If you are looking for a European-influenced country-style café in the Captain Cook area with great ambience, excellent service and delicious, homemade cuisine, then Strawberry Patch is the place. If you are arriving into the region from the south, it is one of the first decent restaurants you will come across on Mamalahoa Highway.
After a wonderful day exploring the south part of Big Island between Hilo and Kona, I was looking eagerly for a place to dine and refresh before heading to my accommodations for the evening in Captain Cook town. The lights of the Strawberry Patch Cafe caught my attention and I thought I would give it a try. As I walked in, I was immediately impressed by the warm, charming ambience of the place. There were lace-covered tables, fresh displays of local ginger flowers, and a choice of indoor or outdoor dining. I chose a table inside and was soon greeted by the warm smiles of the friendly staff.
Every area of the restaurant was colorfully and tastefully designed, with a décor of red, white and green color. The place was adorned with potted plants, antiques and small porcelain ornaments. Shelves filled with cookbooks, pickle jars and glasses hand-painted with strawberries, as well as bowls of apples and tomatoes contributed to a homey, country-style feeling. It felt like I had just walked in to a friend’s home, and, judging by the enticing aromas that were emanating from the small kitchen, my senses were about to be delighted with their culinary creations.
The food was freshly prepared and arrived promptly. I ordered the cream of spinach and artichoke soup and it was served in a teacup. It was light, creamy, full-flavored and tasty. As I was enjoying the taste sensation, I read the ‘Come join us for a taste of home’ story of their restaurant on the back of the menu, which confirmed that indeed the roots of the Strawberry Patch were unpretentious in origin. The chef and owner Amelia and her sister Maria grew up in their parents’ restaurants in Ohio and were always part of the family business. They found their passion for food, cooking alongside their talented father. Their dream was to open their own restaurant, and they moved to Big Island eight years ago and the dream became a reality in January 2011. Amelia says that she creates a homey environment in the restaurant as it is where she spends most of her time, and she figures if she feels at home there then customers will also feel welcome.
Soon after I devoured the soup, ‘Brian’s bruschetta’ arrived – a crispy baguette with goat cheese, cherry tomato chutney, caramelized onion and basil. Decorated lavishly with a smattering of cress and flower petals, it was almost too pretty to eat. As I took the first bite I dived into an incredible taste sensation, the tart flavor of the goat cheese perfectly complemented with the luscious chutney and a light drizzle of sweet balsamic.
The house salad was delightful. The ginger-raspberry dressing made the fresh, local greens come alive with taste, flavor and vigor. Some chefs cook tasty food; Amelia cooks up a taste sensation whilst infusing it with her love and passion for her culinary art. Like any excellent homemade food, you can taste the love! Her cuisine has a distinctly Italian and French influence, with a combination of recipes from their mother, father and grandmother as well as many that Amelia has created herself. The meals are hearty and the servings are sizeable. They use local and organic ingredients where possible, supporting the island farmers and fishermen. This place is a little gem – warm, inviting and cheerful - and not to be missed. They offer a take-out service as well as catering and specialty cakes.
The light meal left me feeling satisfied, but not overly full. The dessert selection looked enticing and I vowed to return soon to sample these and some of the other dishes on the menu.
Open Tuesday through Saturday 11am – 8pm.