Kohala bar and grill gains popularity

Since opening last fall, Kaunaoa Bar &Grill has been a welcome addition to the world-renowned Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.


Since opening last fall, Kaunaoa Bar &Grill has been a welcome addition to the world-renowned Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

This casual pub-style dinner venue is named after the stunning bay the hotel is located on. It is providing sophisticated-comfort food and plenty of picture-perfect places to watch the swelling sun dip into the ocean. Add a game room with billiards and darts for those 21 and older, as well as progressive music and a full bar for beverage enthusiasts, and it is easy to see how this spot is a recipe for a cult favorite for visitors and residents.

For nearly 50 years, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has remained an iconic landmark of luxury on the Kohala Coast, one that has continued to lure generations of guests. Still it’s important for some reinvention and updating to remain relevant and lure a new clientele, as well as keep those staying here for decades to come, restaurant manager Dave Erickson said.

Kaunaoa Bar &Grill replaces Monettes, a fine-dining restaurant that opened in 2009 and offered American-French cuisine with island influences. It fulfills a need for a relaxed, casual evening restaurant and hangout. The resort already has the upscale Manta restaurant and Pavilion wine bar, beachside Hau Tree restaurant, and golf clubhouse restaurant Number 3, Erickson said.

Open from 5-10:30 p.m. nightly, Kaunaoa Bar &Grill is a spot guests can feel comfortable coming to straight after the beach and savor culinary favorites including sushi, artisan pizzas, brick oven flat breads, burgers, hot dogs, soups, salads and desserts. It’s also a place to enjoy a bridal shower, bachelorette party, a night out with friends or family, and big sporting events. With its adult-only game room, it may even be a small escape for those with keiki or travelers adjusting to time change.

Kaunaoa Bar &Grill has six large televisions mounted on the walls. However, the restaurant is looking into adding a few more for sports fans and those who like eating in front the television, Erickson said.

With its sweeping views, it’s not unusual for people to line up along the patio taking photos of stunning sunsets or the breathtaking idyllic beach landscape below. While dining outside, they are entertained by live Hawaiian music and hula from 6-8 p.m.

Much-loved entrees by customers include the surf and turf burger with grass-fed beef, fried crab cake and spicy remoulade; seafood chowder with clams, shrimp and mahimahi; the provolone, prosciutto and arugula pizza with artichoke hearts and black olives; Volcano sushi roll; Hawaiian pesto chicken flat bread with kalamata olives, fresh tomatoes, onions, watermelon radishes and edible flowers. The menu is aggressively priced with other nearby restaurants. Its island-inspired items range from $9 to $21.

The restaurant offers six beers on tap, 45 wines, various hot and cold sake offerings, and six tropical cocktails.

Biannually, even quarterly, hotel administration looks at all facilities and its offerings for “stars” and “dogs.” Stars are considered extremely popular with items that have a high contribution margin while dogs are those that sound nice, but just sit there. The feedback received so far for the Kaunaoa Bar &Grill has been positive, Erickson said.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is currently in the process of hiring a new executive chef. So in the near future, the restaurant’s menu may be expanded, he added.

Sous chef Polly Pagdilao has been working at the hotel for 31 years. He started as a steward in 1983 and later joined the culinary staff in 1985. Cooking was second nature as he has always been drawn to food and enjoys creating dishes for big parties. With every executive chef he’s worked with, Pagdilao made it a point to learn as much as he could and now gives back by sharing his knowledge with Kaunaoa Bar &Grill’s four-member kitchen staff.

For Pagdilao, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel feels like home. He hopes the cravable dishes and outstanding service at Kaunaoa Bar &Grill make diners feel like they’re home.


For more information, call the hotel at 882-7222 or visit princeresortshawaii.com/mauna-kea-beach-hotel/index.php.

Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at clucas-zenk@westhawaiitoday.com.