AN AMERICAN BRASSERIE

One of Kaimuki’s most popular and long-standing restaurants, 12th Ave Grill has been through some transformations and a relocation over the years. However, during its tenure the restaurant has focused on living up to its self-identified American brasserie theme. A brasserie is typically a French restaurant with a more casual setting that still serves a full menu of plated dishes. In keeping with the typical brasserie atmosphere, the interior of the restaurant has a relaxed and warm feel. When it comes to the food, 12th Ave Grill replaces French fare with its own local twist on American cuisine.

Bar seating at 12th Ave Grill
Bar seating with specials menu boards

AMERICAN CUISINE WITH A LOCAL TWIST

The menu at 12th Ave Grill reads similarly to what I would’ve come across in my years living in the midwest, but with some local Hawaii flare. The ingredients and menu definitely have a “farm-to-table” feel to them. Like many New American menus, 12th Avenue Grill’s food is influenced by a variety of cuisines.

Charcuterie board at 12th Ave Grill
Housemade Charcuterie Board ($18)

Charcuterie boards are slowly starting to become more popular on local menus and 12th Ave Grill’s offering features a variety of local products from producers like Pono Farms. All of the cured meats had rich, intense flavors of the respective proteins which include duck, pork, and chicken. The mushroom pate added an extra oomph of umami and the pickles provided acidic balance.

Smoked Ahi Bruschetta at 12th Ave Grill
Smoked Ahi Bruschetta - Grilled baguette, ahi spread, hearts of palm, house dried tomatoes ($12.50)

One of 12th Ave Grill’s signature appetizers, the smoked ahi bruschetta is a must-order. The rich, smokey ahi spread is well balanced by the heart of palm and dried tomatoes.

Baked macaroni and cheese at 12th Ave Grill
Baked Macaroni and Cheese with mushrooms ($9)

A side order item, the mac and cheese was rich and creamy. The breadcrumb topping added some texture while mushrooms contributed an earthy quality.

Grilled Pork Chop at 12th Ave Grill
Marinated 12 oz pork chop, crispy potato pancake, horseradish creme fraiche, chutney stuffed apple ($29.50)

Our server described this as the “dish that put 12th Ave Grill on the map”. The thick pork chop had a wonderful char on the outside, but remained tender and very moist. The marination flavored the thick chop throughout. As much as the pork chop is the star, the sides were also well executed. The crispy potato cake had a wonderful texture. The stuffed apple’s sweetness breaks up the savory and rich elements on the plate.

Niihau lamb burger at 12th Ave Grill
Housemade feta, havarti, fine herbs, preserved lemon, olive aioli, hand cut fries ($18)

Lamb burgers are far-and-few between in Hawaii so we were excited to give this one a try. The burger itself was well cooked to a still-juicy medium temperature. The patty was well seasoned and contained just a hint of gaminess from the lamb. We could have done without the preserved lemon, which added an out of place flavor note.

Fried Big Island Candy Apple Banana Split at 12th Ave Grill
Fried Big Island Candy Apple Banana Split - Mochiko & almond crust, vanilla gelato, Maui rum pineapple, sea salt caramel, whipped cream ($9)

This dessert was one of contrasts: hot and cold, sweet and salty, rich and tangy. The opposing elements did manage to come together nicely, which made for a satisfying end go our meal.

IN SUMMARY...

As much as I enjoy adventurous eats, sometimes you just want solid food and great service without the frills of the exotic or hypermodern. While the menu here isn’t going to necessarily challenge or expand your palate, there’s good reason why 12th Ave Grill continues to be a fixture in Kaimuki. The food is tasty, the service is warm and efficient, and the atmosphere is relaxed.

12th Ave Grill
1120 12th Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
Phone: 808-732-9469
www.12thavegrill.com