Hungry? Check here first!

    Edit: It was brought to my attention that the Hale Aina awards actually produce their list a year early. So they voted and listed the 2015 winners in November of 2014. Here is a link to the new year’s list: 2015 Hale Aina Award Winners. The following article was written based on 2014’s winners, who were announced in November of 2013.

    Tomorrow, we’re holding a manager’s meeting at a local restaurant. Tsukiji’s, to be exact. It’s open for lunch, it’s a buffet, and – we’re hoping – it serves pretty good food all for a reasonable price.

    I don’t know about you, but I like to get the scoop on any restaurant that I go to, before I go and drop a few bucks on a meal. I have my own favorites, to be sure, but every once in a while I like to be adventurous and try somewhere that I haven’t gone to before. Usually I save those for date night with my wife, which happens all to infrequently, and then I have to figure out where to go.

    Yelp is sometimes a good stop for some reviews, but you have to be careful to read ALL the reviews, as some are totally biased one way or the other (highly positive, probably written by an employee or a homer, or highly negative, probably written by someone who’s always grumpy and expected the waiters to obey their every beck and call, no matter that they have 12 other tables to service).

    Rather, I like to check out the Hale Aina Award Winners. There are over 35 different categories with rankings for up to 5+ different restaurants. Categories include general winners like Best Oahu Restaurant or Best Maui Restaurant, or even specific winners like Best Gourmet Comfort Food, or Best Beer Program. I trust it mostly because I agree (for the most part) with their choices of the restaurants that I know of, and therefore assume that the ones I haven’t heard of before – but that ranked highly – MUST be pretty good.

    Hopefully there isn’t much shenanigans going on. My wife used to work at a local restaurant (which will remain anonymous), and said that they used to have their waitstaff fill out ballots for another local media Award type program. They would have a stack of ballots in the break room, and each employee was required to fill them out using fake names and information, then send them in so the restaurant would win their category. Crazy, but not unbelievable.

    But I would imagine that a great publication like Honolulu Magazine, with its reputation, would certainly scour for this type of cheating. Plus, like I said, the restaurants that I DO know of that won or ranked highly (Roy’s, Le Bistro, Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room, etc) are pretty right on.

    Here’s the full list if you’re visiting, and want to check some of these out, or if you’re local and just are looking for something new and existing to try on your next date night:

    Hale Aina Awards 2014

    And here are the restaurants that I really hope to try in the next little while:

    1. Monkeypod Kitchen (Gold: Best New Restaurant)
    2. Chef Mavro (Finalist: Best Service)
    3. Vintage Cave (Finalist: Best Oahu Restaurant)

    Happy Eating! Oh shoot, Jo McGarry is gonna come after me for stealing her tag-line… well then, Joyful Eating!

    JOHNNY TSU