Brunch Week: Kailua is Oahu’s undisputed champ

Apr. 25, 2011 | 1 Comment


If you’re not going to go the hotel restaurant buffet route in Waikiki, there’s no mistaking that Kailua is the top destination on Oahu for brunch.

Maybe it’s the detached, laid-back atmosphere. Or maybe it’s all the mainland transplants who live there now and want a little taste of home (wherever that may be). Whatever the root cause, brunch and Kailua go together like pancakes and macadamia nut syrup.

Every Saturday and Sunday without fail, both locals and tourists queue up outside multiple locations in the neighborhood for their fill of sweet and savory dishes along with the ability to enjoy a meal outdoors. It’s come quite a way from what I remember growing up there in the 1980’s, when brunch options were limited to Andy’s Drive-In (burgers for breakfast, anyone?) and the old Yum Yum Tree in Aikahi.

The popularity of Kailua’s brunch scene is definitely a double-edged sword, however. Those who expect to roll out of bed and just walk into a restaurant for brunch without any wait are destined for disappointment; some of the places we’re about to mention draw long lines, even on weekdays.

But if you’re patient and you’re timing is right, there’s no place better on the island for brunch, thanks to the total number and diversity of its available options.

Boots & Kimo's co-owners Jesse and Rick Kiakona. (Star-Advertiser File)

Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen

151 Hekili Street

Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekends

The undisputed champion of brunch in Kailua, Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen packs customers in every day of the week. Ever since they first opened a few doors down Hekili Street in 1994, lines are common here — no matter if it’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday or 1 p.m. on a Tuesday.

The legendary Boots & Kimo's pancakes with Mac Nut Sauce. (Star-Advertiser File)

If you can put up with the crowds, you’ll be handsomely rewarded inside by generous plates of comfort food. Lots of items are described on the menu as “onolicious,” and they’re right; the Onolicious Fried Rice ($9.95) is a winner, and the legendary Onolicious Pancakes with Kimo’s famous Macadamia Nut Sauce ($7.59) is a dish known around the world.

Despite the new location, parking continues to be an issue when visiting Boots & Kimo’s. If you’re willing to risk it, consider parking in a spot across the street at the former Don Quijote store; it appears cars are being allowed to park there until construction on a new Target store begins later this year.

Cinnamon’s Restaurant

315 Uluniu Street

Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

The granddaddy of the Kailua brunch scene, Cinnamon’s has been in operation since 1985 just a few blocks away from the Kailua Public Library and Honolulu Police Department substation.

Cinnamon's French Toast.

Serving up breakfast and lunch fare to hungry residents is a family operation here, with generations of the same ohana sticking around to help keep the business going.

Owned by Kailua residents Cricket and Puna Nam and chef-partner Carsie Green, Cinnamon’s is a great choice for those who like more savory dishes during brunch.

While a full breakfast menu is served all day, a lunch menu is also available after 11 a.m. every day except for Sundays. Nearly a dozen sandwiches, from a Reuben or Pastrami ($9.25 each) to a Chicken Cashew Sandwich ($10.25) or Roast Beef Dip ($10.25), are available in addition to classic plates like Baked Spaghetti ($9.25), Meat Loaf ($10.25) or a Hawaiian Plate ($12.25).

Guava Chiffon Pancakes.

Still, if you’re going to do brunch here, be sure to try the Guava Chiffon Pancakes ($6.25 short stack, $9.25 full order) or one of seven different types of Eggs Benedict on the menu.

Another new addition are the Red Velvet Pancakes, a can’t-miss brunch item for those with a sweet tooth. They go really well with a cup of Cinnamon’s coffee ($2.25), which is brewed from a mix of beans from the Big Island and Kauai, among other locations.

Breakfast is served at Moke's in Kailua. (Courtesy Photo)

Moke’s Bread & Breakfast

27 Hoolai Street

Open 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily (closed Tuesdays)

Located on Hoolai Street across from Kailua Town Pub, Moke’s Bread & Breakfast is an unassuming space that’s perfect for those who don’t want to deal with crowds at the two restaurants mentioned above.

With just a handful of tables available inside, Moke’s can get pretty crowded in its own right on the weekends, but visit during the week and you’re almost guaranteed a leisurely meal on a (relatively) quiet side street compared to the scene outside Boots & Kimo’s.

Some of the brunch offerings at Moke's Bread & Breakfast. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

Serving sizes aren’t as big as their competition, but Moke’s scores points on flavor and presentation. More than a half-dozen types of omelets are available; the Vegetable Frittata with Seasonal Veggies ($10.95) is another viable option for those trying to eat healthy.

On a recent visit, we ordered the Moke Nui Omelet ($10.50) and weren’t disappointed. Made with three eggs and a blend of bacon, ham, vegetables and two different cheeses, it went well with Moke’s homemade hash browns and a cup of coffee while sitting under an umbrella outside.

A recent addition to the menu here is a full complement of sandwiches, available from noon to 3 p.m. daily. If you don’t feel like eggs or one of the pancake/waffle/French toast offerings at Moke’s, be sure to try a sandwich instead. The Old Fashioned Reuben and Smoke Ahi Melt ($9.95 each) are both reason enough to visit.

Crepes No Ka Oi. (Star-Advertiser photo illustration by Jason Genegabus)

Crepes No Ka Oi

131 Hekili Street

Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays (closed Tuesdays)

If you think “sweet-and-syrupy” when the word “crepes” is mentioned, you’re right — one of the best ways to enjoy a hot crepe is with some chocolate sauce and a bit of whipped cream.

Breakfast crepe with mushrooms. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

That’s exactly what owners Chris and Rosario “Kakay” Tarvyd serve up at Crepes No Ka Oi on Hekili Street. Whatever preconceived notion you have about the French-style brunch food, it’s on the menu here.

Want breakfast? Go for the Ultimate Breakfast Crepe ($9.95), stuffed full of potatoes, bacon, onions, rosemary and a poached egg, all smothered in hollandaise.

Take the savory route and you won’t be disappointed, either. From a quesadilla-esque Say Cheese ($5.50) crepe to a ‘Killer’ Pizza ($8.95) and Popeye’s Power ($7.95) offering made with spinach and turkey or ham, there are plenty of more substantial items on the menu here.

The Godfather crepe from Crepes No Ka Oi. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

And let’s not forget about the dessert crepes; about a dozen choices are on the menu, but I don’t think I’ll be moving past the S’Mores ($7) crepe anytime soon. Made with graham crackers, marshmallow, chocolate syrup and whipped cream, this thing was heaven on a plate when it arrived hot and fresh at our table.

A variety of loose-leaf teas are also available at Crepes No Ka Oi, and customers can dine in our take out until well after dark during the week — perfect for a mid-week brunch getaway.

Zia’s Caffe

201 Hamakua Drive #A103

Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily (also open for dinner)

Zia’s is the dark horse of Kailua when it comes to brunch, probably because the Italian restaurant is better known in the neighborhood for its dinner fare.

Get here before 3 p.m. daily, however, and a number of brunch items are on the menu. Unlike some other restaurants that stick to the tried-and-true formula of eggs, meat and pancakes, Zia’s takes its Italian heritage and uses it to put a twist on the menu.

Apple Pie Stuffed French Toast with Vanilla Honey. (Courtesy photo)

The Italia’no Loco Moco ($11.95) is a good example. Zia’s take uses breakfast risotto and an Italian meatball to provide a unique spin on the local favorite. Their version of an Ultimate Fried Rice ($12.95) is another winner, taking their breakfast risotto and topping it with sauteed sirloin and roasted garlic with two eggs made to order.

Got a sweet tooth? The Bread Pudding Pancakes ($8.95) are a must-try, as is the Apple Pie Stuffed French Toast with Vanilla Honey ($8.95). Soups, salads and a variety of panini sandwiches round out the menu here, providing a nice mix of dishes for brunch guests who may not want to take the traditional breakfast-heavy route.

  • Wzntme

    they’re all kinda pricey for the locals. who can afford nowadays? It’s McDonald’s for me!