When EARL opened in Kakaako in March, sandwich fans no longer had to trek to Kaimuki for the shop's loaded braised meat sammies and savory combos. Now EARL Kakaako has taken its sandwich game to the next level with a new all-day Sunday brunch. Frolic associate editor Thomas Obungen and I were there on soft opening day to check it out.
There may be only five entree choices, but it’s still hard to settle on one. EARL’s brunch menu is completely different from its lunch and dinner menu. Some dishes are a nod to previous menu items or specials, but they’ve been revamped for the brunch crowd. Others like the lobster roll have been featured at EARL Kaimuki and are now being introduced at Kakaako. More on that later.
“I wanted to incorporate some nostalgic dishes for brunch,” says owner Justin Parvizimotlagh. “It’s sandwiches you’ve heard of before, but we want to make them different by adding a twist. People will still know it’s EARL because of the flavor and style, but we’re changing things up.”
New drink options include guava juice, which is refreshing with an Instagrammable ombre effect. The espresso horchata is perfect if you want something sweet — the coffee flavor is strong and condensed milk adds a creamy, velvety mouthfeel.
Of the brunch sandwiches we tried, the prime jun was our fave. It’s EARL's twist on a meat jun plate lunch — loaded with prime rib jun, crispies, sautéed mushrooms, onions, kale, roasted garlic mayo and barbecue sauce. Parvizimotlagh thinks of it as Hawaii’s version of steak and eggs in sandwich form. The prime rib is succulent and flavorful and offset by crunchy hash brown crispies. The sandwich is so loaded that the sauces start running as soon as we dig in. I don’t usually go for steak and eggs for brunch, but this just might be my go-to.
The fried chicken donut is as indulgent and heavy as it looks. It’s a good sweet-and-savory balance: a meaty slab of fried chicken between two glazed donut halves. Seriously, the chicken-to-donut ratio is 2:1. The chicken is crunchy and perfectly cooked, with a slight kick that builds. My mouth is burning by the time I finish half the sandwich, but it’s worth it. The kale slaw is refreshing (yay, veggies) and crispy bacon bits and crispies add savory texture. The puffy donut's thick glaze is sinfully sticky.
If you’re looking for that quintessential brunch burger, this is it. The 4-ounce Kunoa Cattle Company beef patty is loaded with a layer of fluffy eggs and cheese so thick it's hard to see the patty. The flavors aren't as complex as the Fun Egg sammie below, but it's all the traditional brunch elements in one messy package.
If you want something less meaty, this veggie sandwich is flavorful and filling. It’s similar to the Fun Beet ($9.75) sammie on EARL's lunch menu, but with fluffy eggs instead of beets. The mushrooms are coated liberally with balsamic and thick cucumber slices are a refreshing touch in a sandwich highighted by strong flavors of pesto and tangy goat cheese.
If this lobster roll looks familiar, that’s because it was a weekday special on EARL’s lunch meu. It’s made with a cold water lobster tail (Parvizimotlagh says EARL gets live lobsters from time to time). The sandwich is petite, but if you’re craving this East Coast summer staple, EARL is one of the few spots on Oahu that has it. The generous portion of lobster, bacon and sauteed garlic is delicious when dunked in the accompanying butter. Still, $20 is a steep price for the size, so this won’t be a regular indulgence.
For now, brunch runs all day Sunday at the Kakaako shop, but Parvizimotlagh plans to extend it to Saturdays and add more sides to the menu. Stay tuned.