The Honolulu Museum of Art Cafe turns 50 in November! To celebrate, chef Ben Abes is reviving selected classics from menus past that will be offered as specials throughout the month. Do you remember Oriental Chicken Salad (a hit in 1997, pictured above)? What about those oughts classics by Ben’s mentor, Mike Nevin—niçoise salad;
feta, tapenade and Hau’ula tomato sandwich; roasted chicken with pesto pasta; and white bean salad? You can taste them again—or try them for the first time. Visit to see the specials schedule or call the café at 532-8734.

The original museum cafe in the 1960s.

The original museum cafe in the 1960s.

Here’s what HoMA Archivist Dawn Sueoka dug up on the café (we wish the café would revive those curried stuffed eggs!):

Originally called the Garden Café (it became the Pavilion Café when it moved to its current location in 2000, and the Honolulu Museum of Art Café in 2013), the restaurant was situated where the Museum Shop now stands, and was operated almost entirely by members of the Volunteers Council. Led by Lila Morgan, volunteer cooks and servers practiced on museum staff for two weeks in preparation for the public opening on Nov. 4, 1969. (One training document, which outlined procedures for polishing silver and setting out utensils, instructed servers to “clear the table only when all guests are pau”).

The two-course lunch, which cost $1.50, consisted of a choice of sandwich (herbed meatloaf; fresh mushroom; green bean, Maui onion, cream cheese, and bacon), a relish tray (curried stuffed eggs, lychee in French dressing, candied dill pickles, horseradish mousse), and two dessert options (watermelon sherbet with raspberry sauce or vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and chopped ginger). All proceeds supported museum programming.

The museum thanks everyone who has led the café over the last 50 years—Mary Lou Watumull, Eunice Clause, Trudie Taylor, Kelly Malone, Mike Nevin, Jacob Silver, Josh Hancock and Ben Abes —and all of their dedicated workers and volunteers.

Fifty years later, the café still serves vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and chopped ginger. Enjoy the café’s famed chocolate sauce recipe, which the Volunteers  Council sold on a series of promotional cards in 1976 to raise funds for acquisitions.

Café chocolate sauce

1 16-oz. can chocolate fudge topping
¼ to ½ a 16-oz. can chocolate syrup
½ tsp. cinnamon
Dash of salt
3-5 T crème de cacao, Kahlua, or curacao

Blend all ingredients together and keep refrigerated.