If you haven’t found the Chez Meme Baguette Bistro hidden among a bunch of random Kihei industrial businesses on Kio Loop and Halekauai Street yet, don’t get discouraged. Owner Ryan McElroy admits that he doesn’t advertise and relies on word of mouth and social media blabs to get the word out. He has slow-rolled the development of his little French bistro, starting last February with just himself, his wife Nicole and chef Mike Krebbs. Today he has 11 employees, and now he owns the building, too.
McElroy’s cousin Ross Spence developed the French-Canadian cuisine at Chez Meme Baguette Bistro. McElroy is also proud of his Yelp following–Chez Meme Maui was awarded a top starred restaurant in the region in the past six months, but a scan of the comments showed mostly visitors chiming in on their service, food and location.
The immaculate property is lined with flowers, purple ti plants and beautiful trees–a stark contrast to the nearby Goodyear Tires, boat rentals, Indolotus imports outdoor pottery lots, landscaping equipment and rental cars. The building used to be a lawn mower repair shop, but they gutted it and rebuilt the inside from the ground up. Now it’s a cute little bistro with rustic Palacek tables, open air breezes and rustling trees rustling–an excellent backdrop for their French country-style cuisine.
“Meme is the ‘tutu’ of the French language,” says McElroy. “We serve farm cuisine, fresh baguettes from the Bakery in Lahaina, local veggies and local organic eggs from Oahu. We like to have a relaxing atmosphere here. You will notice we don’t have WiFi and no TV. People said that would kill us, but we have been fine without it.”
McElroy says their Sunday brunch goes off (he calls his Sunday chef “The Egg Whisperer” with a smile). In fact, they’re only open for breakfast and lunch, and the leisurely weekend brunch is their forte.
The menu starts with a fresh tropical fruit-studded (and rich) brioche French toast. Then there are organic omelets with luxury fillings like black forest ham cut from the bone, seasonal mushrooms, feta cheese, short rib, spinach and shrimp. The Benedict comes four ways and includes traditional ham, smoked salmon and local style mahi.
Their loco moco gets a Canadian kick with mix of wild rice topped by their hand-patted burger, and is smothered in a mushroom onion demi glace and fried egg. Egg-filled baguettes, sauteed red potatoes and eggs cooked any way are also available.
The “From ‘ton Salad” is popular in Vancouver, and easily as good on Maui. The mixed power greens with red onion is endorsed with poached pears, brie and walnuts. Baguette slices with garlic jam and brie melted over are a decadent addition to the salad.
McElroy’s cousin came out from Vancouver to do the initial training with Krebbs, but then Krebbs has had to take it from there. He’s added a few Mahi items to the menu due to customer requests–the Brioche Mahi sandwich and the Mahi tacos have their own Meme twist. Two corn tortillas are grilled with a little cheese in-between before becoming the support system to hold the cabbage, chopped Mahi and crushed avocado guacamole.
“I liked the tacos a lot,” said one MauiTime taster. “The double corn tortillas were stuck together with melted cheese, and it made it less messy. It didn’t fall apart like other fish tacos.”
Despite their growth in the past year, McElroy says it’s still a family affair. His mom makes the mango ginger and triple berry jams he serves with toast and you will want to slather them on. I insisted on taking some home with me. He attributes the cloth napkins to his mom as well, saying she insisted on cloth napkins at the restaurant to set them apart. She also agreed to field the laundry. He says they’re stoked that they get to work with local purveyors like Rimfire and Eskimo Candy, it makes a difference in what they do. He gets his coffee locally roasted and bought his espresso maker local, too.
Theresa Reome, the resident barista, says she loves to make lattes more than cappuccino or espresso because of the selection of flavors to make them fancy. I tried a vanilla latte spiked with a bit of cinnamon liqueur, and it was pretty darned good. Floor manager Elijah Miller said the liquor adds that special something to the espresso without being overpowering. They also offer mimosas in traditional and tropical flavors like mango.
Their lunch sandwiches have a special twist that you don’t see on other menus, coming from their French Canadian roots. The lamb shoulder they procure from Eskimo Candy for their Jarrett baguette sandwich is slow-braised and includes a schmear of garlic jam and greens on the side. Another favorite is the Cordon Bleu sandwich with melted mozzarella over chicken and black forest ham. Then there’s the Nordique, featuring smoked salmon and lemon dill cream cheese. Their Ratatouille is a Mediterranean-inspired, vegetarian-friendly sandwich of roasted peppers, eggplant, tomato and goat cheese.
McElroy says they might consider expanding to dinners, now that they have had their liquor license, but there are no plans for now. He said has a young child at home and wants to see him grow up. He also said he has a great team at the bistro.
“It’s all of our dreams in here,” says McElroy. “We love to work and cook together, and our cuisine is yummy. We try to bring out the best flavors in the proteins we choose. It’s tasteful, it’s elegant, it pops.”
Chez Meme Baguette Bistro is open Tuesday to Saturday, 8am-3pm and Sunday and Mondays, 8am-2 pm.
CHEZ MEME BAGUETTE BISTRO
115 Kio Loop, Kihei
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.