Poi Dog Deli: Where Friends Gather to Enjoy the Aloha

September 30, 2019, 10:58 AM HST (Updated October 6, 2019, 12:47 AM)
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Poi Dog Deli’s Farmer Tag’s Loaded Veggie Sandwich. Photo by Karen Rose

“What’s a poi dog?”

This is a question often asked of Celeste and Taylor Cline, owners of Kona’s newest sandwich and grub establishment.

“A poi dog is a mutt or person who is of blended nature,” said Celeste. “I’m from Arizona, and Taylor is from Louisiana. Now we both live in Hawai‘i. So when we were deciding what kind of food to serve, we were deciding between Southwestern and Cajun. Then we realized we couldn’t leave out Hawai‘i. So we mushed them together and called it Poi Dog Deli. Our sandwiches have influences from each of these places.”

This fusion of culinary cultures makes for unique and delicious creations, like Poi Dog’s Notorious P.I.G. sandwich. This creation marries hickory-smoked ham, pepper jack cheese, grilled local pineapple and fresh jalapeno peppers on sourdough bread. The couple isn’t new to the restaurant business, with both of them spending years in the foodservice industry.

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“We both have worked for restaurants forever,” said Celeste. “My parents own a restaurant in Arizona and my brother also owns one in Arizona. I’ve worked at all of them. We’ve also both worked in many restaurants here on the island since moving here. We went from working in small restaurants to working in large resorts.”

Celeste and Taylor Cline, owners of Poi Dog Deli. Photo by Karen Rose

The couple put in their time working long hours at resort properties and realized they were working in a community that really wasn’t their own. It was then they made the decision to open their own restaurant within the community they lived in.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What does Kona need?’” said Taylor. “We realized Kona had no sandwiches, so we decided to make some sandwiches. Also, I wasn’t nervous about making sandwiches. So, we got together with one of our chef friends once a week for about a year and focused on one sandwich at a time, until it was perfect.

Every sandwich and salad on the menu was created this way—one at a time, for as long as it took to meet their standard of perfection.

“Until we knew it was perfect, we wouldn’t move on past it, which made our friend very unhappy,” Celeste joked. “She had to eat a lot of cheese sandwiches. We wanted blow-your-mind good.”

Poi Dog Deli’s Tomato Bisque. Photo by Karen Rose.

Celeste and Taylor are proud that Poi Dog Deli is simple, comfortable and welcoming. There’s no theme—just original, everyday good food. With plenty of flavors to choose from and an impressive beer menu, it is fast becoming a place where friends gather to share aloha and delicious food.

“We put a lot of thought and work into the taste as opposed to the cost, and that’s why are sandwiches are (worth) every single penny,” said Celeste. “Because they taste really good.”

Using only fresh, local ingredients, Poi Dog Deli stands out as an eatery with creative sandwiches not available anywhere else in Kona. It’s the place to go for tasty food, a comfortable atmosphere and lots of aloha.

Their most popular sandwich is the Reuben, made with pastrami, swiss, house-made Thousand Island and grainy mustard sauerkraut on rye bread. Veggie lovers will enjoy the Farmer Tag’s Loaded Veggie Sandwich made with avocado, beets, sweet onions, local tomatoes, local greens, grainy mustard aioli, pepper jack and cheddar cheese on toasted, local 12-grain bread.

Poi Dog Deli’s Mardi Gras Wrap. Photo by Karen Rose

We love the vibe and the energy we’ve created here. Even when musicians come in to perform, they feel like they are playing for friends.”

It’s true. Hanging out at Poi Dog Deli is like spending time in your best friend’s living room, but with endless food options and a huge beer cooler. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Poi Dog Deli is located at 75-1022 Henry Street, across from Safeway.

Karen Rose
Karen Rose is a writer and journalist living on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Her writing focuses on food, wine, travel, arts and entertainment. She never met a food she didn't like—except black licorice.
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