comscore New Kakaako plate lunch spot pays homage to H. Hamada Store | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Crave | Top News

New Kakaako plate lunch spot pays homage to H. Hamada Store


    Hamada General Store was founded by John Estrella, Neil Nakasone, Brandon Hamada and Elroy Hamada.


    The kim chee reuben sandwich ($16) features pastrami with Swiss cheese, kim chee and garlic aioli on marbled rye bread.


    The interior of the restaurant reflects the comfort and simplicity of the menu.


    Hamada General Store recently opened at 885 Queen St. near the Ke Kilohana building in Kakaako.

After 50 years at 885 Queen St., the mom-and-pop grocery H. Hamada Store closed for good in 2007.

The grocery store was reinvented earlier this month as a plate lunch and catering restaurant in the same location. The building previously had been leased to a variety of tenants, including Queen Street Cafe, I Love Country Cafe and Egghead Cafe.

Partners Neil Nakasone, John Estrella and Brandon Hamada sought to turn the spot into a family restaurant to serve local taste buds.

“After the expiration of the lease, my son (Brandon) took over, with his two partners, John and Neil,” said Elroy Hamada, who owned H. Hamada Store. “That’s how this restaurant became.”

Enter: Hamada General Store. The restaurant pays homage to H. Hamada Store.

You can’t miss the neon green building tucked in the shadow of the new Ke Kilohana condo tower.

The trio met in 1999 and worked together at Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room inside Macy’s at Ala Moana Center, which has since been replaced by Liliha Bakery. They continued their journey, opening the neighborhood sports bars Kanpai Bar & Grill and Home Bar & Grill, both of which have since shuttered.

“This is basically a storybook of what we’ve done over 20 years,” Brandon Hamada said.

The menu offers 17 items, something for everyone, he said. It features familiar ingredients such as tsukemono, ponzu sauce and Spam. Among bestsellers are the wafu hamburger steak ($13) and a healthier option of tofu salmon salad ($13). Kim chee steak and eggs ($22) and braised beef loco moco were a big hit during their past cooking lives.

“We took certain things that we did in the past at various places at some point in our careers and just redid it a little bit differently,” Nakasone said. “Hopefully, a little more upscale.”

Remember Home Bar & Grill’s popular tater tot nachos, loaded with sour cream, olives, green onions, jalapenos and cheese? Cross your fingers it’ll make a comeback. Hamada said the menu will continue to evolve.

“It’s stuff that we like to eat,” Estrella said. “Some of the specials that we’re making now are from when we used to do Sunday football.”

Brandon Hamada remembers working at H. Hamada Store as a 15-year-old stock boy.

“It was a sad day when they closed,” said Hamada, now 44. “When the opportunity came to open a kitchen here, I jumped on it, because I didn’t want the name of this place to end with my father retiring.”

Elroy Hamada, 72, helps out as a parking attendant even after retirement.

Parking can be tight during the lunch rush, between 11:30 and 1 p.m., as there are only a few parking stalls out front.

“If you can avoid those times, you won’t have trouble finding parking,” he said.


Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays, closed Sundays

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature
Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Scroll Up