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WQED TV producer and PITTSBURGH Magazine back-page writer writes about his current work and assorted other things.

Hawaiian style breakfast at Hawaiian Style Cafe

March 21st, 2010 · 9 Comments

If you’re here on the big island of Hawaii, driving through Waimea, you might not notice the Hawaiian Style Cafe.  It’s in a small shopping center right beside the road.

And the old fashioned door and storefront make it look as though it’s really tiny, but once you’re inside, it’s roomy, with a big U-shaped counter, booths along the side and tables in the back.   It’s unusual but homey.

We didn’t get there til about 9:3o, having had the 90-minute drive from Hilo, and a malasada or two on the way.  Once inside, Bob immediately loved the easy access of shooting from inside the counter, and we got to work.

Once again Beverly and James Rubio were our guides, and they ordered specials, a luau stew for Bev and a huge version of loco moco called a Moco-Saurus with hamburger, spam, chicken cutlet and kahlua pork fort James.  Oh, and two sunnyside-up eggs on top.  A giant’s breakfast.  James seems very happy.

We love James and Pam because, being bloggers, they, like me, take pictures of their food before they chow down.

And the food here at Hawaiian Cafe is BIG and tasty.  “Ono” they say here in Hawaii.  Really good.  Created and assembled by a crew of mighty cooks.

Everyone here, from the owners Guy Kao’o and his sister Jan to the waitresses and even the customers makes the point that there are no rules about what Hawaiians can have for breakfast.  This cafe is open from 7 am till 1:30 pm, but you can order anything on the menu at any of those hours.  They make us a Hawaiian plate which is one of their specialties.

What’s on the Hawaiian plate?  Take a closer look.

If you start with the spinach-y looking green stuff at the bottom, that’s “laulau,” a pork and fish combo wrapped in taro leaves and slow cooked till it’s fall-apart wonderful.  Then there’s a little section of slippery translucent noodles with vegetables and spices and chicken known as “chicken long rice.”  Then, the stuff that looks like salsa is “lomi lomi salmon” which is small chunks of salmon mixed (or the Hawaiians would say “massaged”) with tomatoes and onions.  Yummy.  The section to the right is filled with “poi” the classic Hawaiian paste or concoction made from crushed taro root.  It’s not strongly flavored but tasty, and you can eat it with spoon, fork or fingers, or use it as a sort of sauce.  It goes well with the laulau.  Finally, there’s a section of “kalua pork,” a modern version of a traditional sort of slow-cooked pig that has always been a big part of a luau.  It’s wonderful pulled pork.  All this makes for a hearty breakfast.  Or lunch here at the cafe.

We are also impressed with the Korean style beef short ribs called “kalbi” that you can get here with eggs.  This was one man’s breakfast in the backroom.  After he finished a big plate of pancakes.  I love they way they perched the egs on top of the balls of rice.

I’ve also come to understand that a comfortable, casual atmosphere is essential in most breakfast places.  You want to feel like you’re at home or in the home of friends.  The Hawaiian Style Cafe has that here in Waimea.  (But it may be a common characteristic of all the places we’ve visited for this show.)

A big thanks to all the great people here, but especially to Jan Kao’o who helped set up our “invasion” of the place.  I think she didn’t know exactly what to do with us at first, but by the bend of the day, we were all great friends.

And I didn’t even tell you about “da tita mok” they made for us.  It’s another BIG variation on a loco moco, with multiple meats, eggs, and gravy.  A primo burger patty (perhaps as great as a Tessaro’s burger for us Pittsburghers.) It’s the dish that got James to bring us here.  Read about it on his blog!

Tags: "Breakfast Special"

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lynn Cameron // Mar 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I think I gained 5 pounds just reading your recent entries (and now I’m planning a trip to Hilo). Sounds like a great trip, with lovely guides, fabulous food, and plenty of local characters to round things out. Can’t wait to see the completed special. I’m craving congee, by the way….

  • 2 Rick // Mar 22, 2010 at 11:14 am

    We have been eating way too much, but it’s been a great trip. My cameraman Bob has decided he wants to retire here near Hilo. I could learn to live the island life myself.
    It was also great to see you and Mike. That reunion still seems like a dream of sorts. And I too could eat more congee, but I’m trying to call it “jook.”

  • 3 Lynn Cameron // Mar 22, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Dreamlike, for sure- like picking up pieces of my life that I didn’t know were missing. It was wonderful to see you and I can’t wait to reconnect again soon. Safe travels, my friend.

  • 4 Jamie // Mar 26, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    This place is AWESOME!!! My parents live about 20 minutes from Waimea and I have been there a few times. Their food is true Hawaiian style. I can’t wait to see the video they made, my mom and her friend are in it. What channel and when will the video be aired?

  • 5 Rick // Mar 27, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Our show will be called BREAKFAST SPECIAL, and it will probably air in July on PBS stations across the country. Watch this blog and our website for news about the air date:

  • 6 Jamie // Apr 15, 2010 at 5:22 pm


  • 7 jodee sadowsky // Apr 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Rick, the ‘Kalbi’ ribs plate has inspired a new special at the Breakfast Club! It will, however, be rated ‘R’…

  • 8 chris // Jul 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I watched the “Breakfast Special” finally. But I didn’t see any footage from Ken’s House of Pancakes or the Hawaiian Style Cafe make it into the show. A little disappointed.

  • 9 Rick // Jul 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    CHRIS It’s coming. I shot way too much. We’re working on Part 2 which will include Hawaii and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and Raleigh and all the other places we visited. New England!

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