‘Cook ’em, Danno!’
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It’s a sun-filled Tuesday morning at Wailana Coffee House and already hungry patrons are lined up waiting for a table at the busy Waikiki eatery. It’s nearly lunchtime, but plates loaded with waffles, pancakes and other breakfast staples are still making a steady stream into the din ing room from the bustling kitchen.
“We serve breakfast 24 hours a day, which a lot of people like,” says general manager Kenton Tom, who runs the family-friendly restaurant with brother/CEO Malcolm Tom and sister Joanna Leong.
Today is especially busy at Wailana, because the next day it will be closed. It seems the cast and crew of a little show called Hawaii Five-0 will be descending upon the iconic diner to film an action scene for its highly anticipated second season.
“It’s very exciting for us!” Kenton says. “It’s sort of ironic, too, because when the original Hawaii Five-0 was being filmed, they shot a scene in the original Kapiolani Drive Inn. It’s sort of history repeating itself.”
Located at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Ena Road, Wailana Coffee House stands in the spot formerly occupied by Kapiolani Drive Inn. When the drive-in’s popularity began to wane in the 1960s, Kenton’s father, Francis Tom, decided it was time to develop a new restaurant, and in 1969 founded Wailana Coffee House on the values of good food, good service and value, which the Tom siblings continue to follow to this day.
“His principles really guided us,” Kenton says. “We’re reasonably priced, we have a lot of variety on the menu, and we offer a lot of value for what you order.”
A dish that proves you can have both quality and quantity food is the Oxtail Soup ($11.25). Offered every Thursday, the special is a comforting bowl of tender oxtail, peanuts, dried red dates, sliced black mushrooms and succulent kai choy, topped with Chinese parsley and shredded ginger.
“It’s a local favorite,” Kenton says, adding, “We cater a lot to local people, because we believe that if the local people come to the restaurant, tourists will follow. If local people come to the restaurant, tourists know it must be good.”
Other menu items popular with locals and tourists alike are the Broasted Chicken ($10.95), which is a plate of oven-roasted chicken breast, leg, thigh and wing; Hibachi Sampler ($12.50), a trio of chicken breast, shrimp skewer and mahi mahi filet prepared hibachi-style; and the Eggs Benedict ($9.85), an ensemble of poached eggs, smoked ham and turkey breast piled atop an English muffin, served with a house-made hollandaise sauce and hash browns on the side.
“We make a lot of things from scratch; it’s not out of the can,” Kenton reveals.
Homemade food seems to be the major draw for customers, especially when the words “all-you-can-eat” precede the item’s name.
“People love our pancakes,” Kenton says, referring to the all-you-can-eat Buttermilk Pancakes ($5.50).
“They’re so good, if you just enjoy the taste of pancakes, you don’t even need the syrup!”
The batter for the pancakes is prepared a day in advance, which allows the mixture to aerate and yields a fluffier pancake. Extras such as blueberries, bananas, macadamia nuts, coconut and pineapple also can be added for an additional $1 charge.
“You can even ask for a combination of banana and macadamia nut, for example,” Kenton suggests. All pancake orders come with eggs, bacon, as well as whipped butter and a trio of syrups on the side.
Besides breakfast, the menu offers even more mouthwatering choices, from soups and salads to spaghetti, saimin, fried rice, beef stew, fish and chips, short ribs, kal-bi, even desserts.
(Note: Most entrees come with a choice of rice, mashed or baked potato, or fries, as well as choice of soup, fruit cup or salad bar.)
“We have feature sandwiches like the Patty Melt ($8.75), French Dip ($9.50) and the Reuben Grill ($9.35), and we also have a lot of hamburgers, like the Paniolo Burger ($7.65), which comes with chili and onions, and the Tokyo Burger ($6.75), which is a teriyaki burger rather than a regular hamburger,” Kenton notes.
“We have a large menu,” he adds, “and we have all kinds of things, all day long.”
Wailana Coffee House
- 1860 Ala Moana Boulevard
- Honolulu, HI 96815
- (808) 955-1764
- Open 24 hours a day, six days a week. The restaurant closes for maintenance at 10 p.m. Tuesday and reopens at 6 a.m. Wednesday.