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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 4, 2010

Hawaii eats section


By Melissa Chang
Special to Metromix

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The shrimp and cheesy grits come with a garlicky bacon gravy at chef Sean Priester's restaurant.

Metromix

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The new cafe has been renovated to reflect the restaurant's soul theme, with old Motown records from the '60s and '70s hanging on the walls.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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SOUL FOOD SERVED WITH LOTS OF LOVE AT NEW EATERY

SOUL CAFE

3040 Wai'alae Ave.

735-7685

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays

Chef Sean Priester — who runs the Pacific Soul lunchwagon and sells his food at various farmers markets around town — recently opened a soul food restaurant in town, so you can regularly get his Southern cuisine with a gourmet twist. He's already got a small, but loyal, following from people who live and work in the area.

Soul Cafe is located on Wai'alae Avenue, in the same complex as Sabrina's and The Fat Greek.

Priester has decorated the interior with classic album covers of R&B and soul music artists from the '60s and '70s. Even if you're not old enough to reminisce on these musicians, you can feel the Motown vibe on the walls.

We visited the new cafe to get the lowdown on the soul food:

Shrimp and cheesy grits ($18): It's a good sign when the waitress delivers the food and then moans, "You ordered my absolute favorite, the shrimp and grits!" The sauteed shrimp is swimming in a garlicky bacon gravy over creamy cheddar grits. The grits are melt-in-your-mouth silky, while the bacon gravy is robust and savory. You could probably just eat the grits and gravy, but the shrimp gives it the elegance and richness — a signature Priester touch.

Verdict: Super yum!

Chicken gumbo ($14): You can't go to a soul food restaurant and not try the gumbo. Soul's chicken gumbo includes sweet potato and Kukui brand spicy Portuguese sausage and is served with Priester's famous honey butter cornbread. We found the gumbo spiced perfectly, while the Portuguese sausage added a local flair.

Verdict: Yum!

Carolina Pulled Pork Adobo ($8): The adobo is much more tart and vinegary than the sweet barbecue pulled pork that local palates are used to. The pork was also a little tough. We do love the buttermilk cilantro coleslaw, though.

Verdict: Pass or try again

Kim chee dog ($7): Soul's kim chee dog is a Kukui brand sausage with kim chee — not actually kim chee in the traditional sense, but rather Priester's own special pickled spicy peppers and onions. This is definitely a manly meal— and it's heavier than it looks. The peppers and onions have jalapenos in the mix, so if you're not into spicy, you may want to skip this one.

Verdict: Try again

BBQ spare ribs ($16): We were a little surprised when we got our plate of BBQ spare ribs and found that they were ultra tough. Priester personally comes to each table to get customer feedback, so we felt obligated to tell him how tough the ribs were. He later came back with a new plate of ribs. These were like night and day when compared to the first set — floppy soft, fall-off-the-bone, juicy pork ribs married with his barbecue sauce.

We asked why the second set was so dramatically different from the first, and he said that he just went back to "put a little more love into the ribs."

Verdict: Yum!

Soul Cafe is still going through some adjustments, but so far, most of the food is as delicious as we would expect Sean Priester's gourmet fare to be. We love the warm atmosphere and welcoming, friendly service, which almost makes us feel like we're eating in someone's home. And it's BYOB, which is a plus.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE

At the new Peace Cafe, an all-vegan eatery on South King Street (across the street from Longs Drugs) there's more than just your typical meatless fare. It's a homestyle take on vegan food that turns health food into comfort food. Impossible, right? Actually, give Peace a chance because it just might surprise you ó and pleasantly. Menu offerings like the hearty teriyaki tempeh sandwich, the Moroccan stew and the Peace Tart ó a tofu cheesecake ó are all proof that eating healthy doesn't have to mean going hungry.

PEACE CAFE

2239 S. King St.

www.peacecafehawaii.com

951-7555

Hours: 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily

SMALL BITES

OH, FOR PIG'S SAKE!

A big surprise while lunching in Waikํkํ: The crispy pork ($12.95) at Kani Ka Pila Grille (2169 Kalia Road, 924-4992) in the Outrigger Reef Hotel. It's kalua pig, pressed into a patty and sauteed till crisp on both sides. They cut it into bite-sized chunks and place it atop a bed of diced tomatoes and Maui onions. Someone please pass the poi. ó Melissa Chang