Sweet E’s Moved—and You Can Now Park in Peace
After years of feuding with neighbors, this popular brunch spot left Kilohana Square for a better space in Kapahulu.
The popular French toast stuffed with blueberries and cream cheese from Sweet E’s Café, which moved to a larger—and better—location on Kapahulu Avenue.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
When Sweet E’s Café first opened in Kilohana Square in October 2011, it garnered a loyal following with its stuffed French toast and kālua pork eggs Benedict. Lines started forming outside the tiny restaurant, and the small parking lot was always packed.
You might think this was good thing for the café’s neighbors.
But the other tenants complained, the landlord hired a security guard to deal with cars, and Sweet E’s customers were forced to stand on the public sidewalk—not in front of the café.
“It was so crazy,” says owner Ethel Mathews. “They were calling our customers loiterers and not allowing them to park in customer parking. Our customers would literally have to go through obstacles just to eat at the restaurant.”
After settling a lawsuit with the landlord, Mathews decided to move, finding a much larger location down Kapahulu Avenue—with its own private parking lot.
Last month, the café opened on the corner of Kapahulu and Kaimukī avenues in a space that once housed Wasabi Bistro, Burgundy and, most recently, Tsurumen Ramen. It’s almost tripled in size—from 950 square feet to more than 2,600 square feet—and can accommodate up to 70 diners. There are 14 parking stalls, too, with a valet service on busier Saturdays and Sundays. (The cost is $3 and is added to the bill. Tip is optional.) And there’s a lot of street parking nearby.
“People love that the wait isn’t that long, it’s a bigger space and they don’t feel rushed,” says Mathews, 33. “It’s so much better.”
Inside the new location on Kapahulu Avenue. This restaurant is triple the size of the one in Kilohana Square—meaning shorter wait time.
The experience at Kilohana Square left a bad taste for many customers, and some—including me—never returned. Mathews is hoping people give the café another chance.
The menu, which boasts breakfast all day and an array of lunch items, hasn’t changed much after the move. The most popular items are still the French toast stuffed with blueberries and cream cheese and the corned-beef eggs Benedict. Other items include a pesto chicken flatbread pizza, a breakfast croissant sandwich, veggie Benedict, a hefty cobb salad and a huge Hawaiian omelet with Portuguese sausage and Spam.
The Extreme Mess—a huge scramble of eggs, potatoes, meats and cheese—is everything you love about breakfast in one dish.
It’s truly a family business. Mathews’ younger brothers, Oliver and Marshall, work here, as does her husband, Matt, who expedites in the kitchen. Her retired dad comes in every night to maintain equipment and keep the restaurant clean. And her mom babysits Mathews’ 10-month-old son, Hugh.
“It’s so nice to have this business support our family,” Mathews says.
But that family extends to customers, too. The regulars have become friends. One couple even got Mathews a UH onesie and knit booties when she was pregnant.
“That was so cute,” Mathews says. “That’s the kind of stuff I love. I want you to feel like you’re part of our family. You’re more than just a customer. You’re a friend, you’re family.”
1006 Kapahulu Ave., 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, 737-7771