Find Comfort At This CafeFeatures Inside Feature
November 11, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Practically located at the gates of Kailua Town, Kalapawai Cafe is an island of local culinary magic that carries on the friendly tradition of the little Kalaheo Avenue beach market that shares its name.
Comfortable and welcoming, with plenty of warm wood, original local art and sweet island vibes, the restaurant is a deli and coffee shop with casual counter service by day. And by night (5 p.m. each evening) it becomes a full-service, sit-down dining spot, featuring a deliciously diverse menu created by executive chef Jason Iwane.
“We focus on gourmet comfort food, and there’s something for everyone,” says operations manager Kat Moon. “We want people to be able to come right from the beach and sit outside in board shorts and eat a burger … or to come in dressed to the nines for date night.”
That’s also true of Kalapawai Cafe’s newest location in Kapolei, opened two years ago, which offers the same sort of “local-kine” welcome on a larger scale. “The menu is similar, but it’s based on that neighborhood,” explains Moon. Perfect for group reservations, the Kapolei location features an indoor/outdoor bar, eight taps with local craft beer, a daily pau hana happy hour (3-6 p.m.) and a big space for group reservations.
Kalapawai Cafe is a locally owned and operated business striving to include island products and produce in its food whenever possible. And its efforts go well beyond local beers and the HI Pie poi banana bread on its dessert menu.
Kalapawai’s celebrated Fire Roasted Smokey BBQ Double-cut Pork Chop ($27) includes collard greens from Hawaii’s own Roots & Remedies and Maui pineapple chutney, as well as yam puree, Portuguese sausage and bacon. Beet & Apple Salad ($14) includes beets from Augustine Family Farms in Waimanalo, as well as frisee, orange yogurt, pickled onion, toasted pepita granola and house-made cumin-lime vinaigrette.
“I think the variety of the menu is one of our best points,” remarks Moon. “It kind of runs the whole gamut. Everything’s made from scratch — everything is fresh.”
Fusions and flavors here are often unexpected, sophisticated and inspired. Kalapawai’s Pumpkin & Ricotta Pizza ($16) is loaded with roasted mushrooms and pecorino, brown butter maple drizzle and pepitas. Another vegetarian pleasure, Casarecce Pasta ($18) features heirloom grape tomatoes, corn, mushrooms, basil, gorgonzola cream sauce and Kalapawai’s scrumptious crushed garlic croutons.
Owned by Oahu’s own Dymond family, Kalapawai Cafe is a proud member of Ocean Friendly Restaurants. “We’re working toward all-compostable take-out containers, paper straws, etc.,” says Moon. The restaurant will also participate in the Kapolei-Ewa Department of Education Healthy Cooking Demonstration, part of Blue Zones Project Kapolei-Ewa, a community initiative that supports longevity and well-being. “One of the things Chef is really good at is creating food you can make at home — not super fancy, but good, it’s real food and healthy,” says Moon. “We’ll work with kids to show them how easy it is.”