City and County of Honolulu – Many Neighborhoods, Towns, and Cities As One

Honolulu, Hawaii is an incredibly diverse place to live. With more than a dozen languages spoken by significant communities, a wide diversity of religions, and a culture that spans the globe. When you consider the fact that Honolulu is not just a city but actually a combined entity of the City and County of Honolulu all run from as jurisdiction with one mayor, one city council, and one police force – it really changes the way Honolulu looks both geographically and demographically.

Neighborhoods and towns on OahuOver the past year, I’ve written a large number of posts that detail the different neighborhoods, cities and towns of Honolulu – which includes the entire island of Oahu. I have not included the outer islands that are part of Honolulu City and County which stretch all the way up to Midway Island but not including it (or Johnston Atoll). Thousands of uninhabited little islands, atolls, reefs, etc are included but since they have no people, they have no neighborhoods. This post is an attempt to share all of those neighborhood articles in a bit of an orderly way. My purpose in writing these articles has been so that I can share more than just the names when I write about places, activities, attractions, restaurants, or beaches on Oahu.

Neighborhoods in ‘Town’ include those places formally inside the metro city limits. East Honolulu goes from Diamond Head to Koko Head. Windward Side stretches from Waimanalo up to Kahuku on the east side of Oahu. North Shore is from Kuhuku to Mokuleia. Leeward is the ‘West Side’ and goes from Yokohama Bay down to Ko’olina. Central Oahu includes areas from Ko’olina to Salt Lake and all the towns upwards to Wahiawa in the center of Oahu between the two mountain ranges of Ko’olau and Waianae.

I’ve combined some areas that made sense to me and have yet to write about some neighborhoods like Chinatown, Ala Moana, Black Point, Portlock, Kalihi, Moili’ili, Waipio, Barber’s Point, Nu’uanu and the many many many Military Bases and Housing Complexes on the Island.

Neighborhoods in ‘Town’

Downtown Honolulu Financial District and Fort Street Mall

Historic District

Chinatown

Makikiki, Punchbowl, and Tantalus

Waikiki

Diamond Head

Kaimuki

Kaka’ako

Salt Lake and Moanalua

Honolulu International Airport

University of Hawaii and Manoa

East Honolulu

Kahala

Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai

Kokohead

Windward Side

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo Town

Kailua

Lanikai

Kaneohe

Kahalu’u, Ka’a’awa, Punalu’u

Laie

Kuhuku and Hau’ula

Central Oahu

Pearl City, Aiea, Waimalu

Wahiawa and Mililani

Waipahu

Kapolei and Ewa

North Shore

Waialua

Haleiwa

Waimea, Pupukea, Sunset Beach

West Side (Leeward Coast)

Ko’olina and Makakilo

Waianae, Makaha and Nanakuli

Central Oahu Neighborhoods of Wahiawa and Mililani

Wahiawa and MillaniTowards the center of Oahu you have two communities that sit higher than anywhere else on Oahu because they are on the central plain between the Ko’olau and Waianae Mountain Ranges. Mililani which is mauka (mountain direction from beach) of Pearl City and Waipahu and Wahiawa which sits in just about the exact middle of Oahu.

Mililani Town

Mililani has about 50,000 residents split between Mililani Town and Mililani Mauka – split by the H-2 freeway. It is a planned residential community that sits on former plantation lands. It was designed by famed architect Al Boeke and the first homes were sold relatively recently in 1968. You won’t find any historic landmarks in Mililani from the colonial or territorial periods. Mililani is literally an ‘all American’ suburb town that is the only place in Hawaii to ever win the official designation of ‘All American Town’. In 2005 it was designated as one of the best places to live in the USA by Money magazine. Tourists and visitors will find little to no reason to visit Mililani.

In Hawaiian, Mililani means beloved place of chiefs and that may be true because as the third wealthiest town/neighborhood on Oahu – there are definitely some chiefs living there. Wahiawa, on the other hand, means ‘place of noise’ which is funny because it is one of the quietest places on the island – which might actually be the point because in Wahiawa, you don’t hear the roar of the ocean and so the noise of the wind, birds, and the land itself is probably the loudest.

Wahiawa sits closest to the middle of Oahu. For Hawaiians, this made it a place of power. It is the ‘piko’ or bellybutton of this island. The town was a sacred place for Hawaiian people it is where healers trained in pre-European contact Hawaii. It is where high ranking women would choose to give birth. It is a sacred and powerful place where there was a significant population of Hawaii’s third gender, the ‘mahu’ were centered.

Wahiawa, Hawaii

Today, Wahiawa is a bit of a pit – a typical military town surrounded by bases and military housing. You will find no shortage of fast food, pawnshops, payday loans, furniture rentals, and tattoo shops there along the main strip through town – though – in recent years, residents have made an attempt to clean the town up and are finding some success. Surfer’s Coffee Bar and the surrounding businesses are clean, interesting, and make a nice stop on the trip from North Shore to Oahu. Some decent restaurants have set up shop in Wahiawa. And if you get off the main drag – you will find the free, beautiful, and very well kept Wahiawa Botanical Gardens.

Wahiawa Botanical Garden

Wahiawa has a population of about 18,000 people. The surrounding military bases of Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Field both have significantly larger populations than the town. South of Wahiawa you find Mililani and north of it you find Hale’iwa. Just to the North of Wahia’wa are the Kukaniloko Birth Stones, Green World Coffee Plantation, and the Dole Plantation.

Ko Olina and Makakilo – Disney Resort and the ‘other Waikiki’

Makakilo means ‘observing eyes’ in the Hawaiian Language. This is a small community of about 15,000 people that is really a neighborhood of Kapolei. Sitting on the slopes of the hillsides moving away from the beach – there isn’t really anything to draw visitors here. Like nearly everywhere on Oahu, the really nice neighborhoods are generally military housing. To the West is the manufactured resort neighborhood of Ko Olina.

Makakilo

Ko Olina has a golf course, four beautiful man-made lagoons that would be private in a different state where beach access wasn’t guaranteed. There are four high end resorts on the property along with an unusually large number of wedding chapels and a sort of tourist village with shops and restaurants. The resorts include the Disney Aulani as well as the Four Seasons.

Ko Olina Resort

Ko Olina is largely focused on timeshares and short term condominium rentals though there are a small number of full time residents. Ko Olina is made up of about 642 acres comprised of the four resorts, the golf course, and six ‘villages’ of mostly condos. The population is listed as about 1800 people but I doubt that many of these are full time residents – though if you go to the lagoons early in the morning – there is a group of mostly white senior citizens who gather to play ukulele and sing together on some days.

Ko Olina

As you can see from the photo below – taken from the Ko Olina information site – Ko Olina is working very hard to create a fantasy version of Hawaii – and with the Paradise Cove Luau, the Disney Aulani Resort, the four lagoons, and the creation (in progress now) of an Atlantis Hotel (the one in Dubai) – it is succeeding. If you want to see the Hawaii of your imagination and you can afford it – Ko Olina is the place to go – but make sure you close your eyes while you are driving there from the airport because all around Ko Olina you will see the real modern Hawaii complete with traffic, homelessness, people struggling to survive economically, and since Ko Olina is on the dry side of Oahu – a lot of brown…because all that water used to make Ko Olina green has to be brought there.

Ko Olina Fantasy

Ewa and Kapolei Neighborhoods – Oahu’s Second City

Ewa Sugar PlantationKapolei is primarily built on the old sugar and pineapple lands that were serviced by the little planation town of ‘Ewa back in the territorial days. From about the 1950s onwards, Kapolei has been the focus of a whole lot of government efforts to create a second major urban center on Oahu. The population today is in excess of 100,000 making it the second largest town on Oahu – and in actuality, making it Oahu’s second city – though because of the governmental structure  of City and County of Honolulu covering the entire island – technically, Kapolei and everywhere else on Oahu are actually neighborhoods in the city of Honolulu. It’s a little weird.

Ewa Sugar Plantation‘Ewa means crooked though most locals think it means ‘in a westward direction’. The ‘Ewa Sugar Plantation which ran from 1890 to 1970 played a significant role in the history of Hawaii in the 20th Century. It was one of the most prosperous plantations on Oahu and had a major role in shaping policy and governance of the state.  Today there is a small rustic plantation town and a nice little beach park but for the most part ‘Ewa runs into Kapolei and Waipahu. There are about 15,000 people who call ‘Ewa home. There is a significant military population as well as a number of manufactured ‘neighborhoods’ like Ewa Gentry, Ocean Point, and ‘Ewa Villages. The nearby military resort housing base at Iroquois Point is lovely but off limits to civilians.

Kapolei has government offices, an FBI field office, a water park (Hawaiian Waters), plenty of restaurants, shops, and well ordered streets, parks, and festivals. What it doesn’t have is much in the way of tourist infrastructure. There is a hotel there now and nearby at Ko Olina there are plenty of tourist resorts including Disney’s Aulani, Four Seasons, and Marriot. A large portion of the future growth of Oahu is slated to take place in Kapolei and nearby Waipahu and Millilani.

Oahu Second City Kapolei is the home of the University of Hawaii, West Oahu campus and Hawaii Tokai International College as well as a local high schools and grade schools.

The Honolulu Area Rapid Transit Rail project is going to make a big impact on Kapolei – once it’s all done and figured out. Many of the stores and restaurants in Kapolei are franchise locations of local Oahu businesses from Kailua, Waikiki and more – so don’t be surprised to find Lanikai Juice or Kalapawai Deli on both sides of the island.

So here’s the thing – Kapolei – right now – has many of the same restaurants and shops as you find in areas where there are a lot of tourists – but without the tourists. I’m sure this will change before too long. The outlet malls, the resorts at Ko Olina, and the new Makana Ali’i Mall are all starting to draw people. Mostly though – this is all just getting ready for when the rail opens up this part of the island to all the tourists who have been so far, mostly contained in Waikiki and Honolulu.

Captain John Rodgers and his Failed Flight to Hawaii from California.

Captain John Rodgers HawaiiJohn Rodgers International Airport used to be the name of the Danial K Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. Today, there is still a John Rodgers Airport – but it is not the big one you fly into here in Hawaii – instead it is the little training and tourist airport located in Kalaeloa on Oahu.  So, who was John Rodgers and why are these airports named after him?

First of all, it wasn’t just airports that were named after him. There were also six U.S. Naval Ships named after Rodgers, his father, and his grandfather. They were all important Naval officers. But let’s just focus on John Rodgers the aviator for now. In 1911, Rodgers became the 2nd Naval officer to fly for the U.S. Navy. The first plane he flew was actually delivered by Orville Wright…

Captain John Rodgers Hawaii

While all of that is impressive, it’s not why I’m writing about him. In 1925, Rodgers decided to push aviation technology to the limits and attempt a flight from California to Hawaii. If successful, he would have been the first – but – he wasn’t successful and that left the success to Amelia Earhardt. So, why am I writing about a failed attempt and why were airports named after a guy who didn’t succeed?

Because it is an epic story. Rodgers and his crew ran out of fuel half way to Hawaii. They were supposed to be able to land the plane on the water and refuel from a Navy ship but due to communication and navigation errors – they never found the ship. So they were stuck in a plane with no fuel in the middle of the Pacific. Did they give up and die? No way.

Captain John Rodgers Hawaii

Rodgers took fabric from one of the aircraft wings and created a sail for his plane. Then, he and his crew sailed the plane the rest of the way to Hawaii! They ran out of food and had limited water for a week of the journey and despite the failure they set the record for non-stop air distance for a seaplane. They were welcomed to Hawaii as heroes.

Captain John Rodgers Hawaii

Rodgers died in a plane crash just a year later. He was 45 years old.

Leeward Neighborhoods of Waianae, Makaha, and Nanakuli

Leeward OahuThe Leeward Coast also known as the Wai’anae Coast is one of the most interesting places on Oahu – if you aren’t interested in resort hotels, manufactured tourist attractions, and over-developed promotion of a phony Hawai’i that has never really existed anywhere but in people’s imaginations.

Wai’anae” means “Water of the Mullet.”  These rich fishing grounds were important to the Hawaiian people and the fierce and sometimes inhospitable landscape made it worth the efforts it took to survive here even when other areas on Oahu offered an easier way of living. 

Long before Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii, there were thriving villages on the Leeward coast. After contact, populations tended to grow faster where the living was easier – parts of the beautiful valleys of the Waianae Mountains were used for garbage dumps and bomb practice. Which, by the way – are both atrocious and awful ways to treat a stunning landscape that is host to many endangered species and sacred cultural sites.

In the North there is Makaha and Yokohama Bay – south of there you will find Waianae and Nanakuli – both communities with more than 10,000 residents each. Makaha means fierce or savage in Hawaiian language – and it is likely in reference to the pounding winter surf, jagged reefs, and extremely hot temperatures. There are some beautiful beaches and bays on the Leeward Coast – but most visitors will never see them.

Leeward OahuMost locals think of the Leeward Coast as being a predominantly ‘local’ area – and they are correct. There is a much higher concentration of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders living in this area than the North Shore or Honolulu. In general, there are fewer people of European descent on the Leeward Coast – but – there is actually still a significant military presence – like everywhere on Oahu.

The U.S. Army has a recreation center at Pokai Bay, there is still a military presence in the Makua Valley where sacred landscape has been bombed into uninhabitability, and Kolekole Pass – the shortest way to get from the Leeward Side to another part of Oahu is accessible only to military members and their families  – which, if you ask me – is some serious bullshit.

The largest homeless camp in Hawaii is located on the Waianae Coast. It’s a 20 acre shantytown called Pu’uhonua o Waianae. There are many homeless on the Leeward Coast – a result of gentrification on other parts of Oahu, skyrocketing housing costs, and policies which sweep the homeless from other areas but allow them to stay on the West Side. Civil Beat has done an excellent series on the camp.

Leeward OahuNanakuli is home to one of the oldest Hawaiian Homesteads areas. The name Nanakuli means ‘look at knee’ in the Hawaiian language.  The Hawaiian Homesteads Act was the brainchild of Prince Johan Kuhio and enacted in 1921.

Fighter Max Holloway (MMA champion) and actor Jason Mamoa (Aquaman) both come from the Leeward Coast. Both men are a good example of why you should treat the land and the people of Leeward Oahu with respect if you do choose to visit.

Osaka, Japan – Osaka Castle and Last Day

My first trip to Japan was too short but wonderful. I visited Osaka and Hiroshima. On my last day, I woke up and had Japanese breakfast before walking to Osaka Castle and visiting the temple which honors the patron of the city on the way. The castle was stunning and huge – much more than I expected – mostly though, I was impressed by the moat. After this I took the subway back to my hotel and checked out. Then I walked to Namba Parks, a building with a forest built on it and bought a hard to find toy for Sophia at Japanese Toys R Us. Then I shopped in various malls and ate a nice tempura and sashimi lunch before I caught the electric train towards the airport. I had far too much time before my flight,  so I got off the train early in a small looking town and had a coffee, walked through some shopping centers and went to a grocery store. I may have been the only foreigner to visit that town on that day…no one spoke any English at all. It was nice. Then to the airport, still feeling I had too much time but actually, with customs and check in and other stuff – I only had about an hour waiting past the check in and customs. I made a friend in line and we chatted at various times through the travel process. On the flight, I slept and then arrived back home in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s always nice to come back to Oahu, but I’ll miss Japan.

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Amelia Earhardt on Oahu and in Hawaii

On January 11, 1935 Amelia Earhardt became the first person to fly from Hawaii to California. Not the first woman (though she was that) but the first person. Three years earlier she had become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic (it was 5 years after Lindbergh had become the first person to do so). She had also been the first woman to fly as part of a crew across the Atlantic. In 1937 – she and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific Ocean as they tried to become the first aviators to fly around the world.

Earhardt came to Hawaii twice. She was suppossed to come a third time on the 2nd to last leg of her trip around the world – but disappeared before making it back to the islands.

Her first visit was December 27, 1934-January 11, 1935 – this was when she set the record as first person to fly from Hawaii to North America. The flight took 18 hours – think about that next time you complain about the 5 hours it takes today to fly between Hawaii and the West Coast.

“Over the Christmas holiday (1934,) Amelia Earhart and George Putnam, along with Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mantz, arrived in Honolulu on December 27, having sailed on the Matson liner SS Lurline. Amelia’s Lockheed Vega was secured on the ocean liner’s deck. The group spent two weeks vacationing in Hawaiʻi.” She visited Hilo on the Big Island and planted a banyan tree on  the “Hilo Walk of Fame.”

Amelia Earhardt PlaqueHer second trip was March 17 through March 20, 1937 and was a part of her first attemptto fly around-the-world – which failed with a fiery crash on Wheeler Field. – where the Pacific Aviation Museum is now.. Her final attempt flew in the other direction and ended in her disappearance.

A commemorative plaque sits at the Diamond Head Lookout to commemorate her trans-pacific solo flight. Documents from that flight were placed in a copper box and inserted into the plaque’s base on March 6. It was dedicated on March 14, 1937.

Despite many theories, no one knows what really happened to Earhardt and Noonan. Did they crash in the Pacific and drown? Land on an atoll and live as castaways? Get captured by the Japanese? The truth is – we will probably never know for sure. But she was here…in Hawaii.

 

 

Kahalu, Punalu’u, and Kaaawa Neighborhoods –

There are three little communities on the Windward Side of Oahu that I love. None of them will take you more than a minute or two to drive through and chances are that you won’t get out of your car or spend any time in them. I’m okay with that, and probably most of the people who live in these communities are okay with that.

Oahu Kahalu'uKahalu’u means diving place. All told there are about 2300 people in Kahalu’u. Most of them are Chinese and Hawaiian descent people. This was an area where many Canton Chinese settled in the mid 1800s. The most famous resident was probably Senator Hiram Fong. He was the first Asian American to be a U.S. Senator, the first to run for his party’s nomination for President of the USA, and to date, the only Republican Senator to ever come from Hawaii. I used to take people to Senator Fong’s Plantation in the early 2000s – he died at 97 in 2004. It was always a pleasure to chat with the Senator in his gardens. The plantation continued for about a decade as a fine tourist attraction for about a decade after his death but is now is well past its prime. I’m not even sure it is open to the public anymore but I’ve heard that you can book private walking tours there. Another couple of fun stops in Kahalu’u are the Sunshine Arts Gallery and the many Orchid greenhouses. Like Senator Fong’s Plantation though – these attractions now feel neglected and dated. There used to be one of the very few food trucks in Kahalu’u – Surf Tacos – but that and Mike’s Huli Chicken are both gone now. FDR made a stop in Kahalu’u back in the 1930s.

Driving North from Kahalu’u you will go by the Coral Kingdom, a strange and high priced tourist shop that from my perspective, doesn’t offer much. You should stop at the Macadamia Nut Farm, Chinaman’s Hat, and Kualoa Ranch.

Past the Kualoa Ranch, you will come into sweet little Ka’a’awa. K’a’a’awa means Wrasse. About 1,379 people live in Ka’a’awa. Nicholas Cage’s character gets stuck there in the movie ‘Honeymoon in Vegas’. You can bet some pretty decent Southern BBQ at Uncle Bobo’s restaurant.   I love the beaches in Ka’a’awa. They are narrow strips on the ocean side of the road but rarely crowded and usually the people there are local people fishing, swiming, and talking story. On the North Side of Ka’a’awa you will find the popular Crouching Lion hike behind the now being refurbished Crouching Lion Inn.

Past Ka’a’awa you reach one of the most important places on Oahu – Kahana Valley and Kahana Bay. I’ll save that for another post. Coming around Kahana Bay you will see the red and white of Keneke’s Restaurant and that means you are in Punalu’u.

Oahu Punalu'uPunalu’u means ‘coral dived for’. It is home to about 881 people – and is where some of the oldest inhabitation remains found on Oahu are located. Ching’s Market and Kaya’s Market are the only two stores. These are windward everything stores and carry everything residents might need including food, fishing supplies, hardware, and 5-toed reef shoes called tabies. The Kawananakoa Beach House is located here – it was the summer home of the Kawanakoa Family (heirs to the Hawaiian throne). I lived in Punalu’u back in 2002. I managed and helped build a hostel called Countryside Cabins – it was an amazing period in my life and I learned much of what I love about Hawaii from the residents in Punalu’u who taught me about aloha, the Hawaiian way of life, and local Oahu culture. Punalu’u has fallen on some fairly hard times these days. The cabins fell into disrepair when I left and eventually folded. You will find the first of the shrimp trucks near the market’s in Punalu’u.

While very few of these places I’ve mentioned will ever make it to anyone’s Top 10 of Oahu – that is probably a good thing because Punalu’u, Kahalu’u, and Ka’a’awa all remain truly authentic places. You can’t get them by stopping for a few minutes and you won’t find hotels in any of them.

 

 

I Cried While Visiting Hiroshima, Japan

I cried at Hiroshima. 140,000 men, women, and children killed by a bomb from my country. Awful. Absolutely awful. I paid $200 to take the bullet train to Hiroshima and back to Osaka. I would have regretted not going. I think Japanese people are better than American people – it’s why they don’t have to lock up their bikes and they don’t have to be scared to walk around on the streets. At the very least, their society is better than ours. The truth is, we are assholes.

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Osaka, Japan is for Eating With Eyes and Mouth

Osaka, JapanArriving in Osaka – I admit, I found myself confused. The Japanese I thought I had learned just went away instantly, but luckily workers at the airport seemed used to speaking English and I was able to rent a wifi unit which powered my phone for the two days I was there. I changed $100 USD for  about 11000 Yen and with the help of Google, found my way to the Dotonburi neighborhood using the train.
Dotonbori, Osaka Japan
Japanese people are simply fun for me to watch. I try not to stare. The cute kids playing on the train, the exhausted workmen, the hipster youth, the giggling work girls. I love the diversity within the Japanese themselves – I think they are a beautiful people, in general. And yes, I find Japanese women to almost universally be attractive – and slightly bizarre at the same time. From the dignified mother watching her kids on the train to the elf-like girls in the ramen shop to the grandmother type who made the crazy beaker coffee yesterday – not a romantic attraction, although certainly there are beauties that inspire me, but more of a simple liking of them – I simply like Japanese women. Japanese men are also pleasant to meet and talk with – the young barman last night ( I got a beer in an Irish pub owned by a cool Osaka guy, father of four young kids, never takes a day off, has a nice place). I was led there by the night manager of the hotel when I simply asked where there was a pub – he decided I wanted an Irish pub and after much looking at maps and having the desk girl (she was lovely) explain things to me – which I understood quite well – he decided to walk me there.
Dotonbori, Osaka Japan
I had the best bowl of ramen in my life in one of the privacy slurping places – and ordered a side of green onions with peanuts which were like heaven. At the aforementioned coffee in beakers bar, I met a very nice older Aussie couple.
Dotonbori, Osaka Japan
As I walked through the neon lit streets of Dotonbori. I was exhausted, but exhilarated and filled with a sense of happiness. The canals and the lights and the shops and the delighted people watching puppies in the window of a pet shop. And the entire time, I felt safe. No vague sense of being followed or being worried about getting mugged or getting my pocket picked. The tiny slightly smoke-stinky hotel room is fun in it’s difference from a western hotel.This is simply a first taste of a country that I hope I can come back to again and again and again.

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Liliha Bakery on Oahu – Home of Coco Puffs and Poi Donuts

Liliha BakerySince 1950, Liliha Bakery has been one of Oahu’s brightest gems. This neighborhood coffee shop, diner, and bakery will provide you with some of Oahu’s tastiest treats or a well cooked sit down meal for a reasonable price. There are two locations – one at the original spot in the Makiki neighborhood on Liliha street and the other on the Nimitz Highway between downtown and Honolulu International Airport.

A couple of items from Liliha Bakery stand out for me. First, the signature Coco-Puffs – sweet chocolate filled cream puffs with a dab of mocha creme on them. Second are the Poi Mochi Donuts – these are chewy donuts made with rice gelatin and pounded taro (which gives them their purple color). Starting at 2 am each day, Liliha makes fresh and delicious treats better than any other bakery on the island.

Liliha Bakery

One of the best things about the original location is the diner bar. If you want to feel what it was like to grab a meal at the diner in the 1950’s just sit down and wait for one of the waitresses to take your order. Watch the cooks dish your food in the kitchen and enjoy some thick coffee. Some of the cooks have been there for more than thirty years and the coffee may have been there with them. The diner food is classic local recipes like loco moco, saimin, Portuguese sausage and rice and pancakes.  Open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

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