Only an hour past sunrise, a line already has formed outside Goofy Café + Dine in Waikīkī.
Tourists sneak a hearty breakfast in before they head out for a day of island excursions. Locals come in for coffee and loco moco – a hamburger patty served over rice topped with a fried egg and gravy. Even Makoto Hasegawa, director of operations for Zetton Inc., the burgeoning restaurant group that runs the café, stops by after his morning surf to recharge on an acai bowl before starting his workday.
As Oʻahu prepares to kick off its annual season of surf competitions this winter, Hasegawa and his staff have one dream: that legendary surfer Rob Machado will visit Hawaiʻi and their café to indulge in monster swells and the new special that they named after him: the Goofy Machado Acai Bowl.
Surfers from all over the world soon will flock to the North Shore of Oʻahu to compete in contests such as the revered Billabong Pipeline Masters. Both locals and tourists will bask in the island’s buzz. Restaurants will hang fan banners over their front doors, offer specials named after their favorite surfers, and show only surfing contests on their TVs.
Zetton Inc., which has launched six restaurants in Waikīkī on the island’s South Shore over the last decade, opened Goofy Café + Dine in 2013. The Japan-based group is a trio of surfers: CEO Kenichi Inamoto, COO Daisuke Kikuchi and Hasegawa. So they named the café after a surf spot less than a mile away, Ala Moana Bowls, famous for its left-hand wave adored by “goofy-foots” – surfers who ride with their right foot forward – and their favorite goofy-foot, Machado.
Machado competed against Kelly Slater at Pipeline in 1995. Their high-five in the water made history.
The Goofy Café + Dine team, about a third of them surfers, is already prepared for competition season. Although Machado no longer competes, he remains their hero. So the café is passionately featuring the Goofy Machado Acai Bowl as its surf special.
Chef Koki Yoshinaga prepares two cups of unsweetened acai blended with bananas, blueberries and strawberries to create the bowl’s base. He tops it with a heaping spoonful of peanut butter that he blends with yogurt to boost creaminess and nutrients. Manoa Chocolate cacao nibs, fresh, local papaya, chopped macadamia nuts, sliced banana, hemp-seed granola, and a drizzle of Big Island Bees raw honey complete the dish.
When planning the perfect dish to lure in a goofy-footed icon, it was a no-brainer. Acai bowls and surfing go together like peanut butter and jelly. The top purveyor of acai in the United States was founded by a Southern California surfer who discovered acai bowls in Brazil during a surfing trip.
Goofy Café + Dine’s staff has not confirmed whether Machado will be in town for this year’s surf competitions. But they remain hopeful that he will come enjoy his namesake bowl.
This playful, sweet spirit is what makes Zetton group so lovable as it expands its presence in Waikīkī. This vibe infuses everything from its food to its restaurant names to its staff’s treatment of guests and each other. The group even named itself after a Japanese science fiction TV show character.
Gimmicky dishes are common on Zetton menus. Goofy Café + Dine sells green spaghetti. Another of its Waikīkī restaurants, Aloha Steak House, serves ice cream cones that look like watermelon slices and local honey-lemonade in plastic honey bear bottles.
The energy in Zetton restaurants is infectious. Staff members greet diners with a loud “Alo-ha!” and visibly enjoy waiting tables. The café’s Instagram posts burst with bright colors, happy faces and “shakas,” a common Hawaiʻian hand gesture that symbolizes the aloha spirit.
This lightheartedness also animates Zetton’s other local restaurants: Zigu, Paris.Hawaii, Heavenly Island Lifestyle and Aloha Table. With the group’s growing success in this small neighborhood, it appears that a dash of silliness is a winning ingredient.
In a high-stress, big-ego industry, it is a delight to see a restaurant group not take itself so seriously. Even with its large size – Zetton Inc. operates 85 restaurants across Oʻahu, Japan and Korea – the group still prioritizes fun, generosity, and care for its guests, its team and, of course, its idols.
So, what do you say, Rob Machado? Will you stop in this winter and make Goofy Café + Dine’s dream come true?
Goofy Café + Dine Open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, 1831 Ala Moana Blvd., Ste. 201, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, 96815, (808) 943-0077
GOOFY Cafe & Dine – West of Waikiki, Hawaiian local food