Down home comfort food upcountry

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    Christian Cook, right, serves up a fresh mai tai to Ryan Metzger Tuesday at the Koke‘e Lodge Restaurant.

The Koke‘e Lodge Restaurant in Koke‘e State Park offers service 365 days a year, opening at 9 a.m. daily and closing at 4 p.m. on weekdays and Sunday. On Saturday, the lodge offers live music and a full bar, closing at 7 p.m. to offer guests a chance to enjoy themselves at the popular destination in the mountains.

The restaurant serves breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily, and for the last two years has had a full-service coffee bar for the early birds.

“Our specialty is our Portuguese bean soup and chili along with our cornbreads and pie,” Manager Anya Kaohi-Yaris said. “Our new favorite is our loco mocos, and we do a lot of farm-to-table, and we only buy locally made stuff.”

The restaurant provides a farm-to-table presence visitors and locals alike can enjoy, especially on those hot summer days where it’s cooler up in Koke‘e.

Beef is local, pork is local. Even the pie crust is made in-house.

“We are busy year-round. We don’t have a slow season,” Kaohi-Yaris said. “We added a coffee bar this past two years. We have a full-service coffee bar with lattes and cappuccinos.”

In addition to a full breakfast menu that features plates such as the Koke‘e pancake sandwich, the restaurant has a packed lunch menu featuring local favorites such as chili and rice plates to quiche and New England clam chowder, Greek salad, hot and cold sandwiches and plenty of cold beer and other beverages.

The Koke‘e Lodge Restaurant also has a fine selection of desserts, such as lilikoi pie and homemade cookies.

“When I was growing up, we only had two channels, and one of the channels on Sundays had ‘Lucky Luck’s Luau,’” General Manager Jim Ballantine said. “And Lucky Luck would do this show, and anyone who was in town would come on his show and he would play music. It was really a good time. His grandson now has a surf shop in Waimea, and he plays really-old Hawaiian records.”

In addition to live music from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, old-time Hawaiian music by Fanny Rose is played at the restaurant and lodge from noon to 2 p.m.

“She plays cello, banjo and guitar,” Ballantine said, who has been the general manager for four years this August.

On Sunday afternoons, Nick Castillo takes the stage.

Freshly cut blue hydrangeas and Himalayan ginger frequent vases within the restaurant.

“Everything is farm-to-table,” Ballantine said.

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Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or rcollins@thegardenisland.com.

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