As a foodie, I do my best to sample different types of cuisines as well as different restaurants, eateries and other food loves that I can taste and share with all of you. Today on this Foodie Friday, I am excited to share with you a little place I discovered after watching the YouTube Channel Aloha Stoked. Kalani Prince, a vlogger and Travel Guide website owner visited the location I’m about to talk about today and I knew I had to head on over and take a look. This little hole-in-the wall location that is just off the beaten path in a sleepy little town in Up Country Maui, called Makawao is worth sharing with you today. This week’s Maui Eats is featuring Makawao Garden Cafe.
Makawao Garden Cafe is owned and operated by Kathi and Jody Sparks and is nestled right in the heart of the paniolo and rodeo town of up country that we call Makawao. A peaceful, laid back and tranquil little bistro that offers a small menu of sandwiches and salads – perfect for a day of venturing and visiting the art galleries and site seeing among the little village.
Makawao Garden Cafe is located right on Baldwin Avenue. It’s next to the Sherri Reeve Gallery (down a small alley way) and across the street from Maui’s famed Komoda Bakery.
I arrived at the location just as they had opened, about 5 minutes after 11 o’clock. They were still prepping some of their food, which I would have expected for a small bistro, but I was able to place my order and my food took about 10 minutes to complete. As I waited for my to-go order, I walked around the immediate area to kind of get an idea of what the place is like for those who decide to dine in. Majority of the seating for this bistro is located outdoors. I was told recently that they had acquired a small area with indoor seating just off to the site of the cafe area. It’s a great location for spring and summer months when it’s warm out, but it was quite chilly the day I went, which is why I opted to get my food to go – I was not dressed to sit out in the open with that cold breeze lingering in the air.
If you are looking for fast food service or quick food, this is certainly not the place you will want to find yourself. Everyone is made for you to order and there is a staff of 2-3 on hand on any given day. If you are in a rush, I suggest trying to call your order in or check to see if they’ll accommodate a take-out that day. The service I received was sweet, the owner greeted me with kindness and everyone that I talked to that day was very pleasant.
So, let’s talk about the food. Whenever I eat somewhere and have thoughts of reviewing the establishment here on the site, I try to order more than one meal to test and see how I like each. I ordered the Crab & Avocado Sandwich ($9.97 whole). Served on focaccia and mixed greens with tomato and sprouts. I also got the Curry Chicken Salad (Whole $9.00) which came highly recommended by a customer that was behind me in line, as well as the gal who took my order. She mentioned that it is the most popular on their menu. The Curry Chicken Salad came with diced chicken, carrots, zucchini and served with sweet curry dressing, on mixed greens and topped with papaya.
Let’s talk details on each dish – shall we?
I was happy to find that the Crab and Avocado came with a side of salad. I opted for ceasar and while it was tasty – it definitely was not the showstopper of this particular sandwich. If I can be absolutely blunt here… the focaccia is fricken awesome. It was fresh baked (baked by the owners) and one of the best focaccia breads I have ever tasted and trust when I say – I have had my fair share of focaccia. It was delicious. The avocado was fresh as was the rest of the vegetables in my sandwich. The crab was light and definitely tasted good. I was impressed that my sandwich included real crab for the price point and the sandwich was very filling. If you are doing hiking or anything that will require walking, etc. I think this would be a great selection – light, but hearty.
Should I get a sandwich again, I’ll be trying the Sliced Turkey Breast, but since it’s not on this delicious focaccia bread, I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much – we shall see.
Next up I tried the Curry Chicken Salad. This salad is quite big and filled most of the take out container they put it in. I ate half of it and saved the rest for my eldest son Kevin Kaeo. When I opened this salad to eat it, I didn’t quite expect to see what I was looking at.
This portion size (I ordered the whole) was large enough to feet at least 2 people, especially if you purchased it in combination with other food. I was quite impressed with the size considering the price point. The diced chicken was chicken breast, but it was very tender considering the cut it was. I was quite impressed with how the entire salad in a whole had tasted. The dressing that they used was very tasty and I liked that the salad didn’t taste like it had taken a bath in mayonnaise (we all know how I’m not a fan of that creamy white stuff). The dressing was sweet (not hot or spicy at all) but definitely had a curry flavor. I would describe it as a curry without the heat. The salad was placed on a bed of greens – a mixture of different lettuce that was fresh and crispy and I also got two toasted pieces of crostini on top. This salad tasted really good and not soggy considering I had to drive 10 minutes to get home to eat it, but I would definitely suggest putting the bread separately because the dressing did cause it to become a tad bit soggy.
Overall – I think I really enjoyed the salad. The vegetables definitely tasted fresh and the nice crunch of the carrots definitely gave it a lot of texture. The little papaya on the top was delicious and really gave the salad an extra something. If I had to make any suggestions, I would love to see cashews in the mix for this salad – I think it would make it absolutely perfect. I make a pretty darn good chicken curry salad myself and that papaya though, it definitely made for a great addition to this dish.
The second time I went to grab some food to go, I ordered the Taro Salad ($9.75 Whole – I really wanted to eat that from the first time I had gone) and the Catch of the Day Sandwich ($8.50 Whole). Service was quick and I was on my way with my sandwiches and a Nirvana smoothie that I ordered. The smoothies are $5.50 and are not made with milk which is a plus on my tummy.
The Taro Salad was simple, but I rather enjoyed it. I got it regular (not Cajun spice which they also offer) and it was served with mixed greens, cheese (I was able to select between goat cheese and Parmesan, I went with goat cheese), carrots and zucchini. The salad also came with tomato and was dressed with a light basil vinaigrette topped with crispy taro chips. Here’s the low down on this salad… the taro chips, well, they were the ones I buy in the bag at Costco but I enjoy them and never would have thought to put them on a salad – they were great and because of the taro, they held up to the dressing and were not soggy when I got home to eat. The Taro itself is actually veggie patties diced up and the veggie patties of chunks of taro in them. When I was first told what it was, I’ll be honest, I had regret ordering it. I thought to myself, hmmm… why couldn’t I just get chunks of taro in my salad? But, I was pleasantly surprised. The veggie patty (which was diced/cubed up and tossed in the salad mix) was really good. There was a lot of taro in that patty and I enjoyed the flavor. Because of the veggie patty with taro, I think it lent for a lighter meal and with the actual taro cubed up as I suggested, it may have been too heavy for lunch. While I didn’t have high hopes for this particular salad after being told what it was, I was pleasantly surprised. If I had to make one suggestion, it would be to add some avocado in the mix… it would really bring out the sweetness of the taro and give the salad a depth of flavor.
The Catch of the Day sandwich was simplistic as was the Crab and Avocado. It was a few pieces of their Catch of the Day which was Mahimahi for me today, served on focaccia and a wasabi mayo with tomato and mixed greens and sprouts. The taste was really nice, but I would have loved to have more to the sandwich. The wasabi mayonnaise had a light wasabi flavor, with no heat and it looked like regular mayonnaise, so tasting it was the only way to really know what you were eating.
The cut of fish was nice, but I definitely would have wanted to have more to the sandwich. Of course, it was on that delicious focaccia that I’ve been swooning over which made it great. Overall, I think the sandwich is nice, but I would love to get more from it. Maybe a smear of pesto aioli or something along those lines to really bring out the flavor of the fish. Even some avocado would make a different here.
Makawao Garden Cafe is perfect to grab a meal while out exploring the area but keep in mind that due to limited seating, if they get busy – you may want to get that meal to go. My overall experience with them has been great, and I know I’ll be back again to try more food – I have my eyes set on many of the items on the menu. If you are looking for fine dining, then this place is definitely not it.
Makawao Garden Cafe is open from 11am to 3pm, Monday through Saturday (closed Sundays). They do not take reservations and parking is free. You can park directly on Baldwin Avenue if you can find a stall (it can get really congested and busy at times) or you can use the Garden parking behind Baldwin Avenue in the open parking lot (it’s a walk up stairs and there is no wheelchair access) Keep in mind that the back parking lot is gravel and the walk up the stairs is several flights.
Positives – there are quite a bit in my opinion. All of the menu items are under $10 so you and a friend could easily get a bite to eat for under $25. Considering I’m born & raised here on Maui and have seen how expensive things can get, that’s quite a steal considering the amount of food you get with your orders. The focaccia is bomb. Like seriously I can’t stress this enough, order a sandwich with it to taste how great it is. The owner and staff were very delightful and friendly. Parking is free -which is great. And, most of your options are healthy and fresh.
Now – there are a few cons to this location that I figured was worth sharing. While I didn’t experience dine-in service here, I was told by someone there that service can be slow when they are busy. I think that’s understandable considering that there are only 3 people working (sometimes one or two) at any given time and I honestly can’t attest to that myself seeing as the two times I went, they had just opened, so there really was only one or two people there. Remember, as I stated previously, if you’re in a rush – get it to go and call ahead. If it is raining or cold, even if they have a covered seated area that is indoors, you may not like the experience, so keep that in mind. The first time I picked up my food, it was chilly and very cold. I wouldn’t have been able to sit and enjoy my food comfortably. Roosters are everywhere in that area (it’s a part of Makawao town) so it can be frustrating at times, just don’t feed them because they’ll come around more while you’re eating.
If you’re on the hunt for something interesting to try – I definitely suggest checking this place out. I’m all for supporting local eats and Maui eateries that are owned by locals so I definitely enjoyed it. They offer smoothies as well and there is quite a selection which is great. This place offers a true laid back environment so it’s perfect for those that are looking for something casual. Also – take note that if you’re walking too fast, you may miss it… so this little place gives you the opportunity to “take the long way home” so to say and stop and smell the roses.
My goal is to offer more “Maui Eats” for my readers near and far so be sure to come back for more.
Have a wonderful Aloha Friday and a great weekend,
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I purchased any thing mentioned in this post with my own money. Affiliate links may be posted through out.