Maui Food and Dining

808 Bistro: Comfort Food in a Secret Garden

September 27, 2014, 10:22 AM HST
* Updated September 29, 7:05 AM
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By Vanessa Wolf

Follow the wooden walkway until you see this: the 808 Bistro entry. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Follow the wooden walkway until you see this: the 808 Bistro entry. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Tucked well out of sight behind Fred’s Mexican Cafe on South Kihei Road, you may not even realize 808 Bistro exists.

Serving just breakfast and dinner in a surprisingly private, lush green setting, it’s somehow simultaneously front-and-center and off the beaten path.

Regardless, should you endeavor to find it, the unconventional space may not inspire invalid children to walk, but does offer reasonably priced, above average breakfast and dinner options.

We rose with the sun and gave the Veggie Omelet ($13) a whirl.

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A generous size, it came filled with a serious plethora of fillings. Copious cheese, cabbage, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, onions, yellow zucchini, carrots, and yellow bell peppers all make the grade.

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Secret Garden, indeed. It’s basically everything but the kitchen sink (or radishes).

The salad-like list of ingredients inside is different, but we don’t mean that as a euphemism for something else.

Sure, maybe we could do without the carrots or cabbage, but the eggs were prepared perfectly – thin, light and not a brown spot in sight –  in French fashion, which is more than enough to make us happy.

The Veggie Omelet is a veritable garden salad for breakfast. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Veggie Omelet is a veritable garden salad for breakfast. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

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Less healthy by definition, the Eggs Benedict arrives on slices of focaccia bread.

We’re not stridently attached to tradition… except when we are.

Focaccia is one of those breads that’s never all that good (in our opinion.)

This met our dry and oily expectations  – kind of like thick pizza crust, but without anything to soften the Sahara-like desiccation. Focaccia is as focaccia does.

Long story short, we’d prefer English muffins.

Otherwise, the dish was excellent: the eggs were perfectly poached and the hollandaise creamy, with an unexpected kick. (Note that if you’re not a fan of mules, Everclear or unexpected kicks.)

Both breakfasts were accompanied by hash browns.

The Banana Bread French Toast. Why didn't we think of this? Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Banana Bread French Toast. Why didn’t we think of this? Photo by Vanessa Wolf

If they didn’t emerge from a large freezer bag, then we’ll gladly apologize (and lose a few bets), but trust our instincts on this one: they’re the typical prepared Denny’s-style shreds. However, they were cooked as well as can be – to a nice, crisp and consistent brown – so who’s complaining?

Last up, we gave the Banana Bread French Toast ($7) a whirl.

With this, you can expect banana bread dipped in egg batter , fried and dusted with powdered sugar.  It’s both as simple and as clever as it sounds.

However, if you’re expecting more than carbs, well, don’t.

Your $4, $7 or $9 yields you one, two or three pieces of French toast, some squares of butter and a small container of syrup. The end.

The banana bread itself is moist and well-executed. The egg batter only makes it better; a crackerjack idea that delivers.

The porch-like dining area. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The porch-like dining area. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

We returned again for dinner and were greeted by a very friendly waitress.

808 Bistro’s service is notably and consistently prompt and cheerful with almost every member of the staff coming by or checking in at some point.

The space itself is an open, covered deck with some partial ocean views in the distance. Soft rock plays overhead and the vibe is mellow and casual.

The Caesar Salad ($7 small, $12 large) finds fresh, crisp romaine covered with copious dressing, shredded Parmesan and croutons.

It’s a basic presentation – exactly what you’d expect – which works for us.

We didn’t see the large version, but note a small Caesar is enough to make a meal for most people.

Looking around the space, it’s hard to tell where the actual kitchen is located (across the courtyard?) and one gets the sense much of the food is pre-made and reheated to order.

The Caesar Salad. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Caesar Salad. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Case in point, short ribs show up in three dishes in the breakfast and dinner menus.

We tried the Braised Boneless Short Ribs ($20) option.

One Andrew Jackson buys you two large and remarkably un-fatty –  to the degree of being a bit dry – pieces.

Seasoning was on the weak side and the accompanying “Whole Grain Mustard BBQ sauce” – more like a tamarind chutney than anything – is necessary to add some moisture and flavor.

Still, the meat is homey and tender in a Mom’s pot roast kind of way.

The accompanying mashed potatoes had good flavor, but were molten lava hot as though they’d been heated in a microwave. Save your tongue and test them before trying a bite.

The Short Ribs. We requested our sauce on the side. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Short Ribs. We requested our sauce on the side. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

If you aren’t a huge fan of blue cheese, steer clear of the Gorgonzola Alfredo ($15).

If blue cheese gives your life meaning?

Then by all means run, don’t walk.

Penne pasta arrives in a thick sauce with a few slices of onion and mushroom thrown in for good measure.

Be sure to read the fine print though, because that’s all there is, folks.

Unless you’re some kind of saucitarian; chicken ($5), shrimp ($7), mahi mahi ($8) or even vegetables ($4) are extra.

It’s a little nickel and dimey for us, but that aside, the sauce has a rich cheesy flavor and the dish is quite filling.

As a final flourish, we ordered the Hawaiian Sweet Bread Pudding ($8).

The Bread Pudding looks innocent enough, but ours possessed enough internal heat to melt metal. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Bread Pudding looks innocent enough, but ours possessed enough internal heat to melt metal. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Also center-of-the-sun hot, the pudding itself is dense with butter and had predominant nutmeg notes.

We’d love to see more milk and eggs added to the base – less bread! More pudding! – but the accompanying small scoops of ice cream and whipped cream help lighten things up.

Bottom line?

All told, the food at 808 Bistro is not going to blow your mind… but neither are the prices.

That stated, if you are seeking friendly, efficient and affordable fare in a sit-down, garden-like atmosphere in South Maui, you can’t do much better than this.

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808 Bistro is located at 2511 South Kihei Road, behind Fred’s Mexican Cafe in Kihei. They are open from 7 a.m. to noon and 5 to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

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