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Aloha ‘oe Wailana Coffee House

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! 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Aloha ‘oe Wailana Coffee House

  • September 1, 2018 at 9:47 am
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    The WCH will be closed before I make my next trip too. I stay just down the block and have had many a good meal there over 40 years. Looks like the space is going to become just another retail store catering to the high end tourist types. As if we need anymore of those…

    Best Regards

    Haru

    Reply
    • September 1, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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      Haru,

      That article about what they're going to do with the space wasn't specific, but, yes, it does sound like the owners aren't enthusiastic about another restaurant, rather having retail in there. It's such a big space, I doubt someone like ABC Stores would take it. Perhaps Coco Cove, since they're  part of Foodland. Then they can put a Coffee, Bean & Tea Leaf at the front corner, ala Starbucks style. Or, they could subdivide the space up and have multiple tenants (more $$$). 

      I chatted with Angie Tom briefly last night, niece of the owners,who was running the Karaoke machine in the lounge. She said they're definitely ready to close it, not thinking about seeking funds to renovate. Looks like all good things must come to an end. Sigh. 

      Reply
  • September 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm
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    Another empty restaurant because the landlord has unrealistic expectations. The Ambassador wanted $60K/Mo from Keo, so he had to shut his doors? So the landlord gets $0. Same for Maile Sky Tower. What are these fools thinking? They turn their hotels into second class places doing that. 

    Reply
  • September 3, 2018 at 3:30 am
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    Hi Pomai:  Thanks for your update/post and pics.  Your comments made me now remember that before WCH, it used to be Kapiolani Drive-Inn!!  I had totally forgotten about that.  When I was in high school, once in a while we used to hang out at KDI.  Most of the time we hung out at Chunky's (in Moiliili across from the old stadium) and at the old Kenny's Drive Inn in Kalihi when I and a couple of high school buddies used to date some Farrington High School girls (We were all from Roosevelt).  I think that over the years, I only ate at WCH a couple of times, but I did eat at KDI a lot of times.  Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  • September 3, 2018 at 5:32 am
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    My prediction’s that the space will go through one spastic iteration after another of retail concepts and, finally, someone will get the bright idea to open a 24 hour restaurant in the space to take advantage of the fact there’s not much in that category in Waikiki… It’ll be “just like the old WCH”! :D

    Now gotta go and BBQ some Huli Huli Chicken, make some Gau Gees (yes Pomai – with Coleman’s and shoyu dip), potato mac salad, ramen cabbage salad, Spam fried rice, for da party. Already made the maki sushi and haupia cake! Did I mention cold beers?

    Happy Labor Day!

    Haru

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 1:07 pm
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    WAILANA COFFEE HOUSE CLOSING DATE EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 14th! 

    In the back of yesterday's Star Advertiser Dining Out section, there's an advertorial about Wailana Coffee House, promoting specials for Aloha Week. In there, it says owner and GM Kenton Tom has extended their closing date from the end of September to October 14, 2018. So we've got another half a month to go pay our respects and aloha! 

    Following is the Hawaiian Luau Dinner that's one of Wailana Coffee House' Aloha Week specials effective September 28 and 29th from 11am to midnight. 

    Reply

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