, economically and demographically, is its real estate.

When I was a little girl my grandparents used to take me to a neighborhood restaurant that served the most out-of-this-world salmon. Even though it was the most expensive item on the menu, they always indulged me, encouraging me to order what I always considered to be the “adult” option.

They call Maui the Valley Isle. I call it home, the place where I grew up.

This week