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Anastasia from Vladivostok brings my waffle.

Melissa — her family is from Guam — hands me my coffee.

The coffee’s Kona, from Hawaii.

The waffle is from heaven.

Sigh. Love a surprise. Here I was, ambling along Market. Biggest care in the world was a slightly grumbling gut.

Like, “Breakfast! Desayuno! What up?”

Because it is around two. I’m crossing First, heading east. Pass that gigantic earthquake fault.


Lion Coffee, from the earthquake fault

Local architect Rob Quigley had to break his building into two, one on either side of the fault, and leave the gulley as a piece of wilderness, right here in downtown. So, the two buildings can move independently.

It still looks wild down there. Trees, rocks, rattlers…or is that just my fertile imagination?


The fault line, right outside

“Breakfast! Desayuno!” Gut’s giving these guttural calls.

And as it happens, the first shop east of the fault gulley has a big red sign on its wall: “Hawaii’s Lion Coffee.” (It's at 101 Market Street #100, 619-299-5466.)


Plus, “Lion EATS.” It’s a menu in the window. Prices are good, $5-$7. And I have this thing about Kona coffee. Each time I get some, it tastes chocolatey, earthy, but mostly just smooth. Love it. ’Course, it costs more, and I see a Starbucks a little further east, but what the heck?

I head in.


First thing is the big welcome from Melissa.




Like that.

“Practice Aloha,” says the sign taped to the cash register. She sure does.


The small Kona coffee costs $2.50. (They do have ordinary stuff too, too.) But I figure I’ll save on the food.

“Still have breakfast?”

“All day,” says Melissa .

“Well, it’s ten o’clock somewhere,” I say.

“Like, Guam,” says Melissa.

“Or Vladivostok,” says Anastasia.

“Or, actually, Hawaii,” says Larry. He’s the owner.

Tracy, the other assistant, nods in agreement.



Great thought! So the choice is basically breakfast burritos (bacon, ham, chicken, sausage or veggies), and they come with eggs, potatoes and cheddar, or ham or turkey breakfast sandwiches. Everything’s $4.95. For lunch they have $5.95 sandwiches where you pick your own meat, cheese, bread and extras.

And I’m almost tempted by the lunch combo: half a sandwich and cup of soup ($5.95).

But then I spot the waffles. Lordy. The basic Belgian ($5.95) or Macadamia, chocolate chip, coconut, or coconut chocolate ($6.95). And you get a choice of maple, coconut or guava syrup.

I go for the chocolate coconut. Would’ve chosen the guava syrup if I’d seen it in time. But the maple’s fine.

I could go outside, but it’s cool. Besides, good talkin’s goin’ on here.

Anastasia makes my waffle.



She says all this would cost about the same in Vladivostok. She’s studying here.

Larry says everyone who’s been to Hawaii knows Lion coffee.

“And mostly, when they think of Lion, and Kona coffee, they remember a good time in their lives. They get very sentimental about it. Maybe it was a family holiday over there, maybe a honeymoon. But people get dreamy when they see our sign up here.”

For sure, my coffee’s velvety smooth , and the waffle is a sticky, crunchy, chocolatey mess...




Larry says the company started in Toledo in, hey, 1864. But it transferred to Hawaii 38 years ago.


Coffee bags

“We’re definitely #1 in Hawaii,” Larry says. But now he wants to bring it back to the mainland. He hopes this is the first of many Lion places here. “Right now, this is the only one,” he says.

We’re both standing near the window looking out to the wild earthquake gulley outside.

So does he hope to, uh, shake up the coffee status quo here?

“Well if I don’t, it’ll be my fault,” he says.

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