Community, Cuisine And Cocktails
A celebration of community is the underlying spirit at a new pub called The Feral Pig. Located on the ground floor of Harbor Mall in Nawiliwili, the pub is a snap to pop into for a quick meal or an old-fashioned cocktail, made to order.
Owners Scott Kessinger and Dave Power renovated the old Tiki Room and opened the pub last August. Power had just left a fouryear stint at Honolulu’s esteemed Town Kaimuki, where he was the bartender.
“Town was amazing for me,” Power says of the restaurant that showcases regional products. “You know the people coming in the door, you know the people who grow the food, and you get to be the person in between. [Town] didn’t just serve the community in terms of being a restaurant, it served the community because we knew the people who grew the food.”
Inspired to foster a community of his own, Power shaped that philosophy into the foundation of The Feral Pig. Outside the pub, a handwritten list proudly displays today’s local purveyors: Pua Kalo Farm, Kaua’i Fresh Farms, Passion Bakery, Uncle Jerry’s Beef and Terry’s Spices.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu is a mix of local favorites, upscale small plates and gourmet dinners. Everything is made from scratch, from biscuits and gravy to mustards, pickles, kalua pork and french fries that take three days to make.
If you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, try Kalua Pork Hash served with two eggs and two slices of toast. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the pork patty also has potato, onion and red bell pepper. It’s topped with caramelized Kaua’i Fresh Farms apple bananas that add a bright and tangy sweetness.
Lunch offers meaty sandwiches such as the 100 percent Kaua’i Ground Beef Burger with Cheddar and bacon ($11). It’s a juicy mouthful topped with a thick slice of Cheddar cheese, fat slices of Kilauea tomato and crispy strips of bacon. The light and fluffy buns are made especially for Power and stay together to the last bite. Flecks of salt cling to the golden fries, and a housemade pickle stands up to the bite.
For a 100 percent Kaua’isourced pupu, try the Kaua’i Shrimp small plate ($11) with taro and a green salad. Pa’i’ai (a thick, sticky paste made from pounding cooked taro) is from taro farmer Adam Asquith. The sweetness of the shrimp plays off the taro, creating a unique and delicious combination.
Power blends old-fashioned drinks from vintage recipes, and these libations have layers of complexity that are beyond sugar and alcohol. Classic cocktails include the 161 year-old Sazerac, a New Orleans variation of an Old Fashioned. Steeped concoctions are tucked along the bar’s nooks and crannies; an infusion of local rum and hibiscus fill one Mason jar. Charred cedarwood, apples and Campari fill another.
With a steady hand and steely focus, Power strains the Campari mixture into a measure. He’s making The MacGuffin, a smooth, earthy drink that reminds me of African red tea, except it packs a punch.
It’s not on the menu yet, but if you ask him, he’ll make you one.
The woodsy smell of smoldering kiawe curls through the bar as Power explains that tiki bars and Mai Tais originated in California. There is some dispute over who invented the Mai Tai, Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic’s or Donn Beach of Don the Beachcomber’s. Power uses Vic’s 1944 recipe at The Feral Pig.
“This is a four-ingredient drink,” he explains, and adds rum to a rocks glass. After juicing a fresh lime, he reaches into a small fridge and pulls out a bottle of house-made orgeat, an essential Mai Tai ingredient made of almond milk. Filling a bag with ice, he whacks it with a wooden pestle, then adds the ice to the glass and tops it with Cruzan Black Strap Rum. The drink is a little tart, not too sweet, and the dark rum is rich and aromatic with notes of molasses.
“The drinks are made in a neighborhood restaurant,” says Power. “The ingredients on the menu are grown on Kaua’i. We wanted to open a pub that was about Kaua’i, about the people who live here.”
The Feral Pig
3501 Rice St., Lihu’e
Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.