LIHUE, Hawaii (KHON2) — Tucked away on a quiet street in Lihue, Kauai is a restaurant that has been bustling for 105 years.
Tip Top Cafe has incredibly loyal customers.
Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You
“We come here evenings, lunch time, breakfast, doesn’t really matter,” said Samuel Keopuhiwa, a long-time customer.
While there are many delicious items on the menu, Tip Top Cafe is famous for two dishes.
“Our number one seller is our oxtail soup and pancakes that are made from scratch from my grandfather’s original recipe,” said owner Jonathan Ota.
The food, and the workers have customers constantly coming back for more.
“Friendly! It’s a family atmosphere here. Ohana,” Ramona Lapilio said, describing Tip Top Cafe.
Tip Top Cafe and Bakery was started in 1916.
“They needed some place to have breakfast and drink coffee, so they asked my grandfather to start a coffee shop,” said Ota said about how the family business got started.
In 1965, Jonathan Ota’s grandfather had a feeling Kauai would some day be a popular tourist destination. So, he built a 34-room motel attached to the famous restaurant.
“At that time, people thought he was crazy, but it turns out to be a good decision,” Ota explained.
Today, Jonathan, a fourth generation Ota, runs the family business.
“The obligation of continuing the family business was what brought me back,” Jonathan said.
Since he’s been back, Jonathan Ota has endured two major hardships.
First it was Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
“It was almost a million dollars of damage on our property alone,” Ota said about Hurricane Iniki. “Not to mention the island and when tourism didn’t come back, it took so long, so it was a long road to recover to this point.”
Next was the COVID-19 pandemic, and Kauai businesses haven’t had it easy.
The garden island was largely closed to tourists for much of 2020, and still, it’s tough.
“Because of the six feet distance in the restaurant, of course the numbers are down, but we’re trying to make some of that up with the curbside delivery and our take out,” Ota said.
On top of the restrictions, now Tip Top is having to deal with shipping delays and supply chain shortages. Every day items like cooking oil can be hard to get.
“The prices are going up, but not only that, we can’t even get the products that we need,” he said.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Ota is pushing through for his family’s legacy, his customers, but most importantly his ohana.
Stolen jewels, boa constrictors killing owners, check out Weird News here
“We really have an obligation to continue Tip Top for our employees,” he said. “This is how they support their families. So we have 30 families that we are responsible for. So we have to keep on going so we can keep them going.”