Mainland 4, Hawaii Zip(py’s)

I call it “Yuppie Food.” It’s that multi-ethnic (but mostly North American), not-quite-upscale fare you get at places like TGI Friday’s, Dave & Busters, Chili’s, and The Cheesecake Factory. My friend Penny calls it “American Bistro,” but since I don’t really know what a Bistro is, I like my name better.

Whatever it’s called, it’s my usual dining-out preference.

The Cheesecake Factory in Waikiki opened late last year and after a couple of really slow videos at Penny’s (Bubba Ho-Tep and Truly! Madly! Deeply!), we made the short (and unusual, for us) drive into Waikiki for a late-night dinner.

On the way, we brainstormed (again) a list of late-night eateries which included

  • Sorabol (24 hours)
  • Zippy’s (of course),
  • Million (open ’til 2 a.m. on weekdays and ’til 4 a.m. on weekends),
  • The Hungry Lion (24 hours on weekends, and vigorously booed by everyone but me),
  • Big City Diner (still good, but we go there all the time),
  • Liliha Bakery (closed Mondays but 24 hours the other days), and
  • Diner’s (which we unanimously hate).

Nothing on this list comes close to being Yuppie Food, except maybe Big City Diner, which isn’t even really open that late. Why do local establishments settle into the basic glorified plate-lunch category, when places like Chili’s and The Cheesecake Factory are always so full of people? I swear, something like a Chili’s, open late, in a neighborhood like Nu`uanu or Manoa or Kapahulu (yeah, that’d be perfect!), should kick butt.

I guess that’s what Big City Diner is sorta doing, so maybe I have no real grounds for complaint, except that it closes a little bit too early for my taste. I have it on excellent authority that Cafe Laufer is moving from its current Waialae spot, possibly to Ward Centre (where the new shops will be, on the bottom floor of the parking structure and opening out onto Auahi Street). If it does, and if it stays open later, it might be a great alternative to these national chains. If you haven’t had the meatloaf sandwich and a bowl of soup there, you’re reallly missing out. The food is good.

Anyway, I had half of a Boston House Salad (the Factory makes its own ranch dressing, and it’s pretty good) and the Mile-High Meatloaf Sandwich. It was pretty good, but this was my second time there and both times I wasn’t very impressed. Chili’s and Dave & Buster’s are much better. I passed on dessert, as I’d had a small cup of Cold Stone earlier that afternoon. Cold Stone. Another national chain.

4 Comments so far

  1. Doctah (unregistered) on October 19th, 2004 @ 1:55 pm

    Ugh, places like Chili’s and Cheesecake Factory really make me sad. It’s not about the food at these establishment — they pile high cheaply-produced grub (frequently fried or microwaved) in loud, obnoxious environments. For the same price, why not go to a real restaurant with trained chefs, painstakingly detailed decor and a less automated feel? Indigo, Auntie Pasto’s, etc. Your taste buds are a terrible thing to waste!

  2. HawaiianSnowlion (unregistered) on November 16th, 2004 @ 3:49 am

    I miss the old local Spencecliff et al. places which used to fill this particular culinary niche-Coco’s, Spindrifter, Yum Yum Tree. It seems when the mainland chains started moving in they closed down. As usual.

  3. Amber (unregistered) on April 6th, 2005 @ 4:29 pm

    Im from Hawaii but have been living on the mainland for just over 10-years now. Trust me The Cheesecake Factory is not only packed in Hawaii its packed here on the mainland too. I honestly don’t know why…it’s a chain for god’s sake! The foods good for what it is but 1)its a bit prices for what they are 2)the wait for a table is retarded and the wait at your table (to order, for the food, and for your check) is downright mental. I work a block from a Cheesecake factory now and they open at 11 if you get there at 11.30 you can expect to wait. What the??? A half hour after opening, give me a break!

  4. tdogg (unregistered) on June 7th, 2005 @ 10:35 am

    Amen, Amber. Keep it local, folks! I’m also a Hawaii native who’s been on the mainland for a while now. It’s so distressing how mainland everything is getting in Hawaii. And the scary thing is, local people love it! I can understand it, since it’s just something different. But if every local person spent 5 years on the mainland, they would go back to Hawaii with an intense appreciation of the variety and quality of the food there. Big chain restaurant food makes people on the mainland get fat, folks! The portions are ridiculous and the food is usually mediocre! Eating local is the way to go, folks!

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