Only a few months ago I was practically boasting that I was never home in Kapolei. I spent the bulk of my time in town, where a multitude of dining options was within a three-mile radius of my office. Where I could “wait out” rush hour over a steaming bowl of tonkotsu ramen or skewers of yakitori. Even on weekends, I escaped the culinary desert of West Oahu for Waikiki’s back alley gems and food halls.
Today I am no longer ashamed to stay within Kapolei proper. A new dining scene is emerging among the cookie-cutter homes, and with the recent openings of Bonchon Korean Chicken, The Cheesecake Factory and Sura Hawaii, Ka Makana Alii is at the epicenter. Take a spin through the parking lot on any given evening and you'll see I'm hardly alone in my excitement. Rounding out the new West Side options are La Hiki's Sunday brunch and Michael Mina's upcoming Mina's Fish House at the Four Seasons, plus Duck Butt Grill and Eating House 1849 at Kapolei Commons. Now townie friends are jealous of me.
With everything happening so fast, we decided a map with insider tips on what's new and coming would help you navigate Oahu's hottest dining scene.
Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken
Opened: July 2017
Known for: Takeout Korean fried chicken
Despite a madhouse on opening day, Bonchon is still one of the hottest additions to Kapolei. Crowds have subsided and the takeout joint continues to see a steady stream of customers hungry for KFC (Korean fried chicken) wings and drums doused in spicy and soy garlic sauces. Instead of ordering in person and waiting (Bonchon cooks each order after it's placed), we suggest ordering via their Facebook page or website before you get in the car. Your wait time will update in real time.
91-5431 Kapolei Parkway - Ka Makana Alii • 670-2611 • www.bonchonkoreanchicken.com
The Cheesecake Factory
Opened: September 2017
Known for: An exhaustive menu of jumbo-sized dishes
Signature menu items: Cheesecakes (duh), Steak Diane, Pasta Da Vinci
What has to be the feather in Ka Makana's cap, The Cheesecake Factory gives westsiders a taste of what townies have had since 2003. While the massively popular Waikiki location is consistently one of the chain's top performers, the Kapolei spot has a laid-back atmosphere, free parking and daily happy hour specials in the bar. My parents are so excited to have The Cheesecake Factory so close to home, and judging by the line when it opened at 11 a.m. on Sept. 19, many others are too. I had a chance to try some dishes at the soft opening and found the sweet corn tamale cakes and pear with blue cheese flatbread to be my new favorite dishes to share, although I wouldn't pass up a deep-fried mac and cheese ball.
91-5431 Kapolei Parkway - Ka Makana Alii • 670-2666 • Hours: Mon - Thurs 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri 11:30 a.m. - 12 a.m., Sat 10 a.m. - 12 a.m., Sun 10 a.m. - 11 p.m. • thecheesecakefactory.com
Opened: June 2017
Known for: Korean- and Thai-influenced stir-fries and finger foods
Signature menu items: Kalbi ribs, DB fried chicken, duck fat fried rice, watermelon soju
DB Grill, the hot millennial sister of Kakaako's uber-popular karaoke bar Cafe Duck Butt, woke up our dejected West Side appetites. With fair prices for party-sized portions of alcohol and food, you can expect to wait for a table on any given night. Go with a group to take advantage of the shared plates, and try the bulgogi tacos — the kick of spice and generous size makes them my new go-to.
4450 Kapolei Parkway #560 - Kapolei Commons • 376-0885 • Hours: Sun - Thurs 11 a.m. - 12 a.m., Fri - Sat 11 a.m. - 1 a.m. • dbgrillhi.com
Opening: Projected fall 2017
Known for: Coffee drinks and cheap donuts
Signature menu items: Hot and iced coffee drinks, ring donuts, Munchkins
The lines are still bonkers at Hawaii's first-in-a-decade Dunkin’ Donuts location near the airport, but we’re hoping they’ll shrink after the Kapolei Commons spot opens. No date is set yet, but we’re told it'll be this fall after Dunkin’ opens at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I like that the Kapolei spot, at the corner of Kalaeloa Boulevard and Kapolei Parkway, will be on my route to get gas at Costco and is easily accessed from the freeway.
4450 Kapolei Parkway - Kapolei Commons • www.dunkindonuts.com
Opening: Projected late October 2017
Known for: Peruvian-inspired rotisserie chicken
Signature menu items: Rotisserie chicken, lomo saltado, empanadas
I am patiently awaiting the arrival of Limon at Ka Makana. If there’s one cuisine I didn’t experience enough while living in Los Angeles, it was Peruvian. I’m a huge fan of lomo saltado — stir-fried ribeye with tomatoes in an acidic soy glaze with french fries and rice — as well as juicy rotisserie chicken, especially when it’s served with a bucket of aji salsa. This San Francisco-based chain plans to open its doors in late October, according to their social media.
91-5431 Kapolei Parkway - Ka Makana Alii • www.limonrotisserie.com
Mina’s Fish House
Opening: Projected November 10, 2017
Known for: Line-to-table seafood
Signature menu items: TBD
The Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina is partnering with Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina to rebrand its seafood restaurant as Mina's Fish House. It's a big deal both for the resort, which boasts Oahu's best brunch buffet, and the San Francisco-based chef-restaurateur who recently opened Stripsteak and The Street, both at International Market Place. The current Fish House will close on Nov. 1 and reopen under the new name on Nov. 10.
92-1001 Olani Street - Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina • 679-0079 • Hours: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. daily • www.fourseasons.com
Okome Bento and Sushi
Opened: September 2017
Known for: Large bentos, ahi fresh from the auction
Signature menu items: Misoyaki butterfish, tempura, musubi
Okome is the Marukame udon of bento shops. The process is cafeteria-style, so you order your entree and employees prep a beautiful boxed meal with rice, yakisoba and tossed greens. On my visits, I've always been in line behind soccer moms picking up multiple bentos ($10-13) with tonkatsu, misoyaki butterfish, mochiko chicken wings and unagi with a couple of spicy ahi sushi rolls on the side and spending about $50 out the door. The concept is perfect for West Side families who need filling weeknight takeout that won't break the bank. Okome is a solid Japanese option in addition to Sushi Bay and Gyu Kaku.
91-5431 Kapolei Parkway - Ka Makana Alii • 800-2852 • Hours: Mon - Sat 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sun closed
Opened: August 2017
Known for: Korean yakiniku with set combos of meat and soups
Signature menu items: Brisket, pork belly, ribeye, steamed omelette, cheese corn
Sura Hawaii brings solid Korean barbecue to Kapolei. It may not be all-you-can-eat, but the quality of the meat and attentive service are enough to make me forget about the bill. Okay, maybe not. Expect to pay about $190 (including tax and tip) for four with the premium combo and a couple of appetizers. We took Dad for his birthday so he could experience KBBQ for the first time – he loved everything, from grilling to the dipping sauces and even the buckets of mac salad. Is Sura worth the drive from town? No. The original location is still on Kapiolani across the Hawaii Convention Center. Is it the most amazing KBBQ on the island? No. But it is the Kapolei opening I'm most excited about, and my new favorite spot for family dinners.
91-5431 Kapolei Parkway - Ka Manakana Alii • 670-2666 • Hours: Mon - Thur 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri - Sat 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. • www.sura-hawaii.com/