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What? Tsukenjo’s closing Friday

After 54 years, the granddaddy of Kakaako’s plate lunch scene is closing the lid

Posted April 30, 2013 by Mari Taketa

No more roast pork with gravy, no more fresh corned beef hash sandwiches. Fifty-four years after Tetsu and Mitsuko Tsukenjo opened for business at the corner of Cooke and Queen streets in Kakaako, Tsukenjo Lunch House is closing for good on Friday.

Shock of shocks. But those clusters of people you see lining up on the sidewalk outside the takeout window at lunchtime? Not every day, apparently. “It’s just too hard,” says Doris Nabarro, one of the seven Tsukenjo kids. “Some days it’s a ghost town.”

The recipes never changed from the opening days in 1959, except the new generation stopped using MSG. The lunch trucks the Tsukenjos ran were sold off a few years ago. So here’s your PSA: Those spare ribs, handmade hamburger patties, Spam and egg sandwiches, no more after Friday.

Good-bye, Tsukenjo’s. Thank you for all that hard work. Thank you for all those nostalgic lunches that kept us tied to an older Honolulu. Thanks for all those years.


You can read all of Mari’s blogs at Follow Mari on Twitter @NonStopMari or email at

  1. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:48 am

    EO:  Aaahhh!  Roast Pork Plate from Tsukenjo’s…fond memories.  Also XL soda about and hour later!

  2. Melissa808
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    You know, that place has always been in the back of people’s minds as a place to go for a solid, old-school meal. That’s why we were foraging there 2 weeks ago when we were in the area! I’m sure the closure of the Honolulu Advertiser was part of its demise. Also, not to keep thumping my laptop, but perhaps if they had delved a little into social media, they could have stayed top-of-mind with consumers around the island, every day. I’m very sad to see them go, though.

  3. ChristopherTokita
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Melissa it’s really sad to see them go. Whenever I’m away from my office mid-morning, I try and stop by the lunch house, but parking is really bad over there. My office friends and I were talking this morning that if the lunch wagon lasted several more years, they would probably have filled a niche in the Food Truck offerings. My friend used exactly the same term, old-school. Their food, service, and prices would still have made them competitive.
    Previous comment that didn’t seem to get posted:  Thanks for the story Mari. I remember going to the Tsukenjo Lunch Wagon on Ward since the 70′s. My dad worked across the street and went there almost everyday for over 20 years. He would even take us there on Saturdays when they were still open 6 days a week. I got my love for curry (roast pork and peppery mac salad) from them. They will be missed. I often find myself trying to go to the Lunch House, but unable to find parking anywhere nearby.

  4. nonstopmari
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    @ChristopherTokita sry chris. change is inevitable, but the sadness this evokes is testament to a good long run

  5. nonstopmari
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    @ChristopherTokita sry chris. change is inevitable, but the sadness this evokes is testament to a good long run

  6. nonstopmari
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    @Melissa808 it’s one of those places that was always there and that i assumed always wd be. maybe plate lunches are getting too mobile. maybe six plate lunch places on one corner is too many. anyway it’s sad.

  7. nonstopmari
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    @Annoddah_Dave u?? XL soda?

  8. harrycovair
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Shocking and so sad. 8(
    Caught me by surprise too. If I recall correctly, Tsukenjo’s was one of the first trucks/restaurants to use “biodegradable plates” back in the 70′s. They had to place wax paper on the plate first because if any liquid touched the plate it would puff up and start to get soggy.
    My faves there were the Roast Pork, Roast Turkey, Stew or Curry, Meat Loaf, Sweet Sour Ribs. I haven’t had the Pork Chop with Cream of Mushroom or Fried Chicken in quite a while. Maybe I’ll try and get the Pork Chop on Thursday, if it’s available, before the crowd finds out Tsukenjo’s is closing.
    Here’s Wednesday menu choices: 
    I dropped by on Wednesday and the cook was working the front window. He was kidding when he said “maybe I should work for the guys next door”. The guys next door has changed owners many times over the last 10 years but Tsukenjo and New Queens BBQ still were the anchors on the corner.

  9. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 6:50 am

    @nonstopmari Why do think I am fat? Loved their RP plate but always got thirsty after.

  10. turkfontaine
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    if i’d done the same thing for 54 years i might want to chuck it too. we should download harrycovair’s brain, ’cause he seems to be a walking history book of what was good and when.

  11. nonstopmari
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    @turkfontaine good idea. i wonder what else we cd do w/ harry covair’s brain?

  12. 808marv
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 9:25 am

    @harrycovair I’ve only eaten Tsukenjo’s a few times and those times it was brought back to work by someone…think I tried to go one time myself  but no parking!  I do remember the unique paper plate/wax paper/rubber band with the fork thing.  Also the roast pork was really good.  Ah well, another old time place gone…

  13. harrycovair
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    The ALOHA Friday final menu:
    The ALOHA Friday plate: This plate would make @parkrat proud.
    Paula Akana and the cameraman onsite. Moanike`ala Nabarro (, from KITV, is a granddaughter of Tsukenjo. Moanike`ala was working the phones and taking order from the window.
    Gonna miss Blackie!

  14. harrycovair
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    @turkfontaine Why screw around with excellence when it looks good, tastes good, and repeat customers ask for the dish over and over?

  15. harrycovair
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    @nonstopmari  @turkfontaine Errr, Hannibal the Cannibal comes to mind! Slurp, slurp, slurp… “I’m having a friend over for dinner.” LOL!

  16. harrycovair
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    @808marv A little too late for a reply but I usually find parking makai of Queen St. Either by the Dive Shop or across the street by the Dog Grooming and Volvo repair shop.

  17. harrycovair
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    @808marv You tweeted this out I think. The way Tsukenjo would wrap the plates in brown paper, rubber band it, and twist in the fork so that it stayed in place on the top of the plate. Ingenious! I think Honda Delicatessen used to do that too.

  18. harrycovair
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    @Annoddah_Dave You should have gone down today. The Roast Pork and Grilled Pork Chop never tasted so good!

About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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