Kihei Caffe (that's how they spell "cafe", I guess) is a funky little breakfast place along S. Kihei Road in Kihei. Situated right across the street from Kalama Beach Park - a favorite gathering point for sunset-watchers - this little outdoor restaurant has been serving up hearty breakfasts for locals and tourists alike for years. On the recommendation of one of the valets at the Grand Wailea, we tried Kihei Caffe one morning while we were on Maui.
Kihei Caffe is owned by Barry Allison and his mother, Bunny. Barry is a large, jovial guy who stands behind the counter taking orders and working as the cashier. Kihei Caffe opens at 5 a.m. each morning and features breakfast until they close at 3 p.m. They also serve a lunch menu that features burgers, sandwiches and salads, but they are most well-known for their down-home breakfasts.
We parked in the parking lot in Kalama Beach Park just after 9:30 one morning and walked across S. Kihei Rd. to Kihei Caffe (see map). The drill is pretty simple - you go into the little hole-in-the-wall area off the street and that's where you place your order with Barry. The menu is written on a chalk board hung at a slant from the ceiling. There is usually a long line to get into the place and sometimes a line of people waiting to grab a table out on the patio after they order. When your food is ready, a server comes out with the plates, calls out your name and gets your food to the table. Simple, right?
The problem is that Kihei Caffe has almost too much to choose from, you sometimes don't have enough time to figure out what you want. And Barry keeps the line moving. We were only sixth in line when we were there that morning and Cindy was having trouble figuring out what to get. Me - I'm pretty easy. Just give me a sausage, mushroom and cheese omelet and I'm fine. But Cindy didn't know if she wanted eggs, waffles, pancakes, fried rice, or what. They also had Mexican specialties such as huevos rancheros served on homemade tortillas from Barry Allison's Tortillas, Barry Allison's side business.
There was so much to choose from and Cindy was feeling rushed and people were lining up behind us and Cindy was beginning to panic because it was our turn and she didn't know what to get but she knew she better order something or the people behind her would get mad and what if that big guy behind the counter got mad at her for holding up the line and...
Whew! That's how Cindy felt when it came time for her to order. She ended up ordering the steak and eggs ("Eggs how?" is Barry's catch phrase.) and coffee. Like I say, I was pretty simple and boring - omelet, sausage, mushroom and Swiss cheese. Large glass of milk. Home fried potatoes came with both of our breakfasts. And ohhhh.... Look at those cinnamon rolls! Large homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting were in a case on the counter. We had to have one of those.
We paid Barry at the counter (no credit cards, cash only) and took our coffee, milk and cinnamon roll outside to find a seat. We were lucky to find a small two seater table just outside the door. We sat down and Cindy was still flummoxed. "I didn't know what to get and I didn't want to hold up the line. So I just blurted out steak and eggs. I'm not even certain I want steak and eggs," she said in an exasperated tone.
The outdoor seating area at Kihei Caffe is a series of small tables under umbrellas. Being that it's on the main drag of Kihei, we sort of enjoyed the people watching while we ate the cinnamon roll and waited for our breakfast to show up at the table. And the cinnamon roll was as good as it looks in the above picture. It wasn't overly gooey, but it was loaded with cinnamon sugar and easily pulled apart or could be easily cut with a fork. I couldn't tell you the last time I had a cinnamon roll. And I've had some very good ones in my day, but the one at Kihei Caffe was one of the better ones I've had. It definitely rivaled some of the ones that I can get back home in the Quad Cities where the competition between restaurants with their cinnamon rolls rivals the competition between pizza places in Chicago, Italian restaurants in St. Louis, and barbecue places in Kansas City.
Soon after we finished our cinnamon roll, a waitress came out and called out my name. I turned around and waved at her and she brought our plates to the table. Presentation isn't a big thing at Kihei Caffe as our food was sort of just flopped onto our plates. But I'm not that picky about presentation at breakfast. Kihei Caffe is a breakfast joint, plain and simple. No fancy linen or fine china at this place.
My omelet was OK, except they forgot to put the Swiss cheese in the omelet. And it looked like the mushrooms weren't necessarily cooked with the omelet, but sort of thrown in on top as an afterthought. It was a little flavorless without the cheese, but I wasn't going to bitch. The home fried potatoes were greasy and somewhat overcooked. I wasn't going to eat them anyhow. Like I say, my omelet was just "OK".
Cindy approached her breakfast with a little apprehension. She could tell her eggs "over-easy" were over-cooked from the lack of yoke and the burnt edges. And just a quick look at the six ounce sirloin that was supposed to be medium in temperature was also over-cooked. She cut into the steak and it was like cutting into leather. She did eat the eggs, some of her potatoes and about two bites of the steak before she declared she was done. I said, "Are you sure? Do you want something else?"
She sort of went, "Ah... Nah. I'll just get something big at lunch to tide me over to dinner."
Cindy would give Kihei Caffe a "thumbs down" for her breakfast. I'd give it an "Eh..." for mine, although the highlight of the whole meal was the cinnamon roll. We contemplated getting a couple cinnamon rolls to take back to the hotel to put in the fridge in the room. But then we remembered that there was no refrigerator in the room. Oh well...
I know Kihei Caffe is known for their breakfasts, but it wasn't close to being one of the better places we visited while in Hawaii. It was a funky little place with down-home food that was average at best.