Fall Head Over Heels for Brunch at Over Easy in Kailua
Over Easy in Kailua is making brunch fun again, with innovative twists on breakfast classics and notable cocktails.
Over Easy makes itself a brunch destination with unique dishes, including this Kailua Eggs dish, with a cabbage-and-bacon broth poured tableside.
PHOTOS: STEVE CZERNIAK
Over Easy in Kailua, which opened in July, is everything you want a brunch restaurant to be.
It’s quaint—just 32 seats indoors and a smattering of tables outside—and comfortable. The décor, with nautical blue and white walls and an open kitchen, is bright and cheery. And the menu, with clever modifications to brunch classics and a few dishes unique to this restaurant, is fun and inspired.
Though Over Easy in Kailua doesn’t have prominent street frontage, people are seeking it out, eager to try the newest brunch spot to open in a neighborhood that loves its food.
Oh, and did we mention it serves drinks?
“This isn’t a turn-and-burn place,” explains Nik Lobendahn, 37, who owns Over Easy with his wife, Jennifer. “We want people to feel like they’re enjoying a meal in our house … We put a lot of heart and soul in this place and we really hope people get it.”
So far, customers have.
Since it opened in July, the little eatery, located in the old Coconut Grove Music space on the side of a building facing a gas station and with no street frontage, has already lured hungry patrons excited about a new brunch spot in a neighborhood that’s already a hot spot for breakfast.
The couple, who met working at Alan Wong’s Honolulu, had the idea to open a restaurant even before they got married six years ago. In fact, they asked guests at their Kualoa Ranch wedding to help them fund their restaurant dream.
“We knew we wanted to open a place together,” Jennifer says. “But we really didn’t start looking until two years ago.”
Last November, the couple, now raising two kids in Kailua, signed a lease on the 1,050-square-foot space on Ku‘ulei Road. They spent a few months renovating the space and raising money on Kickstarter in April—69 people pledged $11,852—to open by the summer. (Those who donated $200 or more get free coffee for life in their own personalized Over Easy mugs, displayed prominently at the bar.)
Breakfast, served from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., includes some standards—but even the glossy-yolk eggs are fresh from OK Poultry in Waimānalo, the pork sausages are house-made and the crispy fried potatoes are seasoned with a special spice blend that the owners won’t reveal. Everything has a twist, from crispy-edged pancakes filled with blueberry cream cheese ($10) to a fried-egg sandwich that uses house-made English muffins, caramelized onions and a spicy aioli ($10).
Lunch starts at 11 a.m., but more about that later. There’s nothing ordinary about any of these dishes or drinks. Even the bloody mary ($9) is made from fresh tomatoes and topped with house-made pickled cucumbers and tomatoes, cucumber and bacon on a skewer. And the mimosa ($8) is flavored with liliko‘i, not plain ol’ orange juice.
Take the custard French toast ($14 for a full order, $8 for a half order): Thick slices of sweet bread from Punalu‘u Bake Shop are soaked in custard, then crusted in Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. The slices are pan fried, then baked in the oven to an even crispness—and until the custard sets—evoking childhood memories of sugary cereal and milk on Saturday mornings. (This dish takes about 15 minutes to make, so be prepared to wait. It’s worth it.) It’s stacked over a house-made crème fraîche flavored with blood orange and a smattering of raspberries. On the side comes real maple syrup that we inadvertently ignored—and devoured the two slices of crunchy French toast enthusiastically without it. The cinnamony cereal crust keeps the toast from getting soggy.
Another interesting take on a classic Hawai‘i breakfast dish—and, so far, one of the restaurant’s most popular—house-made kālua pig hash ($13) has all the components of the beloved local plate, but with slow-cooked kālua pig replacing the canned corned beef in a hash with fried chunks of Okinawan and fingerling potatoes. The hearty mixture is crowned with two local eggs cooked over easy along with a pile of lomi tomato and dusted with flakes of parsley. Encircling the dish is a green goddess dressing, a creamy throwback recipe typically made with mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, parsley, chives and tarragon. A forkful of pork, potatoes, egg and tomato is hard to top; the balance of salty, smoky and rich is completely satisfying.
The menu features an array of interesting drinks, from a refreshing calamansi limeade to a mimosa made with fresh liliko‘i juice.
One of the most creative dishes—which I hadn’t seen before—is the potato ’n’ eggs ($13). Thick-cut French bread is stuffed with a sweet tomato jam, then draped in a silky potato purée and topped with bacon crumbles and a seven-minute local egg. (There’s also a small salad on the side that we promptly ignored.) Everything works, from the surprise sweetness inside the bread to the well-balanced potato purée to the rich egg yolk that ties it all together. Nik came up with the idea when he was thinking about creating an open-face sandwich with tomato jam on a baguette and dipping that in mashed potatoes. The dish evolved into what’s on the menu now. “When Nik told me about this dish, I said, ‘You’re crazy, no way,’” Jennifer says, laughing. “But when he made it and I tried it, it was great. We knew this was going on [the menu].”
One of our favorites dishes is the potato ’n’ eggs, featuring thick-cut French bread stuffed with a house-made tomato jam and draped in a creamy potato purée with bacon crumbles and a runny seven-minute local egg.
Another unusual dish is the brunch bowl ($13). It’s so misunderstood, it actually should come with instructions. What’s served: An oversize bowl is filled with toasted slices of house-made sourdough bread (from Jennifer’s own starter, carefully carried in her luggage back from San Francisco years ago), two soft-boiled local eggs, a dollop of tomato jam, slices of avocado, some spinach, candied bacon and creamy, whole-milk yogurt that’s made in-house. What you must do: Mix up all the ingredients bibimbap-style and spoon the mixture on the buttery slices of toasted bread. Don’t try and eat this as separate items; it won’t work.
“It’s super, super unique and so fresh and light,” Nik says about his favorite dish on the menu. “You can taste the quality of everything in that dish, and that’s why I love it.”
Brunch bowl, Kailua eggs.
Another interesting concoction is the Kailua eggs ($12), a bowl of rice, chopped Portuguese sausage and two sunny-side-up eggs on a bed of sprouts and cabbage that’s been salted and dried overnight in a low-temperature oven. (The broth rehydrates it.) A house-made dashi of cabbage and bacon—as opposed to bonito flakes and konbu—is poured over everything, giving this a congee feel. It’s a delicate dish that’s warm and comforting, like something you’d eat when you’re sick. What’s amazing is the effort and detail that go into such a seemingly simple dish: The broth is made from cabbage, bacon, Sriracha and sherry vinegar, and balancing those flavors was tricky for Nik. The bacon could be too salty, the cabbage dried out too much.
“The broth is everything in this dish,” he says.
The lunch menu is short, just a salad, a sandwich and two burgers, including the Over Easy burger with roasted garlic butter ($10), with the option to add bacon, avocado, cheddar cheese or a runny egg for an additional charge. There’s a quinoa and mixed seed salad ($10) and a coconut-shrimp burger with crisp greens and wasabi cream ($13), too.
A sure bet is the fried chicken sandwich ($11). The chicken breast is brined, then soaked in buttermilk and cut into slits so there’s more fry area. (Meaning more crispy parts to the chicken. Genius!) The fried blossom is served on a French roll with a crunchy slaw and a spicy Asian aioli with a definite kick to it.
Nik’s passion for creating new flavor combinations and dishes that people will ponder is evident in the menu’s creativity. It’s not easy coming up with new breakfast dishes, but that’s what drives this chef.
“I love taking people to a new place or back to childhood,” says Nik, who has also worked at the now-defunct, Michelin-starred Ame Restaurant and Taj Campton Place in San Francisco and spent the past three years as the executive chef at the Kapolei Golf Course. “That’s part of the challenge. I was to provide dishes that may not look familiar but taste familiar, where you get the warm fuzzy insides. I love to cook, but I love what food does to people.”
The couple wants people to enjoy eating and encourages their customers to linger here over liliko‘i mimosas, calamansi limeade or a fresh cup of Maui-grown coffee from nearby ChadLou’s Coffee Roasters & Tea. That’s how you’re supposed to enjoy brunch.
“It’s the only meal where you get sweet and savory and you can really enjoy both at the same time,” Nik says. “You get a bite of sweet, a bite of savory. It’s a feel-good time.”
TAKEAWAY: The busiest days are Tuesdays (when some other Kailua breakfast spots are closed), Saturdays and Sundays, so expect a wait then. It’s best to come before 9 a.m., when it’s less busy. Don’t let the lack of a dedicated parking lot scare you. There’s plenty of street parking and metered stalls in a nearby parking structure where you can park for up to five hours (at 75 cents per hour). The food alone is worth walking the extra blocks.
Over Easy, 418 Ku‘ulei Road, #103, Kailua, open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, no reservations, 260-1732, overeasyhi.com