‘Wake Up’ call awaits at Hanalei cafe

  • Bill Buley / TGIFR!DAY

    Pictures, and some instructions, adorn the wall near the main service window of Wake Up Cafe in Hanalei.

  • Bill Buley / TGIFR!DAY

    The view from the front deck of Wake Up Cafe in Hanalei shows majestic North Shore peaks.

  • Bill Buley / TGIFR!DAY

    The sign along Kuhio Highway in Hanalei sports the North Shore’s ZIP Code.

  • Bill Buley / TGIFR!DAY

    Over the Falls, custard French toast, is a speciality at Wake Up Cafe in Hanalei.

  • Bill Buley / TGIFR!DAY

    Aloha greets customers at the Wake Up Cafe in Hanalei.

  • Bill Buley / TGIFR!DAY

    Lani Watson, owner of the Wake Up Cafe in Hanalei, fields a phone call during business hours Sunday.

Do not order the pancakes at Hanalei Wake Up Cafe.

If you do, owner Lani Watson may give you a hard time about wanting to try such a routine item when better, more tantalizing choices in the way of specials are listed right there on the menu in front of you. How, she makes it clear, could you want pancakes instead?

She stared at me, as if daring me to stick with pancakes.

I did not. I feared what might happen if I did.

That brought a smile.

She’s right, of course.

Consider the names of your options:

Kings Reef Omelet.

Hanalei Quesadilla.

Hang Ten Special.

Over the Falls.

It’s all good at this longtime eatery, a local favorite that thrives on being colorful. It’s a place with character, where the food and the coffee are quickly delivered to your table. They don’t mess around when it comes to service. They’re friendly, but they’re all business, too. You come here to be seated quickly, be served quickly and be on your way. Boom. Done. I’m not sure this is a spot where you linger and gab over coffee for an hour.

Whether you sit outside on the deck to enjoy the mountain views or inside to scope out the hundreds of old pictures of friends and family on the walls, it’s good.

It’s a surfers vibe here, what with surfboards displayed on a wall, photographs of surfers throughout, and naturally, surfing on the TV.

And please, pay attention to the big signs by the front wall that shout, “Cash or Traveler’s Checks” and “Please Wait to be Seated.” It also states, clearly, “Please, cash or travelers check only” on the menu. Still, I managed to miss both. Lani didn’t even flinch when I said we would run to the ATM and get cash, as she pointed us in the direction of the liquor store. That’s the kind of trust you don’t want to disappoint.

After changing my mind about pancakes to avoid being reprimanded again, I went with Over the Falls, which is custard French toast, an old favorite, topped with pineapple, coconut and whipped cream, and made with Portuguese sweet bread.

It was definitely a big step-up from pancakes, and worth the $11. Original and outstanding. Good thing Lani made it clear I should not order pancakes. Over the Falls is a new favorite.

My wife went with the Hang Ten Special, and opted for two scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns. For $12, it covered the basics of what you would expect when we’re talking eggs, bacon and browns.

The Kings Reef Omelet, at $13, and the Hanalei Quesadilla, $12, are popular for good reasons, and you’ll likely please Lani when you order them.

This is not a menu overloaded with so many selections you can’t make up your mind. After some three decades of serving breakfast, they have a system, and it works at Wake Up Cafe. They keep it sweet, simple and straightforward.

To wake you up, by the way, it’s Kona coffee, $4. Order it, get a refill, and enjoy the atmosphere.

The Wake Up Cafe is open 7 to 11 a.m. daily. You’ll find it just off Kuhio Highway, just down from Tahiti Nui. Remember, no lunch or dinner here. We’re talking breakfast only.

In case you were wondering, the pancakes are $8. But I wouldn’t advise trying to order them.


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

  1. Charles Fritsch August 16, 2019 2:40 pm Reply

    shes rude and cant cook a fried egg i lived here forever

  2. objectivity August 17, 2019 10:51 am Reply

    I am guessing your food was free.

    A “local favorite?” That’s rich!!! Try Yelping to see what real customers have to say about this place.

  3. Bluedream August 18, 2019 12:57 pm Reply

    Ha! Surfer vibe is correct if what you mean is arrogant, slow to figure things out, and zero manners staff. This place is Hanalei in a nutshell. Ocean Beach California moves to Hawaii..

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