When Kam Bowl closed in 2007 to make way for Walgreens in the Kamehameha Shopping Center — taking Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s famous oxtail soup along with it — people were bereft.
The same sadness swept through regulars of the 49-year-old Kenny’s restaurant when its closure was announced by the founding Fujieki family a year ago.
The Fujiekis and their former nearby competitors found what seemed a win-win solution in November and announced that Kapiolani Coffee Shop founder Gary Mijo and his wife, Liko, would reopen Kam Bowl in the Kenny’s space. Kenny’s owner John Fujieki had been insistent that Kenny’s be succeeded by a local restaurant.
>> 1620 N. School St.
>> Call: 841-0931
>> Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (last orders 9:30 p.m.)
>> Prices: $1.50 to $17.95
>> Parking: Large lot
The famed oxtail soup served at the old Kam Bowl and its sister restaurant, Asahi Grill, returned to Kalihi, while Kenny’s regulars are still able to get many of their favorites from that menu.
About the business: The soft opening Jan. 27 kicked off a rocky experience, said Liko Mijo. A pre-opening party for contractors the night before spread word about the reopening like wildfire. “The next day we had a full house, until two or three months after the opening,” she said.
Rather than take time to gradually train the staff with a trickle of customers, the owners had to deal with lines that snaked out the door and all the way to Times Supermarket.
The staff often had to announce to those in the long queue that the restaurant had run out of this, that or the other popular dish, setting off protests from customers who had driven all the way from Nanakuli, for example, for the treasured taste.
Things are much smoother now, with the usual peaks and lulls for a restaurant open from breakfast until way past dinner.
“Now we’re used to it. We can give the customer better service and better food,” Mijo said.
What to order: Chinese chicken salad ($11.95) and garlic chicken ($10.95) are among the most popular takeout orders, but so are the oxtail soup ($14.95 large, $12.95 small), the new kalua pork soup ($8.95), whole akule (market price) and the loco moco ($10.95, $8.95) made with an all-beef patty formed in-house. Diners wait a little longer for the patties to cook, she said. “Customers say the taste is worth it.”
With food costs always going up, the famous oxtail soup is a loss-leader for Kam Bowl, Mijo said. At $8.95 with a similar flavor profile, the kalua pork soup has proved popular.
Grab and go: Only about 15 percent of the business is takeout, but orders are taken via phone or in person. In the not-too-distant future, online ordering will be available via the restaurant’s website, which is under construction.
“We are dinosaurs when it comes to computers and new technology,” Mijo laughed, but “a lot of people are asking.” The website should be up and running within a month.
Catering pans also are available with one day’s advance notice, or longer lead time if the order is for 200 or more. Catering orders require a 20 percent deposit, which can be taken via credit card over the phone.