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Cover Story

Wailana’s Legacy Lives On

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
June 3 - 9, 2012

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As liquid sunshine streams in through the clear glass windows at Wailana Coffee House, hungry diners from across the globe are making their way to their tables ready to tackle Wailana’s signature cuisine. Just look across the busy dining room and you’ll see friendly servers taking orders, quickly bussing tables, and presenting customers with plate upon plate of pancakes, waffles, eggs and bacon, burgers, sandwiches and more.

“We’re pretty much always busy! Wailana Coffee House is a 24-hour establishment, we only close one night a week, which is Tuesday at midnight,” says general manager Kenton Tom.

As a legendary landmark in Waikiki, Wailana Coffee House is located on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Ena Road at what was once the original Kapiolani Drive Inn.

“Kapiolani Drive Inn was founded by my father Francis Tom in the 1950s. Back then, of course, it was a drive-in, so you would drive up and it was car hop service,” Kenton recalls.

“At the time when Kapiolani Drive Inn was around, it was known for its local food that was very inexpensive, but very popular. During those days, hamburgers were around 20 cents. Kapiolani Drive Inn also was known for its fried chicken, chop steak and teriyaki rib steak,” he adds.

Then in 1969, the Wailana condominium was built, paving the way for Wailana Coffee House, which soon took the place of Kapiolani Drive Inn. Kenton and his two siblings formally took over the restaurant and Kapiolani Drive Inn Inc. just last year upon the passing of their mother, Mary.

“Since the beginning, Wailana Coffee House was always one of those places known to be open 24 hours,” Kenton says. “Looking back, there are some similarities with Kapiolani Drive Inn and Wailana Coffee House. There’s still a lot of local flavor in the food, it’s moderately priced and both establishments are based on good values.”

Whether it’s local favorites or American classics, Wailana Coffee House has it all, making it a popular hot spot among both kamaaina and tourists. Kenton reveals that even though the restaurant doesn’t have a national name like other places, it’s still been able to do well despite economic hardships.

“Our food and good service have always been consistent, and I think our new and loyal patrons are appreciative of that,” he says.

And now with King Kamehameha Day (June 11) and Father’s Day (June 17) fast approaching, Wailana is ready to celebrate in style. In fact, two special holiday menus will soon be unveiled and available to diners.

“We always celebrate big holidays with a nice holiday menu,” Kenton states with a smile. “As far as determining what is featured on each holiday menu, we go by what the holiday is. For example, we don’t normally serve Hawaiian food, but with King Kamehameha Day coming up, we’ve added some great Hawaiian cuisine to the menu.”

Yes, indeed. Diners can be on the lookout for three fantastic dinner options (served from 11 a.m. to midnight June 9), including Hawaiian Luau Dinner ($16.25), Teriyaki Rib Steak ($15.95) and Chicken Papaya ($13.50). According to Kenton, Hawaiian Luau Dinner has proven to be a bestseller and features kalua pig, lau lau, chicken with long rice, lomi salmon, your choice of poi or rice, and haupia pudding. Teriyaki Rib Steak also wows diners with an 8-ounce steak marinated in Hawaii’s popular sauce and garnished with fresh green onions. As for Chicken Papaya, this dish will make your mouth water as you are presented with half a seasoned chicken, roasted and glazed with a tropical papaya-orange sauce and served with Wailana’s famous macadamia nut stuffing. All entrees include all-you-can-eat salad bar, and your choice of coffee, tea or soft drink.

“On King Kamehameha Day, we also will have a breakfast special of Portuguese Sweet Bread, which will be available from 6 a.m. to midnight,” Kenton shares.

This breakfast of champions, priced at $9.50, showcases thick wedges of Portuguese sweet bread filled with a pocket of marmalade and finally dipped in egg batter. This hearty breakfast comes complete with two eggs, two strips of crispy bacon and coffee or tea.

Then come Father’s Day, spoil that special man in your life and treat him to a meal worth remembering. Dad will surely find something he’ll love on Wailana’s Father’s Day Menu (available June 17).

“With the Father’s Day Menu we wanted to offer something a little more heavy for the fathers — something a bit richer from what’s on the average Wailana menu,” Kenton explains.

Take advantage of Eggs Benedict Royal ($10.50), a breakfast special served from 6 a.m. to midnight, which features toasted English muffin halves with smoked ham, turkey breast, and poached eggs smothered with Wailana’s hollandaise sauce, and served with crispy hash browns and glazed peach slices. Then starting at 11 a.m., feast on complete dinners of New York Steak with Onion Rings ($16.95), king of steaks served with beer-battered onion rings and fresh mushrooms; Seafood Continental ($14.50), a trio of shrimps, scallops and mahi mahi gently simmered in a supreme sauce with fine herbs and wine; or Chicken Florentine ($13.50), tender breast of chicken on a bed of spinach and bacon, garnished with crab meat and topped with hollandaise sauce.

All dinners include all-you-can-eat salad bar, baked or mashed potato, french fries or steamed rice, corn on the cob, bread pudding, and coffee, tea or soft drink. Also, toast Dad with a glass of Burgundy, Rose or Chablis for $3.25.

Chef Peter Cheng is the man responsible for whipping up these alluring holiday specials, but Kenton is quick to credit his close to 100 employees who have helped to make Wailana Coffee House a household name.

“Wailana has garnered a good reputation throughout the years. I’m very lucky that I have great employees, wait staff and back of the house staff who make my job a lot easier.”

Wailana Coffee House

  • Where
    • 1860 Ala Moana Boulevard
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 955-1764
  • Hours
    • Open daily 24 hours.
  • Notes
    • Closed from 10 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday./li>