Kauai Restaurant of the Week with Anne Lee: Verde RestaurantInside Feature
March 20, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: Anne Lee
Gather Federal Credit Union is supporting its Kauai restaurant community by offering 3% cash back for Gather FCU Signature Visa card holders or double points for Platinum Visa cardholders who are either dining in or ordering takeout until April 2022.
Justin Ganaden, Gather FCU’s executive vice president, introduced me to one of his favorite restaurants: Verde Hawaii. This neighborhood restaurant offers a blend of Mexican and Pueblo dishes, inspired from the flavor profiles of New Mexico. Conveniently located in Hokulei Village in Lihue, I had a chance to meet with owner Maris Scarbo and taste the dishes that they are known for.
This minority-owned, female-run thriving restaurant offers homemade salsa (which you can also buy only at the Lihue Costco), as well as unique made-from-scratch tortillas, including ulu and uala haupia tortillas that can be ordered in place of the traditional flour tortillas.
If you don’t live on Kauai, customers are able to order dozen packs of these custom wraps, which can be shipped to neighbor islands or the mainland via USPS. Lucky you live Kauai!
Q: Tell me about the history of Verde Restaurant.
A: Verde means “green” in Spanish. We incorporate Hatch green chiles, as well as Chimayo red chiles from New Mexico in our menu.
We opened our original location in Kapaa back in 2008 and eventually moved to Lihue in 2017. We aim to practice being “green” by using locally grown, sustainable ingredients, supporting local businesses and using eco-friendly takeout products. We are also proud to use local Kauai beef and antibiotic-free/ hormone-free chicken and pork. Most recently, we have been using tortillas as our platform to showcase what we can grow locally and sustainably here in Hawaii, such as ulu breadfruit tortillas and sweet purple potato haupia tortillas.
Q: You have been in business for 14 years, and this location will be celebrating five years in 2022. Anything special that you will be doing?
A: We turned 14 on March 12 and every year we offer an anniversary special in which all net sale proceeds from that dish will go to our hardworking staff who has shown so much resilience during the pandemic. For the entire month of March, we are offering our seasonal Roasted Hatch Green Chile Tortillas as our nod to our inspiration behind Verde.
Q: How did you get into the restaurant industry?
A: I never had any experience in the restaurant industry at all when I first opened Verde. I was handling the business side of the operations, but I did work on the floor in the beginning. My experience with marketing, finance and real estate was definitely useful, and my brother, Carlo Manzano, took care of the kitchen.
Q: Your happy hour is back. Tell me more about it and your famous house margarita.
A: Our $3 Pau Hana Margarita is back and available daily from 2 to 6 p.m. We are working on a Pau Hana menu at the moment.
Q: Verde supports local and has an eat clean motto. What does that entail?
A: Verde has become known for offering fresh, healthier, sustainable alternatives of Mexican food. We use locally grown cilantro, jalapeños, greens, avocados and limes, as well as local, grass-fed Kauai beef. We also collaborate with other local businesses such as Pineapple Ginger Beer from Aloha Ginger Beer, Vegan Crumble from Ki Kauai Organics, Tomoe Honey for our honey, and coffee from Kauai Roastery.
Q: Tell me more about the dishes that you made for us to try today.
A: Vegan Crumble Tacos ($13) made with high-protein taro-mung bean-moringa crumble from Ki Kauai Organics, greens from Dang Farm’s, and ulu and sweet purple potato haupia tortillas.
Bean and Cheese Tostada ($12) with greens, pico de gallo, corn tostada, green chile sauce and garlic aioli. It’s light but filling, and the garlic aioli is the winner here.
Sopapilla and Honey ($8). This puffy New Mexican pastry is like a hollow malasada.
Q: Where do you like to eat?
A: Anywhere locally owned. As a small-business owner, you feel a sense of kinship with fellow small-business owners by supporting them.
Q: What do you love about living on Kauai?
A: Kauai is such a small community. Every place you go to shop or eat, you are literally supporting your auntie, your neighbor or your son’s preschool classmate’s parent, or your husband’s old neighbor. We are all connected; therefore, their success is also your success.
Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: We are grateful for the continued support especially during the pandemic. It’s been tough on everyone, but, I know I am not alone in saying this but the resilience and perseverance are the legacies this pandemic has left us.