Every ‘Hood Needs
A 12th Avenue Grill
By Kevin McQuarrie
wonderful and unique as Hawaii Regional Cuisine is, one can only eat so
much ahi, mahi mahi and Kahuku shrimp. If you could use a change of pace,
you’ll find Kaimuki’s 12th Avenue Grill to be a godsend. This small
gem offers contemporary American cuisine, a low-key, but polished décor,
and servers who actually know what they’re doing.
originally had two hang-ups about eating at the 12th Avenue Grill. One,
you can’t make a reservation. Two, there’s no wine list or
bar—it’s BYOB. But I got over these “problems” because they
actually add to the value of the experience. Yes, you’ll probably have
to wait for a table, but you’ll wait in a comfortable seating area under
a cheerful striped awning. You’ll mingle with a crowd of pleasant, eager
fellow foodies. And the lack of a wine list means you can bring your
favorite merlot without paying for that 30-percent mark-up. Gee, what a
décor is relaxed, urban—the whole thing reminds me of a hillside in San
Francisco. There’s pendant lighting, banquettes, and servers in long
white aprons. Longtime area caterer Kevin Hanney attracts a crowd with his
outstanding menu, too. You can order small plates, or large, depending on
your mood. Entrées range from about $15.95 to $26.95 for dinner, although
the exception is a burger for $7.95. Lunch prices are lower, topping out
server, Jenny, was excellent. I was impressed that she knew the specials
without having to refer to notes—she sounded like she knew food.
miss the baked macaroni and cheese ($6.95, or with sautéed mushrooms or
Black Forest ham for an additional charge). It’s just about the most
comforting dish on the planet —creamy, hot, with perfectly cooked, firm
pasta and an adult-appropriate (read: not gloppy or dyed orange) sauce.
was tempted by the soup of the day, a corn chowder, but decided to try one
of the specials of the day for appetizers, a wild mushroom risotto. It was
creamy, with intriguingly textured mushrooms. The pan-fried trout
($17.95), served butterflied and cooked in truffle butter, was simply
outrageous. “Wow,” said my dining companion, “I didn’t even know I
liked trout.” Her smoked duck breast ($24.95) entrée, served with sautéed
greens and with homemade cornbread and sausage stuffing, was just as good.
I have to pause here for a moment and eulogize the corn pudding that had
arrived with the trout. Salty, sweet, a flan consistency but a savory
outcome—it was as creative as it was addictive.
dessert, we couldn’t possibly have resisted the homemade apple pie,
topped with house-made ice cream. (The desserts at 12th Avenue Grill are
by Lisa Siu, who is the pastry chef at 3660 on the Rise.) Another option
is the fruit crisp, made with whatever fruit is in season and available
that week. The coffee, served in a sturdy, reassuringly solid mug, was
Even at my favorite restaurants, there’s usually some dish that misfires, but at 12th Avenue Grill, there were no disappointments. Every neighborhood needs a restaurant as convivial and well executed as this one.
12th Ave., just off Waialae.
is served from 11:30 a.m.
is served from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; and
reservations are accepted.
parking is available,
you’ll have to troll a bit;
the lots are usually quite busy.