If you’re a morning person, Café a la Plage in the Dolphin Plaza, Kihei, is the place for you. It has bright and sunny walls and a staff that’s chipper (which, by the way, is just shy of perky).
Now, if mornings aren’t your thing, no problem. They’ve got coffee, lots of it—lattes, expresso, double espresso, etc. and something called a Café Freezer, the closest thing I’ve had to dessert in a glass. I had a white chocolate mocha but it was a toss-up between that and the raspberry macadamia nut.
Not up ‘til noon? That’s OK. They also serve soup, sandwiches, smoothies, shave ice and popsicles. And should you feel like you’re loafing when you should be working, they offer internet services: computer, wireless, printing and fax.
In case you’re not up on your French (and who is these days) Café a la Plage means Café at the Beach. That’s because they’re right across the street from Kam I and because one of the owners is, you guessed it, French. Christophe Benoit originally came to Maui with the Marriott, having worked for them in Paris, Phoenix and Vegas. Christopher Saulnier is Maui born and raised and worked as a hairstylist before opening the business with Christophe in 2007.
The place has a certain “je ne sais qua” (translation-“I don’t know what”). It’s a little Maui, with the sandwiches named after local beaches and a little Paris, with the food served on plates right out of a Toulouse Latreche painting—can-can dancers, etc. And then there’s the Mona Lisa. According to Christophe and contrary to popular opinion, it’s here hanging on their wall in Maui rather than in the Louvre. What’s more there’s a whole bunch of them alongside—in various poses. And if that’s not enough there’s a sandwich named for her as well.
I didn’t try one but certainly endeavored to work my way through the rest of the sandwich menu. But first I sampled the soup, green chile chicken with enough zip to get your attention as well as lots of veggies. The salade de chevre chaud, or goat cheese salad, was a mild goat cheese on top of crispy bread served on greens—it definitely earned its fancy French name as far as I was concerned.
So as not to ignore the breakfast side of the menu I had the Kalama, egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado on an everything bagel. My only complaint was that, at 4 inches tall (or so), major adjustments to sandwich and mouth were necessary before I could eat it.
Back on the lunch side of the menu the Hookipa—hummus, tofu, olive tapenade, cucumber and onions, made me feel more like I was on a Greek island than at a Maui cafe. And I was definitely ok with that.
My favorite, though, was the Maui Melt. And according to the owners, others think so, too. It’s panini bread (the type that’s been pressed into wavy ridges) with bacon, turkey, jack cheese, avocado and jalapenos. I’m not usually a pepper eater but this sandwich begged for them and was the better for it.
After tasting almost everything that wasn’t tied down I realized you don’t have to know French to enjoy the food at Café a la Plage. Thankfully it speaks for itself, and it’s a good thing, too. Because if your French is as bad as mine, you’ll know why the Mona Lisa is smirking. MTW