story by Catharine Lo
photo by Dana Edmunds
The Plexi-glas sign on Beard Papa’s counter in Waikiki posts the hours of operation (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) on one side. On the other, it reads, “Sorry, sold out.” Given the runaway popularity of the cream-filled thigh-enhancers, it’s no surprise that the sign is often flipped before actual closing time.
Roughly speaking, Beard Papa is the Krispy Kreme of Japan, with more than 240 outlets there and an additional forty franchises throughout Asia. In March 2004, the first American bakery opened in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where the cream puffs sold for a dollar and change and instantly became the food fad among in-the-know noshers. Later that year, Ala Moana’s über-Japanese variety store Shirokiya imported several Beard Papa pastry chefs for a two-week demonstration tour, kicking off a feeding frenzy that saw lines snaking out the front door. There are now a dozen franchises in the United States—including two Honolulu locations, one at the Waikiki Food Pantry and one at the Foodland in Hawai‘i Kai.
“We sometimes have a little trouble keeping up with the demand,” admits a dedicated Waikiki puff-stuffer, noting that the shop’s busiest time is between 4 and 7:30 p.m. “Some people wonder what’s taking so long, but for the most part they’re patient, and we try to work through the line as quickly as we can.”
Even so, during the evening sugar-rush, customers can find themselves in line for up to an hour—this because each puff is made to order. The fresh-whipped custard is injected into a two-layered shell—a soft, choux pastry interior surrounded by a baked, pie crust exterior—and then dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
Hawai‘i customers can choose between a rotating selection of “premium flavors”—chocolate, green tea, strawberry, coffee
or caramel fillings—or the reliable standby, original vanilla.
“I eat at least one everyday,” our Waikiki informant admits. “And I would still stand in line for an hour to get one.”
Beard Papa Waikiki