Fluorescent lights give me a headache, as does sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. Unfortunately, both–and the subsequent consumption of Excedrin–are a major part of my day. Recently, I’ve decided to combat what I like to dub “Office-of-Doom-syndrome” by making sure I get a little outdoor time into each and every lunch break.
Believe it or not, this is no easy task in the heart of Wailuku town. Sure, I’ve walked to and from the various nearby restaurants, and I’ve even made sure to breathe deep and appreciate my surroundings. But I’m still subjecting myself to traffic, busy people and (though cool and historic) man-made architecture.
So a couple days ago I decided to take my lunch up to Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley. There’s no denying that the park is gorgeous. But as I was eating, I was afflicted with more of the same: tour busses, tourists and noxious fumes and noise coming from tree cutters.
Can’t a girl just get away from it all?
I ended up driving to the Hawai‘i Nature Center for a soft drink (complaining makes me thirsty) and, low and behold, I found the answer to previous bitching: The Iao Valley Nature Café.
The Nature Café is small and located right above the Nature Center, in the courtyard of what was once an inn. It only has outdoor seating. But don’t let its humble appearance sway your opinion on food quality–The Nature Café offers many delectable lunch choices.
Sandwiches include: Snow crab and avocado , Baby brie and bacon, Roast breast of chicken, Sliced turkey breast, Grilled eggplant and the Mahi-mahi. Their keiki menu has kid-friendly sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly, turkey, cheese and ham. They also serve Snow crab, Curry chicken, Caesar, Asian, Quinoa and Mahi-mahi salads.
I’ve tried their dairy-free smoothies, which are awesome and made with real fruit. I’ve also had their lemonade, which is perfectly tart but leaves your taste buds drenched in a sweet honey flavor.
For lunch, my new favorite is the Roast Breast of Chicken sandwich–with marinated roasted sweet peppers and baby lettuce dressed with a fresh garlic aioli on focaccia. The fact that a chicken breast sandwich has won me over is saying a lot–chicken is usually a gamble with me, as I hate even the smallest bit of gristle.
Thankfully, every bite of this sandwich was tender, right down to the homemade focaccia that, I swear to God, is some of the best bread that I have had in a very long time.
The Thai coconut soup was to die for. It was creamy, a little spicy and absolutely delicious. It was also vegan, which almost seems impossible because of its rich flavor.
Even though owner Jody Sparks seems to agonize over his serving lunches on paper plates, the Zen-like ambiance is truly fit for royalty–Ali‘i for that matter. As you dine, you can take in the valley’s amazing cliff–far away from the hustle and bustle that has taken over the state park. MTW