Toes in the sand

KAPAA — Nestled on the Coconut Coast of Kauai, Lava Lava Beach Club offers diners the ultimate experience: eating with their toes in the sand.

“We’ve had some people leave their shoes here,” said Jose Fuentes, restaurant manager.

Lava Lava Beach Club gives its guests views of the sunrise, sunset and marine life.

A couple weeks ago, diners and restaurant staff watched in awe as whales started jumping in and out of the water, Fuentes said.

“I couldn’t get people out of their chairs to turn the tables over because people were staring at the whales,” he said.

Located on Papaloa Road in Kapaa, Lava Lava Beach Club opened in January. It already has become a staple for residents and tourists, Fuentes said.

“We’ll have guys soaking wet, come in, and grab a table,” he said.

Breakfast is a good stop for people who want to get an early start before hiking or for those who want to award themselves with a nice breakfast after hiking all morning, Fuentes said.

Popular items include the pancakes, which can be filled with macadamia nuts, bananas, blueberries or bacon, the Big Wave Burrito, Ahi Cake Benedict and Hapa Laka Loco Moco, a half Portuguese sausage and beef patty, which is served with two eggs, fried rice and mushroom gravy.

The pancakes are “monsters,” Fuentes said.

“You get three big, fat and stacked pancakes, so you have to be a hefty eater to finish it,” he said. “I never have.”

Executive chef Shane Galan said the Hapa Laka Loco Moco and the Ahi Cake Benedict are his favorite dishes.

“The Hapa Laka is comfort food for me,” the Big Island native said.

Galan said he likes the Ahi Cake Benedict because it gives a new twist on a classic dish. The dish, which is served topped with cooked ahi and wasabi, “gives a Pacific infusion to a classic Eggs Benedict,” he said.

Galan, who was worked as a chef on the Big Island and in Las Vegas, said he was introduced to the kitchen as a teenager.

“My mom was a pastry chef at the Royal Kona Resort, so I worked at the bakery,” he said. “I got my start in baking, but I wanted to get in the food scene.”

He worked as a sous chef for six years at various restaurants, both on Hawaii and the Mainland, before gaining the executive chef title at Lava Lava Beach Club on Kauai. He oversees a kitchen staff of 25.

Galan’s favorite part about working on Kauai is the ocean.

“I moved here from Vegas, so all I saw was walls,” he said. “Here, I get to smell, hear and taste the ocean.”

It’s that atmosphere that gets people to keep coming back, Fuentes said.

When breakfast is busy, the staff can serve up to 200 people. And while there are inside dining options, most people opt to eat outside, Fuentes said.

“Even if it rains, people want to be outside,” he said.

Lava Lava Beach Club got its start on The Big Island. The proprietors, Scott Dodd and Eric von Platen Luder, also own Huggo’s, On the Rocks and Paradise Gourmet Catering, all on the Big Island.

There are perquisites for all Lava Lava restaurants, Fuentes said.

“You have to have a beach, and you have to be able to take your shoes off and have your toes in the sand,” he said.

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