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On a sugar high

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Photo by Kelli Shiroma Braiotta

By the time you’re reading this, I would have been to Sugar Factory American Brasserie three times — once for the inaugural media event before the restaurant officially opened April 10; once with another food writer; and once with a small group of friends. What can I say? There are more than 100 dishes on the menu, so I had to do my due diligence.

The restaurant, located in Ala Moana Center’s Hookipa Terrace, is eye-catching. From the floral wall and pink telephone booth to the walls designed to look like Sweethearts candies, it’s definitely Instagrammable.

It’s also the place to go to for parties — we heard the birthday song multiple times throughout the evening, since everyone in the restaurant is encouraged to sing along — or a fun night out when the dessert craving hits. Patio seating is available (it’s pleasant in the evening, but can get hot during the afternoon), and the restaurant overall is on the louder side, but that’s all of the vibe. There’s also an adjacent candy store — in case you want to buy more treats for later.

With locations all over the United States — including in Las Vegas, New York City, Miami and Chicago — Sugar Factory is known for its extensive menu and celebrity-endorsed concoctions. The menu goes far beyond desserts to include appetizers, flatbreads, tacos, salads, pastas, sandwiches, Monster Burgers and entrees.
The first page in the menu is dedicated to smoking candy goblets, Sugar Factory’s signature, celebrity-endorsed boozy confections (non-alcoholic versions are also available). Options range from The Twisted Hart Peach Lemonade ($42) — designed and tasted by Kevin Hart — to Lollipop Passion ($42), a blend of melon, coconut and pineapple, and garnished with a lollipop. Goblets feature a video-worthy “smoking” presentation complete with “Sugar Factory magic” (aka dry ice). The alcoholic ones were a little too boozy for my preference, but it’s fun to try if you have a group of four or more (each goblet is 36 ounces).

You’ll also find a handful of Hawaii-exclusive dishes that feature local ingredients. We started with the hamachi crudo ($10) served with raw potato salad, chili pepper water, Aloha shoyu, shaved shishito peppers, chili strands and micro shiso — and fried mac and cheese pops ($15). I enjoyed the crudo’s refreshing flavor, but wasn’t a fan of the slightly soggy potato salad. The deep-fried mac and cheese with creamy marinara were a hit and satisfied my cheese craving.

I wanted to try the Sugar Factory rainbow sliders ($25), which look adorable because of the their size and color. However, they’re not yet available, since the eatery is working to source the slider buns from La Tour Bakeshop.

Salads feature locally sourced Waipoli hydroponic greens. The Caesar ($13, add chicken for $6) is a good-sized option for sharing. The crispy Parmesan shards were my favorite part.
Monster Burgers come with shoestring fries (be forewarned: once you start eating them, it’s hard to stop). Popular options include the Dakine Burger ($19) and the Alii Burger ($23) — both are Hawaii exclusives — and the Flaming Hot Cheeto Burger ($23), an 8-ounce beef patty coated with crushed Flaming Hot Cheetos and topped with pepper jack cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, crispy onions and chipotle mayo in a brioche bun that’s also coated in Flaming Hot Cheetos. It’s served with a mix of Flamin Hot Cheetos and shoestring fries. While I enjoyed the crunch, I can’t handle a lot of Flaming Hot Cheetos due to the spice, so a few bites were more than enough for me.

Of the burgers we tried, the Dakine was my favorite. The soft taro buns could barely withstand the meaty burger’s contents — grilled pineapple, guava barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, Sugar Factory sauce, provolone cheese and crispy onions. The juicy burger was nicely complemented by the tangy sauce and crispy onions (I pulled out the pineapple because I don’t love them in burgers, but that’s just my personal preference).

The brunch dishes — ranging from decadent-sounding pancakes to loaded French toasts — intrigued me, but alas, were not available yet. (Our server said they will be soon.) The exception to this were the Insane Double Stack Rainbow pancakes ($28), which can be ordered for dessert. The fluffy buttermilk pancakes came stacked high with toppings like warm maple syrup, powdered sugar and butter, chocolate chips, gummy bears, whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles on the side. They were fluffy and warm, but didn’t really have flavor until we drizzled some syrup or added toppings.
Only get these if you come with a large group — it’s a hefty portion.

Desserts run the gamut from classic shakes and insane milkshakes to hot chocolate, ice cream sundaes and more. The restaurant is known for its insane milkshakes, which are made with Dave’s Ice Cream, boast over-the-top decorations and are designed to feed two to four people. The Strawberry Cheesecake Shake ($18), Brownie Volcano Explosion Chocolate Shake ($18) and Barbie Shake ($18) are most popular. Meanwhile, you can only get The Dole Whip Shake ($18) and Alii Banana Cream Shake ($18) in Hawaii.

Believe or not, the shakes aren’t as sweet as they look — especially if you’re sharing with three others and divide up the toppings. But then again, I have a relatively high sweets tolerance, so take this with a grain of salt. The Cookie Monster ($18) — cookies and cream ice cream blended with vanilla sauce and topped with whipped cream, a chocolate chip cookie and a blue glazed doughnut, and served in a chocolate-covered mug with chocolate chips — was right up my alley, since I’ve always liked cookies and cream. It came with an adorable blue-frosted cupcake that indeed looked like the Sesame Street character.

The Brownie Volcano Explosion had a delightfully intense chocolate flavor (it’s a chocolate shake topped with a chocolate-frosted doughnut, housemade fudgy brownies, ice cream, chocolate Pocky sticks, whipped cream and dark chocolate drizzle). My only gripe was that the doughnut was slightly stale, but there was plenty of other toppings to go around.

As we finished up, I notice a 24 Karat Gold Burger ($150) on the menu. It’s a Monster Burger draped in a 24-karat gold leaf, served with freshly dusted gold French fries and a 24-karat gold milkshake (a rich chocolate blend with Ferrero Rocher golden truffles, and topped with a gold-draped chocolate doughnut, whipped cream, a gold-dusted milk chocolate macaron and gold dust on top). It’s not available yet, according to our server, but will be in the near future.

“Would you get that?” my foodie friend asked.
I probably wouldn’t, unless I had at least four others with me. And let’s be real — at that point, it would all be for social media.

Sugar Factory American Brasserie

Address 
Ala Moana Center – Hookipa Terrace
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu

Phone
808-620-4099

Hours
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon-Thurs
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri
10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat
10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun

Website
hawaii.sugarfactory.com

Instagram
@sugarfactoryhawaii

Parking: Free parking at Ala Moana Center

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