Words, Photos + Video: Vina Cristobal
Poni and Brandon Askew drove frequently to town while passing by the Kaka’ako area, which was at the peak of a creative renaissance in 2010. As the eastbound trips became more recurrent, Poni felt a need for a food truck community in Hawaii.
That was five years ago – five years since the founding of Street Grindz, the business behind Honolulu Night Market and Eat the Street, which are two of Honolulu’s most popular monthly events. Thousands of people from all corners of the island flock to the heart of Kaka’ako twice a month to enjoy food, music, art and fashion. More importantly, a sense of community flourishes within these two events.
But now, after careful research in the West Coast (where food trucks are an apparent phenomenon) and a vision to restore the old Fisherman’s Wharf location, the Askews opened their newest venture: Makers and Tasters, a daily food truck pop-up in Kewalo Harbor.
“I always say that it’s not a new concept, but it’s something that Hawaii doesn’t have,” Poni said. “So we wanted to bring [the food truck pop-ups] to Hawaii, but we wanted to bring it to Hawaii with our own flavor.”
Each day, the pop-up will house 20 of 300 Street Grindz’s resident vendors, including fan favorites Wow Wow Lemonade, Elena’s Filipino Food, Aloha Plate and the Girls Who Bake Next Door. Fifteen vendors will appear for lunch, while another group of fifteen will serve dinner to customers. A daily rotation is made, so that all vendors have a chance to participate.
Olay’s Thai Food (left) and Three B’s (right) are both regular vendors at the monthly Eat the Street events. Olay’s serves a variety of Thai dishes, while Three B’s offers flavorful Puerto Rican delicacies.
“What we’re basically doing is that vendors are signing up for days and shifts,” added Poni. “If you come on Tuesdays during lunch, [that means] every Tuesday for lunch will be the same vendors. But if you come back Tuesday for dinner, there might be a different group. They won’t be here every day.”
An exclusive preview event was held Thursday, August 27, for donors and supporters of Street Grindz. Eat the Street’s 20 vendors were in attendance to provide samples – some familiar faces appeared; others were new. Live entertainment and strings of bright lights completed the cozy atmosphere, along with contemporary-style seating arrangements that could only be found at an Inspiration store or at a high-end restaurant.
However, on Friday, August 28, Poni expects the usual thousands to gather at the now-permanent location of Eat the Street (it originally took over the parking lot on South Street, before moving to two different sides of the Kaka’ako Waterfront Park).
Poni Askew, founder of Street Grindz.
The theme will be “The Best of Eat The Street”; four of its most popular themes over the course of five years will merge into one. Then, the pop-up will continue to open for the rest of the week, all while the Street Grindz crew is doing last-minute renovations for the space.
Poni wasn’t expecting to have a food truck pop-up, let alone one that would run every day.
“Hawaii doesn’t really have a place like this,” she said. “For us, it was that we were just doing our monthly events, cruising around. It’s more about people coming in and having opportunities to do business every day of the week rather than one day every month.”
The goal of Makers and Tasters is to continue the emphasis of what it means to be part of a community. It’s evident from the tears and smiles that were shown at the preview event that the Street Grindz is well-loved and respected, and in turn, it gives vendors and guests the opportunity to share that aloha spirit with one another.
Poni and Brandon Askew, with their two children, are enveloped in a warm embrace.
So what’s next for Makers and Tasters?
“We plan to have six locations,” Poni said. “This is our first location, so we want to see how it goes. But basically, we want to provide opportunities for people around the island – not just the makers, but for the tasters.”
See more photos on our Facebook page here!
Eat the Street: Best Of will be held Friday, August 28, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the old Fisherman’s Wharf lot at 1011 Ala Moana Boulevard, across from Ward Warehouse. Times, dates, and a vendor list will be available (subject to change) on streetgrindz.com or on the business’s Facebook page.