HONOLULU (KHON2) — If Danny Dolan seems perfectly at home in his Chinatown establishment, it’s because he is.
“Walking around this place. This is home isn’t it?” We said.
“It is, I’ve spent a lot of time here over many years,” said Danny Dolan.
While this may be his home, or as he also likes to say, his safe place, getting here is the culmination of a near 40-year journey.
The year was 1986, and he was a teenage kid living in California who simply decided it was time for a change.
“You know my mom was over here I decided to come out at 16 and move to Hawaii. Experience something different. I started in this business as a kid as a dishwasher at Charo’s restaurant and Haena,” he said.
Eventually knowing that he wanted to do something more than wash dishes, he moved to Oahu where he continued to work in the local restaurant scene. But he also made the decision to get an education
“So I came over here two weeks before Hurricane in Iniki in 1992. Good timing. Yah good timing. And I started going to UH and I put myself through UH working at Anna Bananas.”
But he says his big break came when he headed to Chinatown where he met Don Murphy, and a guy named Jay.
“I was running O’Toole’s, Jay was working for Murph at Murphy’s. He was making pizzas every Friday night and they would sell out in a heartbeat.”
And from there it all just all came together. Don Murphy, friend, and mentor put Danny and Jay together to form the restaurant he now calls home.
“He’s the first person I talk to every morning. Seven in the morning, I call Murph, for years.”
Today, after 11 years in business, J Dolans is one of the best-known establishments in Chinatown, cooking up more than 150 pizzas and much more every single day.
And while he considers himself lucky, he says it hasn’t always been easy.
“Nothing has changed. Chinatown was kind of a bar area back in those days. Now it’s become more of a restaurant-type area. We’ve seen lots of people come and go there have been lots of changes good and bad but we’ve been fortunate.”
And despite the many hardships that many of his friends and competitors have experienced, he says he is one of the fortunate few.
“We opened up this place and it was magic. And I can’t explain it. It is very simple. Jay and I are simple guys. The idea was very simple and I think that’s the key.”
And he says the recipe for that simple idea? Good people, good food and drink, and remembering to give back.
“I think a very good product number one. Taking care of your staff number two. And giving back to the community number three. I think those are the keys. Pretty simple yeah? Yeah it’s very simple and a lot of people take shortcuts and it never works.”
Another area where he says he will never take any shortcuts is those prized pizzas that come out of the oven from morning until night.
“The pizza is fantastic. It’s the best on the island and it has been since we opened. Jay always said best ingredients, fresh ingredients local ingredients that have not changed nor will it ever.”
And he says nothing is more satisfying than just simply looking around, seeing people having fun.
“You know I get great satisfaction. We had four generations of one family in here not so long ago. I looked at dad and said we’re doing something right great-grandpa, grandpa, father, and son. That makes me happy,” said Danny.
“This is magic. I don’t know, Murphy told me a long time ago this doesn’t happen like this, you’re very fortunate. Just very happy with it.”