The cuisine and culture of the Hawaiian Islands are coming to downtown Olympia.
The Lanai Café — at 514 Capitol Way S., next to Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters — is scheduled to open later this month.
The restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch, and plans to host a concerts and performances. A luau brunch will be served from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, and there are plans for workshops in hula, lei making, family values, cooking, ukulele and slack-key guitar.
Menu items will include Loco Moco, Pineapple Fried Rice, Spam Musabi, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Coconut Shrimp and Kalua Pork.
Owner Charlie Wilkins may not be the obvious owner of a Hawaiian-themed dining spot: He is originally from Nebraska but has lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than 20 years. His wife, Kami, is a majority shareholder who designed the signage and logo materials.
But Wilkins’s business partners, Gloria and Bill Nahalea, are both Hawaiian and have been in the business some 30 years. Bill is from Maui, and Gloria is from Oahu.
Gloria Nahalea came to Seattle to obtain her business management degree and has been spreading Hawaiian history and culture through teaching and entertaining for about 40 years. She has performed at hundreds of luaus and even won a Governor’s Heritage Award.
Gloria Nahalea — who will serve as the food, beverage and entertainment manager — said, “We have shave ice and all the goodies and delicious desserts. It’s all unique food you won’t see in any other Hawaiian restaurant.”
Wilkins said there’s quite a strong connection between Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, but while there are Hawaiian restaurants in Seattle, none are this far south.. So, this is a strategic move that brings something new to the area, he said.
In Olympia, Gloria Nahalea said she’s surprised to have encountered so many people who have never visited the Hawaiian Islands.
“I’m just excited that we’re going to be able to offer the experience of Hawaii and local folks here get to feel why so many people flock over to the islands. We’re able to capture some of that magic and bring it here,” she said.
The Lanai will open Aug. 31, but its official grand opening celebration — with a Thurston County Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony — will be Sept. 19.
Nahalea said The Lanai already has reservations booked for the first several weeks.
“I know people who come will walk away happy. That’s the Hawaiian way.”
Nahalea said renovations to The Lanai space are underway and all of the equipment is being installed. The floors — which are 100 years old — are still being restored.
“The first time I stepped into the space, I liked the feeling of it, I felt good here,” she said.
Vida Zvirzdys-Farler, executive director of the Olympia Downtown Association, said,
“We are excited about The Lanai coming in downtown. The owners are very friendly and excited about being here,” she said.
“Capitol Way is such a wonderful street, so they’ve got a great location. It’s a beautiful space, and I think they plan to maximize the architectural features for their business.”
Zvirzdys-Farler said The Lanai team has already reached out to partner with other businesses downtown for events and become part of the community.
Nahalea said, “We’re in a little slice of Hawaii every time we walk in here ... but you don’t want to wear your bikini because the only thing we don’t have is sand and water.”
Natalie DeFord: 360-754-5444
More information: call 360-584-9885 or go to thelanaicafe.com.
Hours starting Aug. 31: 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, with a luau brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m.