Caffé Coco Gets A Face-Lift

Caffé Coco owner Hollan Hamid. Daniel Lane photos

Hollan and Haleem Hamid are the proud new owners of Caffé Coco. This is the first restaurant the couple has owned, and they have set their sights on bringing a fresh look to the old café.

They’ve put more than 100 hours into painting, restoring and clearing overgrowth. Colorful wood panels, recovered from Habitat for Humanity, make up the new front counter. Decaying hala mats were removed from the ceiling, exposing the original tin roof, and a keiki room is under construction.

“We are so fortunate, the community really stepped in to help us out,” says Hollan, a mother of three. “Twenty friends pitched in for two 12hour days,” adds husband Haleem. “They towed away eight truckloads of debris.”

Ahi Charmoula with Moroccan spices

Diners can rely on the same menu, staff and atmosphere Caffé Coco has always delivered.

“Keeping the menu and the staff the same has been a blessing,” says Hollan, “because we can stay open while we are renovating, and the restaurant takes care of itself.”

With a culinary degree in pastry, Hollan is the driving force behind the endeavor. She began by renting kitchen time for Hippie Cafe, her upcoming line of vegan and glutenfree Hawaiian chocolate brownie mixes and freshbaked cookies, muffins and sweet breads.

“I had been going up to Kilauea to bake, and I really enjoyed it,” says Hollan. “I told Haleem I was going to create a business plan for my own restaurant, and before I did, the opportunity for Caffé Coco appeared.”

Sweet Potato Samosa and Vegan BLT

Hollan’s health challenges, along with feeding her family, have shaped her cooking style. She is a vegan who is sensitive to sugar and gluten. Haleem will eat anything, and her three children are at various stages of vegetarianism.

To me, an old-fashioned BLT is the perfect sandwich. But Hollan has created a delicious version that uses tempeh, vegan mayonnaise and Big Island Hamakua tomatoes.

“I buy as many local and organic ingredients as possible,” says Hollan. “I want to get to the point where farmers drop off what they have, and I create dishes based on what they have to offer that week.”

Christine Micel still cooks dinner every evening

The Girl From Hanapepe, Aloha Jazz Quartet’s rendition of The Girl From Ipanema, wafts across the outside courtyard as Hollan brings a plate of Tofu Potstickers, her favorite appetizer ($14). “We only use fresh olive oil to cook with,” she says. “And we make the mango chutney in-house.”

As the midsummer’s day folds into twilight, I savor a bowl of Thai Curried Pumpkin Soup ($9). Flecked with bits of kale, the silky soup is not too sweet, not too spicy and very flavorful.

Slow-roasted tomatoes are blended with an herbal butter for the Pasta D’Alba ($16). The sauce is studded with whole kalamata olives, and a fiery kick warms the mouth. Next time, I’ve got to remember to bring a bottle of red wine!

The 15-year-old cafe has a fresh, new look. Daniel Lane photos

The Ahi Charmoula ($21) features cornmealcrusted ahi topped with Moroccan spices, cucumber yogurt and a beautiful green salad. Add a purple sweet potato samosa with house-made tomato chutney for $5.

Hollan’s desserts are lightly sweet, as if they have been kissed by sugar. A wonderful chocolate coconut pudding ($5.75), and cookie of the day ($4) are always available. Tonight’s specials are Chocolate Mocha Cake ($6), Haupia Cake with lilikoi filling and coconut frosting, Peach Pie and Strawberry Coco Parfait ($5).

I’m charmed by the sultry jazz, balmy trade winds and delicious food. Dining in the open courtyard surrounded by rustling palms and twinkling lights adds to my enchantment. I’m glad I sprayed on the bug spray, which is conveniently located in a basket by the door.

(from left) Chocolate Mocha Cake, Haupia Cake and Peach Pie

Caffé Coco 4-369 Kuhio Hwy., Kapa’a
TuesdaySaturday, 5-9 p.m.
Live music nightly