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San Clemente Journal

Hulaville Island Café & Company Store - Hawaiian Foods and Products Come to San Clemente

Feb 01, 2010 10:11PM ● By Don Kindred

Story and Photos by Bill Koelzer

When the Hawaiian tourism industry tanked, Jean Navarra, was a top executive who’d worked with some of the islands’ most prestigious events, attractions and U.S mainland restaurant firms.

Laid off, she consulted for a year and when the economy did not pick up she took a bold step. She sold her Oahu, Hawaii home and moved to San Clemente. But she wasn’t running away from her beloved Hawaii, her food service skills, or her marketing expertise (She is an American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year recipient).

No, she brought all that with her, brilliantly expressing it in décor and novel menu items in her new Hulaville Island Café and Company Store, which opened in North San Clemente on Sunday, March 29th, very near the corner of El Camino Real and Camino Capistrano.

“The Hawaiian way of life and the San Clemente way of life are very similar,” Navarra notes. And with Hulaville Island Café and Company Store, I’m blending these two cultures in many intriguing and palatable ways that both San Clementeans and expatriate Hawaiians should love. “For example, our corner waterfall here in the restaurant needed a name, so it is now called Kalemena Falls, and Kalemena means “Clemente” in Hawaiian.”

Hulaville’s all-inclusive island décor grabs you the minute you walk in - tiki carvings, bamboo, exotic flowers and foliage, carved wooden masks and sea turtles, and a bamboo and thatched grass menu board that is just too artistically beautiful for merely listing the thematic restaurant’s scores of exotic sandwiches, pizzas, salads, shakes, pies, desserts, and much more.

Jean Navarra calls all of it homage to Polynesian pop culture. “Hulaville is a little bit of island life mixed with a little bit of fantasy – a whimsical, magical haven for anyone who would really rather be kicking back in a tropical paradise.

“The flavors and spices of the favorite foods of the Hawaiian Islands are integrated into everyone’s favorite comfort foods: Kalua Pork, Kahuku Shrimp, Huli Huli Chicken and more become delicious pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Specialty tropical milkshakes include: Pina Colada, Lilikoi-Raspberry, Mango Orange and Strawberry Guava.” Her pies get baked fresh daily - Macadamia Nut Pie, Chocolate Haupia Pie, Lilikoi Cream Pie, Pineapple Cheesecake Pie and more.

Navarra’s restaurant is in no way traditional, she says. “Everyone who tries to do a Hawaiian style restaurant is usually doing the same thing - ‘a plate lunch.’ And when you concentrate mostly on that, you miss a lot of the little oddities that make Hawaii such a fun place to dine. One of these oddities is the waffle dog.

“When guests here see “waffle dog” on our menu, most ask what it is. It resembles a corn dog - but on a waffle dog, the waffle batter is forged under pressure and baked onto a hot dog using a special machine. The sweetness of the waffle compliments the spicy tanginess of the hot dog, and the combination of those opposite flavors makes for a truly tasty item that everyone loves the first time that they try one. I think that’s what’s really so unique about Hawaii’s foods...often the opposite tastes combine to attract. And let me say now that unlike with a corn dog, nothing here is deep fried. We do absolutely no frying and use no cooking oil.

“Another example of “Hawaii unique” is the BLT Pizza: bacon and a blend of six cheeses are baked on the pizza, but then when it comes out of the oven, fresh chilled lettuce and tomatoes that have been tossed with ranch dressing are added to the top of the pizza.”

The “Company Store” part of the Hulaville Island Café name refers to the gift shop section filled with Hawaiian Islands imports. It sports Leihua Blossom and Macadamia Honey from the Big Island, flavored Sea Salts from the salt ponds of Molokai, handmade Soaps that include Ginger Poi and Guava from Kauai, and Hawaiian beer.

There are Kona coffee varieties from the Big Island, Taro Chips and Okinawan Sweet Potato Chips from Oahu, Lilikoi mustards and jams from Kauai, Macadamia Nut Oils from Maui, and a line of tropical floral Colognes including Pikake Jasmine and Maui Tea Rose.

The store also features a variety of colorful, ceramic Tiki drinking mugs designed and sculpted by famous surf/tiki artists. These are from world-famous, San Clemente-based manufacturer, Tiki Farm. Yet another Hawaii-San Clemente blend.

Navarra’s years of food service and expert marketing experience in feeding and caring for both tourists and island people gives her a one-up on most entrepreneurs who have the courage to start their own restaurant.

For 22 years, she applied her skills at firms that handle hundreds of thousands of tourists a year in the U.S. mainland and in Hawaii. Most recently, she was Program Development Manager of MC&A-Hawaii, the largest Destination Management and Event Company there, where she created detailed proposals for groups coming to Hawaii, planning everything from lodging, transportation & theme parties, to underwater cocktail parties on submarines, dinners at an abandoned sugar mill in the middle of the jungle with strolling gypsy musicians, and helicopter trips to a picnic at a private waterfall.

Before that, she was Director of Marketing & Business Development, Pacific Aviation Museum, Hawaii. She was Food & Beverage Director, The Plaza Club, Honolulu, Hawaii, and before that, she was Director of Business Development, Sea Life Park, Hawaii.

Before Hawaii, during the late ‘80s and early 1990s, she was Attractions Food Service Manager, The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California; Food Service Manager, Catalina Express, San Pedro, California; Catering Manager, Officers Club, Long Beach Naval Station; and Restaurant Manager, Sheraton Plaza La Reina, Los Angeles.

Whew! If anyone can introduce a successful Hawaiian-theme restaurant in San Clemente, Jean Navarra should be able to.b


Prices at Hulaville range from $3.75 - $18.95, beer and wine are served, and dress is casual. Hulaville Island Café is located in the Shorecliffs Plaza on Camino Capistrano, and can be contacted at 949 369 1905, [email protected] or seen on the website