What’s New and What Just Closed in Kailua’s Food Scene
Avo-corn toast, portabella sandwich and vegan dishes—Windward menus are on the move.
Photos: Robbie Dingeman
Recent changes to the Kailua food scene have added breakfast-lunch options, while we said goodbye to community favorites that included Cactus, beloved Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop and the old Ba-Le Sandwich Shop.
Breakfast-loving Kailua has welcomed Egghead Café Espresso Bar, which offers good coffee as well as options for a quick bite or a longer morning meeting. The café serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday, across the busy municipal parking from kama‘āina breakfast favorite Cinnamon’s Restaurant (which is still killing it with the guava chiffon pancakes and from-scratch hollandaise for the eggs Benedict lineup).
The Egghead owners closed their Kaka‘ako location in March with plans to open a new restaurant in Kalihi but first launched this spot with a mix of breakfast, lunch, and coffee and tea options. This location was most recently Ānuenue Tea, though it’s best-known to longtime residents as the Jeanlu Toy Store building.
The ambience is Instagram-cute, the counter service friendly, and the café offers sweet and savory options that range in price from $8 to $14. Some standouts are mochi waffles, served plain or topped with berries, bananas or green tea-flavored, $9 or less each; and an avo-corn toast that swirls corn and basil aioli into an avocado spread slathered onto a thick slice of toast for $8. All the sandwiches come with a generous side of mixed greens dressed in a light vinaigrette.
Also on the menu: big-mug-size breakfast bowls with eggs, smoothies, sandwiches that include a prosciutto caprese and some salads. The free wi-fi gives another reason to visit for those looking for a side order of work.
25 Maluniu Ave., Kailua, (808) 263-8833, @eggheadhonolulu on Facebook
The Beet Box Café
Another restaurant that’s new to the Windward Side is The Beet Box Café, which added its second location—the first is in Hale‘iwa—after baker Non De Mello closed Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop.
(Sure, we still miss Agnes’ bakery, but, happily, the Let Them Eat Cupcakes gang got the recipe from De Mello and whip up malassadas at pop-up events.)
Beet Box is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., offering breakfast and lunch dishes. Breakfast options range from $8–$9 acai bowl, to eggs and burrito plates in the $10–$12 range.
3 Little Birds (left) and the Portabella Stache’wich
The entire menu is served all day, giving diners another late-in-the-day breakfast option. We liked some of the most popular lunch choices. The 3 Little Birds ($12.75), a vegan dish, consists of smoky tempeh, avocado, tomato, carrots, red onion and sunflower sprouts on toasted multigrain bread with chipotle aioli, served with a side of steamed kale.
Another healthy and tasty choice is the Portabella Stache’wich with portabella mushrooms and zucchini sautéed and served on a toasted whole-wheat bun topped with garlic aioli, feta cheese, red onion, red pepper and sunflower sprouts ($12.75).
The Beet Box folks redecorated the space with reclaimed wood, a chalkboard menu and a kid-friendly dining area. Prices average $9–$13 for food. Add a few dollars more for smoothies, coffee, tea, juices and kombucha on tap.
46 Ho‘olai St., Suite A, Kailua, (808) 262-5000, thebeetboxcafe.com
Lovin’ Oven moved from Waikīkī to Kailua a few months ago to a small storefront (a former ice cream shop) near Leahi Health and Over Easy. Since those restaurants are closed at night, the vegan restaurant is serving some meals on outside tables.
The tiny eatery offers a small menu with healthy veggie-based salads, pizza and lasagna as a recurring special. We especially enjoyed the vegan housemade feta included in the greek salad ($15) and the option to split the pizza into two toppings to try a couple of the house specialties.
The Supreme offered mushrooms, red onions, green peppers, black olives and tasty vegan Italian sausage, while the Lovin included vegan mozzarella, red onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomato, Kalamata olives, green peppers and jalapeño for a kick. The hand-tossed pizzas come as 13 inches for $22, 16 inches for $29, or bump that to $32 to get the half-and-half.
The verdict for us was that this is a good option when you want all vegan. But in Kailua, Lovin’ Oven has to compete with tasty nonvegan pizza options nearby that run the gamut from Prima with a specialty pizza oven to neighborhood family favorite Round Table Pizza. There’s even a Pieology custom quick pizza shop. And all of those are cheaper.
418 Ku‘ulei Road, Kailua, (808) 866-6489, lovinoven-hawaii.com
Cactus closed recently.
Of the recent closings, we’re already missing neighborhood favorite Cactus, which specialized in Latin-influenced food and fun cocktails with a festive bar atmosphere and closed abruptly at the beginning of June with time left on the lease.
We couldn’t reach the owners for an official statement but departing employees said the restaurant faced a lease increase of more than 50 percent, the chef was leaving, the liquor license was up for renewal and the restaurant had been running short-staffed.
Alexander & Baldwin, which owns the building where Cactus was, along with a majority of commercial property in Kailua, declined to comment on the lease negotiations on any of these properties.
Also recently closed were: Bella Bistro, a small Italian restaurant on Hāmākua Drive, with open-air seating; and two restaurants with decades of experience across from Pali Lanes bowling alley—Buona Sera Italian restaurant, known for its wall of Chianti bottles, and Kailua’s Ba-Le Restaurant. Ba-Le closed after some of the family members who owned it moved to Oregon.
We’re keeping watch for news of when chef Roy Yamaguchi will open a concept in Kailua, as well as Maui Brewing Co.’s plans for the former Macy’s space. Let us know what you hear, especially if there’s a frosty drink for summer to replace the sangria-margarita swirl at Cactus.
Bring the family down to the Best of Honolulu Festival July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Honolulu Hale civic grounds. Eat at ‘ono food booths, shop local designers in the marketplace and bring the family to the keiki zone for face painting, balloon animals, rides, games and more. For more information, visit honolulumagazine.com/bestofhonolulu.