A lot of us are missing the adventure of traveling to new places, returning to favorite destinations and, of course, sampling the local food and drinks. While Kailua Town may not provide a complete cure for the travel bug – unless a drive through the verdant Koolaus or along the super-scenic East Oahu coastline counts – it does offer plenty of palate-worthy opportunities for culinary journeys.
Here are five places in Kailua to find authentic cuisine from around the globe. Check their websites for service hours and dining in/take out options.
Saeng’s Thai Cuisine
This family-run restaurant has been a Kailua Town fixture since 1989, serving true tastes of Thailand while earning a loyal following. Along with such fan favorites as green papaya salad, Saeng’s specialty spring rolls and pad Thai, venture into some of the other house specialties on the menu: chicken wings stuffed with shredded carrots, long rice, mushrooms and egg; crispy whole fish topped with vegetables or fresh grilled garlic fish; and crispy fried chicken curry (Saeng’s makes all of its own curry from scratch). Vegetarians will find lots of choices, too.
Saeng’s Thai Cuisine | 315 Hahani St, Kailua, HI 96734 | 808-263-9727
Crepes No Ka ‘Oi
Step inside Crepes No Ka ‘Oi and count on being greeted by the tantalizing aroma of fresh crepes, hot off the griddle. Owners Chris and Kakay Tarvyd aren’t French, but they both grew up loving crepes – Chris during summers in Tahiti and Kakay growing up in the Philippines. Since 2007 they have introduced Oahu to a world of crepes with a local twist. From the savory (try the popular Tiki Torch, filled with house-made macadamia nut pesto and roasted chicken breast) to the sweet (like the Berry Heavenly or banana and Nutella dessert crepes), you’ll discover that you don’t need to travel to the City of Lights to find “no ka ‘oi” crepes.
Crepes No Ka ‘Oi | 143 Hekili St, Suite 130, Kailua, HI 96734 | 808-263-4088
Taqueria El Gallo Rosa
Tortillas made in-house with whole corn imported from Oaxaca, Mexico; salsas made daily from fresh, locally sourced ingredients (no canned products or sauces here!); free-range hormone-free meats; and recipes that reflect the classic, regional flavors of Mexico are all part of the cuisine on the menu at this authentic taqueria. Baja-style fried fish tacos are top sellers, but be adventurous and delve into the other options on the list of tacos, quesadillas and “sincronizadas” (gringo-style quesadillas made with two flour tortillas). For thirst-quenchers try a Fanta soda or Coke from Mexico (made with cane sugar, not corn syrup) or a Margarita Oaxaquena, made with fresh watermelon juice, Oaxacan mezcal and a squeeze of lime.
Taqueria El Gallo Rosa | 108 Hekili St. Suite 108, Kailua, HI 96734 | 808-262-8226
This Windward Oahu outpost of the popular Kaimuki restaurant packs a lot of Indian and Nepalese flavors into the former India Café space in Kailua Shopping Center. Explore the variety of curries, kabobs, vegan- and vegetarian-friendly entrees – all made to order. Fresh naan bread can be enjoyed by itself; topped with jalapeno, garlic and cilantro; or stuffed with any number of savory fillings, including spinach and shredded chicken tikka, shredded lamb and onions, or homemade cheese.
Himalayan Kitchen | 600 Kailua Rd. Suite 129, Kailua, HI 96734 | 808-262-1800
Traditional American barbeque meets favorite Hawaii flavors in Easy ‘Que’s modern fusion fare. Smoked brisket, kalbi brisket and St. Louis style ribs top the BBQ faves, while the whole roasted cauliflower with curry, smoked Brussel sprouts, baked beans, and mac and cheese rise to the top of the sides options. The recent return of Sunday brunch also heralds the return brisket loco moco, along with a new best-seller in the making: pork belly hash. All of the above will slide down smoothly with one of Easy ‘Que’s signature alcoholic slushies. At last count, 22 fine bourbons also graced the bar shelves.
Easy ‘Que | 767 Kailua Rd. Suite 106, Kailua, HI 96734 | 808-762-3089