I had meant to write a review of a new brunch spot in Puck’s Alley weeks ago — but I kept going back to eat there.
I guess that’s a good sign.
The Nook Neighborhood Bistro opened earlier this summer in the former space of Southern eatery Kiss My Grits in Puck’s Alley near the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa campus. I had heard about it through, of all things, Instagram. A friend who follows me saw my recent posts about two other brunch spots, Koko Head Cafe in Kaimukī and Tucker & Bevvy in Kapahulu. He told me about The Nook and I promised to go.
I went — then I went two more times.
The menu here features breakfast and brunch items all day, using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients like local eggs, produce, milk and meats. The 700-square-foot restaurant is run by childhood friends Hailey Berkey and Anicea Campanale — both 27 and from California. They both come from families who run their own businesses, so entrepreneurship was in their blood.
In order to raise money to open the restaurant, they used the crowd-funding platform Foodstart, which helps restaurants and food trucks to raise capital online in small amounts. The pair was able to raise more than $12,000.
So why brunch?
“Over the last few years, we have seen the burgeoning brunch scene on O‘ahu,” says Berkey, a self-trained cook, “and we saw the opportunity to bring some new flavors and combinations to standard breakfast here.”
Like the popular kale Benedict ($10) with poached eggs and sautéed kale atop an English muffin and hollandaise sauce. Or the haupia oatmeal ($6) with coconut milk rolled oats, apple bananas and coco nibs. Or — my favorite — the Asian pear grilled cheese ($9) with sharp cheddar cheese, Asian pear and caramelized onions on ciabatta.
“The Nook menu is all your favorite breakfast, brunch and lunch with a modern twist,” Berkey says. “The atmosphere in the restaurant is modern yet cozy, and the menu reflects the feeling you get when you walk inside the front door.”
If you can find it. It’s hidden inside Puck’s Alley with no street frontage. You won’t know it’s there unless you literally drive in and look for it.
“At first when we saw that this space was available, we were concerned that it was tucked away from street view,” she says. “However, it wasn’t long before we embraced the quaintness and hidden qualities and imagined the perfect name for it — the Nook.”
While the menu features a variety of brunch options, it’s also got a few salads. This one is my favorite: the kobocha spinach salad ($9) with roasted pumpkin, baby spinach, lehua honey-glazed pecans and sweet ‘Ewa onions with a miso vinaigrette.
And here’s one of the most popular dishes at Nook: the mochiko chicken and mochi waffles ($12.50), mochi buttermilk waffles paired with mochiko chicken and a bacon maple syrup. I haven’t been there without seeing just about every table order this dish. It’s THAT popular.
Stay tuned: the restaurant is planning to expand its lunch offerings, add more daily specials and — wait for it — get a liquor license.
It will only get better!
The Nook Neighborhood Bistro, Puck’s Alley, 1035 University Ave. Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily except Mondays. Phone: 808-942-2222.