I got all choked up over an omelet the other day. No, I didn't choke on the omelet; it was delicious, a Tex-Mex style concoction. But it wasn't the jalapenos that made me misty-eyed and sniffly.
The omelet was one of the first things I tried at the new Bamboo Grille, which opened last week in the old Nazo's at Puuone Plaza. Owned by Kimberly Endo, Bamboo Grille is basically the long-awaited return of Fran's Island Grill, formerly Norm's Cafe, both of which were located at the old Hale Lava on Lower Main, which is now Ohana Karaoke and Restaurant. Waiting for my order, gazing out the window at the West Maui Mountains, I got lost in decades of Central Maui diner history.
When I was a child, Hale Lava and Tasty Crust were my favorite dinner joints, mostly because of the extras. Hale Lava had jukebox selectors at each table, a dime a song or three tunes for a quarter. And I spent hours fantasizing about the indoor miniature garden at Tasty Crust. I imagined myself like Alice in Wonderland, shrunken down to the size of my troll dolls, wandering over the lava rocks and mini-streams. The display is long gone, but thankfully, Tasty Crust remains in the same Mill Street location, still serving up world famous hot cakes.
My parents and my auntie and uncle bowled in the Maui Pine league every Friday night at Aloha Lanes, and we'd stop next door at Kurasaki's Cafe for dinner and a slice of their scrumptious pies. Nearly 50 years later, you can still get delicious pies and pastries there, only now it's Stillwell's Bakery & Cafe. In between the Kurasakis and the Stillwells, the place was occupied by Colonel Sanders, as a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise - Maui's first, I believe.
On special occasions, my dad would take us to Maui Frontier in Kahului for steak and lobster and a tossed salad with Roquefort dressing. That's what he always ordered, and so it was my favorite too, "heavy on the dressing." The Frontier became The Landing, then the Chart House, and now Cary & Eddie's Hideaway.
Kama'aina who remember the Maui Frontier also may recall Wimpy's Corner, where the Paia Fishmarket now stands. Some may even remember when owner Amy Yonashiro opened Ma-chan's Ozazu-ya in the brand new Kaahumanu Shopping Center, back in the mid-70s. A decade later, she moved operations to the Kahului Industrial Area and named her new place Jack's Inn, where, to this day, you can still get the best Okinawan style pork on the island.
The dry noodles and manju at Sam Sato's are just as delicious as I remember them being at the old Puunene restaurant, before it moved to Happy Valley and then to the current Wailuku Millyard site. I'm too young to remember the first Sam Sato store in Spreckelsville, but I do have a few faded memories of the original Tokyo Tei, across Wells Street from the Wailuku Fire station, before it moved to Puuone Plaza. Which brings us back to Bamboo Grille and my tear-inducing omelet.
My late husband, Barry Shannon, and I were among the many regulars at the old Norm's and then at Fran's. We had breakfast there every Sunday and dinner several times a week. Barry especially loved the Ranchero omelet, topped with salsa and sour cream. It was too spicy for me; I usually had kalua pork hash and eggs. Or fried rice. Or banana pancakes. Or the Nalu melt or roast pork or bamboo steamed ono or shrimp curry or any of the daily specials. But Barry always had the Ranchero for breakfast, and sometimes for lunch or dinner. That was the other thing he loved about Norm's/Fran's - you could get breakfast any time of day.
I'm not the only one who remembers Barry's Ranchero habit. A month or so ago, Kimberly called to ask whether I would mind if she renamed the omelet after its biggest fan. So it wasn't a surprise to open the Bamboo Grille menu and see my late husband's name on the first page. Of course, I had to order the Barry Shannon omelet. I could almost hear his voice as I picked out most of the jalapenos: "You're leaving behind the best part!"
Sorry, Barry, I'm a wimp. Look at me. I'm crying over an omelet. But don't worry, it won't happen again. Next time, I'm having kalua pork hash with a single stack pancake, heavy on the butter.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.