Issue 5.4: August/September 2002

Counter Culture, Part 2


by Derek Ferrar
photos by Dana Edmunds

Tsukenjo's Lunch House

Last time Hana Hou! checked in with local cuisine connoisseur Donovan Dela Cruz, he led us on a chopstick-lickin’-good tour of Japanese-style okazu-ya lunch counters featured in his book Oh, ‘Cause You Hungry—The Okazu Guide. Since then, a lot has been going on in Donovan’s life. For one thing, he’s running for Honolulu City Council. And for another, he and his partner in grinds, Jodi Endo Chai, have come out with their second local-eating guidebook: The Puka Guide: Oahu’s Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurants (Watermark Publishing).

"Essentially, the new book has the leftovers from our first book—no pun intended," Donovan jokes. "But really: There were a lot of places we wanted to write about that didn’t meet the okazu criteria. Plus, people kept coming up to us at book signings and saying, ‘Oh, you know one place you really gotta check out....’"

Ethel's Diner

From the squid luau at Laverne’s to the sesame garlic chicken at Fatboy’s, The Puka Guide covers forty-five classic Oahu eateries, divided into four basic categories: saimin stands, drive-ins, ethnic restaurants and coffee shops. What makes a true puka place? "They epitomize down-to-earth local food and culture," Donovan says. "A lot of them have been around for a long time, and if you grew up here, it’s the kind of food that your palate just requires."

So what’s cooking next? Donovan and Jodi are working on their third book—on omiyage (gift) foods—and, of course, there’s Donovan’s Council run. Rumor has it he’ll be promising rice in every cooker, and shoyu chicken in every pot.

The Puka Guide is available at bookstores statewide, or direct from the publisher at (808) 587-7766,