My wife and I headed into Waikiki a couple of Saturdays ago for the grand opening of the new locally owned and operated Sunny’s Local Grind. It’s a coffee shop and breakfast/lunch joint located on the western “edge of Waikiki”. It’s about a mile and a half from the Honolulu Zoo at Waikiki’s eastern end. So, a fairly short walk from just about anywhere in Waikiki, and well worth it.
Full disclosure: I almost never go into Waikiki. I played regular weekly gigs in the beating heart of Hawaii tourism for 20 years on a variety of stages in multiple venues. I’ve had my fill of the bustle. I liken my aversion to Waikiki to one I imagine a lifelong New Yorker might have to going to the circus of Times Square, or a committed Parisian to joining the punters at the Eiffel Tower. But this particular Saturday was different.
Sunny’s Local Grind – keeping it local
More disclosure: Sunny’s Local Grind is the creation of a small group of bar industry friends I’ve made over the years playing stages on the other side of the bar. We were there to support them at their grand opening. It’s a massive undertaking to open a food and beverage business anywhere. This is particularly true in Hawaii, and especially in Waikiki where rents are exorbitant, available space is rare, and retail price points are woefully inflated. More on that in a bit.
We were also there for the menu. I’m not necessarily a “morning person”, the byproduct of living at night for 20-plus years, but I love breakfast food. Anytime, anywhere. I had a breakfast sandwich with “shoulder bacon”, which reminded me of the kind of bacon I enjoyed with my “fry-ups” while on holiday in Ireland. My “Breakfast Sammie” was cooked perfectly and promptly devoured. My wife, an admitted coffee snob was delighted with her cuppa, grown in Ka’u on Hawaii Island if I’m not mistaken.
Keeping it fresh, too
Sunny’s uses locally sourced ingredients as much, including its brews. And its menu is full of nods to local-style Hawaii food, like Kim Chee Fried Rice and a Brisket Loco Moco. There are also burgers and “sammies”, and a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options. All of the many pastries in the case at the counter are made fresh. The selection to choose from at Sunny’s Local Grind is vast.
The commitment to the “Local” in its name, the owners Sunny’s brought in local artists to design and paint the exterior murals of the building, which includes a handful of outdoor tables in front and along one side. Sunny’s Local Grind also features the works of several established Hawaii visual artists, offered at reasonable prices for fine art.
And that is, perhaps, the most remarkable aspect of Sunny’s Local Grind. Despite the capital improvements that were needed, hiring staff at a living wage, what is surely a pricey rent, and rising food costs and inflation, the prices on the menu at Sunny’s are startlingly low. The spendiest item on the lunch menu is the “Sunny’s Club Sammie” at $16. We’d consider that cheap (in the good way) anywhere in Hawaii. But in Waikiki? You’d pay $5-$10 more for a club sandwich just about anywhere else.
And that may be the best thing about Sunny’s Local Grind. Yes, it’s a great value for Waikiki visitors looking to stretch a vacation budget. But it’s also valuable to the community on Oahu. It’s provided jobs. It uses local ingredients. It offers a venue for local independent artists. And it offers an affordable dining option for Oahu residents who live or work in Waikiki, where “affordable” isn’t the first thing to come to mind about anything.
And that’s reason enough to get me back into Waikiki soon. And a great reason for visitors, as we here at the HAT strongly encourage, to “go local in Hawaii”. Check out Sunny’s Local Grind on Facebook and Instagram for more details.