Country-side cafe boasts breakfast favoritesInside Feature
December 22, 2019
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
If you’d be delighted to get a little aloha with your ono pancake breakfast, head for Cafe Kalawe in Kaneohe. Nani and Ray and the Kalawe ohana will greet you like long-lost cousins, with open arms and a side of bacon if you like.
Known in their community as a warm, welcoming family whose tiny restaurant cranks out some seriously delicious food, the Kalawes take pride in every dish — and in the value they provide as well.
“I have six kids and it was a challenge to take my family out to restaurants,” says Nani Kalawe. “We try to keep our prices reasonable for families that want to go out. I think our portions match our prices. You can always add more.”
Open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Cafe Kalawe is tucked into a corner of the Territorial Savings Bank building on Kahuhipa and Kawa Streets near Windward Mall in Kaneohe. This little diner’s menu is packed with island favorites.
“It’s pretty local,” says Kalawe. “I’m part Filipino, Portuguese, Hawaiian, Chinese, so there’s a bit of everything in there!”
Breakfast offerings include loaded omelets, six different pancake treatments, four different Mocos, three kinds of fried rice, and two mouthwatering sandwiches. Lunch plates include chopped steak, shoyu chicken, and teri beef; there’s also saimin and wun tun min, and several kinds of burgers and sandwiches. Specials during the week include traditional favorites like roast pork, beef stew and, if you’re lucky, freshly caught sauteed mahi mahi.
One of the Kalawe family’s favorite breakfast treats is now winning rave reviews from customers. If you’re a fan of Chantilly cake, try the Chantilly Pancakes at Cafe Kalawe.
“We’ve been selling them for a month and they’re our best-selling pancake right now,” Kalawe reports.
This sweet little cafe has made a name for itself on the Windward side and beyond.
“People come from all over the island, even from outer islands,” says Kalawe. “A lot of tourists get right off the plane and come here, even if they’re staying in Waikiki! When I travel I don’t want to go where everybody else is; I want to know where local people are eating. I just tell people we’re worth finding!”
The most incredibly delicious take on flapjacks imaginable, Cafe Kalawe’s Chantilly Pancakes ($5.75 short stack; $6.75 regular) are simply a winner. “Our family loves it and so do our customers,” says owner Nani Kalawe. “It’s like a Chantilly cake, but lighter.” Add a side of breakfast meat (bacon, Spam, Portuguese sausage, lup cheong, ham, link sausage, corned beef hash, Vienna sausage, turkey bacon, or turkey sausage) to your stack for $2.75.
FOR THE LOVE OF PORK
Juicy, tender, and seasoned with a unique blend of local spices, Cafe Kalawe’s bone-in Grilled Pork Chops are a favorite of regular guests. The plate is available as a mini with one chop for $9.25, or as a regular plate with two chops for $12.25. It comes with two scoops of rice and potato salad. Diners can add onions and gravy to the order for $2.
BITE INTO THIS
If you’ve been hankering for a moist, tender Chicken Sandwich, pay a visit to Cafe Kalawe for its luscious treatment of a fast food favorite. It’s served on a lovely brioche bun with a little mayo for just $6. Upgrade to a Deluxe sandwich with tomato, onion and lettuce for $1.50; add Muenster cheese for 50 cents, and bacon for $1 more. And you can always add fries to the order for $3.75.
The humble grilled cheese sandwich is an all-American favorite, but like just about any food, it gets a billion times better when made with an island ingredient or two. Cafe Kalawe’s Sweetbread Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($5), made with Punaluu sweetbread and Muenster cheese, is every bit as delicious as it sounds.