Eat Taro Waffles in This Chic Boutique-Meets-Café

Tilia Aloha Café, a little-known Japanese café in Waikīkī, is worth checking out.
Waffle and bowl
Seasonal Fruits Waffle ($8.50) and Hawaiian Kona red bowl ($10.50).
Photos: Maria Kanai


There comes a time where we all need to give our girlfriends a call and head to a cute café in Waikīkī. OK, it doesn’t have to be in Waikīkī, but Tilia Aloha Café, a boutique-meets-café hybrid on Kūhiō Avenue, is so kawaii, dealing with the terrible street parking is almost worth it.


We visited on a Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. and it was empty, with a few Japanese tourists perusing locally made products including stationery, clothing, papaya dressing, jams and Waialua coffee. Delicate bead jewelry and beautiful coasters made by café owner Keiji Tagawa are for sale, and his elaborate bead embroidery artwork hangs on the walls. The aesthetic is warm, minimalistic and chic, with white walls and open spaces, and, as you walk farther into the shop, there’s a pretty café with free wi-fi.



At 9 a.m., a group of about 10 Japanese tourists arrived, bleary-eyed and excited to try the acai bowls and waffles. Service got a little slow—it looked like there was only one woman serving the tables, but there’s a sign stating that they’re looking to hire.


We paired the medium Seasonal Fruits Waffle ($8.50) with a cup of coffee ($4.50)—Tilia’s own Waialua coffee blend. The waffle is made with macadamia flour and taro root flour, topped with strawberries, kiwi, banana, pineapple, blueberries and pineapple syrup, and you can add a scoop of ice cream for $1.50.



Just FYI: Everything is Japanese-size, aka small. It’s also Waikīkī-priced, aka overpriced, but there’s a 10 percent discount for kama‘āina. We like how the taro waffle has a chewier texture than most waffles, and how the café doesn’t skimp on fruit. We recommend you get the large waffle for $14.50 if you’re looking to fill up. The same taro waffles are also used in sandwiches including the pastrami, the turkey and the chicken breast with spicy barbecue sauce and melted cheese.


Tagawa hails from Tokyo, and he’s actually a big deal in Japan. He has a signature haute-couture-beads embroidery style that’s used by famous Japanese designers and artists. He opened Tilia Aloha Café in 2012, because, according to general manager Midori Katayama, “Tagawa-san loves Hawai‘i.” She says he used to hold bead workshops at the café whenever he was on the island, and he also visits botanical gardens to get inspiration for his bead artwork.

  Acai bowl

Acai bowl ($9.50).


We also tried the acai bowl ($9.50) and the Hawaiian Kona red bowl ($10.50). The latter is made with the fleshy fruit pulp of Hawaiian Kona coffee. It’s not too sweet and has a tart flavor with the texture of creamy yogurt. There are slices of banana, kiwi, pineapple, mac nut, toasted coconut flakes, blueberries, granola, a scoop of Greek yogurt, honey and pineapple syrup. The regular acai bowl features bananas, blueberries, granola and honey. We like how Tilia provided a full honey container so we could liberally douse each bowl to our hearts’ content.


Tilia Aloha Café, 888-2011, 403 Kaiolu St.,