Text by Andy Beth Miller / Images by Jonas Maon
O‘ahu hosts a proverbial cornucopia of eateries that dig deep when it comes to creating ‘ono grinds. Gathered here are four vegetarian restaurants that are brewing, baking, and even barbecuing the best of the island’s homegrown bounty.
Tucked into an old plantation-era style complex along the charming thoroughfare of Hale‘iwa, Beet Box is the brainchild of owner Marlys Mitchell, who opened the café in 2011. The dine-in and take-out eatery tries to source as much as possible from island farmers, and gets all its breads from a locally owned Kailua bakery. Vegetarian and gluten-free options also abound, with menu items including gnocchi, served in a delectable faux truffle-parmesan cream sauce, and wild mushroom flatbread, topped with local spinach, gooey gouda, and house-made arugula pesto.
Beet Box Cafe is located in Hale‘iwa at 66-437 Kamehameha Hwy. For more information, visit thebeetboxcafe.com.
In Waimānalo on O‘ahu’s windward side, owners Malia Smith and Kevin Vaccarello, chefs Michael Whalen and Katie Dobkin, and environmental geography specialist Scott McCoy have endeavored to provide their community with nutritious, locally grown options. “Our goal is to provide the deepest of aloha through the plant-based nutritious foods we serve, the people who serve them, through workshops and classes, the community who gathers here, and the ‘āina that graciously feeds them,” Smith says. While here, dig into vegan twists on local favorites, like the tofu poke bowl, served on a bed of greens with brown rice or millet, or the barbecue portobello sandwich, served with coconut slaw atop a fresh-baked whole-wheat bun.
‘Ai Love Nalo is located in Waimānalo at 41-1025 Kalanianaole Hwy. For more information, visit ailovenalo.com.
Jennifer and Christina Hee, the sibling chefs of Juicy Brew, exert extra energy to source the ingredients used in their dishes at their two locations. On an average week, Jennifer climbs jackfruit trees, searches for wild chaya, and stops by farms to procure produce in Waimānalo. The café’s grab-and-go menu offers fresh juices and dishes featuring Jennifer’s finds. Her favorite island ingredient of the moment is ‘ulu, or breadfruit. “I use [it] in savory dishes like vegan breakfast burritos, and it makes an amazing gluten-free flatbread when steamed and blended with chickpea flour,” she says. To sample their creativity, try the golden milk latte, made with local turmeric, and the vegan breakfast bento. Stop by for Sunday brunch at Juicy Brew’s Kaimukī location.
Juicy Brew is located in Honolulu in the lobby of Hale Pawa‘a Medical Center, 1401 S. Beretania St. and at 3392 Waialae Ave. For more information, visit juicybrewhawaii.com.
In 1986, two Japanese plantation families, the Matsudas and Fukuyamas, merged their two decades-old farms into one, aiming to share the experience of diversified agriculture with the community. Kylie Matsuda-Lum proudly perpetuates the legacy, spearheading the farm’s on-site café. “Our practice is, if we don’t grow it, we get it from our neighbors [like the Shintaku family farm], our family friends who grow beautiful, hydroponic, vine-ripened tomatoes in Hau‘ula,” she says. Try the café’s gluten-free grilled veggie salad, made with hydroponic lettuce, or the all-natural ice creams and sorbet, made with fresh fruits and other farm-foraged ingredients and, of course, no preservatives.
Kahuku Farms Café is located in Kahuku at 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy. For more information, visit kahukufarms.com.
For more, see Dip at ‘Alohilani.