It is with great sadness to hear that Wailana Coffee House will be closing at the end of this September (extended to October 14th!), after being in business over 48 years. The old school 24-hour diner has been an icon and staple in Waikiki for both locals and visitors, serving up comfort food favorites, all with that retro “tiki diner” vibe, and servers who greet you with aloha and a feeling of ohana. If you’re old enough to remember Spencliff restaurants such as Coco’s and Tiki Tops, you know the deal.
According to a report by KHON2 News, co-owner Kenton Tom says a $1 million renovation that’s needed to stay competitive is the primary reason they decided to close it, while they still own the property it occupies. They are looking at various options after it shuts down, that hasn’t been determined as of yet. Wailana Coffee House currently staffs about 100 employees.
The history of Wailana Coffee House dates back to the late 1940s, when Kenton’s father, Francis Tom first opened a concession stand at Honolulu Zoo in 1947. In 1951, Francis then bought the land where Wailana Coffee House currently is. At the time, folks thought he was crazy, as back then it was just an old coral road, with no hotels such as the Hilton Hawaiian Village or other attractions nearby.
On that property, Francis built Kapiolani Drive-Inn, which had a car hop service that was very popular at the time. Then in the late 60s, he collaborated with Bruce Stark and developed Wailana Condominium, and with that, Wailana Coffee House.
Francis Tom passed away 15 years ago, blessed with sons Kenton and Malcom, as well as daughter Joanna to continue his legacy.
Wailana Coffee House is famous for dishes such as their meat loaf, eggs benedict and all-you-can-eat salad bar. Regulars also stroll in after bar-hopping in Waikiki for their all-you-can-eat pancakes at 2 a.m.. They’re also popular with locals in the area for their adjoining tiki bar that hosts karaoke and live music at night.
Since I live literally a block away from there, it is with great honor to pay final tribute to this Waikiki icon. Following are photos from part of what will be my final visits there. Aloha ‘oe Wailana Coffee House. You will always be in our hearts!