"Local Kine" Sherberts and Sorbets
Asato Family Shop serves up frozen treats that are worth the wait
Would you stand in line for over two hours for sherbert?* Would you wake up early on a Sunday morning and stand in line for over an hour before the sherbert shop opens just to make sure that you get your treats before the shop sells out of your favorites?
All told, I've spent hours in line outside of Asato Family Shop and I don't regret a second. Asato Family Shop is an eatery that sells only sorbet and sherbert. It has a cult following among the locals in Hawaii because their frozen treats feature both nostalgic flavors and innovative combinations.
* For those who like to silently judge people's spelling and grammar or those who are just curious, "sherbert" is not a misspelling. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "sherbert" is an accepted (but lesser used) variant of "sherbet."
As a business run by two generations of a local family, Asato Family Shop understands the community's longing for familiar flavors. Pickled mango juice, White Rabbit candy, or POG (an acronym for a juice made out of passion fruit, orange, and guava) may not be familiar flavors to those who live outside of Hawaii but for people who grew up in Hawaii, those flavors are reminders of carefree, childhood days.
Asato Family Shop knows how to respond to the gastronomic zeitgeist. For example, this past February was "crack seed" month. Crack seed is a generic term used for preserved fruits. It can be sweet, salty, or sour, depending on method used to preserve the fruits. You used to be able to find crack seed stores everywhere, even at shopping malls, but now you have to search them out.
To give you an idea of how beloved crack seed is in Hawaii, if a kid had a package of crack seed in his lunch box, he was going to be very popular. Crack seed was a high value item when you were making lunch trades across the school cafeteria tables.
Crack seed is harder to find now and when you do, it's no longer a cheap snack. Not surprisingly, locals lined up to get their crack seed favorites in sherbert form.
Then, there are the highly anticipated collaborations that Asato Family Shop has with other local businesses. These collaborations usually cause frenzied excitement among local foodies.
Asato Family Shop worked with Bar Leather Apron, a downtown Honolulu cocktail bar, to release limited edition pints of Old Fashioned and Matcha Old Fashioned. Only a small batch of the boozy, elevated flavors were made. The entire supply was snatched up online in less than an hour.
This past Valentine's Day, Asato Family Shop collaborated with Liliha Bakery, a long-time, local culinary favorite, to create a coco puff sherbert. Everyone – and I mean, EVERYONE – in Hawaii knows about Liliha Bakery's coco puffs. If it makes an appearance at a potluck party, you can count on all of the kids (and more than a few adults) trying to take more than one when no one is looking.
The coco puff sherbert was only sold in the shop on one day and the line snaked up and down the sidewalk. People waited hours in the hopes of snagging a couple of pints. The shop opened at 10 am and the last pint of the coco puff sherbert was sold at 10:30 a.m. (People were still in line an hour later to get some of the other remaining flavors.)
The Asato Family Shop flavors don't just appeal to the taste buds of children. The flavors can get pretty sophisticated too. Twice a year, for Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, they offer a Lychee Rose sorbet. It's delicious on its own but it's so fancy that I also wanted to pour some prosecco or champagne over it.
Asato Family Shop likes to support other local businesses. If you keep tabs on their Instagram stories, you'll see that they use their platform to highlight other businesses. They've posted about Ali‘i Coffee and Fort Street Cafe, two eateries that were featured in a recent story, A Two-Block Gastronomic Delight. Sometimes, they’ll also take you through Honolulu’s Chinatown to meet the fruit vendors.
The family also very connected with the community. A few weeks ago, it was announced that Love's Bakery, the iconic bakery that operated in Hawaii for almost 170 years, was closing. That was a sad day. In response, Asato Family Shop made changes to their offerings to pay homage to Love's Bakery by selling Donettes sherbert, which tastes like Love's powdered sugar donuts. The flavor offering was their way to say aloha (good bye) and mahalo (thank you) to Love's Bakery and their employees.
The cutest thing about Asato Family Shop is the family vibe. To expedite customers’ orders, there is always a man who walks down the line to take your order. He has an order pad in his hand and a list of the day's flavors on a sheet of paper hanging around his neck by a lanyard. He’s kind and unassuming. He’s also the family’s dad.
When you finally get to the table to pick up your goods and pay, don't be surprised if the person that pushes the credit card machine to you is one of the kids in the family. It's a typical family business where the kids want to be useful too.
Finally, for those of you who need a celebrity endorsement to be convinced that something lives up to the hype, you can check out a recording posted to Asato Family Shop's Instagram account of a FaceTime call with the one and only D-O-double G and Trevor Noah.
If you're ever in Hawaii, the Asato Family Shop is definitely a sweet, family-owned business that you might want to check out.
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