Dani’s delivers, for 31 years and counting

LIHUE — “Best breakfast in town!” A customer bellowed after paying his bill and rushing off Tuesday morning at Dani’s Restaurant.

Though the satisfied diner didn’t stick around long enough to see if anyone agreed with what he said, his quote was already affirmed when the locale at 4201 Rice Street in Lihue was inducted as one of eight eateries into the Hawaii Restaurant Association 2013 Hall of Fame last week on Oahu.

“The people of Kauai don’t know about that,” said Carol Manera-Texeira, vice president of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, on the restaurant’s to-this-point-under-the-radar honor.

But the cat’s out of the bag now.

The Seventh annual Hall of Fame induction recognized people who have made significant contributions to the restaurant industry in Hawaii.

Nobody is more deserving than Tsutao and Harriet Morioka, who have run the local favorite for 31 years.

“Dani’s is a mainstay on the island, and is truly a local treasure,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz at the ceremony. “Through food, you carry on our state’s unique culture.”

Tsutao and Harriet were among 38 people nominated this year, and following a review by an HRA selection committee, were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Hawaii Prince Hotel on Oahu.

“I don’t know how this all came about,” Harriet said from a dining table overlooking the spacious dining area of Dani’s Restaurant Tuesday. “They picked people from all different areas like Honda Tofu (Josephine, Dennis and Dulcie Honda).”

After working for her mother at the Ma’s Place restaurant off Kress Street in Lihue, Harriett and Tsutao opened Dani’s Restaurant.

“We’ve been here since 1982,” Harriet said, her strong ties to the restaurant guiding her to a utility cart to clear tables despite her retired status. “We’ve been here since we opened. Aug. 9 makes 31 years for Dani’s Restaurant.”

The restaurant was named after the couple’s youngest son, Danny. His name was too close to Denny’s, a national chain of restaurants, so an adjustment was made, resulting in Dani’s.

Following the close of Ma’s Place restaurant, many of Ma’s patrons moved down the block where they became regulars.

“We were there for lunch, and had to get a photo of them with their awards,” Texeira said. “Things like this don’t happen every day. If you like salmon, they make a killer misoyaki salmon.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, adding his congratulations to the Kauai inductees, said the restaurant and food service industry is a vital part of our state’s economy and community life.

“The HRA and its members have played an integral role in building and enhancing our state’s culinary legacy,” Abercrombie said.

Dani’s Restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch, Mondays through Fridays from 5 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, Dani’s hours are 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. Dani’s is closed on Sundays.

Visit www.hawaiirestaurant.org for more information.

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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