As I pulled up in front of Verde restaurant in Kapaa, I had to double check if I was at the right location. I had been to the restaurant before, but this place looked nothing like what I remembered.
Owner Maris Manzano, originally from Manila, Philippines, has put her heart and soul in the place and you can feel it. “Rustic” is the look she was going for.
“Everything is new. It is almost upscale but with a down-to-earth feel,” she said.
I agree and add that she got a lounge/shabby chique effect as well.
“Once she puts her mind to it, consider it done,” said Pete Manzano, father and by the looks of it, a huge supporter of Maris.
“She adapts well,” he added with a smile, proudly telling me about his daughter’s marketing management degree from the Philippines, as well as her real estate broker licenses from both Hawaii and California.
Verde, in business since 2008, is named after the Spanish word for green, because of the green chili peppers typical for the New Mexican cuisine that the restaurant represents.
The place was packed with laughing people, smiling servers and fabulous looking dishes. There was music coming from the new and improved bar, where a busy bartender was preparing fun drinks.
“Look at my staff,” Maris said while looking around, “they run this place like it is their own. They are my support system and ohana. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Verde tries to stay local as much as possible, especially with greens. It offers various vegetarian and gluten-free items. I was welcomed with complimentary chips and two kinds of house made salsa, one of which you can now find in Costco along with their pickled veggies. I had the ahi tostada (seared rare ahi, guacamole, corn tostada, pico de galo, local greens, red chili sauce, signature aioli, $12.95). I understand why that is one of their top sellers. The Hawaiian-Mexican combo of the fish, crispy tostada, fresh veggies and spices was a delicious match.
I finished my visit with the spiced chocolate dulce de leche cheesecake (spiced chocolate Hula Baby biscotti crumb, cinnamon-chocolate filling, dulce de leche swirl, $7). After just one bite of the cheesecake, I had them bring me two more to go.
Overall, Verde shines. The staff is friendly, the atmosphere festive, the food fantastic and the owner keep things smooth and steady.