Tsukenjo ends 5 decades of serving up plate lunches

Plate lunch business runs deep in family's blood

 UPDATED 8:31 AM HST May 04, 2013
HONOLULU -

"Oh last day.  I wanted to give Doris a big hug because I've been coming to the truck and here, how long?  A long time.  Years," said Scrappy Lipton, a longtime Tsukenjo customer.  "Roast pork without a doubt and the potato salad -- fabulous!"

It was a time for old friends to say goodbye.  For Doris Nabarro, the lines are much appreciated, but way too late.

"I haven't seen these lines in years.  Business has been so bad.  Then I said, maybe it's time I cut my losses and close out already," said Nabarro.  "There's so much competition in this area and, I think, on this island alone.  There's about 1,000 wagons, lunch wagons."

Nabarro's family has operated Tsukenjo on this very spot on Cooke and Queen Streets since 1959.

But, the parking has gotten worse and many of their best customers have moved out of the area.  A far cry from the past.

"We had three wagons, plus this," said Nabarro.  "Yeah, that was the good old days."

Doris' mom and dad Mitsuko and Tetsu Tsukenjo opened the Lunch House when Doris was just a kid.  Older sister Sako was there from the beginning.

"When we first started we didn't know how it would go and so my mom had her job to go to.  She cooked everything for my dad.  They went to their jobs," said Sako Matsumoto.  "I took over when it started to pick up business.  They quit work and we all worked here."

But, it would be Doris who would end up mastering mom's recipes.  She's been at the helm for the past 20 years or so.

Both agree on the one thing they'll miss the most.

"All those we were in business, we had good customers.  Loyal customers, you know, so thankful they made everything what we were, what we became," said Matsumoto.

Customers like Lynndyn Chung, who has been coming to Tsukenjo for at least 30 years.  He says they treat customers like family, right down to bossing them around!

"I ask for bacon egg sandwich.  I said I gotta go to work.  She said, well, you know what to do.  The eggs done so make your own sandwich!" said Chung.  "So, I made my own sandwich.  You can't beat it.  It's so loving over here!"

So, with the final roast pork with gravy served, and that final lau lau plate, regulars have to find someplace new to fill their opu, or stomachs.

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The secret recipe for Tsukenjo

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