This Wednesday, Paia Bay Coffee will be open for dinner. That may not seem like huge news, but they’re slowly rolling out their dinner hours, and next week will add Wednesday night to their Thursday, Friday and Saturday line up. Dinner at their little bohemian eatery is simple and delicious Mediterranean fare and you can BYOB. Their open courtyard layout has lots of little nooks and crannies, is filled with plants and at night glows with string lights. For breakfast and lunch, you order at the cashier’s stand, but at night it’s sit-down service.
Paia Bay Coffee started as a little coffee house, as the name would imply, behind the Puka Puka building. Owners Danny Keezil and Josh Waite were looking to fill a coffee niche they discovered while working in construction.
“Danny and I were doing the renovation on the Puka Puka building and that little spot came available,” says Waite. “We came up with the idea that it was actually really hard to get a decent cup of filter coffee anywhere. We thought, it can’t be that difficult. I did a bit of research and came up with our house blend.”
Waite then fine-tuned the coffee to his taste.
“A lot of filter coffee tends to be French roast,” says Waite. “It’s a dark burnt taste and that really wasn’t what I wanted. I was looking for something full flavored, but not burnt; what I remember from Europe. Kind of an Italian chocolatey, rich cappuccino that you can get anywhere in Europe but couldn’t find here.”
Their coffee blend is exceptional and available only in light and medium roasts.
“We have our house blend which is our own unique blend which we have roasted at Maui Oma, its a Nicaraguan, Brazilian and Sumatran,” says Waite. “Then we have our espresso which uses Cafe Vita, a small roaster from Seattle. We also have our 100 percent Maui-grown Moka Peaberry which is also roasted at Maui Oma. We don’t serve dark roast at all. We started off with the idea of doing coffee then it became evident that we could start doing food as well so we expanded into that. Now we’re starting the whole evening menu as well.”
They moved the cafe from the Puka Puka building to downtown Paia right behind the San Lorenzo Bikini store on Hana Highway. You can enter from the alleyway facing the Chevron gas station or through the bikini shop (if it’s open). Waite’s After Dark menu starts at 5:30pm and features tapas, skewers and side dishes. I planted myself there on a Friday night with a group of friends and a bottle of champagne from the Wine Corner and got down to business.
The coconut soup with steamed mussels was dreamy. The warm, creamy, salty-but-sweet broth was a great way to start the night. We also tried the peppered cashews, marinated olives and the Mediterranean tasting plate from the small plates menu. The skewers in salmon, lamb and salt-crusted shrimp were also scrumptious, and just $7.50 for two. Skewers also come in chicken, beef or all veggie. The grilled Halloumi cheese in a pita stuffed with salsa and salad was the sleeper hit–we could’ve ordered more of that to take home that night instead of fighting over bites.
“We did not do evenings at the Puka Puka building,” says Waite. “Our lease was really strict about what we could do. We were not open in the evenings ever. It wasn’t really an option. And that kitchen was half the size. Our new kitchen is tiny as well but over there was even smaller. Basically, when we moved in the new space the landlords were really keen on having an evening restaurant going. Because of our limited space I came up with the idea of getting an Asian grill and doing the skewers. I’m from England, and spent a lot of time in the Mediterranean growing up. I kind of based the flavors out of that experience. “
The breakfast and lunch menu continues to evolve but they still steam their organic eggs, bake their own croissants fresh and make a killer cup of coffee. Mornings start at 7am daily.
“The backbone of our breakfast is the eggs, which we steam on the espresso machine,” says Waite. “We were definitely one of the first people to be doing this on the island. The Health Department was okay with it, so that was cool. The menu keeps expanding a bit, but stays fairly similar. We just have been refining it over the years, as you do. Things have just gotten better food-wise. I’m really looking forward to getting the evening thing going.”
Paia Bay Coffee
115 Hana Hwy., Paia
Paia Bay Coffee Menu