Sweet Home Waimanalo

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - July 21, 2010
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Kevin Vaccarello and Joanne Kapololu

When you write about food for a living, you’re always in search of the restaurant that’s going to stop you in your tracks. Sweet Home Waimanalo, perhaps the most unpretentious restaurant on the island, did it for me.

On Kalanianaole Highway between Makapuu and Waimanalo Town, you’ll find the almost-beachside restaurant serving up fresh, island- grown food in a casual, relaxed setting.

Fresh fish tacos, smoked pulled pork, beef brisket and a veggie burger good enough to convince even the heartiest of meat eaters to change their diet, all come out of a tiny kitchen.

Behind the scenes, there’s a dedicated team who seem to have found their groove. In the kitchen, Wendy Kino has local roots, Cordon Bleu training and a passion for organic, healthy food. All these elements are present in her fresh, zesty dressings, crisp, crunchy coleslaw and even in the tofu burger.

Owner-trio, Kevin Vaccarello, Dave Campbell and Joanne Kapololu have been friends for years, and while Campbell (better known as the brew master for Sam Choy’s Big Aloha Brewery) opened Sweet Home Waimanalo more than a year ago, an energy burst has come in recent months, as Vacarello - with a rich history in sustainability projects in Hawaii - and Kapololu, the original owner of Java Java in Kaimuki and a regional manager for Starbucks Hawaii, have come on board.

“The timing seemed right for this to happen,” says Kapololu, who returned to Hawaii to take on the project.

“We’re trying to make a healthy menu and we’re slowly turning the entire menu to 100 percent local,” adds Vaccarello.

Locavores can certainly rejoice, but carnivores will find much to celebrate here too. Smoked meats are a specialty, most of them are marinated first in beers crafted by Campbell.

“The smoked ribs, aalua pork and the brisket sandwich are all becoming really popular,” says Kevin. “It’s an 8-hour process to smoke the meats, and Dave’s beers are an important part of keeping the meat tender.”

There are wonderful fruit smoothies, that perfect fish taco, and a ridiculously good acai bowl that should make the restaurant something of a mecca for those in search of healthy food. And the homemade ginger honey lemonade? Well, let’s just say I’ve taken my boys three days in a row, and we’re all addicted.

Sweet Home Waimanalo is certainly a work in progress. Right now seating is a few wooden tables and benches close to the main road; food is ordered inside, then picked up, lunch wagon style, at the side of the restaurant.

Happy eating!


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