By Anni Caporuscio

Verde chef Kristin Yanagawa

What has always impressed me about Verde is that they really honestly care about what they do, and it expresses itself threefold: They care about their customers, they care about their service, and they care about the food. They want you to feel full and happy and part of the experience of the Verde family.

Owner Maris Manzano and her staff are happy to talk about Verde’s Puhi location, open since Sept. 1, 2017 in the Hokulei Shopping Center. In Puhi, you’ll find the same time-honored menu, but they’ve added a full bar — it’s huge — and rotating monthly specials, many of which will end up on the permanent menu by popular demand. The dining room is large enough to host special holiday parties and meetings. The Puhi location also has monthly specials and features a “Local Farmer of the Month,” offering a special based on their produce. It is a great way to educate customers on what is available on island.

Verde cares about customers with alternative diets. So, if you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or allergic to any combination of ingredients, Verde has what you need. The menu is entirely customizable, and it’s not pretentious to ask. They serve antibiotic-free, hormone-free everything, and strive for locally caught and grown.

The Garlic Shrimp Tacos, lightly breaded with cornmeal and spices, has a spicy little crunch. The tomato salsa is fresh and the aioli drizzle gives it another zing. Definitely squeeze the lime over it for more balance.

You may have noticed their Eat Local campaign; it’s written on their shirts and menus. Verde loves to support small producers as a theme of their business. Among others, you can find Kō Bakery, Kaua‘i Juice Co, Papalani Gelato, Kaua‘i Roastery, Ki Organics, Kaua‘i Honey and Makaweli Beef.

They are also very proud to work with local farmers to source ingredients. Knowing that your food was grown here gives a peace of mind and a connection to the whole process. Because they must work within the availability of the growing season, they do a lot of planning. Chef Kristin Yanagawa says the flavor for locally sourced ingredients is hands-down better all around.

Maris is always quick to include her staff in restaurant decisions and, notably, interviews for magazine columns. It reflects in how pleased and family-like her staff is at work.

Hello to new spaces and plenty of seating at the Puhi location of Verde.

Yanagawa does a lot of ingredient-sourcing and special-inventing. She says Fajitas are her favorite, a house spectacle of sizzling and smells. She also loves the Huevos Rancheros (also Maris’ fave) and the Vegan Crumble, another special that made it onto the main menu. It’s taro from Sacred Spoon, toasted to the consistency of ground meat, a flavorful and healthy meat substitute. Server Yuki Flores, who has worked at Verde for nearly the entire time it’s been open, loves the Ahi Tostada best. And also the Pork Tacos. And the Stuffed Sopaipilla. And Fresh Catch anything, blackened with aioli. She had a hard time deciding.

Puhi’s Verde hosts Margarita Mondays, offering a $5 fresh squeezed margarita mix. Then Tequila Tuesdays with $2 off shots; try it with the agave drizzle and li hing powder. Happy Hour runs every day 3-5 p.m. with $5 margaritas and 10 percent off food items. Don’t forget about catering and private parties.

Verde is in the Hokulei Shopping Village just outside of Lihu‘e, at 4454 Nuhou St., Suite 501. Order takeout at 320-7088 or online at verdehawaii.com.

  • Anni Caporuscio is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.