Kihei’s Best Plate Lunch: Cafe O’lei

Cafe O’lei Kihei: Local Food With Creative Touches

Owner, Dana Pastula is the creative genius behind the popular establishment of Cafe O’lei which has been in business for over 10 years now. It has grown from a small six table operation and into three restaurants operating under the Cafe O’lei name, a thriving catering business, and two other fine dining restaurants under original restaurant names. They have cultivated a brand name synonymous with above average food at reasonable prices. They serve lunch and dinner, but I primarily enjoy their lunch menu for one dish in particular.

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The sushi bar open at night and the clay oven they run

The Kihei location on the South Side has recently become my first choice lunch spot IF their special for the day is still available. I always call in to make sure that they’re still serving it because they only offer it on a first come first serve basis. Sure, you don’t always have to call in or only order the lunch special because they do have other dishes that you’ll enjoy just as much, but their plate lunch special is just unbeatable. An entree with rice, and a salad all or $8.28 (as of summer 2015); there’s no other place in Kihei that offers a lunch special quite like theirs.

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They also do a killer Friday night prime rib dinner special for under $25

The lunch special changes on a daily basis and the salad is a flavorful and rich caesar salad (although, if you ask you can substitute the dressing for another). I usually call into the bar and order take out because I’m in and out of there in two minutes. I like to call in because if there is a knock on this place, it’s their service. I’m not saying that they’re bad or inattentive, they’re just always a little busy and crowded with many big parties to serve because it is a popular choice among tourists as well as locals. The Kihei location in particular accommodates many tourist because it’s right on South Kihei Road in a pretty central location, but with a crappy parking lot that gets easily crowded.

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A mac nut panko crusted mahi in their garlic butter sauce, they also do other butter sauce variations

If you go often enough, you’ll probably remember their weekly menu, but on some days they do change it up. A recent addition I just tried was what I would call a beef stew, but the hostess said it was a beef stir fry. Whatever it was, it was one of the best lunch specials i’ve tried; the meat had the softness and texture of a pot roast accompanied by the traditional stew vegetables in a stew like broth, but tasted sweet and spicy like a Japanese curry. They also make a really good chicken katsu with their dipping sauce probably being my favorite on the island, it tastes like a mix between a guava bbq sauce and a traditional katsu sauce. I also really like their Friday special of ribeye grilled on the flat top with brown gravy, in my opinion it’s better with rice than their mash potatoes. Last but not least, their steak poke on Wednesdays is another one of their lunch specials you have to try; it’s a warm steak salad tossed with onions, tomatoes, and green onions in a soy ginger chili relish.

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Villa 39-6 at Ho'olei at Grand Wailea

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Anthony Sayles
(808) 280-6531