Hulaville Island Café & Company Store in San Clemente provides a little corner of Hawaii in both delicious foods and atmosphere. It’s easy to see why owner Jean Navarra’s slogan is “Living Aloha Every Day.”
Hulaville is a breath of fresh air, located less than a block away from Pacific Coast Highway and the inviting beach. Its location on Camino Capistrano may seem far from the heart of Orange County and the café’s mini-strip center location may seem quirky, but it’s worth the drive and the hunt. Once you step inside the distinctly, but tastefully decorated café, strains of Hawaiian music from traditional to nostalgic (Annette Funicello’s Pineapple Princess) put visitors in a relaxed mood.
It appears at Hulaville there is no such thing as “eat this, not that”—unless you’re arguing over what item is best.
The story behind Hulaville
The 10-week old café was open by Navarra because she missed Hawaii. She had lived on Oahu for 13 years and calls herself “an economic refugee from Hawaii.” After a layoff in Hawaii and a stint at consulting for about one year for the tourism and hospitality industry, she made the move to San Clemente.
“I created my own Hawaii,” she said. The food and store products imported from Hawaii to support small Hawaiian businesses are part of her tribute. The cafe draws locals, tourists and displaced Hawaiians.
Among items in the company store section of the restaurant are salts from Molokai, Hawaiian Sun brand products, passion fruit mustards from Kauai, Auntie Ina soaps, Phil and Wendi honey products (such as Macadamia nut blossom), and cookbooks by Oahu author Cheryl Chee-Tsutsumi. Other items include Taro chips, jams and Aloha Soy Sauce, which has been made in Hawaii since 1946.
Hawaiian menu selection
Let’s just say everything tried has been fabulous. It’s hard to know where to begin.
The menu includes sandwiches priced from $8 to $9, salads from $8 to $9 and pizzas 7-inch ($6.95) and 12-inch size ($13.95 to $17.95). The not-your-usual pizzas include such toppings as Kalua pork, garlic shrimp, teriyaki glazed chicken, jerked chicken and Portuguese sausage.
Other menu items include garlic cheese balls, rice bowls (Zippy’s Chili & Rice for $5.50 and Garlic Shrimp & Rice for $7.50).
Beverages: The café also serves Hawaiian beer (such as Primo, Mehana, Kona and others) and Hawaiian Sun beverages. Milkshakes and malts ($4.75) flavors include Mango Orange, Passionfruit Guava, Lilikoi Vanilla, and the more in addition to traditional flavors.
Desserts offered are freshly baked Macadamia Nut Pie, Chocolate Haupia (a traditional Hawaiian coconut pudding), pineapple cheesecake pie and more.
Hawaiian food surprises
There are a few surprises such as the macaroni salad—Maui Mac. This creation of the owner is sweet, but subtle. Ingredients include coconut, celery, pineapple and macadamia nuts. Spam Mac, a spicier version, is available.
Waffle Dogs ($3.75). This Oahu specialty got its start in the 1920s at the KC Drive-in. Don’t even think “corn dog.” This is a hot dog wrapped in sweet waffle batter then baked. Yes, baked, not deep-fried. It’s served with Lilikoi mustard and pineapple-mango salsa.
The Kanaka Sandwich is made with Kalua Pork, melted Gouda and Hawaiian BBQ sauce. It is served on a Hawaiian bun. Price $8.50. Taste: succulent.
Da Big Sausage Sandwich with Portuguese sausage imported from Hawaii. Melted cheddar and green onions add to the flavor. Price $8.50. Taste: mouthwatering.
Hana Salad is made with teriyaki glazed chicken. It includes mushrooms, green onions and a sesame ginger orange dressing. Price $8.00. Taste: refreshing.
Hulaville Island Café & Company Store is located at 2720 Camino Capistrano, San Clemente (in Shorecliffs Plaza, ½ block from PCH). 949-369-1905.
Hours: Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.