Lunchin’ at the Keei


STARDATE:  February 1, 2012

In 1995, Owners  Bob and Gina Miyashiro opened the original Keei Café (kay-ee)  in the old  Fish Market shack perched high above Kealakekua Bay.  For many years, locals and visitors enjoyed making the trek to Honaunau on the dark and winding mauka road, without a reservation, hoping to get a seat in the hotly talked about “in spot”, just for a chance to tell everyone that they got in to the old Keei for dinner.    What is it about these places that seem to transmit  a preternatural countenance – like some mystical being, so that you would divert all sensibility to sit outside on your threadbare (but still functional) Igloo  cooler containing that precious bottle of ’82 Romanee Conti, waiting for a thrown crumb of acknowledgement and table for four?



Ten years later,  the Miyashiro family re-opened their eatery,   Keei Cafe in  Hokukano,  closer to town, and more accessible to the regulars.   Gina’s sister and Brother in Law, Chef Zeze and Batista,  joined the co-operative and enhanced  the tradition of fusing Brazilian influence  with fresh and locally-grown ingredients.  

Keei wall art depicting a bounty of fresh produce

Some  of the Kona Babes drove to South Kona anticipating lunch at the popular restaurant in Hokukano.    The two-story structure houses a pool contractor/supplier downstairs and Keei Café upstairs.   Park in the lot above and walk right into the tropical restaurant entry.  The Miyashiro’s created a woodsy and art-filled setting  that declares  a feast for the eyes as well as palate.     

Photos of Keei Cafe, Captain Cook

this photo of Keei Cafe is courtesy of Trip Advisor

I wasn’t able to make this trek to South Kona, however I had the good fortune to share dinner with friends a year ago and still recall the vibrant ambiance that could directly be attributed to the beauty of the interiors – all woods, color, artwork and architecturally pleasing.  In fact, I thought I had walked into a tastefully arranged box of Crayola Crayons!

Looking at the photos and   accompanying  email sent to me by Carol, I can easily piece together a picture of lunch this day.  The girls were seated in a room next to the main dining area where  Paulo, a lonely guitar player  (wearing a mojito-lime  shirt appropriate for the location) serenaded them with what I imagine to be seductive samba to get them in the mood… while they sipped  passion fruit martinis and stared dreamily towards the ocean.  Ok – my imagine got the best of me, however there really was a guitar player!  Wishful thinking on those passion fruit martinis……

Paulo - singin' the samba

Orders were taken by the pleasant and attentive server:

Carol’s delectable Soba Noodles with Grilled Chicken @ $10.95…. buckwheat soba noodles layered with thinly sliced vegetables and juicy pieces of grilled chicken breast…  “tender, grilled perfectly…” .   Yum!  Toss in some edamame and I am hooked!!

Soba noodles with grilled chicken

Mei’s choice was the Honaunau organic greens w/fresh grilled swordfish @ 10.95.      “… sword fish on a bed of the freshest salad with delicious pearl tomatoes, sprinkled with feta, can’t remember the name of the dressing, but was light & creamy  (citrus vinaigrette), the fish was cooked just right, very fresh, one of the best fish I have had, good portion too.    We all had a fun time, with lots of laughter.  The food/service/ambiance/price/parking was all great.  The owner Bob, was cooking in the kitchen, I had the chance to stop by, just to say hello, I have known him since the time when the Restaurant was in the South Kona, 14 + years ago.  So happy for his success.”  

fresh greens w/grilled fresh swordfish

Terri &  (both) Carolyns – Hot Pastrami Sandwich @ 10.95 – thinly sliced pastrami and swiss cheese napped with honey-mustard on rye.  No comments rendered, however there were 3 orders!  That should speak for itself…  Hot Pastrami for the hot ladies!

Pastrami on rye

Mary Lee – Chicken Wrap @ 9.95 – I could not even guess what was in the chicken wrap as I received no feedback, however the photo looks nice, doesn’t   it?  Actually, I COULD imagine snatching this off a food cart in a back alley of  Sao Paulo while running barefoot over the cobblestoned lane, laughing at my audacity…

the mysterious chicken wrap

Dossie – Eggplant Sandwich @ 9.95  ….  Grilled eggplant with swiss cheese, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, dressed with honey-dijon mustard dressing and pesto.  When I think of eggplant, I think ‘exotic’.   In my garden, the deep purple color of the eggplants are almost seductive – with their glossy skins promising the elixir of life.  

cleverly disguised eggplant sandwich

Alas!  No photos of any kind of sweet finale !  Instead, a blurred picture of the dessert menu followed, which I refrain from posting here.  Instead, I leave you with an idea of what could have been by way of another piece of art hanging on Keei’s wall:

faux creme brulee

79-7511 Mamalahoa Hwy in Kealakekua.  Located between mile markers 112 & 113.  Ph 322-9992 for reservations.  No credit cards accepted!

Keei Cafe at Hokukano on Urbanspoon

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