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Re-Imagined Jackie Rey’s

One of Kailua-Kona’s favorite neighborhood bistros keeps the aloha flowing with new owners at the helm.

It’s been just over one year since Paul Streiter and Angela Rey, co-owners who established Jackie Rey’s Kona, handed over the keys to Chad Atkinson while retaining ownership of their Hilo restaurant. The transition was so smooth, that the restaurant never stopped serving its elevated comfort food while the transfer was completed – the focus remained on combining the freshest local ingredients perfectly prepared and served in a comfortable, friendly environment.

“We arrived on Hawai’i Island in December 2022 and closed the deal on January 9, 2023, without the restaurant closing for even one day of service,” Chad, a native of Utah and 25-year veteran of the high-tech industry, says. 

Serving only dinner now, a complete re-model was executed during the day, including the installation of an expansive and exquisite ocean blue, acrylic bar created by renowned Hawai’i artist Seth Greene. The back bar features a massive wall of individual glass tiles and dramatic lighting. New floors also were installed and windows were un-shuttered to open up distant ocean views.

  “We love Jackie Rey’s. Paul and Angie opened the restaurant in 2004 and built an incredible brand, a great restaurant and team,” Chad says. “Many staff members have been part of the restaurant ‘ohana for years.”

When the opportunity arose, Chad says, the timing was right. Having spent some time living in the Caribbean after saying goodbye to the tech world, he fell in love with island life and was ready for both, a career and lifestyle change.

Before making the jump, his friends offered some sage advice. “They told me, if you move to Hawai’i you can embrace it or fight it, but don’t go there and try to change it, let it change you,” he says. “In just a year, I’ve come to love the spirit of aloha. I’ve never been a hugger, but now I’ve gotten used to a hug rather than a handshake when meeting and making new friends.”

While island living was part of the spark that fueled the change, he says over time he was tired of working with clients on tech projects for up to two years, meeting deadlines, and staying on budget without receiving any heartfelt appreciation.

“The restaurant business offers immediate gratification from clients who’ve had a great meal and had a wonderful evening making memories with family and friends,” Chad says. “It’s incredible to feel the energy and to receive immediate, sincere thanks.”

A solid business professional, one thing Chad readily admits is that he is not a foodie! In fact, he says, “Eating really is not my thing!” So he knows well enough to leave the kitchen in the capable hands of Executive Chef Jeric Genavia who has been heading up the stoves at Jackie Rey’s Kona for over six years. A native of the Philippines, he grew up in a food-loving family. They moved to Monterey, California when he was 14 years old, where his restaurateur father was tapped to manage the Fish Hopper restaurant there. In 2007, he was named General Manager of the Kailua-Kona restaurant, where Jeric was soon put to work washing dishes.    

“I don’t have a culinary degree, my training, everything I have learned was taught on the job. While my style fits closely with Pacific Rim cuisine, I have worked with fantastic chefs specializing in Japanese, Thai, Italian and French foods,” he says. 

It is evident in the menu that Chad says will be constantly changing with carefully selected and diverse offerings. While a few popular items remain from the earlier reiteration of the restaurant, including the Mediterranean Hummus Salad and the Seafood Trio, many new have been added featuring tastes from those world regions with a decidedly local twist. One example that illustrates the creative fusion of those cuisines is the Mochiko Crusted Fresh Catch. It’s served with Molokai Purple Mashed Potatoes, Ginger Lime Beurre Blanc, Kabayaki, Namasu and Wasabi Tobiko. Fusion gives way to classic presentations with what Chef Jeric says is a new guest favorite: Port Wine Braised Lamb Shank.

With extensive offerings from the bar, including some 27 Hawaiian-crafted spirits, Chef Jeric says he often snags ingredients to use in his dishes: Amaretto, Port Wine, and Maraschino Cherries.   

Also new, Chad says, “We’ve added lots of steaks to the menu with a variety of cuts offered – Tomahawk Ribeye, Filet Mignon, New York Strip and Ribeye – our goal is to build on the restaurant’s great foundation, preserve the quality of the brand and level things up a bit,” Chad says. 

Perhaps nothing showcases that leveling up better than the Aina Ahiahi No Elua dinner for two: 34oz Tomahawk Ribeye; Lobster Tail, ½lb King Crab, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Vegetables, Demi-Glace and Béarnaise Sauce. 

If you have room after all that, choose the Champagne Coast Cake for dessert (a Naked Cake layered with fresh strawberries and Chantilly Cream) – it’s sinfully delicious!

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“The restaurant business offers owners immediate gratification from diners.” – Chad Atkinson

Everything I’ve learned was taught on the job…