Before I moved to the 96734 a few months ago, what I knew in Kailua were the original Cinnamon’s Restaurant, Boots & Kimo’s, and from my high school tennis days, the Kailua Racquet Club. Other than that, K-town was uncharted territory.
Becoming a Windward resident came with a few challenges. It took a while before I stopped getting lost in my own neighborhood (I swear, all the homes look alike), and I had to get used to driving over the Pali daily. But one thing that hasn't been a challenge is finding good grinds.
Here are some of my favorite dishes and destinations in my new hood.
Uncle Glenns Hawaiian Food: Common Kings dog, $10.99
Uncle Glenns Hawaiian Food (formerly Hale Pops) is an unassuming pink shack on the mauka side of Kam Highway. It’s known for its Hawaiian food plate lunches, but this is where you’ll find some of the island’s best hot dogs. They’re 14-inch Angus beef dogs in sturdy, toasted French rolls that can hold the weight of the toppings. Which are massive, trust me.
I got the Common Kings dog on my first visit and it’s become my go-to order ever since. It's all about the kalua pork and smoky barbecue flavors, but the toppings make it next level. Sinking your teeth into the perfectly crispy onion rings is always the best part.
You could get a small ($7.99), which is essentially half a dog, but I always get the regular size. I always intend to eat half immediately and save the other half for later, but let’s be real: it doesn’t always happen.
Uncle Glenns Hawaiian Food • 45-726 Kam. Hwy • Kaneohe • 247-7127
Over Easy: Potato n’ eggs, $14
The first time I went to Over Easy was for brunch on a Saturday. Now, since I live a mere six minutes away, I go for early breakfast before work. No more waiting in long lines.
I get the same thing every time because it’s just. That. Heavenly. You can’t go wrong with two soft-boiled eggs, rich potato puree, tomato jam and bacon bits, all atop thick, billowy French bread. This is different from an eggs Benedict because there’s no hollandaise: The potato puree is Over Easy’s twist on the traditional sauce. It’s indulgent, creamy and thicker because of the potatoes. The mixed greens are perfect for mopping up every drop.
Over Easy • 418 Kuulei Rd. • Kailua • 260-1732
Morning Brew: Peanut butter stack, $4.45
Most people go to Morning Brew for the coffee. But it’s the snacks that I come here for — specifically, the peanut butter stack, one of the best peanut butter desserts I’ve found on this island.
The sheer size reassures me that I’m getting my money’s worth. There are layers of caramel, peanut butter, chocolate cake and chocolate frosting, with peanuts on top for crunch. The crunchy-creamy combo hits the sweet spot every time. I always devour it on the spot — even first thing in the morning.
Morning Brew has opened now in Kakaako, but the Kailua spot is my go-to because of its cozy, neighborhood café ambiance.
Morning Brew • 600 Kailua Rd. • Kailua • 262-7770
The Hibachi: Spicy oyster sauce ahi poke (prices vary)
My roommate, who grew up in Kailua, says that to this day The Hibachi is her favorite spot for poke. After two trips in one week, it was easy for me to see why.
The Hibachi is part deli — there’s a counter with fresh poke and raw, marinated meat skewers that are grilled to order — and part liquor store. I have yet to explore the meat skewers, which you can get a la carte or by the plate, but I can attest to the poke: It’s legit, no matter what you choose. The fish is delivered whole from local fisherman daily. You can order poke bowls in mini or regular sizes, with white sushi rice or toss salad, or you can go a la carte. I often choose the a la carte option so I can get three or four kinds.
Choices range from wasabi shoyu ahi and spicy Thai basil to wasabi mayo and salmon poke. While I do like the spicy aftertaste of the wasabi mayo, my usual order is the spicy oyster sauce ahi. It has a welcome heat, but not enough to burn my taste buds off.
The Hibachi • 515 Kailua Rd. • Kailua • 263-7980
Masa & Joyce Okazuya: Create your own plate (prices vary)
Never visit an okazuya when you’re starving. Like right after you finish a gym sesh at 24 Hour Fitness Kaneohe, which is conveniently across the street.
I tend to eat with my eyes, which is why I don’t visit okazuyas too often: Every trip turns pricy. But the food at Masa & Joyce is so fresh and comforting that I can’t help but get carried away a little. Plus, it’s always fun to try new things.
Masa & Joyce is famous for their Hawaiian plates and plate lunches, but I always create my own plate from the assortment of sushi, musubi, poke and okazu items. Among my favorites: garlic katsu musubi (the chicken is succulent and crispy), chicken katsu (they slice it for you, and the katsu sauce is thick and indulgent), hash, ahi patty (tender with teri flavor), wasabi spicy ahi roll (great for any spicy tuna lover).
Again, you can see why I don’t visit okazuyas that often. But if you’re in Kaneohe and want to treat yourself, this is an easy way to go for broke.
Masa & Joyce • 45-582 Kam. Hwy. • Kaneohe • 235-6129
The Beet Box Café: Cacao bowl, $9
The Haleiwa vegan spot opened its second location in Kailua at the end of March in the former Agnes Portuguese Bakery spot.
I recommend going for lunch, because with breakfast and acai served all day, you get the best selection this way. My go-to item is easily my favorite acai bowl on the island: the cacao bowl.
This acai blend is so smooth that it reminds me of fro-yo. It’s on the sweeter side with a mountain of toppings including crunchy cacao nibs, so if you’re expecting the more traditional, bitter, Brazilian acai, this ain’t it. If you’re looking for a light meal or heavier snack, this is perfect. In these hot summer months, it takes immense self-control to not order this mammoth bowls on a biweekly basis.
The Beet Box Café • 46 Hoolai St. • Kailua • 262-5000
Nico’s Kailua: Chef Lawrence’s angry ahi dip, $12
Many dishes at Nico’s Kailua are similar to those at the Pier 38 location, but there are some things you can only find in Kailua. Chef’s Norman’s insanely good poke nachos ($14) is one of them. Chef Lawrence’s angry ahi dip is another.
Don’t be afraid of the word “angry” — the kick is relatively mild. The ahi confit is creamy, delicious and smooth — if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to spoon it straight from the bowl.
What you do need to beware of is how addictive the fried wonton chips are. They’re delectabe with or without the dip. Just make sure you don’t down the entire bowl before your entrée comes. But hey, if you do, I’m not judging. I’ve done that.
Nico’s Pier 38 Kailua • 970 N. Kalaheo Ave. • 263-3787
Yamas Mediterranean Cuisine: Baklava a la mode, $7
Yamas never fails to deliver whenever I’m craving Greek food. I usually alternate between the gyro and chicken souvlaki ($12), since I'm in love with the creamy tzatziki sauce both come with. But dessert is what always brings me back to this Enchanted Lake restaurant.
The housemade baklava has layers upon layers of delicate, crispy phyllo loaded with chopped pecans and fragrant cinnamon. The best part is at the bottom, where there’s a pool of honey drizzle. The plain baklava is $5, but I always add on a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's the perfect ending to a satisfying, savory Greek feast.
Yamas Mediterranean Cuisine • 1020 Keolu Dr. • Enchanted Lake • 263-4075
Maui Mike’s: Maui Wowie melt, $8.59
Just because the menu at Maui Mike’s is small doesn’t mean it’s easy to settle on one entrée. If you’re in the mood for straight-up rotisserie chicken, that’s available by the quarter- or half-chicken, shredded breast meat or a full-on feast option. But if you want loaded sammies, the Maui Wowie melt is the way to go. All combos come with a side of your choice plus their special dipping sauce (ranch smokey bbq, sweet bbq, island teriyaki, honey mustard).
The chicken breast is moist, and the fact that it’s completely smothered in melted cheddar cheese makes it glorious. The bun is soft and thick, and the combination is simple, yet extremely satisfying. Honey mustard is the most popular sauce, but since this sammie already comes with it, get the sweet barbecue one to create the perfect sweet-and-savory mix. You’ll appreciate how the slightly sweet aftertaste balances out the melt’s saltier flavors.
Maui Mike’s Kailua • Enchanted Lake Center • 1020 Keolu Dr. • 261-5900