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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, August 3, 2000

Paradise corners
the lunch market

What a difference a corner location makes. For two years Paradise Cafe sort of melded into the jigsaw puzzle of businesses downtown. People who worked near its Queen Street location would drop in frequently, but the restaurant didn't have the presence to lure motorists.

That changed last November when the restaurant took over the corner space vacated by Rainbow Financial next door. Suddenly, you couldn't miss the big picture windows and the rows of chairs inside and out.

Just as at the Ala Moana Paradise Cafe, the Queen Street restaurant is known for baked goodies, plus light fare such as soups, salads and sandwiches.

Paradise Cafe -- Downtown

Atmosphere STARSTAR1/2
Service STARSTAR1/2

Bullet Address: 841 Bishop St., Suite 103
Bullet Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays
Bullet Prices: Less than $10 per person
Bullet Call: 599-8448

A half-sandwich and soup or salad combo runs $5.95, including a bag of chips and mini cookie for dessert. Order the full sandwich Super Combo ($7.60) and you get two of the cookies. On the new side, you can get carved meat sandwiches of baked ham, turkey or rotisserie chicken. On the old side, there are sandwiches of Chicken Walnut Salad and a variety of cold cuts. A turkey and avocado sandwich is generous with both the main ingredients.

Salad choices run from greens to pasta such as the ever-popular Caesar (a la carte $3.75 mini/$5.50 regular); Waldorf; Portofino, or Pesto Pasta; and a spicy Peanut Sauce Pasta accented with cilantro, green onions, snow peas and celery.

Most impressive are the sandwiches built on bread made from scratch in steam-injection ovens on the premises. With baking times at 4 a.m. and about 11 a.m., the lunch crowd is assured of fresh bread.

There's a fluff factor to the baked goods, which means flavors and textures are never too hard, too sugary, too sharp or too yeasty, perhaps a requirement when trying to appeal to masses. Generally, this works, though in some cases the end product is a little quirky, as with scones as flat as a Chinese tea cookie, with a texture a bit lighter than a Pop-Tart.

I had a pleasant lunch of a mini Curry Chicken Pasta Salad ($4.25) in the newer half of the restaurant, which is separated from the old half by a wall and the service counters. A narrow passage allows customers to examine the menus on either side, and I thought I'd visit the old side, too. I didn't stay there long. It was too loud.

That was weird. Looking around, I became more curious as to why this one restaurant seemed to operate as two, with different decor, different methods and customers who divide themselves into that quiet camp (on the left) and noisier bunch (on the right).

Owner Tom Noubari said the setup is intentional, down to the music that is louder on the chatty side of the room. "It gives people more variety. People get tired of the same thing. How many times can you eat at a place if they don't change what they offer?"

A plus on the quiet side of the room are two computers with free Internet access via DSL line, installed by request of customers wanting to elude their workplace Internet gestapo.

It's customers who also got Noubari to adjust his menu. "People said they felt like they needed a hot meal sometimes," he said. "I'm glad we did it. It turned out to be a good move."

See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

section online. Click the logo to go!

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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