Say hello to The Garden Island Grille

New owners are giving a major facelift to the former Tomkats Grille and plan to open in June with the same hours and live music.

But plenty of other things are expected to change.

The Garden Island Grille will make its debut following a total renovation. Tomkats closed after Dave and Sheri Trentlage took over the locale in the middle of Old Koloa Town on March 1.

“The first time that we came here I told Sheri that I found my home and that we would live here one day,” said Dave. “We just had to find something that we wanted to do.”

The two have been coming to Kauai for years and always wanted to make it their home. They started looking for an opportunity around four years ago and finally found one that allowed them to trade the long, cold Michigan winters for their dream to build a life and a business together on the Garden Isle.

“We love the location and considered it a year ago when we first looked at it,” Sheri said. “We are pretty excited.”

Located inside the courtyard area of the Old Koloa Town shops, the restaurant and tavern sit inside the Kawamoto Building, 5404 Koloa Road.

Bert and Vickie Agor had operated Tomkats since 2003. They took over from founding owners Thomas Podlashes and Kathleen Wagoner, who created the Tomkats name in 1999. Prior to that it was Fez’s Gourmet Deep Dish Pizza from 1984 until 1992.

The Trentlages said there was something special about how Tomkats worked as a visitor destination during the day, and a local destination at night. They wanted to continue that tradition and fit within the scope of the area.

“We have reached out to the other business owners to create relationships and we are excited about the synergy,” Sheri said.

Tomkats was the only place open until 2 a.m. on the South Shore. Local workers filled the bar to capacity after the restaurants where many of them worked closed at 10 p.m.

The couple plans to stay with the same hours to keep the local presence. They also want to attract more of the visitor crowd during the day.

“It’s hard to bring in local elements and Tomkats was unique for attracting tourists and locals,” Dave said. “We want to carry that forward.”

The Garden Island Grille will be steeped in Hawaiian atmosphere and items consistent with the plantation era housing. The new owners want island strings and traditional healing hula during the day.

The first dining room will have an historical theme with maps, photos, stories and quotes from island history, along with visuals of native plants and wildlife.

The second dining room will have memorabilia from movies filmed on Kauai, along with sports items involving canoeing, outrigger surfing, paddle boarding and the University of Hawaii teams.

The front entrance will be pulled back with a new bamboo framed hostess station. A sign will read, “Land, Sea, Fire.”

It will still be a place to watch sports games on multiple screens with early morning happy hours during the NFL season. Somewhere in the bar will be an old English “D” as Dave is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan.

The menu will remain grill style but plans are still developing. The owners do know it will be affordable, and focus on local food and produce with as much garden-to-table dishes as possible.

The bar will focus on Hawaiian liquors and beers. Eight draft taps will dispense a variety of craft beers from Kauai and Kona and even some Mainland-brewed Hawaiian beers along with domestics and imports. The Trentlages are looking to work with local growers to create a handcrafted fruit cocktail menu.

Local handcrafted beer containers that hold four sample size glasses of beer will be carved into land and sea creatures or whatever the shape the wood inspires in the artist.

The Trentlages are trying to rent the courtyard common space after hours for music and grilling. If allowed, they want to move the music stage to the courtyard, to bring live music outside to save on seating space and offer a better view from both dining rooms.

With more than 30 years plumbing, carpentry, and electrical business experience, Dave said he was able to see solutions for potentially costly and time-consuming challenges with bar renovations in a historic building. Sheri’s background includes working in real-estate rentals, health insurance and human resources for more than 20 years.

“We are not opening a fancy place by any means, but we want it to be nice,” Dave said. “My No. 1 (goal) is that no matter what we do, it must be the best that can be done.”

They are looking for 10 to 15 employees to start out. They won’t be taking resumes or interviewing staff positions for at least a month.

“We want good, quality service people,” Dave said. “We want people who share the passion and love of our place, and we want them to be happy as we grow and make profits.”

As they get settled, the couple plans to get more involved with groups that focus on the history and culture of the island.

“History is our passion and it is important to us,” he said. “We live simple and would really like to be part of the preservation and promotion of culture and heritage.”

They relish the locals coming in and talking story.

“I can listen all day,” Dave said.

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