Kama Hele Cafe: In the Heart of Haliʻimaile
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“Kama Hele” means traveler in Hawaiian, which applies not only to a certain mobile food truck in Haliʻimaile, but also to the diners it draws in — those who are traveling by car, by bike, to work, from home, all making their way along Haliʻimaile Road. The truck sits outside a cluster of local businesses, in a shady space across from Chef Beverly Gannon’s restaurant, Haliʻimaile General Store.
“Our customers are local people, people who work around here, and a few tourists passing through that go on the pineapple tour and the distillery tour and come to see Makai Glass,” explains Andrea Werner-Gillum, chef of Kama Hele Cafe.
The food truck also provides breakfast and lunch to bike riders on Maui Downhill’s sunrise and afternoon tours, which show up by the van-loads and relax in the outdoor seating area.
Kama Hele opened in January 2014, and prides itself on using healthy ingredients like brown rice, candying its own nuts and making many food items from scratch, including salad dressing and salsa. In addition to kombucha, a range of coffee drinks and shave ice, the menu includes a chili bowl, Kalua pork sandwich, veggie wrap, rainbow salad, sweet-bread French toast, and the favorite, a Hawaiian BBQ plate.
“The BBQ plate is the #1 seller. You get a little bit of Kalua pork, you get the shoyu-sake chicken, rice, salad, so it’ll fill you up, but it won’t make you feel super stuffed ‘cause it’s still kinda light and refreshing,” says Werner-Gillum, who describes the food as “upscale local.”
Local diners can enjoy kamaʻaina discounts on the food items, along with kombucha, which is normally priced at $5.50.
“We do special kamaʻaina on kombucha, for 16 ounces it’s $4.20 cents. We brew our own kombucha, it’s a little bit sweeter and more fruity than most kombuchas,” Werner-Gillum explains. “Then we do kamaʻaina price on the plates, it’s $1.00 less on whatever the price is.”
Werner-Gillum says after going to school for culinary and food-service management, she worked in the corporate world, then decided to get involved in the food truck, to “get back to enjoying what really made me happy, and making my own things and seeing people enjoy my food.”
The food truck is open from 7 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and may extend its hours starting in late December. Although it’s called “mobile traveler,” the truck typically doesn’t stray too far from its spot under the trees near Haliʻimaile Park. The vibe is welcoming, open and friendly, whether customers are grabbing coffee to go, sitting down for lunch, or just wanting to talk story.
“We have a dining area too, so people can sit down and enjoy their food and not have to take it with them, and this location just works for us,” Werner-Gillum smiles. “They can sit down and relax; they don’t even have to order food, just come and hang out!”