Honolulu Museum of Art’s New Brunch Is a Hidden Gem
Take your time enjoying morning cocktails and brunch dishes before exploring the museum.
The Honolulu Museum of Art Café launched a brunch menu, making the museum a foodie destination.
Photos: Gary Saito
Every museum needs a café to refuel art-lovers who spend hours roving the exhibits—interpreting that de Chirico can really work up an appetite. It’s one thing to have a snack shop with caffeine and little pick-me-ups, but it’s another to have a professional chef whipping out dishes that make the museum a foodie destination.
Robert Paik, formerly of Vintage Cave, Chef Mavro and Avenue’s Bar + Eatery, helms the Honolulu Museum of Art’s food program, which recently added a Sunday brunch. Rather than wait hours in the hot sun outside some other popular brunch spot, our group of four rolled in for an 11 a.m. reservation (which was recommended but not necessary—the large outdoor café was fairly empty when we arrived). We’re late risers, so we chose to begin our museum adventure day with breakfast food, chatting about our excitement over the new Erick Swenson exhibit and reminiscing about the last time we attended Art After Dark.
We started our brunch with what we millennials are known for—POG mimosas ($7), bellinis ($7) and fresh coffee ($4. HoMA has its own signature blend from Kona Coffee Purveyors). Though the café offers a variety of sandwiches and salads, many of those items are also available during the week at lunch, so we stuck to brekkie, ordering shakshouka ($16), classic and vegetarian eggs Benedicts ($17 each) and a Belgian waffle ($15).
Shakshouka, the North African dish of eggs poached in a spiced tomato sauce, seems to be having a moment right now, popping up on menus across the country, no longer solely in Moroccan restaurants. Our server informed us that the bread that day was house-made pita instead of sourdough, which makes more sense with this dish anyway, so no complaints from us—except for the amount. Six pieces were hardly enough to sop up all the sauce, which you definitely want to do, so we ordered another round for $2.50. Since we were sharing, we mixed the two eggs with the aromatic tomatoes and onions and ate family-style from the same dish, scraping the plate clean. This dish was the most popular at our table.
Our only complaint about the shakshouka: not enough pita bread. This dish was our favorite on the menu.
The vegetarian eggs Benedict comes with sautéed spinach and a grilled slice of local tomato.
Photos: Brittney Nitta-Lee
The café does eggs well in other dishes, too. Both Benedicts felt like clouds in our mouths, with perfectly toasted bread and a creamy light hollandaise. The classic version comes with grilled ham, while the vegetarian option features sautéed spinach and a grilled slice of Hau‘ula tomato. Both are served with a side salad and fingerling potatoes.
You can’t have brunch without something sweet, so we ordered the Belgian waffle, elegantly presented with an addictive cream cheese whip in the center, surrounded by fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with a side of maple syrup. This was my personal favorite (I have a major sweet tooth), though my dining buddies wished it were a little crispier. I just wished I didn’t have to share.
The Belgian waffles have an addictive cream cheese center.
What’s brunch without desserts? (We don’t know.)
Photo: Gary Saito
Because we had a few hours to kill before our guided tour of Abstruction: The Sculpture of Erick Swenson, we ordered another round of drinks and dessert: panna cotta with caramel sauce, an apple-blueberry fruit crisp ($8), pineapple upside down cake ($8) and chocolate pot de crème ($7.50), lingering as long as we could to fit everything into our bellies. And that’s part of what makes this brunch great—the business model here isn’t turn and burn, it’s please enjoy yourself and take your time. Whether you’re fueling up for the day, taking a long lunch between exhibits or recapping your favorite pieces over steak and eggs, or even just enjoying Sunday brunch (you don’t have to pay museum admission to eat at the café), there’s something for all diners.
Honolulu Museum of Art Café, 900 S. Beretania St., brunch available Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., (808) 532-8734, honolulumuseum.org/394-museum_cafe