Primarily purveyors of electronic cigarettes and accessories, the Volcano Vapor opened the Volcano Vapor Cafe as a relaxed space that is welcoming to both electronic-cigarette aficionados and espresso enthusiasts. More than 50 specialty coffees and drinks, free WiFi, game consoles, and an e-cigarette-friendly atmosphere make Volcano Vapor Cafe an ideal hangout for caffeination and relaxation. Premium Hawaiian beans infuse every coffee drink, from a regular cuppa joe ($1.50–$1.80) to iced lattes crowned with luscious whipped cream ($3.35–$3.75). A 60” HDTV occupies the premium real estate of the café’s scarlet walls, ready to connect with the Xbox and PlayStation 3 game consoles and play host to caffeine-fueled bouts of friendly e-competition. Volcano Vapor's free WiFi and computer consoles equipped with 24-inch touchscreen monitors provide paved access to the information superhighway. Sippers who prefer to remain stationary can lounge in sumptuous leather seats inside.
Meandering through rows of coffee trees in a Waialua coffee orchard, roastmaster John Alvarez gauges by sight alone the maturity of the trees and the ripeness of the berries peeking out from verdant leaves. Though the coffee aficionado follows his beans’ route from germination into each piping mug, his true passion lies in roasting. Back at his roasting site in the shadow of Mount Ka'ala, handfuls of beans cascade through his fingers, pouring back into the drum roaster’s cooling bin as he inspects their chafes and hues to ensure an even roast. Though he concedes each island’s orchards produce different flavors, it’s the slow-roasting process—featured on Hawaiian Grown—that accounts for his coffee’s smooth, sweet taste. “It’s like being a chef at a restaurant,” he says of his duties. “A lot of people take it for granted, but it’s what makes all the difference.” Just outside, amid the Ilikai Hotel's fountains and gardens where his coffee shop is located, people sit on the patio, take in the sun, chat, and sip on the signature coffee.
The pastry chefs at Regal Bakery work hard to never stop surprising their customers, whether with bold new donut flavors, such as rocky road, berryblast, and green tea, or brand new foodie trends. Hot on the trail of the cronut craze, they created their own version of a croissant-donut and even experimented with bite-sized croissant morsels, dubbed “crototts,” which can be dipped in chocolate sauce, azuki bean crème anglaise, or bronze to put atop crotott-eating trophies. According to a profile of the bakery in the “Dining Out” section of the Star Advertiser, Regal Bakery stocks more than 20 donut flavors at a time and revives popular flavors from their past on Throwback Wednesdays.
Air Park Karaoke Lounge offers its visitors the chance to be a star, if only for a handful of hours. Each of the 11 rentable rooms contain a full karaoke setup, allowing friends to belt in private without the worry of Michael McDonald dropping in unannounced to add harmonies. In each room, a 55-inch HDTV shows video and lyrics, while the system's vast catalogue includes tunes in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean—with songs updated monthly. There's also a more public space in their social lounge area, featuring a 70-inch plasma screen and a full bar that serves up beer, wine, and signature cocktails. And despite there being a room and drinks themed around Hello Kitty, Air Park Karaoke Lounge only admits those 21 and older.
Kissaten Japanese Noodle Shop’s litany of ramen showcases a variety of broths composed of miso, curry, or classic shio base, highlighted by the fresh medallions of pork or fried shrimp tempura floating amid thin noodles. In addition to the 12 types of noodle bowls, Kissaten Japanese Noodle Shop serves up rice dishes adorned with shitake mushrooms or vegetable tempura, or beef bowls served over yam noodles. A second location bolsters the menu with a variety of delicate café fare, such as salads with smoked salmon and baby spinach and sandwiches with shaved pastrami and caramelized onions.
The flavors of the island abound inside Tilia Exquisite Aloha. Chefs infuse their waffle batter with a hefty dose of taro root, and they transform standard bowls of yogurt and granola with seasonal fruits, acai berries, and macadamia-nut honey. Even the coffee—Kona and Waialua blends—reflect the café's Hawaiian spirit. A retail section is stocked with handmade crafts and gourmet foods, enabling customers to take some of these local treasures home with them.