What was your favorite meal as a child? Meatloaf and gravy? Kalua pork and cabbage? Breakfast for dinner? Chances are you can find it on the menu at Market Street Diner in the Harbor Mall in Nawiliwili. Desserts too, like Chef Chet Collins’ Market Street Cookie, a recipe passed down from his mother.
“I grew up in the Midwest, and it gets so hot in the summer that it was too hot to run the oven,” the South Dakota native said of the no-bake treat with chocolate, coconut and oatmeal. Collins is responsible for some other items on the menu, like the clam chowder, generously laden with black pepper and leeks. He is quick to let you know it’s a team effort, however, and each chef at the diner brings his own talents.
“Aurturo Ruiz is our day chef; he taught the rest of us how to make omelets,” Collins said, adding that Ruiz also is responsible for the house made teriyaki sauce. The blending of home-style regional cuisines — “a mix of Mainland and local” — is their signature at the restaurant, Collins said. That, and big portions at small prices: hand-formed burgers and fries that spill off the plate, three thick slices of meatloaf smothered in gravy, and bowls of fluffy salads anchored by hunks of avocado and shrimp.
“Homemade quality and good value,” Collins said, explaining they make their own dressings, pasta sauces, meatballs, apple pies and more. “We want people to come in and have a good time and not get a bite out of their wallet.”
It’s not just in the food arena they are trying to keep costs down and value up. As touted on their banner outside, they serve 99-cent Bud Light all day long. Their happy hour is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to closing, with $1.99 wine and $2.99 margaritas and mai tais. The drink prices, coupled with the fun and welcoming staff, make up for the fact this classic diner doesn’t serve milk shakes or malts.
Renee Graham, manager at Market Street Diner, said low prices and generous portions were owner Ed Valencia’s plan when he opened the place.
“He wanted to offer that to the community,” Graham said. Of course they have a steady cruise-ship crowd, but since they opened in September 2007 business with locals has been growing. Market Street Diner gives out coupon cards that will win you a free meal each time you refer three people to the diner.
As touted on their menu and reiterated by Graham, the diner is a family environment, a casual scene with over seven items on their kid’s menu and goodies like chocolate milk and apple pie. The family aspect is literal too, with husband-and-wife teams working together there.
Something not usually found at a neighborhood diner is live music, but Market Street Diner changed that. Last week Jimmy Roberts was strumming his guitar and singing classics and originals, smiling above a microphone adorned in plumeria lei. At one point a patron stood up from his table to help sing, doing an impromptu rendition of the song “Christopher Robin.”
“We want to have a signature,” Collins said. “We’re not trying to emulate anyone else on the island; we’re trying to do our own thing.”
Market Street Diner is downstairs at Harbor Mall on Rice Street in Nawiliwili, open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner starting at 7 a.m.
For more information call 246-1100.