I love food, but I love brunches especially. I can eat breakfast/brunch all day (who doesn’t?). My other confession is that I can be a food snob, which is good and bad, BUT friends appreciate that snooty palate of mine. Ok, I’m not a food guru nor do I have the credentials of a food expert, nor have I won Best Food Palate of the World, but I’ve eaten my way through many restaurants in San Francisco, New York City, parts of Asia and Europe. My palate is somewhat well-travelled, plus I have friends who are obsessed with good food (that sure helps too!). The criteria of what makes a dish enjoyable and exquisite for me is quality, freshness, levels of spices/herbs (no cheating with MSG), and the chefs’ creativity, rather than quantity of food.
That being at being said, here are my top 3 brunch places that I enjoy!
1) KOKO HEAD CAFE
My #1 choice for breakfast! Chef Lee Anne Wong was the last 4 standing on TOP CHEF, Season 1. If those aren’t credentials, then I don’t know what is. It’s an honor to have her cooking in Hawaii, and plus, she’s a New York transplant (yay!). I’ve had an opportunity to talk with her on a few occasions, and she is outgoing, passionate, non-pretentious, and just down to earth. It’s a reflection of her cooking. You can feel the love in her food. She uses local ingredients in a very creative way, AND makes it delicious. There is a nice balance in her spices and herbs. Besides the food, her staff is friendly and just happy (must be the water!). I always enjoy my experience here, and it says a lot about how Chef Lee Anne runs her restaurant. There are daily specials, which change often, and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. I’ve tried 90% of it (I love it here), and everything is pure deliciousness. It’s hard to pick one thing that’s my favorite, but if I had to suggest a few things to start I would suggest Banana Kaffir Lime Bread with butter, the Cornflake French Toast (whaaaat?!), Ohayo Eggs Skillet, and Koko Moco.
KokoHead Café: 1145C 12th Ave, Honolulu HI 96816 (808) 732-8920
2) MOKE’S BREAD AND BREAKFAST
Can I also say that this is another #1 spot for brunch/breakfast? Well, I have two words for this place: Lilikoi Pancakes (yes!). These heavenly pancakes are fluffy with the right amount of lilikoi sauce sweetness. While my brother was visiting, I took him here 3 days in row, per his request! He’s a food snob, and he was in heaven here. My husband and I eat here quite often when we are out in Kailua, and we take every visitor here (everyone loves it). It’s a local family owned restaurant where most dishes are made from scratch, namely pancakes and bread. Their omelets, fried rice, and sandwiches are a must try too! When I am there, I usually order the Home Style Breakfast (Portuguese sausage, fried rice, and over easy eggs) and we share the lilikoi pancakes. All of their food is fresh, never frozen, and made with Aloha. If you come here, say hi to Keola! He is the owners’ son and he makes you feel right at home.
Moke’s Bread and Breakfast: 27 Ho’olai Street, Kailua, HI 96734 (808) 261-5565 closed Tuesdays
3) CAFE KAILA
This is another fabulous breakfast option in Honolulu. This place is jammed packed with Japanese tourists every time I come here, and many locals come here too. Chef Kaila prepares everything with love and you can definitely taste it in her dishes! Just be sure to come in hungry (or prepared to share) because the portions are huge! My husband and I love sitting at the counter because we get to interact with the counter waiter (always a fun time). The place is always jumping with excitement and you can see the hustle of the waiters serving their guests in a timely manner. This café has been around since 2007. I haven’t tried everything on the menu, but so far, my faves are Cinnamon French Toast and any of their Omelettes or Scrambles.
Café Kaila: 2919 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu HI 96826 (808) 732-3330