When it comes to new food, my hood is blowing up. Seriously: GOEN Dining + Bar by Roy Yamaguchi opened in November, Grace in Growlers expanded their tasting room and a new food truck called Hamakua Café just launched.
I think fellow Frolicker Thomas Obungen knows my Kailua hood better than I do, because right after his trip to 22 — a coffee shop at 22 Oneawa St. that's Hamakua Café’s sister company — he told me about this new truck. Since the hours are currently limited, I figured I’d better hunt them down sooner rather than later.
Hamakua Café’s truck is next to the Manuheali’i clothing shop and there’s a small parking lot. It’s around the corner from Kalapawai Café.
It's called Hamakua because owner Dustin Iwabuchi originally had his heart set on opening in Bella Bistro’s former location on Hamakua Drive and he liked the additional reference to Hamakua Marsh nearby. That spot didn’t work out, but he still loved Kailua. Iwabuchi still plans to open Hamakua Café as a standalone café someday.
But first things first — let’s focus on the truck. It sells super fresh Kona lobster rolls, lobster bisque and poke bowls.
I love lobster rolls, so I was thrilled when Thomas told me these are the main menu item at Hamakua Café. If you trek all the way to Kailua to try this, you might as well get the $20 combo, which includes the lobster roll and bisque — a seafood soup and sandwich combo.
This lobster roll is different from the East Coast summer staple. It has some Hawaiian flair, thanks to the Maui Onion dressing and micro greens and the Kona lobster tastes super fresh. The egg salad is light on the butter and mayo and reminds me of summer. The truck owners get fresh Kona lobster every other day, so it’s practically sea to table. Since I love lobster, I wish this roll had more of it, but I can’t complain. It’s already so hard to find a lobster roll on Oahu, so I'm grateful for this option. It's definitely one I’d come back for.
The bisque is creamy and hearty and the lobster flavor is strong. It’s everything a lobster bisque should be. Still, I can’t help but wish it came in a sourdough bread bowl — and that there were more of it.
This poke bowl is a little different since it comes with potato salad, but I love the potato salad almost more than the fresh fish. It’s very light and Japanesy and doesn’t have too much mayo. Plus the fish is fresh, and the ahi's cut in bite-sized cubes the way I like it.
The cold brew iced coffee ($3.50) is robust and gives me a second wind in the middle of the day. The fresh-squeezed lemonade’s ($4.50) also good and a refreshing option.
Welcome to my hood, Hamakua Cafe. It's good to know you're there next time I have a serious lobster roll craving.
5 Hoolai St.
Tues and Thurs 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (or sell out), other days 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (or sell out)