Cafe @ La Plage: Basics Done Right
Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. She offers her blunt assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Sometimes you’re looking for a four-course meal, nouvelle cuisine, or exotic fare.
Sometimes you just want a decent sandwich.
When faced with the latter, Cafe @ La Plage in South Kihei’s Dolphin Plaza is likely to fit the bill.
Start with breakfast.
They make excellent espressos, lattes and other coffee drinks at prices more competitive than Starbucks or even neighboring coffee shacks.
Require actual food to sustain you?
Starting at 6:30 a.m., there are a variety of bagel and panini breakfast sandwiches available.
The Kalama ($6.20) is as messy as all get out – consider a bib – but delish. You get your choice of bagel flavor and it’s basically like a BLT, hold the mayo, add avocado and a large portion of (at least two) soufflé omelet-style eggs. It’s filling, tasty, and very reasonably priced.
The Keawakapu ($6.20) comes with egg, cheese, bacon or ham, lettuce and tomato. The Big Beach ($5.20) is the same, but hold the meat.
Admittedly, there isn’t a wild variation of options here, but what there is is quite satisfying.
The Little Beach ($5.20) bagel sandwich, for example, is another excellent choice.
We know, we know. The things you’ve seen on Little Beach aren’t necessarily images you want conjured while you’re eating, but this is one exceptional bagel sandwich nonetheless.
Think of it as the Egg McMuffin’s beefy older brother and made fresh…for almost the same price as the fast food option.
A generous portion of flavorful, thin-sliced ham sits atop a large layer of souffléd eggs, and is then coated with a layer of melty cheese. Dainty eaters may even find it’s enough for breakfast AND lunch.
Speaking of lunch, there are a number of options there as well.
Deli sandwiches ($5.99) are basic and straightforward. Choose from turkey, ham, roast beef, BLT or tuna salad. Then add cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack, American or provolone cheese and the usual fixings on bread or a bagel for $5.99. Add chips for $1 more and a salad for an extra $2.
There are also Panini sandwiches available, and on Tuesdays it’s “buy one panini, get one for half-price.”
We tried the Maui Melt ($8.99)
Turkey, hot pepper jack, avocado, Swiss cheese, bacon, and pickled jalapeno come together in sandwich awesomeness.
It’s hard to make a sandwich with avocado and melted cheese and not have one or the other messed up, but they nailed it.
The jalapenos, although pickled, are super hot: more delicate stomachs may want them on the side.
The paninis are served with a salad of thin sliced romaine and a creamy Italian dressing. The greens were a bit soggy, but the lettuce was clearly quite fresh and a generous portion was provided.
The Mediterranean Melt ($7.99) was less successful, but perhaps that was because we were expecting more of a tuna melt.
Admittedly, the name should have been a tip-off, but the tuna itself was very lightly dressed with tiny bits of celery, capers, and a strong garlic powder flavor to it.
The tomato layer was thoughtfully placed between the tuna and cheese, but still managed to make everything soggy.
If something more akin to a Nicoise salad sandwich than a tuna melt sounds right up your alley, this may be the choice for you.
Café @ La Plage also offers some specialty sandwiches and salads. The Chef Salad ($8.00) featured a generous portion of fresh romaine lettuce covered in turkey, ham, tomato, Swiss and American cheeses. It felt a little bit like a “lunch meat” or deli counter cold cut salad – probably because that’s more or less the other menu offerings – but with some Ranch dressing it was acceptable, although probably not the most healthy dining option on the list.
There aren’t a whole lot of fresh, well-priced and reasonable options open at 6:30 a.m. – or even later, for that matter – on South Kihei Road.
If you are in the market for some quick breakfast bagels or interesting and flavorful paninis and sandwiches to take to the beach, it would be hard to go wrong with Café @ La Plage.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – vanessa(@mauinow.com)