By Anni Caporuscio
Kaua‘i locals know how to eat breakfast. Check out the menu at Ono Family Restaurant and you’ll find that among American favorites like the Denver Omelet, Eggs Benedict and Florentine sit a Local Boy (Portuguese sausage with kim chee) and a Local Girl (Ono’s signature fried rice and kim chee).
And a real traditional Loco Moco, a local favorite. Or try the Meatloaf and Eggs, served with brown gravy and steamed rice. There’s the Captain’s Platter too, a breakfast dish with grilled fish — mahimahi, ahi or ono — and eggs.
At breakfast you can find plenty Portuguese sausage, pork in various other shapes, rice, hashbrowns and other foods to start your day. For the non-Kaua‘i locals, there’s always a stack of banana pancakes, sprinkled with macnuts and served with fresh slices of papaya and lime.
Breakfast at Ono Family, as you can see, is taken pretty seriously.
Kenny Ishii has been at the helm of Ono Family Restaurant for 30 years, making Ono a true cornerstone of Kapa‘a eatery. Before the building housed a restaurant, it was a movie theatre, from the days when Kaua‘i boasted 11 theatres at one time! The projection room was upstairs aiming toward the ocean. But the Ono Theatre was destroyed by Hurricane in Iwa in 1982.
Kenny loves the restaurant business, having started in high school on O‘ahu, and owning a Japanese restaurant in Marina del Rey, Calif. that is still in operation today. But more important to Kenny is his heart for Kaua‘i. He is an active participant in the Farm Bureau Fair and the Coconut Festival, and you can catch him spearheading other Eastside family events.
More than that, Kenny loves to talk about Kaua‘i, and can frequently be seen chatting with his customers about what they love about the island. It’s notable that instead of giving tourist advice, he will ask what each person liked about the island, and they share all the good stuff.
Ono Family Restaurant itself houses a collection of antiques: a grandmother wall clock, teakettles, Dutch ovens, urns, percolators, sideboards and carafes. Diners sit at old wood booths and tables. The kitchen makes their own jellies, salsa and coconut syrup, and also a homemade hollandaise. It is definitely their own smoky blend that you can smother anything on the menu with.
Even cooler stuff comes out of their kitchen: Kenny’s wife, Jane, makes a staggering 60 of the 85 flavors for Ono Ono Shave Ice, adjacent to the restaurant. Ono Ono has been stopping traffic for nine years now, featuring Halo Halo, a Philippine sweet potato ice cream, along with the usual refreshing shave ice goodness.
Ono Family Restaurant is open everyday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kenny has big ideas for menu updates, such as a Portagee Loco Moco (marinated shredded pork atop fried rice with an egg) and introducing a set of lunches for workers’ lunch hour.
You can find Ono Family Restaurant in Old Kapa‘a Town at 4-1292 Kuhio Hwy.
- Anni Caporuscio is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.