Burgers, Salads And Breakfast, Too
When longtime residents Mitchell McPeek and Camille Kostelecky assumed the Kilauea Town Market lease, they cleared out the place and created a clean, uncluttered and roomy store. Today, shelves are stocked with local products as well as rubber slippers, sunglasses, sunscreen and fishing lures. Since they wanted to offer hot food, the couple hired A.J. Irons and bought his Opakapaka food truck.
“A.J. is an answered prayer,” says McPeek, who reopened the venue as Kilauea Town Farmers Market & Deli two months ago. “Our vision is to give the community what it wants: convenience items such as wine, beer, produce and hot food. A.J. is a great chef, and buying his food truck gave us a commercial kitchen.”
Irons was born and raised in Hanalei, riding waves with his first cousins, surfing legends Bruce and Andy Irons. As a way to get his studies done, A.J. locked himself inland and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, Fla. He traveled around the world learning cultural cooking techniques, and returned to Kauai in 2006 as a private chef. He still surfs, and he thinks of recipes while bobbing in the water, waiting for a wave.
For six years, Irons catered parties, cooked meals in the homes of clients (both of which he still does) and worked as a sous chef for Bar Acuda in Hanalei. Influenced by chef and owner Jim Moffat, Irons learned the importance of sourcing from local farmers. Opakapaka food truck is named after the Hawaii pink snapper, which is the fish equivalent to filet mignon and A.J.’s favorite.
In the food truck, which is parked permanently in back of Kilauea Town Farmers Market & Deli, Irons cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner to order. Using local ingredients as much as possible, he calls on farmers for seasonal produce, cooks fresh fish, and Thursdays he shops at the Kilauea Town farmers market.
Inside the store, a variety of to-go salads is kept in the cooler next to North Shore Kauai Beef. A chalk-board menu features ice cream, smoothies, milk-shakes, salads, and deli sandwiches such as Bambi’s Father ($12.99), which includes elk roast, smoked Gouda, organic arugula, tomatoes and a creamy horseradish sauce. Breakfast burritos ($5) are made to order with roasted potatoes, eggs, ham and Cheddar cheese, then folded into 13-inch spinach tortillas with house-made salsa.
“I call it a roasted pepper salsa,” explains Irons. “It’s a sweet, savory and a little spicy combination of roasted peppers, garlic and fresh pico de gallo.”
A fan of lightly steamed beets on the Beatnik Salad ($10) has salt and fresh cracked pepper sprinkled over it. The beets are surrounded by local arugula, slivers of scallions and juicy slices of sweet orange segments. Soft clusters of creamy goat cheese are scattered on top. House-made lemon vinaigrette is made with champagne vinegar and served on the side. The perfect bite: A bit of beets, orange, arugula, dressing and goat cheese is a bomb in flavors and texture.
North Shore Kauai Beef is used in the burger ($9.50). A tender 7-ounce patty is served with lemon aioli and A.J.’s smoked paprika barbecue sauce or teriyaki sake glaze. In the food truck kitchen, Irons puts the buns on the griddle to crisp while the burger cooks. A warmer in the back keeps the sauces hot. Once the burger is topped with Cheddar cheese, which quickly melts, A.J. adds sauce, lettuce and tomato. A savory and supremely flavored potato salad is served on the side.
“My potato salad doesn’t have any macaroni in it,” explains Irons. “It’s made with Yukon gold potatoes in a mayonnaise base with olive oil, garlic, fresh cilantro, parsley, red onion, green onion and carrots.”
Savvy regulars quickly have learned to call ahead for office breakfast and lunch orders. If you fancy a picnic on the beach, call ahead and they’ll put together a custom basket, which could include wine, beer, specialty cheese, elk sausage, crackers, fruit, vegetables, potato salad or anything from the menu.
Kilauea Town Farmers Market & Deli
2474 Keneke St., Kilauea
Open Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.