Michael Mina boasts an expansive restaurant empire across the United States and Dubai, but his newest venture is all about island vibes. Trailblazer Tavern fuses Hawaiian fare (Mina also has multiple eateries in the state) with San Francisco sensibilities under the helm of Honolulu-based husband-and-wife team Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka.
Housed in the SalesForce East building downtown, the massive, 7,000-square-foot space oozes aloha spirit, including the phrase "E komo mai, e noho mai, e ‘ai a e, wala‘au" (Come in, come sit, eat, and talk) hanging over the doorway. Inside, a lofty dining room and festive bar sport colorful murals of blue waves and green mountains and are lined with palms and greenery. A narrow outdoor patio is strewn with lights, chairs and tables for an urban tropical atmosphere.
The menu centers around classic Hawaiian fare, including a raw bar, land and sea menu sections and a noodles and rice section. Regional favorites like the North Shore-style Kaua’i shrimp coexist alongside universal Hawaiian classics like Spam musubi or old-school fish and poi poke, served in shareable pupu platters and dim-sum–style plates. Modern twists on the classic fare include unagi butterfish arancini, Dungeness crab lumpia and the mochi-crusted monchong fish.
And dessert here is no afterthought; The coffee and cream is made with vanilla tapioca, Manulele coffee panna cotta and coffee gelée with Lamill Coffee shaved ice, while the creamsicle brûlée is accented by haupia (coconut pudding)-flavored tapioca , dragonfruit, pineapple and lilikoi (passionfruit) sorbet.
Drinking is as central to Trailblazer as the food. Stop in for a drink and bite around the center bar, where Brian Means (of Pacific Cocktail Haven) consulted on the cocktail and Mina's longtime partner, sommelier and winemaker Rajat Parr created the wine list. Expect California and Hawaiian beers, small production wines and vibrant cocktails like the Nobody Touches the Mango (Tito’s Vodka, mango, green curry, lime, assam syrup, and orange bitters) to keep that aloha vibe going all day long. Welcome to the mainland, Trailblazer Tavern.