Village Spotlight: Summer Eats
There’s a new wave cascading upon the South Shore. Right here at Ward Village, throngs of local boutiques, restaurants, and storefronts are shaping this dynamic community. Below, we’re thrilled to shine a spotlight on a handful of the movers and shakers, tastemakers, and trendsetters that make Ward Village one of Honolulu’s most exciting neighborhoods.
Brick Oven Pizza
For more than four decades, Brick Oven Pizza has been a go-to destination for pizza-loving families in Hawai‘i. Its original location on Kauai’s southern shore earned a cult-like following, with hungry patrons flocking to the destination in droves. Fast forward to today and Brick Oven is now home to two restaurants on the Garden Isle and four on O‘ahu. Loaded with specialty pizzas, appetizers, pasta dishes, and hot sandwiches, a meal at Brick Oven never disappoints. Just ask owner Corey Aguano, who welcomes locals and visitors to visit their friendly location in South Shore Marketplace. “We pride ourselves on staying true to our roots and we continue to follow many of the original recipes that our founder, Mr. Demas, created more than 40 years ago. Overall, we haven’t changed the restaurant a bit. We haven’t even changed the brand of the cheese we use. We’ve kept it the same way he did for 40 years and we think you’re gonna love it.”
Nalu Health Bar and Café
For more than two years, Nalu Health Bar and Café has been attracting health-conscious patrons craving fresh and delicious fare. A favorite pre-surf and post-workout destination, the mouth-watering menu at Nalu is focused on curating locally sourced and organic foods, sandwiches, juices, and wraps. They’re also known for dishing out some of the best açaí in the city. Using grade-A organic açaí naturally sweetened with native berry syrup from Brazil, the dark purple color of the blended açaí is a sure sign that their bowls are both authentic and utterly delicious. For co-owner Christiane Pfisterer, nothing beats kicking back with friends after a surf session and diving into a refreshing açaí bowl. “It’s the perfect balance between healthy and tasty, a great energy boost to continue my day without feeling heavy,” she says. “It’s an awesome snack following a perfect surf session!
In 2017, local celebrity chef Maile Sengoura brought her passion for Southeast Asian cuisine to Ward Village, much to the delight of Thai food lovers in the neighborhood. Thanks to her mother, who whipped up fresh, tasty, and flavorful regional dishes from for the whole family, Maile grew up in the kitchen surrounded by the spicy, zesty, and salty flavors that dominate the cuisines of Thailand and Laos. It wasn’t long until she was helping the family out in the kitchen, learning the inner workings of the age-old flavors and recipes. After working at a variety of restaurants across the city, Maile opted to start her own restaurant and opened up Maile’s Thai Bistro in Hawaii Kai.
At her core, Maile’s Thai all about sharing their love of Southeast Asian food with their loyal customers. Made using the freshest local ingredients, you won’t find a more tantalizing menu. When it comes to recommendations, it’s hard to go wrong, but we’d be lying if we told you we didn’t have a soft spot in our heart for their spicy green papaya salad. “In Thai, it’s known as Sum Tom, and can be made at varying degrees of heat,” says Maile. “We prepare the dish using shrimp paste, which is known as Laos Style, which is my favorite way of having it. I also love it with extra chilis.”
When Kaka‘ako Kitchen opened their now iconic location in Ward Centre, it would be hard to imagine the impact that they would have on local cuisine. Having first opened their doors more than 20 years ago, Kaka‘ako Kitchen made a monumental impact on Hawai‘i’s culinary scene by becoming one of the first restaurants to serve high-quality food at approachable prices, essentially reinventing the plate lunch and marking another evolution for this age-old staple. The restaurant’s founder, Chef Russell Siu or “Chef Rus,” as he’s affectionately known in the community, first gained recognition after opening 3660 on the Rise in Kaimukī. His second restaurant, Kaka‘ako Kitchen, would serve as his personal project. Chef Rus’s unique menu was one of the first to offer a brown rice option and elevated options like mahi-mahi with a lemon ginger beurre blanc instead of the common tartar sauce. It was one of the first establishments that allowed you to take out modern restaurant-quality food. As hungry customers converged in droves upon Kaka‘ako Kitchen, Chef Rus carved his menu into stone, creating stalwart dishes like seared-ahi chopped salad with a sesame soy dressing. The dish perfectly balances salty, sweet, and nutty flavors. And of course, despite its elegance, the gourmet plate lunch can be taken conveniently away to enjoy on the beach or wherever you please.