Cafe Marc Aurel

Wailuku, with all due respect, is not exactly a hotbed of hipness. Lawyers, yes. Liquor Commission meetings, yes. Maui Time staff members, yes. But again, we’re talking about hipness.

Here, try this: imagine a funky little café with fresh coffee, good food, art on the walls, a well-stocked wine bar, live music in the evening, happy smiling young people—some of them pierced and/or tattooed—behind the counter, a stack of colorful fliers for various island-wide events next to the half and half. You’re not picturing Wailuku, are you?

Well, you should. Because tucked away in Maui’s oft-overlooked county seat is—among a few other worthy establishments—Café Marc Aurel, a lovably eclectic, bohemian outfit that meets all of the above-outlined criteria, and stands out even more for its incongruous location. (It also happens to share a block with Request Music, another bastion of coolness.)

Beginning January 2, Marc Aurel will resume lunchtime table service (starting at 10:30am, so really we’re talking late breakfast, too), turning the café back into a full-fledged eatery.

The menu is intriguing, with an emphasis on Mediterranean fare. The pita pizza, topped with mozzarella, roasted red bell peppers, zucchini and a Parmesan-pesto mousse, is recommended, as is the Bruschetta—tomatoes, cheese and basil served with pieces of toasted baguette—which works as either a shared appetizer or a meal for one.

Can’t-miss sandwich choices include the sweet-and-savory Mistress—turkey, cranberry mayo and provolone on a croissant—and the hefty Italian Grinder, which features Black Forest ham, cheese, bell pepper, zucchini and pesto on a cold or grilled baguette.

For the early AM crowd, Marc Aurel brews excellent coffee (the dark roast gets an especially perky thumbs-up) and serves fine croissants, scones and bagels.

In the evenings, a pleasing array of spirits—wine from the bar, beer, cocktails—takes center stage, as do various musicians, strumming and singing in a decidedly intimate setting where there’s no such thing as a bad seat. (Come early, because chairs, stools and other sitting-down implements are limited and tend to fill up fast.)

A special wine tasting is offered the second Wednesday of each month (what better way to chase your mid-week troubles?), with advanced booking strongly recommended (280-6363 for info and reservations).

The décor is multifarious—Jack Nicholson’s smiling visage hangs above the wine bar, while the works (paintings, collages, mixed media creations) of regularly rotating artists line the walls. At present, some intricately crafted local bamboo jewelry is on display (and for sale) adjacent to the coffee fixin’s.

From the early riser stumbling after a caffeine fix to the nighttime reveler in search of sensory stimulation, Café Marc Aurel offers an oasis of cool in Wailuku. And if you need a good lawyer… MTW