Five Questions with Danny Kaaialii, Owner of Encore Saloon

Gathered and photographed by Andrea Lee

Since October 2016, Encore Saloon on North Hotel Street has offered a mezcal specialty bar and Mexican-inspired food. Danny Kaaialii, formerly of Cocina in Kakaʻako, is the man behind it.

What drew you to Chinatown?

The old architecture, the character, the history. Chinatown is unique to Hawaiʻi. It’s a special place. I came for the community too, and its concepts. Smaller, independent business owners are offering a different take here compared to the rest of the island.

What are your customers like?

People who work downtown, the young professionals of the financial district, the law offices. Some tourists. At nighttime, we get the people who are going out, younger people in their 20s.

What is your favorite thing about Chinatown?

The community here is great. There are a lot of young, savvy business people here, doing what I’m doing--acting on the way we see a vision. That’s cool to be a part of.

Your least favorite?

There are issues with crime and homelessness. A lot of people need help here and they can’t get it. They have mental issues, but don’t have the resources. It’s not necessarily Chinatown’s responsibility, it’s a bigger responsibility for the state.

If Chinatown were a drink, what would it be?

A beer and a shot.

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