Wake me up
Like many folks, I start the day with plenty of hot, fresh coffee. These days, I prefer dark roasts which I grind at home and drink black and strong, but it wasn’t always this way. As a teenager—hanging out with friends at a diner and wanting to fit in—I sweetened the bitter, watery diner brew with plenty of cream and sugar. It wasn’t until a family trip to Hawaii that I first tasted Kona coffee and discovered what coffee could be. A later stint working as a barista provided even more insight, and from then on I was hooked on the good stuff.
Most coffee sold with “Kona” in the name is a blend of 10 percent Kona and 90 percent cheaper beans. However, the folks at Kona Gold Coffee say they’re roasting and serving 100 percent Kona beans, along with a rotating selection of other varieties ($27/lb for Kona, $16/lb for all others). Though I pass by the place every week, I realized I’d never tried their food or coffee. A big sign announcing a change in both management and menu was enough enticement for a visit.
My mug of medium-dark house blend ($1.63) possessed a nice balance of robust “wake me up” flavor, a hint of sweetness, and no bitter aftertaste. Definitely worth a 50 cent refill. A taste of the 100 percent Kona reminded me why it’s so prized. Kona Gold’s roast master has chosen a traditional medium roast, providing flavors that are nutty and smooth, with a hint of fruit, and a color just shy of milk chocolate brown ($3.50). My wife reported her medium latte as being “just right” ($3.12), though I felt the strawberry smoothie I tasted could have used less dairy and more fruit ($4.25).
Bolstered by beverages, we moved on to the food, starting with a breakfast scramble ($6.65), comprised of three eggs, freshly grilled chicken breast, tomato, bell pepper, cheddar and jack cheeses, and a slice of sourdough toast. The portion seemed a bit small for three eggs, perhaps because it hadn’t been fluffed up with milk or cream as such dishes often are. It did not lack for seasoning and the ingredients tasted very fresh.
Even better was a large chicken quesadilla stuffed with plenty of meat, onion, bell pepper, cheese and jalapeño, with a mild salsa on the side ($8.75). The tortilla was nicely browned and stayed crisp to the last bite, a pleasant surprise for a coffeehouse quesadilla. The flavors and texture were exactly what I look for in this cheesy treat.
Similarly, a turkey panini ($6.75), with Swiss cheese, onion, bell pepper, tomato, jalapeño, and avocado was the model of what a good panini should be. The sourdough was crunchy and grilled perfectly, and though all the flavors worked together in a very satisfying way, we couldn’t detect much—if any—jalapeño. A slightly less successful Kona club sandwich ($6.95) was filled with turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, mayo, and lettuce. The bacon was crispy and the flavors were balanced, but the barely toasted sourdough did little to hold the whole thing together. Tasty, but messy. Both sandwiches were served with a heaping pile of ruffled potato chips.
The only real issue we encountered was the amount of time it took to get our order. We purposely skipped the morning and lunch rushes, yet during our afternoon visit, we waited more than 20 minutes for drinks and twice that for food. During that time, there were just a couple of other customers in the place, so I’m not sure what caused the delays. Overall, the food and drinks were enjoyable and the surroundings were warm and friendly, so perhaps with more experience the new owners will find their groove. They definitely have it going on with that great cup o’ joe.