Ohana is key ingredient at this eatery
By Nicole Kato
Since 2014, Plantation Tavern has been serving up ono grinds that elicit feelings of nostalgia and the warmth that only a home-cooked meal made with love can bring. That premise, intertwined with the restaurant’s desire to pay homage to its location — on a former plantation field in Kapolei — incorporates on the menu popular foods of immigrant workers who once called the area home.
“We have Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino food,” said Adam Gilbert, who co-owns the establishment with wife Sonia “Sunny” Gilbert. Expect dishes like Especial Bagoong Fried Rice, Shrimp & Pork Lumpia Shanghai, Steamed Fish with lup cheong, and more — including house-made ketchup and desserts like Pineapple Upside Down Cake and a Big Island Cacao Brownie.
Gilbert, for his part, is a French-trained chef, who wanted the menu to reflect not only the cultures historically represented, but also the style in which people ate. Plantation Tavern dishes, therefore, are meant to be shared in a la carte fashion.
“It should be family-style because workers used to sit down with their kau kau tins and share food,” Gilbert added.
That focus on creating family with those around you is another important building block in Plantation Tavern’s foundation. The Gilberts make sure that their restaurant is all about ohana, and that includes their employees, who have become hanai family. And, he added, the doors are always open for more people to join the clan.
“I feel like the restaurant is my house,” said Gilbert, who’s also the head chef. “If I’m inviting people to my house, my staff has to be part of that.”
To foster that feeling of togetherness, the Gilberts plan quarterly outings for their staff, ranging from beach barbecues to farm tours at Kahumana Farm and Honolulu BeerWorks.
That family-oriented mentality extends to the community, as well, and Plantation Tavern is proud of its collaboration with Kahumana Farm, which provides the restaurant with organic produce.
“Their partnership is key for us,” Gilbert explained. “Because of the amount they do for the community, we really wanted to be part of that and support them.”
Helping out local businesses is just par for the course for the Gilberts, who also source local libations at its bar, including Koloa Rum, Paniolo Blended Whiskey, PAU Maui Vodka, Kapena Tequila and more.
Gilbert knows that not everyone works the standard 9-to-5 shift and made the choice early on to have extended dinner hours until midnight Tuesday-Sunday . (Last call for food is 11:45 p.m.) It’s a great place for people getting off later shifts to grab a bite to eat and wind down, and the abundance of food and beverage choices also is good news for employees, who receive a discount on meals. It’s just another way in which the Gilberts try to help out their extended family.
“I feel that we are a unique work environment, especially for the westside,” Gilbert said. “We all know each other’s children, we know each other’s parents, we know when one of us is struggling. We’re very family-oriented.”
Launching soon is Plantation Tavern’s Hui Hookup. According to Gilbert, it’ll be a built menu for a discounted rate for families. Keep up with the restaurant online — from job opportunities to restaurant happenings — at plantationtavern.com.
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LAWRENCE TABUDLO PHOTOS
COMPANY: Plantation Tavern
LOCATION: 590 Farrington Hwy., Kapolei
OWNERS: Adam and Sonia “Sunny” Gilbert
BENEFITS: 401(k), full medical coverage, bonuses and competitive wages
NOTEWORTHY: 2016 Ilima Awards winner