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Kailua Town... Da Good, Da Bad & Da Kine

Rants & Raves About Kailua Restaurants....

First up... Buzz's

We had an okay meal at this very well known, touristy eatery. Service is mediocre like any other touristy, kitcshy eatery in the world... food was okay.. neither rave or chow worthy but probably better than it needs to be.

A daily special of Avocado-Cucumber Soup (with local grown fruit) was boring & heavy (lots of cream)... a small cup would have been more than enough... but again nothing to get excited about.

The Teriyaki Salad was good without reservations. Might even be willing to put up with the mediocre service & long lines some day for it.

Lanikai Salad is bleh.

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    Buzz's Original Steak House
    413 Kawailoa Rd, Kailua, HI 96734

    1. Kalapawai Cafe

      I don't know what possessed me to order the Reuben (since I've only tried a couple in my life and they were always sickly sweet gut bombs)... but some strange impulse guided me... and it was excellent... almost makes me want to try one next time I am in NYC.

      The Fig & Bacon "tapa" is very good... fresh figs wrapped in bacon & quickly roasted served with a some dressed Arugula etc.,... I would certainly order it again.

      The Spanakopita - HOWEVER - are terrible with zero redeeming qualities. I remember another version this terrible.. it came in a box from one of those crappy quality frozen lines they carry at Whole Foods... maybe Amy's Kitchen etc.,... Dry, Tasteless.... a complete waste of chewing effort.

      Capresse... okay, not terrible but not particularly delicious either. I still haven't had a repeatable Capresse in Hawaii.. but will keep looking.

      Overall, I get the sense I will be eating at Kalapawai frequently.

      Kalapawai Cafe
      750 Kailua Rd, Kailua, HI 96734

      1 Reply
      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        A second trip to Kalapawai yielded an excellent trio of middle eastern style dips with crispy pita chips, and very good... I might almost venture to say excellent Mac & Cheese. Stuffed Chicken Breast was okay, Greek Salad was mediocre.

        Two trips... and a clear pattern.. Kalapawai has some good "Haole" food... a few notable missteps.... and absolutely terrible takeout service. Despite being setup as a Deli / Cafe.... they take FOREVER to fill an order even if it just means placing cold stuff from the Deli case into a container.

      2. Maui Tacos

        I already mentioned it in the "There IS Good Mexican in Hawaii" thread... terrible entrees & beans from a can... but very good, homemade Jamaica, Horchata & some salsas.

        1. Cinammon's

          A local favorite among breakfast / diners... but didn't impress me at all.

          > Decent Blueberry Pancakes... fluffy & flavorful - unfortunately served with margarine...

          > Mediocre, flat tasting Loco Moco

          > Mediocre Smoked Salmon Benedict

          > Terrible, Dry, Tasteless Hashbrowns

          > Mediocre, Flat Tasting Coffee (Big Island, Maui, Kaui blend)


          Cinnamon's Restaurant
          315 Uluniu St, Kailua, HI 96734

          1. CPK ASAP

            > There is definitely no ASAP about it... welcome to Hawaii!
            > The Original Chopped Salad is bland.
            > Field Green Salad with Gorgonzola is very good.
            > Fusili with Meat Sauce is decent

            California Pizza Kitchen
            609 Kailua Rd, Kailua, HI 96734

            1. Chip & Cookie

              The Chocolate Chip cookies are overrated.... light on flavor & dry... at least that is what we thought when we first bought them (within an hour of being baked). As luck would have it... overnight they picked up moisture from the air & were really good the next day.

              Still... be ware of anyone that raves about this place. Institutionally mediocre.

              Chip & Cookie
              609 Kailua Rd, Kailua, HI

              1. I haven't found a really good cup of coffee in Hawaii (sadly Starbucks & Coffee Bean have been some of the best) yet... Muddy Watters is same old run of the mill, weak, muted, luke warm.

                Muddy Waters Espresso
                25 Kaneohe Bay Dr, Kailua, HI

                1. Lani Kai Juice

                  I try to support the local businesses whenever possible... but as a Chowhound we can't pimp mediocre grub. In this case, the Chocolate Monkey (Peanut Butter-Banana-Chocolate) smoothie tastes kind of bad... Jamba Juice' version is certainly better. I am even embarrassed to admit I was lazy enough to go purchase smoothies because my version at home is much better.

                  1. Mahalo, brah

                    Will be there in 24 hours....Kailua dining has never been something to rave about but we've had decent luck at Buzz's, sticking to the grilled local fish and an occasional steak. For lunch the grilled fish sandwich is the best item on the menu, cooked over kiawe and usually cooked right -- slighly underdone.

                    As for Kalapawai Cafe, our experience has been OK, but nothing knockout.

                    Best bet for lunch in the area is probably Saigon Noodle House in the Enchanted Lake shopping center.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MRMoggie

                      FYI... earlier today I spotted a Shrimp Truck on Mauka side of Kalananiole as you enter Waimanalo from the South (Hawaii Kai)... maybe its something new to be explored.

                    2. I was wondering if you've had a chance to try Teddy's Burgers yet, and what you thought about it..... as a SoCal native, I greatly miss the In-n-Out joints (maybe not THE best burgers in the world, but really appreciated the freshness and it always hit the spot) and it seems like Teddy's is the closest thing I'm ever going to find here in Oahu.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Aleka

                        I tried the one at Waikiki and didn't see any reason to explore further... but if you think the Kailua shop is chowworthy, I will put them on my list. Currently, I have Burgers on the Edge at the top of my burger to try list.

                        I like In-n-Out but I think they are a very distant honorable mention compared to all the Greek owned "ghetto burger joints" throughout the low rent neighborhoods in East, South & Central L.A..... now THAT is something I miss. Ah the accumulated umami filled smoke from years of burgers sticking slightly to the grills!

                        1. re: Aleka

                          FYI.... I had a chance to try Burgers on the Edge... not at all like In n' Out but I HIGHLY recommend getting over some time.

                        2. Just wanted to confirm other recommendations for Tamura's.... great wine selection & prices. Small but powerful, well chosen Tequila section... you can get a number of great Tequilas in the $40 to $60 range... basically for the same price as Foodland / Safeway / Long's charges for the Patron crap you can actual get some single source stuff with terroir.... Corzo, Cofradia, Partida, Casa Noble etc.,

                          I am currently enjoying the Belgian Style ale Trois Pistoles from Canada thanks to Tamura's. Large selection of wines as well... as far as I can tell prices are fairly similar to the mainland.

                          Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors
                          25 Kaneohe Bay Dr Ste 106, Kailua, HI

                          1. I would recommend burgers at formaggio, and the puleha steak at boots & kimos

                            (haven't tried Kalapawai yet)

                            Formaggio Grill
                            305 Hahani St, Kailua, HI 96734

                            Boots & Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen
                            119 Hekili St, Kailua, HI 96734

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dare2d4l

                              Hmmm... while I love Boots & Kimo's for their banana-mac pancakes (tastes more like dessert than breakfast), I wasn't a fan of their pulehu steak. Mine came out dry and hard to swallow. I wasn't sure why they came so highly recommended. I much preferred their spicy Linguica over the pulehu steak.

                            2. Tried a couple more places over the weekend.

                              Baci... had high hopes for this place as it has a fairly authentic, less cliche menu. Unfortunately, the food was all underseasoned & underwhelming.

                              > Tomatos with Gorgonzola... the tomatoes were bland & the cheese was very pedestrian

                              > Linguinin & Clams... clams were good but the weak broth was way overpowered by the quantity of pasta.

                              > Fettucine Neri with Scallops... I was very excited to try this dish but neither the pasta nor the creamy sauce tasted much like Squid Ink... further the addition of sliced, very pedestrian sun dried tomato just ruined - rather than enhanced - the flavors. The bright spot... the Scallops were perfect & sweet.

                              Big City Diner

                              > Grilled Portabello Mushroom with Tomatoes, Cilantro & Ancho Chile Dressing sounded interesting but it was really poorly executed & bland. The Mushroom pieces were about palm size & tough... and no way to cut them as plated... the Ancho dressing was a big letdown as it was just Mayo, Ranch & a little bit of Ancho powder... definitely did not taste like Anchos at all.

                              Baby Back Ribs with Guava BBQ sauce... the texture was perfect... the meat was very tasty... but the suace is (imho) way too sweet & really doesn't taste like Guava... I am pretty sure its just plain old BBQ sauce plus Guava jam

                              Baci Bistro
                              30 Aulike St, Kailua, HI 96734

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Eat_Nopal


                                Big City Diner-Kailua
                                108 Hekili St Ste 101, Kailua, HI 96734

                              2. Formaggio

                                Went on Monday night, had:

                                This was very disappointing. It sounded great on the menu: artichoke, crabmeat and spinach served with crostina. The consistency was just wrong and it wasn't flavorful.

                                I am a tough crowd for crabcakes being from the east coast and knowing what a Maryland crabcake ought to taste like. This one was seasoned with old bay and served over Kahuku sweet corn relish. It was very good. Not bland at all and it was a good match with the sweet corn.

                                Served with panko breaded aspargus with a chile sauce. Not the best I have ever had, the calamari was a little tough. Still good flavor though.

                                Linguine with wild mushrooms & white truffle essence
                                This was delicious as always. The sauce is really great but not too heavy. Good mushroom and truffle flavor. Large portion. I only have good things to say about this dish.

                                And, of course, their drink selection is awesome. Have a flirtini or a Franziskaner.

                                BCD on Tuesday night

                                Tequila chicken with portabello mushroom and garlic mashed potatoes
                                The chicken and portabello were great but they were drowning in jack cheese. When I scraped most of that off it was good and the sauce did have a good tequila flavor that wasn't overpowering. The mashed potatoes were edible. Not super fantastic but worth eating.

                                1. I just had a wonderful meal at casablanca, which I didn't quite expect from a moroccan restaurant in the middle of kailua. The dinner started out slowly with harira soup (tomato-e soup) and some appetizers. I was caught off-guard by the b'stilla, which was one of the most amazing dish i've had. crispy on the outside, and soft/chewy on the inside, with an excellent blend of salty from the meat and sweet from sugar/cinnamon. It reminded me of a salty chinese moon cake, but served as an entree, and done 10 times as better. And the lamb cooked in honey was simple but delicious. They also pour some flower-scented water over your hand/head to cap off a wonderful meal. Definitely a must-try.

                                  Casablanca Restaurant
                                  19 Hoolai St, Kailua, HI 96734

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: dare2d4l

                                    Great to hear... I have high hopes for this place.

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      I'll 2nd Casablanca's. It's a great place for food AND atmosphere. Bring your own wine. It's well worth it, because you'll have a long stay. It's some place where you have to make a night of the meal because it's a 5-course meal and you won't have room in your belly otherwise. I love taking new people to this place because it's so cool. But be prepared that you will only be given one utensil for the night and it will be after 3 dishes have already passed you by! The food is awesome. If they are cooking rack of lamb for their special, go for it! The meal is about $35-39 but you definitely won't leave hungry. Great date place.

                                      1. re: Moonie

                                        I am looking forward to it on several levels... do you know of any place on the island that sells Moroccan wines?

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Hmmmm, the only 2 places I know of with a larger selection of wines are The Wine Stop in downtown area or Wine by Numbers in Waipio. I can't vouch for them since I still have several of cases of wines that I had shipped out here via reefer storage when I moved here from East Bay, California. But they have some great events (I subscribe to The Juice - Honolulu), which I've been meaning to go to. Maybe I'll check it out tomorrow. I want to go to the "bubbles" tasting at The Wine Stop anyways. I'll let you know if I do.


                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            I've never seen Moroccan wine at Fujioka's, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. Tamura's may have, I don't shop there as often. Moonie had good suggestions as well.

                                      2. re: dare2d4l

                                        Harira is a lentil soup. The salt of the b'stilla is probably the pistachios, not so much the ground chicken. You'll love it, Eat_Nopal. Oh, and the "appetizer" plate you start with which includes pita, olives, baba ganouj and hummus, is absolutely AMAZING.

                                      3. I liked Uahi Island Grill (307 Uluniu St Kailua, HI 96734 (808) 266-4646)

                                        the place is a little granola and they use biodegradable to-go-ware. I'm not much of a vegetarian but something compelled me to try their vietnamese tofu sandwiches, which were to die for! They are so delicious and on hot toasted banh mi bread. They also had fresh greens and marinated radish/carrots and top the bread with a chili mayonnaise. They're a little pricey considering they aren't very filling but each bite was hot and heavenly. It was perfect for a rainy day. The place serves nice plate lunches and salads too. If you have a big appetite, you might need to go for 2 sandwiches or eat there and see if you need a little something else. They have nice side salads and local drinks. It's a small hole in the wall, but highly highly recommended. I'm moving to Kailua soon so I'll help out with keeping this post populated.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Moonie

                                          Thanks... I have seen the place.. glad to know it might have some good stuff.

                                        2. I have been hesitant to post this because its technically tangential to this board's stated intent... but my god there is absolutely no better Chowhound experience in Hawaii than this.

                                          The coffee at Muddy Waters sucks... and the music isn't always great... but there is simply NO better Chowhound Bohemian experience than grabbing your plastic chair from Muddy Waters.... buying a pastry or drink from them.... walking over to Tamura's in the same shopping center buying a great beer, sake, tequila, wine or bourbon... having it out of a plastic cup will you song to awesome dissonant blues notes & progressive cords. Tonight was just magical with a quarter moon, a respectable Hawaiian summer ale from Kona Brewing purcahsed at Tamura's... chilling on a plastic chair in the warm tropical night... rain drizzling down slightly. I certainly wouldn't trade it for Alan Wong's and a bottle of Chateu D'Yquiem or a Rothschild.

                                          Muddy Waters Espresso
                                          25 Kaneohe Bay Dr, Kailua, HI

                                          Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors
                                          25 Kaneohe Bay Dr Ste 106, Kailua, HI

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            I don't really think its against chowhound principles, perhaps a bit tangential, but food is always part of an overall experience isn't it?

                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                              While part of "Kailua" the area in reference is Aikahi Park not Kailua "Town."

                                              I however have had a cup or two of coffee at Muddy Waters only if I were in the
                                              small shopping center parking lot that houses this establishment. I have enjoyed
                                              a few lunches at "Willows" for some Korean food in the past.

                                            2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                              That sounds kinda nice, I think I'll give it a go.