Pa‘ia Town embodies the old and the new. Its shave-ice colored storefronts hold space for both its deep history and iconic mainstays as well as constant reinvention. Pa‘ia is known for the bustle of diverse humans: from locals, to hippies, to tourists, to surfers cruising the streets.
There’s more to Pa‘ia than the town proper, however. A mile up Baldwin Avenue, directly across from the now-defunct sugar mill that sits as a monument to the plantation days of the town, a cafe and a yoga studio have reimagined a historical spot and have been quietly drawing people who need a break from the bustle.
“I call it upper Pa‘ia,” said Nadia Toraman, owner of both the yoga studio and Island Fresh Cafe. Toraman, who originated in Turkey but has been teaching yoga on Maui’s north shore for over 25 years, was drawn to the spot for its mellow vibe that retains all the history and charm of Pa‘ia without any of the scramble for parking.
The space is off the beaten track while being historically right on it, since the site was originally exactly where the train came through. Island Fresh Cafe is housed in what used to be the train station that linked Ha‘iku and Kahului. Back when Pa‘ia was an epicenter of commerce and agriculture, the train carried pineapple, sugarcane, and passengers along the North Shore route. No tracks are left at the depot, but the space maintains its historical charm. “I’d love to find out more about the history,” said Toraman.
Recently, we sat down at the cafe with owner Nadia Toraman to sample some of the delicious menu and talk about supporting local farmers and her thoughts on the intersection of yoga, food, and good living.
Though the cafe has been open for a few years, “I kind of kept it on the downlow the first year, to ease into it,” Toraman explained. “I wanted to be on point.”
And the cafe is on point. The space is beautiful and relaxing. The spacious outdoor lanai, painted with Mediterranean reds and blues, was shady and cool despite the midday heat, with a breeze coming through. The garden-like setting, soft Pa‘ia sunshine, and wild chickens pecking around outside was reminiscent of old plantation days.
The display case was full of chilled coconuts, baked goods were on display, and her friendly staff bustled around as we chatted. Right now, the cafe is a breakfast and lunch spot, open from 7:30am to 2:30pm each day.
“I always had a vision way back to have smoothies and foods along with the yoga studio, of course. I wanted to subtly introduce this alongside the yoga, as a part of my yoga ‘off the mat.’ Teach people how to eat, how to live.”
The menu offers delicious, fresh fare. Breakfast has a wide variety of sweet and savory treats, like banana bread french toast, eggs benedict, and full breakfasts. A popular breakfast sandwich features eggs, avocado, and pesto, and there are also several vegan options, like a tofu scramble breakfast bowl and vegan tacos.
There are also smoothies and acai bowls for a lighter morning (or afternoon) meal, featuring ingredients like fresh island fruit, raw Maui honey, and cacao. Treats include vegan options and Coconut Glen’s vegan ice cream.
The cafe is also open for lunch, and features salads: kale, garden, and cobb, as well as sandwiches, burgers, and bowls, with many Hawai‘i favorites to select from.
There is also a full coffee menu featuring house coffee, lattes, mochas, and matcha. “Many people come and work here, and have meetings,” said Toraman. Inside, a comfortable space features benches with pillows, artwork, and plants.
Many ingredients are sourced from local farmers. “I also wanted to support our local farmers,” Toraman said. “That to me is also yoga ‘off the mat.’” Toraman brings in Upcountry produce and local fruit, and the menu is full of kale, coconuts, potatoes, and fresh fish that all come from Maui.
For a quiet and yummy breakfast spot off the beaten track of Pa‘ia Town, Island Fresh Cafe delivers delicious, fresh fare in a zen setting. “Support local,” said Toraman. “Support local farms, support local business.”
Island Fresh Cafe
381 Baldwin Ave.
7:30am – 2:30pm
Photos courtesy of Island Fresh Cafe