Converted office space never looked so stylish or smelled so good as it does at Cafe Carmen in Kihei. Lynn Stettler opened it in the South Maui Tech Park in February 2013, and the cute little eatery quickly gained a reputation for a fine menu, the best salted caramel latte and a surprising extensive beer list, plus wine on tap. Stettler also happens to show off a strong DIY streak and a great eye for interior design.
“I had a lot of fun decorating and creating design in here,” says Stettler. “I wanted to create a place where you don’t have to dress up to eat good food.”
She admits she’s not a techie, even though her cafe is in a tech park. Her expertise has always been in front of the house operations. So where does her amazing menu come from?
“Well, my husband Roger Stettler lent a hand in creating the menu,” says Lynn. “He is really proud of the vegan burger. And a portion of the proceeds of that burger goes to benefit a nonprofit for animals. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor to have vegan and raw dishes.”
Her husband is also Executive Chef at the Four Seasons resort in Wailea. His Cafe Carmen menu reflects a chance to be light, creative, vegan-friendly and showcases his and his wife’s love for European and Asian comfort food.
Dishes like the soba salad, topped with fresh spicy ahi, are well-rounded and delicious. Luca’s Chop Chop Salad is both refreshing and rich. The meat lasagne is comfort fare, with large sheets of pasta layered with a beef marinara and mozzarella. I ate mine overlooking the restaurant’s basil garden, where I watched the kitchen team pick fresh leaves in between orders. They also offer sandwiches like seared ahi on focaccia and daily specials.
Every time I stop in, I see other foodies from the food and beverage business. Sometimes we can be selfish for not wanting to spill the beans on our newest favorite farm-to-cafe cuisine, but word eventually gets out anyway.
Cafe Carmen is located at the top of Lipoa Street, across from where the new Maui Brewing Co. facility is going in. The cafe has an interesting layout, with the open kitchen in the center. There you can see Chef Brian Murphy crafting dishes with his team. The restaurant is climate-controlled and very comfortable, with DIY furniture, doors made into tables and wine bottle light fixtures. There is even an excellent ocean view.
Cafe Carmen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, 8am-9pm and brunch on Sundays with a Bloody Mary bar 9am-2pm. The have a fantastic cocktail menu, beer list and wines on tap. Their happy hour runs 4-6pm with cocktails priced at just $5, and they have a special pupu list. They also serve Illy coffee and espresso and also have some grab-and-go food as well as wonderful sweets and desserts.
535 Lipoa Pkwy., Kihei