A musician strums a ukulele onstage as hips sway around him in a hula dance. Laughing heartily with his friends at a nearby table, one man pinches seaweed-wrapped squares of sushi rice—authentic Hawaiian musubi—from shared plates as he talks up his latest adventures. At another table, the diners sing along with the ukulele player, eyes twinkling as the melody calls up memories of home.
This feeling of camaraderie, the spirit of aloha, is what owner Peter Be and his wife, Rena, wanted to capture when they opened Da Kine Cafe in 2010. When Rena, who was born in the Kalihi Valley on the island of Oahu, craved true Hawaiian eats, her choices were limited to lackluster mainland-style interpretations, such as lau lau wrapped in a tortilla instead of taro leaves. She put together a menu of authentic Hawaiian cuisine, with 10 variations of the hot noodle soup called saimin and 10 types of poke, which the head chef of the mainland's most famous Hawaiian restaurant dubbed the best in town. Classics such as the gravy-soaked beef patty of the loco moco fill the menu, waiting to be washed down with fresh-fruit smoothies and on-tap ales from the islands or local microbreweries. Gluten-free options are also available.
The décor reproduces the laid-back Hawaiian feel that Rena and Peter remember, so that even the restaurant’s stage wears a grass skirt. On Ohana Saturdays, visiting musicians take the stage, many of them winners of the Hawaiian islands' most prestigious music accolades, the Na Hoku Hanohano awards. Performers include slack-key-guitar player LT Smooth as well as the singer Mailani, accompanied by esteemed ukulele player Dr. Trey. Starting in the springtime, weekly festivals celebrate Hawaii's music, its dance styles, and its excessive number of festivals.
Originally founded in 1970 to give high-school and college students a chance to hone their onstage skills, TheatreWorks dedicated itself early on to promoting new work that grappled with America's changing social landscape. Exploring the experiences of ethnic and cultural minorities, the group built a following throughout the subsequent decades, growing to its present size of 41 permanent staffers, an annual budget of $7 million, and 8,000 subscribers. Its New Works Initiative continues to seek out up-and-coming voices from around the country, helping new playwrights find their footing and prompting embittered older writers to test new pseudonyms.
Since 2001, Badfish has energetically replicated the ska-punk sounds of Sublime, regaling fans who were never able to see the band live after the untimely death of primary songwriter and lead singer Bradley Nowell. Badfish culls its accurate renditions from the California punk legends’ three-album catalog, including hits from its major-label debut, Sublime, deep cuts from lo-fi classic Robbin’ the Hood, and several reggae-rich versions of the Baywatch theme song. Openers Scotty Don’t and Just Chill warm up the crowd on Avalon’s standing-room dance floor with dubstep tunes and an incense-smelling contest.
The silver screens at BlueLight Cinemas showcase second-run films every day in theaters with high-back chairs and DTS and Dolby surround sound. In the concession area, attendants provide a cornucopia of goods, including Dippin' Dots, Peet's Coffee, and Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn topped with real butter from actual tombs inside the food pyramid. The locally owned theater keeps in tune with the community by staging events throughout the year, offering theater rentals for parties, and allowing moviegoers to influence upcoming features by requesting a movie.
The instructors at Firebird Dance Studio, who have been teaching for 22 years, share their passion for dancing through lessons for students as young as 14 months. Aspiring dancers learn contemporary, ballroom, folk, Latin, and modern dance styles. Classes also give students opportunities to perform. Additionally, the studio has won the Best of Mountain View Award for two consecutive years.