Tutuâ€™s: Great Grub And Funky Vibe
Dining at Tutu’s Soup Hale is like going to your grandma’s house for a comforting breakfast or lunch – if your grandma is an eccentric artist who loves jazz, that is.
Located in the Kinipopo Shopping Village in Kapa’a, Tutu’s Soup Hale serves up fresh, home-cooked meals in a distinctly individual and charming cafe.
From a distance, Tutu’s’ colorful exterior looks inviting: orange steps flanked by white posts and topped with blue handrails line the perimeter, and a hand-painted surfboard hangs on the railing proclaiming breakfast is available all day.
Inside, the rustic wood floors are a dark contrast to the light and airy room, and music fills the space. The 18-foot sloped, white ceiling is crossed with wood beams that are painted green, complementing the bright red walls.
Outside, the orange-planked walkway leads to the lanai. Large glass-topped tables sit under an immense banyan tree and customers enjoy lunch under its canopy.
With an entrepreneurial spirit, owners Bert and Sage McCluskey created Tutu’s Soup Hale with creative connection in mind. “It’s an exchange of different people meeting, everybody has something to offer,” Sage says. Their unique vision especially resonates with visiting travelers.
“It’s an international cafe!” Bert proclaims.
The festive, creative energy seeps into every corner of the hale and rests comfortably in the cozy back room. Peacock feathers spring from a vase that sits on a stained and polished tree trunk. Tutu’s extended ohana relax and talk story over a cup of French-press coffee in the renovated beer cooler-turned-lounge. The back wall is lined with black-and-white photos of musicians who have influenced Bert.
“If anyone can name every musician on the wall, I’ll buy them a bowl of soup,” he says.
Sage recalls the beginnings of the hale, when it was just a whisper.
“My first Christmas present to Bert was a ceramic bowl because he loved soup.” Her eyes sparkle at the recollection. “It was colorful and painted blue like the bottom of the ocean, and it had a crab and seahorse painted inside.” She smiles and continues, “I signed the bottom Mele Kalikimaka, and 10 years later, look where we are.”
The idea for a soup house was inspired by more than Bert’s love for soup. “We live in one of the wettest spots on the planet,” Sage says. “Rain and soup go hand-in-hand!”
Bert is quick to ladle out a sample of soup to new, inquisitive customers glancing at the chalkboard menu. “We cook what we like to eat,” Sage says. She encourages folks to get creative, suggesting mixing and matching the soup flavors.
Sitting in the comfortable padded chairs, my husband Dan and I watch the rain come down in sheets while sipping a cup of kava. The fun and funky vibe blended with the kava melts away any stress, and aromas from the kitchen make our tummies grumble.
Leo DuBois, a longtime customer and favorite at Tutu’s, brought the McCluskeys some bread-fruit from his yard. Bert turned it into a rich and rustic bowl of cream of ‘ulu soup ($6.95 a bowl, $4.95 a cup). The steaming bowl of soup has chunky pieces of soft ‘ulu floating in a snow-white soup that’s flecked with black pepper.
Today’s special is Cashew Basil Pate ($8.95) served with fresh grapes and toast points. Specially made by a local baker, the crunchy herb-flecked bread contrasts nicely with the Pate. Sweet with soft, little bits of cashew still intact, fresh basil and a hint of garlic infuse the delectable spread.
Meaty and saucy, the Portobello Panini ($7.95) is a male-inspired vegetarian sandwich. The beefy mushroom is marinated with secret ingredients. Grilled and topped with barbecue sauce, melted mozzarella oozes between the toasted bread.
Sage created the Curry Egg Salad Sandwich ($7.95) when Tutu’s hosted a tea party featuring local Da Cha tea. The addictive egg salad is sweet with the addition curry; its cool and creamy insides are the perfect foil for the toasted bread.
In a stroke of genius, the Potato Boat ($7.95) is instantly gratifying with creamy potato morsels blanketed in Cheddar cheese, topped with mild organic salsa and cool sour cream. The ultimate in comfort food!
The atmosphere is inspiring: Art openings, belly dancers and poetry readings all have made their way through the eclectic eatery. The McCluskeys rent out Tutu’s for special occasions. Bill Fernandez, author of Rainbows Over Kapa’a, had his book-signing party there.
Warm and inviting, you get a sense that you’ll be taken care of.
“It’s what you would get if you went to Grandma’s,” Sage says. With homey combinations like grilled cheese and tomato soup and the couple’s charismatic personalities, it’s like getting a big hug from Tutu.
Tutu’s Soup Hale 4-356 Kuhio Hwy. Kapa’a Monday-Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Breakfast served all day
639-6312 Vegetarian, vegan, raw
and gluten-free options available