@postaday 133; #postaday2011
Not quite sure whether chef Sean Priester calls this Aloha Soul and Spice or Pacific Soul Cafe, but if you associate the man with the name then you’ll find the food. Why? Because he has a food truck, and he also has a philanthropic bent, feeding Honolulu’s homeless population twice monthly in Kakaako. Donations accepted.
Dining here was my choice. After last night’s conveyor-belt sushi fun with Sophie, I thought I’d like to try Sean Priester’s soul food on Waialae Avenue. So after she talked me in to Starbucks’ frappacino happy hour, where we got two venti coconut mocha NONFAT frappes just before it ended at 5 p.m., we headed to Kaimuki. I prayed for a parking space. We got it. Honestly, the parking lot is nuts, and that’s all John needs to decide against a dining destination. I don’t know if you’re allowed to park across the street in the lot by City Mill hardware store, but it might be easier than using the lot Pacific Soul shares with various other wonderful dining establishments. I pulled in and grabbed the second spot. When I left, I backed out, and kept backing out of the driveway, and gave a shakka to the young dude and his girlfriend in the surfer beater car for giving me and the Toyota Sienna the space necessary on Waialae Avenue to make our getaway. I do not know how I missed the wrought-iron settee in front of the sushi place. Phew. FTW.
At Pacific Soul, there’s a counter outside where you place your order. There’s a dining room with about a dozen tables, two of which appear to be for parties of six or more. Sophie and I picked a table for two from where we could see all the action. Once we decided, I went up to the window and ordered and paid for our meals. Because Priester is celebrating Pacific Soul’s first year anniversary, they were giving out T-shirts! So awesome! We even got one for Charlotte, aka, Kid2. Mahalo, folks!
Sophie had the buttermilk fried chicken with vegetarian chili. The plate comes with the restaurant’s standard sides: cole slaw (oh this is very, very good!), Ma’o Farms’ collard greens cooked with ham hocks (nice chunks of meat throughout), and a lovely slice of cornbread. I got the barbecued ribs with the same sides. We enjoyed the lime-ginger ade so much that I took the rest home. I wonder if it will still be in the fridge when I get home from work tonight?
The chicken is amazing. You cannot find chicken like this anywhere outside a southern grandma’s kitchen. No. Not even Paula Deen could do this. It’s so big and ominous, and when you crack through that crispy skin shell to get to the succulent chicken, your eyes and your mouth go WOW. Sophie said she is certain Charlotte would love this chicken. I’m pretty certain of that as well. We’re not talking chicken you find in a buffet in the movie FARGO. HELL NO! This chicken has personality! My ribs could have been a little more tender, but they were delicious. I probably should have picked ’em up and enjoyed them as fist, err, finger food!
It’s hard to decide what you want to eat at a place like this. Gumbo, shrimp and grits, macaroni and cheese, pulled-pork sliders, the Wednesday special of buttermilk fried chicken with waffles, the mouthwatering weekend brunch menu, and slaw, slaw, slaw! Geeze. I’d be at 24-Hour Fitness Hawaii Kai twice a day if I ate this stuff all the time!
Sean is not a restaurant newbie. He is the former executive chef of the Top of Waikiki. With Pacific Soul, Sean put everything on the line. You gotta respect that. And if possible, you gotta step up. Earlier this week, I caught a re-tweet by Ed Kenny, the owner chef of Town, which is in Kaimuki (talk about another great Kaimuki eatery!):
Here’s what Sean’s tweet said:
On Wednesday 11th May 2011, @pacificsoul said:
I have got to be honest, lunch business is dreadful today, and is a challenge for us in general. In order for me to continue our community service work,our busniess needs to thrive at all times. If you are not able to visit us on a regular basis encourage and insist if you must, your friends, family and associates to come to SOUL. We cater, we deliver, we are clean, have a great staff and the food is pretty decent I think 😉 I appreciate it.
This is why I wanted to go, and this is why I took Sophie. Sean is right. The staff is the friendliest, most accommodating set of restaurant folks I’ve ever encountered. Of course I think this all comes from having a boss who was born with a generous helping of Aloha Spirit, a heart that seeks to create comfort food so nurturing that it results in a dining room so friendly that people talk with each other from table to table while reruns of Soul Train play out on the big flat in the background. If you don’t think you’re up for kicking back and finding your inner soul child, that’s your loss!
Speaking of Soul Train, Sean handed me another little gift before I left: A CD of Classic Soul music arranged by dj bennie james. Do check Bennie’s site! Another WOW experience awaits! This is the second CD of personal-picks music I’ve been gifted with this year. The first came from Kyle, the dude in Kakaako who maintains my van. That music was mostly country with my former Honolulu Advertiser colleague Will Hoover, some Eagles and Bonnie Rait tossed in. I’m eager to listen to this collection, too. Honestly, getting something like this sustains a sense of friendship and warmth long after your business transaction. It’s a nice touch.