Kalapawai Cafe & Deli: The Outdoor Bar Done Right
Some restaurants just shouldn’t offer outdoor seating. You know how it goes—you show up and ask for a table outside. The hostess says “no problem!” although she seems less than enthusiastic. After you’re seated, you seem to wait just a little bit longer than usual to order. Your food comes out just a little lukewarm. You notice that there’s no music, no decor. The ambiance is MIA. You’re thinking: “Why didn’t I just buy a six-pack and some poke and go to the beach?”
You don’t think that when you’re at Kalapawai’s outdoor bar. The restaurant, which is on Kamokila Blvd near Kapolei Hale, solved this problem with one simple change: They connected the indoor bar to the outdoor one.
Kalapawai Cafe & Deli via Facebook
The modern layout — similar to what I’ve found at newer outdoor bars in Arizona and California — eliminates the feeling of outdoor exile.
With no walls between you and the main restaurant, you’re connected to the excitement within. You have something to look at besides patio furniture. And your server can see you—so you can make eye contact or give a little wave when you need something.
It’s my favorite place for an outdoor drink in West O’ahu, and not just because of the architecture.
Kalapawai’s local beer game is among the best on the west side. Usually, they have two Maui Brewing on tap, a regular one like Bikini Blonde and a seasonal. They also carry Waikiki Brewing and beer from Honolulu Beerworks — which doesn’t bottle their beer yet, so draft is your only option.
Kalapawai lists ten house-special cocktails. Our favorites? The Lavender Lemon Drop and the Old-School Fashioned. All specialty cocktails using vodka are made with Hawaii’s own Ocean vodka.
All the main wine-growing regions are represented on Kalapawai’s wine list—France, Italy, Argetina, New Zealand, and of course Napa Valley. They have a solid selection of wines in the $30/bottle range, plus six different wines available by the glass.
You can tell Kalapawai’s chefs pride themselves on doing more than just traditional bar food. Take their Margherita Pizza, which includes local Nalo greens for more of a salad-style pizza. Or their poke, which comes with wonton chips. Rather than the traditional deep-fried wings or mozzarella sticks, Kalapawai offers coconut shrimp and fried pork belly. At many bars I find myself thinking—”eh, I could have made this at home.” Never at Kalapawai.
The bartenders at Kalapawai aren’t just good at their jobs, they’re cool people. We usually have at least a snippet of interesting conversation with whoever is working. It’s nice when bartenders take the time to treat you like a guest rather than just a glass to fill.
A commitment to serving fresh, local ingredients, specialty beers, and terrific service means that Kalapawai is not your cheapest local option. You expect pay a little extra for that full experience—and you don’t mind except when the bar doesn’t deliver on that promise.
Kalapawai does, every time I’ve been.