Old-School Diners We Love: Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop in Waimalu

The best old-school spots come with comfort food and a good history.


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Exterior Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda


I’ve wondered why there’s a Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop in Waimalu Shopping Center. Now that I live on the Leeward side, I pass it all the time. What’s a coffee shop named Kapi‘olani doing in ‘Aiea? I knew I had to investigate. And of course I had to eat here.


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Interior 4 Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda


My first visit, I get the famous oxtail soup ($17.99 for a mini). I’m pretty sure it’s subliminal messaging. The sign above the door says Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop is “The Home of the Famous Oxtail Soup.” The menu agrees. It says they’ve been “Serving Hawai‘i’s Best Oxtail Soup Since 1949.” It’s delicious. A clean broth, with cilantro adding a fresh taste. Tender meat falling off the bone. No other toppings are needed. There are only three pieces of meat in the mini size. Maybe we’ll get the regular size next time.


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Oxtail Soup Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda

My investigation reveals that the recipe is old. The original Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop opened where the Hawai’i Convention Center now resides. Over the years, the shop became famous for its oxtail soup. In contests, it beat other oxtail luminaries of the time, such as Stadium Bowl-O-Drome and Wailana Coffee House.


SEE ALSO: Old-School Diners We Love: Harry’s Café in Kaka‘ako


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Interior Details Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda


I have to admit, it makes me feel better that the mystery of the name is no longer a mystery. For me, anyway. I’m sure many old-timers know the story. As will oxtail soup connoisseurs. Bowling fans may know that after it moved, Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop next resided in Kam Bowl. At the time, Kam Bowl was the bowling alley next to Kamehameha Shopping Center in Kalihi. When the bowling alley closed in 2007, Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop had to move.


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Condiments Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda


Sweet and sour spare ribs. Tripe stew. Hot roast turkey sandwich with garlic mashed potatoes. Chop steak. And breakfast served all day. Now Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop resides in ‘Aiea. Although far in time and distance from the original location, the menu still carries the history from way back when.


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Chicken Katsu Curry Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda

For me, diners are all about nostalgia and comfort. So we order their chicken katsu curry ($13). This was a favorite of mine back in college, but I haven’t had it in a long while. It gives me that sense of home that comes when you’re eating comfort food. Flavorful gravy with bits of carrot and onion. Slathered over hot and steamy rice. The silky gravy texture followed by the katsu crunch. Juicy chicken morsels. There are no leftovers to take home.


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Cheeseburger Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda


Cheeseburgers are also high on my list of comfort foods. And at $5.25, the price here is right. I wish I knew about this one years ago. It would’ve been a contender for Our Top 5: Old-school comfort cheeseburgers. A lightly toasted bun, savory burger patty, hot gooey melted American cheese. I’m not a fan of veggies. So it says a lot that for me, the shredded lettuce doesn’t detract from the experience.


SEE ALSO: Our Top 5: Old-School Comfort Cheeseburgers

Now my hunger and my curiosity are satisfied. I can still see why customers keep coming back. Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop’s reassuring combination of comfort food and nostalgia. And that famous oxtail soup.


Kapiolani Coffee Shop Booth Eric Baranda

Photo: Eric Baranda


98-020 Kamehameha Highway, (808) 488-7708