The Two Faces of WorkPlay: A Hip Kaka‘ako Bar That Now Serves a Mellow Brunch
The coffee and cocktail bar now serves omelets, Benedicts and more every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
During the day, WorkPlay is a quiet, spacious coffee bar.
Photos: Katrina Valcourt
It was only a few weeks after I checked out KouWork in Kaka‘ako last summer that the coworking spot, complete with conference rooms, coffee and snacks by Brue Bar, and a ping pong table, closed. Which was a shame, since the space seemed a perfect addition to the vibe Kaka‘ako strives for—young, hip, collaborative.
Now, KouWork has rebranded as WorkPlay—still owned by the Redmont Group real estate firm upstairs—with the focus on coffee during the day and cocktails at night, a recent trend on the Mainland that we already do quite well at places like Manifest in Chinatown.
an eclectic crowd fills the main room on a Friday night.
We stopped by on a recent Friday night to see how WorkPlay functions as a bar and were surprised to find it packed with everyone from mustachioed hipsters to men in business suits to women dressed for a wild night out. (That’s Kaka‘ako in a nutshell.) There are areas for everyone, depending on your mood: outdoor patio seats for a more casual, quiet evening; a wraparound bar with pendant lights for those who just want to drink; cozy couches and chairs for table service; and private themed rooms (such as the Peacock Room) that can be reserved for free (with a minimum tab of $200).
each private room has a different theme: The Parlour goes French with an absinthe dripper.
We grabbed a highboy table near the stage, where local musicians Izik and DeAndre Brackensick (whom you may remember from American Idol) were in the middle of a set, bathed in blue lighting. From the “Work” section, there’s the Lady Bo$$ ($11.95), a whiskey sour, and The Monday Blues ($11.95), a gin sour that is indeed blue. This section also offers a few drinks with coffee—hence the cheeky “Work” title. From the “Play” section of the menu, cocktails include the Drinks with the Boys ($11.95), a pleasantly smoky scotch cocktail with house-made spiced ginger syrup, and Night on the Town ($11.95), with spicy mezcal. Strong but not overpowering, both drinks were a rare find in this neighborhood—delicious and moderately priced.
Music videos play onscreen throughout the day.
WorkPlay also offers a selection of wine, beer, mocktails and spirits, along with dinner, featuring tacos, sliders, charcuterie and more, served from 4 to 10 p.m. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays with $7 house cocktails, $2 off beer and liquor drinks, $4 off wines by the glass and $3 off pūpū. Wednesdays, wine bottles are half off; on Thursdays, everything is half off for industry workers.
brunch beverages, from left: perfect espresso tonic ($5.50); paloma ($9.95); nitro cold brew with vanilla cream, orange and cardamom ($5.50); mojito (9.95)
During the day, WorkPlay is much quieter, with few patrons and ample seating. A selection of sweet and savory crepes, typical coffee drinks and local Treehouse teas are available. But on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the new brunch menu, which debuted this past Saturday, expands to include everlasting mimosas ($25 per person), brunch cocktails, eggs Benedicts and create-your-own omelets.
i loved the west coast benedict, served with a side of cauliflower mash.
The fare here is a bit lighter than your typical brunch spot. If you’re looking for an all-out gorge fest, this isn’t it. But if you want to walk away from your meal pleasantly satisfied, order the West Coast Benedict ($10.95), which comes with delicate slices of smoked salmon, spinach, cream cheese, dill and shallots. (The Classic Benedict, $10.95, features ham instead of salmon and spinach.) The omelet is a bit heartier and can be made with three items of your choosing: chicken, salmon, mushrooms, mozzarella, goat cheese and more. Each dish comes with a side of seasoned sautéed potatoes, or you can sub a cauliflower mash or salad. I recommend ordering at least three dishes for every two people.
sit outside for a bit of sun and greenery.
Soon, diners can also expect an expanded lunch menu and heartier dinner items from chef Matthew Colin, who first came to Hawai‘i from France in 2010 to work at Le Bistro. He plans to offer casual home-cooked French meals he says you can’t find anywhere else in Hawai‘i.
814 Ilaniwai St., open Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.; (808) 457-1322, workplayhi.com
Read more stories by Katrina Valcourt