Monday, January 04, 2010

Breakfast on the Windward Side of Oahu - A Brief Roundup

Kailua has received some national attention when Rachael Ray visited a couple of this Windward town's restaurants for her "Tasty Travels" show on Food Network. One of them specializes in breakfast, so I thought that this post would focus on breakfast places on the Windward side. I'll be focusing on distinctively Windward places, so I won't be talking about Denny's, IHOP, or even Zippy's.

I'm trying to be nice, so I'm going to say at least one redeeming thing about each place.

Best Muffins - Moke's Bread and Breakfast
Moke's is located at 27 Hoolai St in Kailua, next to Boston Pizza and across the street from Blockbuster. It has homestyle breakfast (and only breakfast, BTW) with nice service. I must also say that the interior is very nice and homey.

Now by homestyle I mean that if I were to get Moke's kind of food at someone's home, I would be delighted. As a restaurant, however, the food is okay, but not great, and certainly not the kind of accolades it received on Yelp (whose reviewers with whom I consistently tend to disagree). I have gone to Moke's a few times, the last time in December with a party of 12. The service was good, with just about everyone saying pretty much the same thing: the food was okay, but they've had better.

The sole exception was the truly outstanding banana nut muffin. It was light but substantial, flavorful without overdoing the banana flavor.

I think if you would like to have a nice, relaxed breakfast in a cute setting with good service, Moke's is for you, especially if you like muffins.

Biggest Portions - Times Coffee Shop
Times is on 153 Hamakua Dr, pretty close to Safeway. Times is a local style place: big portions, hole in the wall atmosphere, fairly good service.

From pancakes, to Loco Moco, to meat and eggs plates, Times does a good job. Their fried rice is among the better ones around.

The ambience is definitely "Spartan," and the service is generally polite and pretty efficient, if not overly friendly.

Who would like Times? Local folks and people in general who have big appetites. It's definitely a solid choice.

Excellent Breakfast with the Most Unusual Meat Dish - Koa Pancake House
Located on 46-126 Kahuhipa St, Koa Pancake House has a big menu and good food with cheerful, attentive service. Pancakes, waffles, omelets are all good.

What makes Koa's distinctive is Vinha D'alhos (pronounced Vinna Dosh - like the first part of "Kosher" - the pronunciation indicates that the Portuguese who introduced this dish to Hawaii came from the Azores, an island archipelago off the coast of Portugal; maybe that's what attracted these islanders to the Hawaiian islands). It is a Portuguese dish that means "wine and garlic." The Hawaiian version appears to be stewed and then fried chunks of pork in a vinegar base. The waitress described it being like pork adobo but drier. I thought it looked and tasted a lot like the Cuban dish masitas de puercos. In any case, it is delicious and good alongside eggs and potatoes, or in an omelet.

Koa Pancake House would be one of my two favorite places to have breakfast on the Windward side.

The Best Single Breakfast Dish in Hawaii - Boot's and Kimo's
*Sigh* I have a real love/hate thing for this restaurant, located on Hekili street in a new location across the street from Hawaiian Island Creations. On one hand, the food is excellent, with great tasting omelets and if you hang around late enough for lunch, one of the best garlic chicken plate lunches around.

They also have what I think is the single best breakfast dish in Hawaii: pancakes with the macadamia nut sauce. Many people have speculated what this sauce is made of, as it is absolutely delicious and a deeply guarded secret. My guess is that it is melted and heated vanilla ice cream with crushed macadamia nuts on top. I have to try that sometime at home to see.

But I must regretfully confess that I do not particularly care to go there, except when people visit us who have never been there. For one thing, the wait to get a table is interminable (it's kind of like what Yogi Berra said once about a restaurant in New York: "Nobody goes there anymore - it's too crowded").

The other thing that is difficult is that the service is generally rather indifferent. I thought it was just me, but nearly everyone I have talked to says the same thing. I would characterize the service as giving off an attitude along the lines of "If you don't like the service, that's okay, you don't have to come back...we have plenty of diners who will take your place." And unfortunately, that is true: they have tons of diners lining up and waiting outside to get a table at almost all hours of operation.

But those pancakes are heavenly. If you are visiting Hawaii, it is definitely on the to do list, but be prepared to wait and think only about how good the food is. If you live in Hawaii and you've never been there before, do go once and then decide if on balance it's worth going back.

The Best All Around Breakfast on the Windward Side - Cinnamon's
This restaurant located in a large business plaza that's off of Maluniu (or Aulike or Uluniu, depending on where you're coming from...the best landmark is that the plaza is across the street from the McDonald's on Kuulei). I don't think that there is anything that is absolutely the best I've ever had, but just about everything is very good to outstanding. This was the place featured on Rachael Ray's show (the other place in Kailua, by the way, was Kalapawai Cafe, which I'll write about in a future post).

They are famous for their pancakes, which aren't quite as good as Boot's and Kimo's, but close enough without the wait. I recommend the guava pancakes, the carrot cake-like pancakes, and the strawberry cheesecake pancakes (occasional special item).

Their best omelets are actually more like frittatas (or egg foo yung), with ingredients mixed in with the eggs before cooking. I like the Chinese omelet, which has things like bits of char siu, bean sprouts, and green onions. The Hawaiian omelet is good too, with kalua pork as the main ingredient.

They have good Eggs Benedict (no place will ever quite replace the superb Eggs Benedict from the old Tahitian Lanai, but Cinnamon's is the next best), with creative alternatives to Canadian Bacon, like mahi mahi, and spinach and tomato.

S.A.N.D. (Start of A Nice Day) is popular: kind of like a version of the Grand Slam Breakfast: pancakes, one egg, and bacon (a three run home run?).

The service is outstanding and they are able to accommodate large parties with ease. They also have al fresco dining in the courtyard.

Happy Eating!

Grace and aloha,


P. S. The word "Breakfast" means to "break a fast," which is the long period without eating that comes with sleep.

Breakfast is featured prominently in one of the accounts of the Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus. In Luke 24, the first thing that Jesus does when the disciples see him is serve them breakfast.

Perhaps the breakfast was symbolic of breaking the fast from the presence of Jesus that the disciples experienced. With the resurrected Christ, they would never be without him, and that opportunity is available to us.

So may breakfast always be reminder of the constant and renewing presence of Christ in our lives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks for all of the great ideas. I kept reading and thinking...oh yah, I gotta go go there on Saturday again!
Never new about Moke's, so thanks!
Totally agree with you on B&K. Perhaps they should raise their prices so that 1. They attract less people and 2. They can pay employees better so we can all get that service with a smile. but all around perfect pancakes as you suggested and that syrup...absolutely amazing!
Cinnamons, now that's a place to go to. Been there once and was impressed. Service was good too.
I'd like to add one more to the list. Kim Chee II restaurant located in Kaneohe across from Walgreens. They make the best fried rice, which I'm almost certain has oyster sauce in it, and their omelets are out of this world!
Thanks for another fine post Tom and your continued quest of locating the best eats in Hawaii!!!