Tranquil Views And Microbrews

The Grove Cafe chef Frank Guillermo with a tray of his fall-off-the-bone pork ribs ready for the oven

The Grove Café in Waimea is a perfect example of how to take a good thing and make it better.

Formerly Waimea Brewing Company restaurant and microbrewery, the restaurant reopened under its new name, The Grove Café, one year ago with an upscaled menu.

The brewery, still named Waimea Brewing Co. and now the only microbrewery on Kaua’i, continues in business independently on-site and is stronger than ever now that its focus is only on beer.

The restaurant is even more enjoyable for Kaua’i residents with expanded seating – including on the back lanai, where diners can enjoy soothing Waimea trade winds and tranquil views of the charming, restored authentic plantation-era homes of Waimea Plantation Cottages scattered among coconut trees.

If you time it just right, you might be treated to a blazing west side sunset while you’re there.

And with a menu full of local favorites such as ahi poke, kalbi short ribs, burgers, kalua pork sandwich, pasta with Portuguese sausage and fresh catch of the day, and with music by local bands on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, The Grove Café is a wonderful place to relax and spend some time.

Alaskan snow crab cakes with lilikoi aioli and spicy sweet chili sauce

And there’s the beer! Dave Curry, director of brewing operations, said the best way to learn which of WBC’s 10 beers are your favorites is to order the sampler platter that allows you to try as many as four at one time; each 6-ounce sample costs $2.20.

Curry, who began making beer with a home kit when he was 16 years old and graduated from the American Brewers Guild, brews 10 kegs per week at WBC. Half-gallon jugs, called “growlers,” can be purchased at the restaurant for $23 and refilled for $17. Curry says the brewery recently purchased more kegs so it can begin supplying other restaurants and bars across the island within the next couple of months. Ask your favorite bartender to contact Curry if you’d like to enjoy Waimea Brewing Co. beer at your local establishments.

My sweetheart, Lincoln, the beer expert in our household, sampled the multiple-award winning Uli Uli Brown and loved it. I had the much lighter Lilikoi Ale, which is more to my taste with the fruitiness of the passion fruit flavor.

Once you’ve decided on your beverage, you’ll easily be able to find something to accompany it on the tempting Grove Café menu.

Dave Curry, director of brewing operations at Waimea Brewing, Kaua‘i’s only microbrewery

We ordered a selection of pupus for a variety of taste sensations. We began with the macadamia nut-crusted shrimp ($10.95 for the appetizer portion of three or $15.95 for the entrée of five shrimp). They were scrumptious, lightly crunchy on the outside from Japanese bread crumbs combined with the mac nuts, yet tender and succulent inside. They were served with lilikoi aioli and a spicy-sweet chili sauce, two complementary tastes, perfect for dipping and blending.

The Alaskan snow crab cakes ($12.95 for three cakes) also were delicious, just crunchy enough on the outside and moist inside. They came with the same aioli and chili sauce as the shrimp.

The pupu portion of the half rack of pork ribs ($12.95 for five, or the entrée portion for $18.95) was five meaty and very tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs. Chef Frank Guillermo, who has returned to the restaurant after a one-year break during which he had a baby girl and did plenty akule fishing, let us in on his not-so-secret-anymore recipe. He marinates them in a blend of onions, garlic powder, red chili flakes, thyme, Hawaiian salt, shoyu and lemon, then seals the trays and steams them for two hours in the oven at 280 degrees. They’re brushed with mango barbecue sauce before serving. That’s why he’s the chef!

The description on the menu for the Kaho’olawe salad, a delightful combination of mixed greens, candied macadamia nuts, crumbled goat cheese, pineapple and guava-balsamic vinaigrette topped with crispy onions, is: “Dis is da bomb!”

Indeed it is. It is one of the most wonderful, lively salads we’ve ever had. I recommend ordering the dressing on the side to regulate the amount.

Kikiaola Sand Pie

After the feast, we were pleasantly stuffed and were happily considering a simple dessert of chocolate macaroons dipped in chocolate. But then our server, Peter Lahip, highly recommended Chef Frank’s special dessert called the Kikiaola Sand Pie. We protested (meekly) then dug into the lovely creation of Kona coffee ice cream, macadamia nuts, chocolate fudge, coconut, Oreo cookie crust and chocolate drizzle. Sigh. It’s a tough job.

Menu items that caught our eye that we look forward to having on return visits include the ahi poke, sweet potato fries, Thai summer rolls, seafood chowder, the bacon, lettuce and crab sandwich and eggplant Parmesan.

The Grove Café can accommodate 150 people, and is a great place to have birthday parties, brunches, seminars and other island functions. Once you arrive, you’ll want to stay awhile and soak in wonderful West Kaua’i hospitality.

The Grove Café is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Call 338-9733; learn more about the brewery at waimeabrewingkauai.com.

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