Hurry over for a big bite out of ‘small-kid times’

A La Carte

September 15, 2019

Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Aloha Aina Moco ($10 regular, $7 mini)

Quick, kamaaina! Where can you get a fantastic home-style bowl of saimin on Windward Oahu? A bowl that reminds you of your childhood?

If you’re stumped, you haven’t yet visited Cafe Kalawe. Tucked into a corner of the Territorial Savings Bank building on Kahuhipa and Kawa Streets near Windward Mall in Kaneohe, this small, friendly, family-owned and operated diner serves fantastic local food that will make diners feel like their “small-kid times” ended just last week.

Saimin ($7.50 large, $5.50 small)

“A lot of people call us a small mom-and-pop store,” says Raymond Kalawe, who owns the restaurant with his wife and daughter. “Those seem to be deteriorating wherever you go in the islands. We want to try to bring them back.”

Kalawe and his wife, Muriel, were high school sweethearts who now have six daughters and nine granddaughters. “All of my children and grandchildren, and my sons in law, help with the restaurant,” he says. “We provide homestyle cooking, pretty much what we’re used to at home.”

Kim Chee Fried Rice ($6.50)

The cafe has become famous in the neighborhood for its Kapoho Moco ($11 regular, $8 mini), made with two house-made corned beef hash patties, eggs, and gravy, on a bed of rice. It’s named to honor the Kalawe family’s roots in the Big Island community covered by lava in Kilauea’s eruption last year. “The Hapa Moco ($10.75) includes one hamburger patty and one corned beef patty,” Kalawe says. “For our vegetarian customers, we have the Aloha Aina Moco ($10 regular, $7 mini), with potatoes, celery, onions, bell peppers… all things grown on the aina.”

Cafe Kalawe’s fantastic Koolaupoko Sandwich ($5.25), with toasted Punaluu sweetbread, a fried egg, American cheese, and choice of a pork sausage patty, ham, bacon, turkey bacon, or Spam, is satisfying and delicious.

Hapa Moco ($10.75)

Finally, a spectacular and warming bowl of Saimin ($7.50 large, $5.50 small), which begins with dashi made from scratch, is perfectly accompanied by a BBQ Beef Stick ($2.50) or Yakitori Chicken Stick ($2.75).

Kaneohe, HI 96744

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best