After nearly six decades in business, Ono Hawaiian Food to close in August

Ono Hawaiian Foods closing
Published: May. 26, 2017 at 5:09 PM HST|Updated: May. 29, 2017 at 1:08 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAPAHULU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For nearly 60 years, if you were talking about one of the most popular places on Oahu to get Hawaiian food, you didn't have to look any further than the Ono Hawaiian Food restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue.

In a manner of weeks, that conversation will cease to be held. After more than a half-century, the company's owners say it's time to retire – and shut down the popular restaurant.

"This is kalua pig, roasted pulled pork. In the chili, in the poi... This is pork with taro top steam."

It's a speech Cynthia Oh Young has given thousands of times, recited each time she brought her popular menu items to a table of first timers.  The restaurant opened in August of 1960, but will close this August after 57 years in business.

"A majority of us work long time, I'd say about 30, 40, even 50 years, so I guess it's time to retire," Oh Young said. "It comes to a time when we have to let go."

Cynthia and her camera-shy husband Clayton now run the family business, which was started by her mother-in-law, Sueko Oh Young, back in 1960. Because of it's location, it's not just popular with Hawaii residents, but also diners from far and wide.

"We very fortunate," Oh Young says. "We have a lot of customers and clientele from all over the world. From Russia, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, we so very lucky."

Jane Woolridge and her entire family ate at the restaurant several days ago for the very first time.

"It's is a very special place," Woolridge said. "It's family oriented."

Woolridge said she especially appreciated how each dish was explained to her, saying that it was "very kind to tell us all about the menu and the tastes we would experience, so we could choose from a menu we didn't know anything about."

Inside the small, cramped shop, above the red booths and nondescript tables and chairs, hundreds of photos of smiling diners cover nearly every inch of the walls. Kaleo Pascua, his wife and his daughter were among those who recently stopped by for lunch.

"I had the fried ahi with watercress," he said. "I going miss my salt meat – ho, my salt meat luau, that's my favorite. If you like taste the best Hawaiian food on the island, its right here, you know what I mean."

The prices have had to change over the years, but the menu has pretty much stayed the same – all family recipes.

"To me, it's the way aunty and uncle serve us li dat," Pascua said.

Cynthia says the closing date in August hasn't been decided yet, so there's still time for one last meal. And as for retiring?

"We all looking forward, and I'm so sorry folks, but that's the way it has to be," she says. "I'm so sorry."

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