Brunch joints are the newest thing in dining on Oahu. And while I am admittedly far from being a foodie or an expert on such matters, I do love me some brunch. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be brunch, and that’s not just for the mimosas. In the spirit of Hawaii Aloha writer Lauren Rolland’s recent “Locals Know Best” post, I’ve found a handful of newly-opened restaurants that specialize in the fine art of brunch, and that locals love. Here they are. Other than Koko Head Café, none of these establishments serve alcohol, so call ahead to ask about bringing your own mimosas.
- Koko Head Café
- Located in the trendy Kaimuki commercial district. Owner-operator Chef Lee Ann Wong, in addition to boasting an impeccable professional pedigree, was made famous as a fan-favorite contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, which led to other forays into show business as a culinary consultant.
Featuring breakfast and brunch staples, Koko Head also offers a novel approach using locally-sourced ingredients in imaginative ways. Try the Kimchi Bacon-Cheddar Scones. Or the Elvis’s Revenge Sandwich (peanut butter, banana tempura, billionaire bacon, local honey, toasted coconut on a sweet bun).
Koko Head Café also offers a custom cocktail menu of twelve concoctions with names like the Queen’s Mimosa and the Beer-Driver. A recent visit saw Chef Lee Ann Wong hosting, serving, busing tables and sweeping the floors. That should provide an idea of her dedication to her latest endeavor.
1145c 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
- The Nook Neighborhood Bistro
- is located in the University District, just a few minutes by car or bus from Waikiki. It fits in nicely. Another new, local eatery committed to sourcing their ingredients locally, The Nook is open through lunch, Tuesday through Sunday. The Mochiko Chicken & Waffles is a very “Hawaii” take on a southern classic. The Bloody Mary Salad features pickled fern.
1035 University Ave #105
- In Chinatown, a district now crowded with new, innovative restaurants using ingredients local farmers grew or raised. With a regular line out the door, it looks to be doing just fine. I’ve not been, but I’m told by friends and colleagues that live out of town that it’s worth the drive in. I’ll be making the short, 1-mile walk from home to try the Creole Shrimp and Grits soon.
1030 Smith St.
- Sweet-E’s Café
- In Kilohana Square, off of Kapahulu Avenue a few blocks from Waikiki is Sweet-E’s Café. It’s tucked away, and it’s the kind of place you’d miss if you didn’t know where it was. The Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast is raved about. So is the coffee (why do so many breakfast/brunch joints serve bad coffee?). It’s worth the 15-minute walk from the Honolulu Zoo, as parking can be tight. And depending on when you get there, you’ll likely have to wait a bit for a table.
1016 Kapahulu Ave.