Wow Dad at WailanaCover Story Features
June 21, 2015
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
On this nationally recognized and widely adored day, families across the Islands will be celebrating dads, father figures and the important men in their lives. When honoring a holiday that at its root brings together cherished loved ones, few experiences pose a better way to spend it than sharing a meal at one of Hawaii’s premier family-centric restaurants — Wailana Coffee House.
From 11 a.m. to midnight today, the legendary Waikiki eatery offers its annual Happy Father’s Day menu, brimming with selections that cater to the heartiest of appetites in the family.
As Wailana extends its aloha to dads everywhere, owner and general manager Kenton Tom reflects on his own father’s inspiring journey to open the restaurant. Before introducing Wailana Coffee House in December 1969, Francis Tom ran the former neighborhood hot spot Kapiolani Drive Inn. When he decided to transform the Drive Inn into the island-style diner Wailana is today, he sparked a unique dining experience that has lasted nearly 50 years and continues to flourish.
“My father did a lot of research on what type of restaurant he wanted to open. He traveled the Mainland extensively, looking at different restaurants and trying to pick out the best (parts) of each one,” expresses Tom.
When Francis returned to Hawaii, he was able to bring an original diner concept with him — uncommon in the Islands at the time — and he sealed the deal by putting an island twist on it.
“He was in the restaurant business for so long, and this was his dream restaurant,” continues Tom, who has overseen Wailana’s operations since his father’s passing. “The concept has stayed the same since we opened: It’s a family restaurant open 24 hours, and it’s always been a great breakfast spot and a late-night spot.”
Alongside Wailana’s team of admired servers — who may be spotted in their matching aloha shirts, continuously providing customers with top-notch service — Tom invites families to kick off Father’s Day with a feast of epic proportions. It all starts with New York Steak with Onion Rings ($16.95), a dish that speaks to Dad’s cravings with a meaty 8 ounces of tender and juicy beef topped with sauteed mushrooms and divine beer-battered onion rings.
Tom says the dish has been popular with holiday-goers for quite some time, as has Seafood Continental ($14.95). This comforting number combines mahi mahi, scallops and shrimp in a creamy, simmering sauce accented with herbs and wine.
This year, Wailana is switching things up by offering Roast Turkey with Smoked Ham ($14.50) as its third Father’s Day entree. Served with macadamia nut stuffing and old-fashioned gravy, the ideally cooked meat is perfected with a grilled pineapple ring and cranberry sauce.
These Father’s Day selections get even better with a choice of baked or mashed potato, french fries or rice, as well as corn on the cob. Guests may select coffee, tea or a soft drink, and wonderfully sweet Apple Cobbler tops off each meal.
“It’s a great menu, especially for fathers,” confirms Tom.
Patrons have long cherished the fact that they may order breakfast all day long at Wailana, and today is no exception. Eggs Benedict Royal ($10.95) is available as the Father’s Day breakfast special, and it offers smoked ham, turkey breast, poached eggs and a generous smothering of house-made hollandaise sauce on top of English muffins. The dish also includes hash browns, as well as the extra-special additions of glazed peach slices and coffee or tea.
And for those who feel a toast is in order, clink those glasses in honor of Dad with a serving of wine for $4.50.
In addition to celebrating holidays year-round, Wailana Coffee House is home to an array of all-American classics as well as local favorites — from Fried Saimin to Local Mocos — that continue to please locals and tourists alike at all hours of the day.
Wailana Coffee House
1860 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Open 24 hours daily (except when the restaurant closes from 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday)
Note: Validated parking is available on Ena Road