CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Clyde Oshiro, who runs Clyde's Cafe in the First Insurance Building, holds a Poke Salad, served with fresh asparagus and avocado.
Clyde’s Cafe back, and still a bargain
Every time I read a story about the Google Cafe at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., I enter a dream state. Where else but a dream would employees get treated to free breakfast, lunch and dinner with a choice of healthful meals at stations dubbed Charlie's Grill, Back to Albuquerque, East Meets West and Vegheads, plus snack rooms provisioned with cereals, gummi bears, M&Ms, toffee, licorice, cashews, yogurt, carrots, fresh fruit and other snacks. Oh, and don't forget the drinks: fresh juice, soda and make-your-own cappuccino.
First Insurance Co., 1100 Ward Ave., fifth floor / 527-7786
Hours: Breakfast 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. and lunch 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays
Cost: Less than $8 per person
Note: The building is on the corner of Ward Avenue and Beretania Street. The parking lot entrance is on the left, westbound off Beretania.
Too bad all companies can't do the same, but few companies are global superpowers.
Back in the real world, employees are lucky to get any kind of dining perk at all. Every little bit helps, and First Insurance Co. is one company that's helping to keep the price of breakfast and lunch low for employees through the company-owned cafeteria, Clyde's Cafe, which reopened in October following a four-month renovation.
Building tenants seem happy they're back, especially following the closing of T.G.I.Fridays, which didn't leave many options beyond the Straub cafeteria, McDonald's, Burger King and, as a splurge, the Honolulu Academy of Arts Pavilion Cafe.
Cafeteria manager Clyde Oshiro, who has been running the cafeteria for 14 years, said customers keep reminding him to bring back their favorite dishes. The list, so far, includes oyako donburi, chicken gisantes, liver and onions, beef broccoli, pork with squash and stuffed cabbage roll.
If that sets your mouth watering, you're in luck, because the general public is also welcome to partake, though only insurance company employees will get a 20 percent discount off already low prices.
Anyone who has dined out in the past couple of years knows that prices from 2006 to 2007 have increased tremendously, a reflection of higher mortgages/rents, and fuel and water costs. It's enough to force diners to stay home, cook rice, but that's not easy to do when you're working longer hours to pay for the same rate increases at home.
On the fifth floor of the First Insurance Co. building at 1100 Ward Ave., Clyde's Cafe rolls prices back to, perhaps, 1980s levels. I can't remember ever seeing a three-egg omelet for Clyde's price of $3.95. By the time I started eating them outside the home 16 years ago, they were already $6.95. Today, I see them priced from $6.95 to $12.95.
The catch is there's only one kind of omelet offered weekly, so you don't really get a variety of choices as you would at a mainstream restaurant. I was happy with last week's offering of a ham and hash omelet, the hash being diced potatoes, served with a single scoop of white, brown or fried rice. Starting tomorrow, the omelet of the week will be crab and mushroom, followed by corned beef hash omelet on Christmas week, and French toast omelet during New Year's week. You can check breakfast or lunch specials by calling 527-7786.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Erin Taniyama, left, and Sheri Lutu-Hanashiro were early diners being served by Lori Palencia.
THE NEW SETUP allows for certain dishes, like hotcakes, to be cooked to order for $1.25 each. Keep in mind this is still a company cafeteria, so decor is quite basic. Windows allow sunlight to stream in, a plus for claustrophobic types.
As you can guess by the client requests mentioned earlier, local-style family fare prevails. It's really reminiscent of public school cafeterias -- at least when I was growing up -- when there would be a line and some young soul blurting, "Oooh, spaghetti!" when a particular favorite appeared. Some things never change, and today that excitable soul might be 35 or 40 years old, still unable to contain his excitement over spaghetti ($6.95/$4.95 mini) topped with a mild meat, mushroom and tomato sauce, with an Italian sausage sliced in two.
Two hot entrée specials are offered daily on a two-month rotating basis so people don't get tired of repeated menu items, though 60 days is a long time to wait for your favorites to reappear.
An exception is offered on Wednesdays, or "carve day," when carved meats are on the menu. Last week, it was roast turkey with all the trimmings. This week you'll see roast sirloin, and the day after Christmas, baked ham. If you don't want the carved item, there's a second option, on the respective days: beef stroganoff, turkey ala king and garlic chicken.
Entrées come with hot vegetables or a trip to the salad bar, where the a la carte price is 35 cents per ounce.
There's also an excellent weekly Lite Gourmet selection of a salad with plenty of extras. Last week's offering was salad of mixed greens with two large slices of avocado, asparagus spears, cucumbers and stir-fried poke ($7.90), which is something I could eat almost every day. In various weeks, you might find a salad that layers greens with red onions, mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes and cucumbers with slices of a 6-ounce broiled New York steak.
For dessert, you can look forward to homemade malasadas (50 cents) on Thursdays, and Oshiro is proud of his Dutch apple squares ($1.75).
"We're spoiled," said Derek Kanehira, First Insurance's manager of human resources, adding there's a cost to having access to discounted food. The hotcake fan said, "We're also all a little overweight."