In most pancake houses, chocolate chips, blueberries, maybe even pumpkin are about as exciting as the flavors get. But Hawaii takes its pancakes to the next level, with local fruits and flavors like mochi, lilikoi, mango and ube. On Oahu in particular, restaurants and cafes are continuing to create new and inventive versions of the traditional flapjack.
Juno Chung is the owner of eight Koa Pancake Houses on Oahu. These casual restaurants first opened their doors in 1988, and the business has been growing ever since. According to Chung, Hawaiians share a passion for pancakes
“This huge pancake trend started off in Japan, and over the years, a lot of Hawaii-based pancake restaurants began opening there – us being one of them,” Chung says. “And since the Hawaiian Islands have always attracted the Japanese market, that certainly created more momentum – and inspired a lot of breakfast restaurants to offer new, over-the-top pancake menus.
At Koa Pancake House, butter mochi pancakes are the best seller, but the restaurant is always coming up with new flavors and adding new fruit combinations and homemade syrups.
“Going out for pancakes has become a popular activity in Hawaii, especially on Oahu,” says Colin Hazama, the executive chef of The Royal Hawaiian. “Instead of making brunch plans, many locals and tourists choose to go out for pancakes. It’s definitely become a huge craze in the last five years, so local restaurants are developing new and unique versions of pancakes to impress pancake lovers.”
In 2016, Hazama introduced the Royal Hawaiian’s eye-catching brightly-hued pink palace pancakes, a towering stack of naturally-pink delights. This dish became an instant hit and is currently offered in the resort’s Surf Lanai restaurant. The pancakes – made with guava-raspberry puree and topped off with toasted coconut lime sauce – get their natural pink color from beets and are served with strawberry balsamic relish to complete the sour-sweet taste.
It’s no surprise that with such a photogenic stack, Instagram has the power to drive sales.
“We are seeing a lot of customers coming in specifically for these pancakes,” Hazama says. “Our customers have requested them for dinner sometimes. And when we post photos of the pancakes on our Instagram feed, it gets thousands of likes every time.”
Other Waikiki hotels and restaurants are continuing to out-do each other with artfully presented pancake stacks. The Beachhouse restaurant at the Moana Surfrider serves up beautiful mango pancakes made with lilikoi curd, Anahola granola and fresh seasonal berries. During lunch hour, it offers roasted pineapple upside-down pancakes garnished with toasted coconut, macadamia nuts, raisins and a cherry on top. Nearby, the Prince Waikiki’s restaurant, 100 Sails, offers taro pancakes for breakfast.
On the island of Maui, At ROCKsalt restaurant, located in the Sheraton resort, ube pancakes are made from local Molokai sweet potato, ube (purple yam) syrup, fresh coconut cream and coconut flakes and are covered in an abundance of colorful berries and bananas.
“I definitely don’t think pancakes are a fad,” Chung says. “They are here to stay – and with so many new varieties and innovative chefs coming up with new ideas, I think they will continue to be crazy popular.”