A 12th Ave. Lunch Crowd Loss

Jo McGarry
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Friday - April 09, 2005
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Much to the dismay of the Kaimuki lunch
crowd, Kevin Hanney has decided to stop
serving lunch at 12th Avenue Grill

When Kevin Hanney decided to open 12th Avenue Grill almost a year ago, a family friend gave him a small gift of some advertising. Turns out it was probably the one thing Hanney didn’t need.

The contemporary grill has been busy since the day the doors swung open, and business shows no signs of slowing down. So the news that Hanney has just closed for lunch might leave restaurant watchers a little perplexed.

“It might seem strange to people, because we are busy at lunchtime,” says Kevin, “but our catering business is suffering because we are so busy, and we want to be able to concentrate on that, too.” I managed to make it over there for last week’s last lunch and found myself wishing that Hanney would reconsider.

12th Avenue Grill has a certain European feel to it, with tables pushed closely together, well-trained wait staff in white shirts and ties, and food of the excellent variety. The menu, which varies from day to day depending on specials, may be peppered with some comfort food favorites (steak, macaroni and cheese, short ribs and pork chops), but these aren’t your grandma’s dishes.

The Kim Chee Steak ($16.95), a signature dish, is char grilled with just enough sweetness and spice to make it mouth-wateringly good. The caramelized onion and smoked pepper relish add layers of flavor and, as with all the dishes, presentation is near perfect.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese ($6.95) comes neatly served in a ramekin with a crispy topping of house-smoked Parmesan cheese and can be served, for an additional $3, with sautéed ali‘I mushroom or Black Forest ham. Needless to say, there’s no globs of cheese or floury aftertaste — just perfectly wonderful mouthfuls of hot fresh pasta and a well-made sauce.

There are large plates and small plates and a series of dishes that are inspired by simple ingredients and a level of excellence in their execution. The only area that I found to be average was the House Salad ($5.95) that came with a very mediocre and oily dressing. The Wedge ($8.95) looked like a more interesting choice.

Desserts are in the more than capable hands of one of Honolulu’s best pastry chefs, Lisa Siu, who continues to rise in the middle of the night to bake for Kakaako Kitchen. She is, in my mind, the undisputed mistress of the baker’s oven in this town, and her decadent nightly offerings are so sinful you might as well go to confession now.

I can still taste the wonderful strawberry and plum fruit crisp I tried on Friday, as well as the melting chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream that I stole from my lunch date’s plate.

Hanney might have closed for lunch, but good news for regular customers is that he will start taking reservations for dinner soon, and a liquor license should be granted as you read this. Small consolation for those who’ve grown accustomed to gorgeous housesmoked ahi sandwiches and juicy burgers to get them through the day. But at least now you won’t have to stand in line around the block for dinner.

12th Avenue Grill
1145C 12th Ave.
Honolulu, 96816

Open for dinner only: Monday-Thursday 5:30-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m. Call 732-9469 for reservations and catering inquiries.

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