Rebel Kitchen With a Cause: A Little Louisiana in KainaliuTown
After eating at Rebel Kitchen a few times, I got curious about why it was so named. So, I asked. As it turns out, its owners, Randy Martin and Gabby Bermudez:
- Decided to move from the Bay Area to the Big Island
- Decided to open a restaurant (a tough business)
- Decided to do these things during a recession
Family and friends cautioned them, but they felt (here we go) rebellious about their decision and moved forward anyway. Thus, Rebel Kitchen was born.
The rebellion was not quelled yet, though. Wanting Rebel to offer its own baked goods, Bermudez taught herself to bake. (I was so taken with their baked goods that I asked a waitress who their supplier was.)
The menu they put together was also anything but traditional. Martin, who has Creole roots, placed several Cajun-inspired items on the menu. My fellow food reviewer, Karen Rose, recommends the Jambalaya ($17.75). We’re also fans of the Blackened Ono with Cajun Mayonnaise ($13) and the Cajun Shrimp Pasta ($18.50).
I love a well-composed salad. If you do, check out the BBQ Chicken ($12.99) or the Chef ($12.99), which are almost too pretty to eat. New on the menu, which I cannot wait to try, is a Carnitas salad featuring pulled pork with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette ($12.99).
Also new to the menu are two items guaranteed to please: The Poke Burger ($16.95) sports fresh slaw, veggies, wasabi aioli and furikake. The second new item is Lomo Saltado ($17.75), which is a Peruvian-style stir fry featuring local Big Island grass-fed rib eye.
The menu is not all about Louisiana, however. Hawai‘i has had had an impact on The Rebel’s cuisine, from use of Big Island grass-fed beef and local produce to beverages like Mehana beer, Kona coffee and Big Island kombocha. Follow any of these up with Bermudez’s homemade cookies, cupcakes, Salvadoran sweet bread or lilikoi cheesecake.
The couple also produces their own ketchup and hot sauce (“fire sauce”). I pondered the secret ingredients, but eventually had to ask. I won’t spoil the surprise. See if you can guess what delicious, local items are incorporated. Both are available either in the restaurant or online.
Rebel Kitchen features both indoor and outdoor dining. We have always chosen indoor, which is cool and comfortable, but lots of folks seem to enjoy the outdoor picnic tables. The clientele is a mix of both local, repeat customers and visitors; the staff is friendly and willing to explain the menu items.
Rebel Kitchen is located at 79-7399 Māmalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, Hawai‘i.
Phone: (808) 322-0616.
Open Monday–Sunday, 11 a.m.– 8 p.m.
Parking: Street. Casual. Happy Hour: 4–6 p.m.