HONOLULU (KHON2) — Maria Barnette has been in the same little spot on Oahu for 21 years and still does not believe it. She said she bought the little shave ice and ice cream spot for a very simple reason.
“I needed a job for myself,” said Barnette, owner of Bogart’s Café located on Monsarrat Avenue. “I bought this restaurant so I could be my own boss.”
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“For six months, I cried every night because it was so hard,” Barnette added.
However, she persevered and fought her way through it — even though her list of specialties was pretty limited when it came to cooking.
“I knew how to make really good eggs; the rest I had to learn on the job,” she said.
She learned and it turns out there was one item, in particular, Barnette said set the table for success.
“It was our breakfast bagel. Honolulu Magazine named it the best breakfast bagel in Honolulu and from there it just kind of took off,” Barnette explained.
Today, Bogart’s Café is known for having one of the most lengthy menus in town.
Additionally, aside from breakfast dishes, Barnette has become particularly proud of freshly made pasta — something she learned by traveling to Italy.
“Yes, for about five weeks because I wanted to be really good at cooking Italian food; my husband is Italian,” she stated.
One thing she does not have right now: the big family-style table that was the centerpiece of her restaurant.
“It’s very sad for me because the table was very special. I had it specially made because I wanted a community table,” Barnette said.
Currently, she can only seat a dozen people at a time inside the restaurant, which is the latest challenge in her 21 wonderful, but often, difficult years — especially the last two years.
“There has been a lot of challenges with the shortage of workers and supplies right now, and the cost is really hurting us right now; I haven’t raised prices yet. I’m trying to wait and see so, hopefully, it will be OK,” Barnette stated.
One thing that Barnette has that has worked in her favor is a 13 year Bogart’s veteran many of the regular customers assume owns the restaurant.
KHON2 asked Cuppy Duyao, hostess and server at Bogart’s Café: What keeps you here because you’re one of the great things about Bogart’s?
“Honestly, number one is my boss; secondly, is the customers to come through here,” said Cuppy Duyao, hostess and server at Bogart’s Café. “That is number one — yes, customer’s smile.”
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Moving forward at Bogart’s, Barnette looks forward to welcoming back more locals and visitors, as well as bringing back her big community table. But until that happens, she will stick with the one ingredient that has been her secret to success.
“Hard work and determination. And I tell myself and the people who work for me to make the food like you’re the one that’s going to eat it. So, make it good,” Barnette said.