Gorilla in the Cafe: Flexing Hawaiian Coffee Muscles in Waikiki

  • Home
  • Coffee
  • Gorilla in the Cafe: Flexing Hawaiian Coffee Muscles in Waikiki
Coffee Honolulu

Gorilla in the Cafe is an ambitious Waikiki coffee bar at the base of a bank building.

Waikiki has to be one of the most touristy areas on the planet, with people from across the globe spilling over sidewalks. The Honolulu hotel and shopping district sure has its share of chains, but some focused culinary specialists are hidden in plain sight. On my most recent trip to Hawaii, I was staying at the Waikiki Parc Hotel. Around the corner, a strange sight caught my eye, a flashy green La Marzocco espresso machine. Spotting top-flight coffee equipment signaled serious coffee at VG Gallery Studio Cafe in Taipei, and that same indicator led to some of the best coffee I’ve had in Hawaii, at Gorilla in the Cafe.

Korean actor Bae Yong Joon opened his glass-fronted cafe in July. He also owns a restaurant in Seoul called Gorilla in the Kitchen and respects the animal’s health and strength. The interior features reclaimed wood walls and houses the aforementioned La Marzocco, two Mazzer grinders, a Bonmac pourover coffee bar, and a healthy retail presence. The gorilla also serves shave ice, but we were happy to enjoy that Hawaiian treat elsewhere.

Coffee Honolulu

I started with 100% Hawaiian Hand Pourover, that Pahala-based Isla Custom Coffees roasted.

Coffee Menu Honolulu

A menu near the register features seven different selections that might include Maui Red Catuai, Ka’u Washed Typica and Kona Magarogype. It’s not often to see the coffee varietal featured so prominently on a menu. Clearly, the gorilla enjoys educating customers.

Coffee Honolulu

Maui Mokka Peaberry ($4.66) promised “flavors of lychee, hibiscus, rose, orange and chocolate.”

Peaberry was bright, and fairly floral, but does anybody ever really sense exactly the same tasting notes as the label dictates? A barista named Sam filled me in and prepared my coffee.

Coffee Honolulu

Honolulu’s Downtown Coffee roasted a four-bean espresso blend, including beans from Big Island, Maui and Oahu. Sam pulled a smooth shot that was satisfyingly bright, without much bitterness.

Coffee Honolulu

Of course Gorilla in the Cafe sells bags of coffee to go, in case you want to take the experience elsewhere. Apparently it’s also possible to be a gorilla at home.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

[…] likely to spot a Korean pop star. Why, you ask? Gorilla in the Cafe is the work of K-drama star Bae Yong Joon. He also has a restaurant in Korea named Gorilla in the […]

Leave a Comment