Discover the local family eateries of Kailua, full of color and flavor.
By Michelle M. Winner
Kailua for those of you yet to visit, is a beach town over the pali from Honolulu, around the bend from Makapu’u or one town over from Kaneohe. Asian tourists from Waikiki are bused in to shop and generally create gridlock when they decide to rent a bicycle ( old school type) and cross against the lights but come evening they are gone again. Kailua is an upper- class and luxury town so there are many great eateries. Don’t ruin the vibe and increase the traffic stress level, so come, be respectful, slow down and enjoy this special place. It is a terrific family neighborhood and there are many family owned and operated places. Here are my favorites and where I go.
Moke’s Bread & Breakfast
27 Ho’olai Street
They don’t take reservations, are always crowded and there is no parking lot. So why the long lines sometimes ? Family atmosphere by the Warren family and ” Uncle Keola” who’s the man out front. Always happy, always smiling, but the food is the thing. Dad, who has impressive cooking cred. is usually in the back cooking, mom works the tables too. Fast paced, huge food, all homemade including the muffins, breads pastry this is a local’s haven. You just gotta come for breakfast ( they do lunch too) where you can order the famous Liliko’i pancake. Light pancakes with a volcano eruption of creamy whipped passion fruit sauce. Oh yeah! Closed Tuesday.
767 Kailua Road (Davis Building)
Hailing from a childhood spent in the beach community of Newport Oregon, chef and owner John Memering’s knowledge of fresh ingredients and the best wine and spirits have all come to play here at his restaurant in Kailua Town his home for over 8 years. Be forwarned; his mixologist makes several fantastic margaritas. A Hale ‘Aina award winner by readers of Honolulu Magazine, this is a little gem in central Kailua town. Chef brings Latin cuisine with signature dishes originating all over Central and South America. You will also find wines from Chile Peru, Spain and Argentina. Open Lunch and Dinner and happy hour 7 days. See website for special celebrations like Farmer’s Dinner.
Saigon Noodle House
1020 Keolu Dr Ste C1 Kailua, HI 96734
Ok this one is tricky. The first time I ate here on a Thursday for lunch, the Pho was well- seasoned and the veggies for Pho and the spring rolls plate over-flowed with crunchy fresh mint, bean sprouts and Thai basil. Fast forward to the following Monday for lunch and you would have thought this a different place. Wilted and manini ( small) amount of veggies with the Pho and the spring rolls, made me sad that it could be so inconsistent. I am including because it is a local place, with family owners and cooking, and when it is on it is incredible. Sits along an older strip mall with a Safeway and other local eats in Enchanted Lakes Kailua, just a few miles from Kailua town.
Agnes Portuguese Bake Shop
46 Ho’olai St
They do serve soups and some of their homemade bakery bread here for lunch. But the real stars are their made to order Portuguese malasadas. a risen dough full of air and then lightly sugared. Sinful and great with a cup of Hawaiian coffee. One thing I love is you can hire them to come and make hot, fresh malasadas for your brunch at home. We did this for my brother’s wedding brunch in Lanikai and it was an instant hit. Habit-forming, grab some and eat them on your way to Kailua beach to run a few miles.
Michelle was born with a fork in her hand. As a culinary travel writer and confirmed foodophile she delights in the world-wide discovery of new flavor profiles, spices, salts and herbs. Based in one of the world's foodie meccas; Portland, Oregon, not far from "Pinot Noir Heaven" Michelle shares culinary travel and chef's recipes. Her photography has appeared in Saveur Magazine and she has contributed culinary travel articles to Forbes online, WSJ online, Business Insider, Condé Nast Digital Media, Islands magazine and many others. A confirmed globetrotter, she still keeps her bags packed and fork in hand (well . . . except through airport security.)