On our first full day on Maui, we ventured out into the Kihei area just north of our hotel. We decided to go to breakfast at a place one of the valet guys at the Grand Wailea suggested - Stella Blues Cafe. Being a pretty popular place, it showed up as a pre-programmed destination for food on my Garmin GPS. I hit a couple buttons on the screen and we were soon headed in that direction.
Stella Blues Cafe is the brainchild of Ray Enis and his wife, Janie. In 1986, the Enis' opened the first bagel shop on Maui. Bagels at that time were about as foriegn to the Hawaiian Islands as poi would be to a New Yorker. They gave away hundreds of bagels initially just to get the locals to try them. After bagels caught on, their bagel shop had great business.
Ray and Janie sold their business in 1990 and traveled to Thailand to experience life in that country. After about a year in Thailand, they moved back to Maui and decided to open another restaurant, this time with a Grateful Dead-theme to it. Ray named the place after his favorite Grateful Dead song, "Stella Blue".
The place was an immediate hit in a culture where breakfast and home-cooked meals were big. The small restaurant could only accommodate about 40 people and the wait was sometimes about 45 minutes to an hour. In 1998, the Enis' moved across the street to a new location in the Azeka Mauka strip mall that effectively gave them an additional 250 seats. The decorated the place with Grateful Dead memorabilia and continued to stress that "laid back" feel to the place. Daily operations are handled by Ray Enis' son, Kyle Boverman.
It was around 9:30 when we got into Stella Blues. It's sort of tucked back in a corner of a strip mall with ample parking out front (see map). We had our choice of eating inside the main dining room, or outside on the patio. We decided to do the outside seating.
It was really a no-brainer. It was a beautiful morning. The early morning Maui sun was beating down, so we sat at a table that had a large umbrella near an area that had a retractable awning that would allow people to sit there even in the rain. The patio area was spacious and comfortable with metal grated tables and chairs. The patio epitomized Stella Blues laid-back feel.
Looking over the breakfast menu at Stella Blues Cafe, their selection wasn't overly large, but it was pretty impressive. They also had a special that day - a fruit crepe that featured a variety of berries topped with homemade whipped cream. That's what Cindy ordered along with a half-stack of Stella Blues' pancakes. "Just to try them out," she said. She knew I'd help her eat them.
I was torn between a lot of things on the menu. It was down to getting a sausage, mushroom and cheese omelet or their French toast. The French toast is Maui sweet bread dipped in a vanilla and cinnamon egg batter, then grilled to a golden brown. I couldn't resist. I went with the French toast with a side of bacon.
They were pretty busy at Stella Blues and service was a little slow. It took us about 10 minutes before our waitress came back to take our order after she brought coffee for Cindy. It was another 25 minutes - easy - before our food showed up. But the wait was well worth it.
Cindy's crepe with the variety of berries was big. The pancakes weren't going to get close to half-way eaten. But she said the crepe was very good. I took a couple bites of the pancake with some lilikoi syrup on them. They were a little thick for my taste, but they were still pretty good.
There was no-way we could finish everything. I still had about half of my French toast, well over half of the 1/2 stack of pancakes and Cindy had a lot of her crepe left. Our waitress came around and asked if we wanted anything boxed up. We declined, although we could have eaten what we had left over for breakfast the next morning. But there was no way we could warm everything up being in a hotel room with no oven or even a microwave. Plus, we just knew it wouldn't taste as good reheated.
We liked Stella Blues Cafe a lot. The food was good and overly plentiful. The restaurant also features a varied dinner menu and live music on Friday and Saturday nights which features a four-course meal with the show. We were tempted to go back, but with all the various dining options in the area, we just didn't do it. Still, Stella Blues was one of the better meals we had on Maui. It got two thumbs up from Cindy and me.
(Update - It was disheartening to hear that this wonderful place closed in April of 2014. The Enis family had been working on a lease extension with the landlords, but the two couldn't come to terms forcing the Stella Blues to close.)