Kauai Restaurant of the Week with Anne Lee: Midnight Bear BreadsInside Feature
May 1, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANNE LEE
Midnight Bear Breads is one of the magical places that make Kauai a food lover’s paradise. Located in the historic town of Hanapepe sits the bakery where Evan McAfee and his wife Ursa bake delectable breads and pastries until the wee hours of the morning — every day. I was able to catch him at the Anaina Hou farmers market on a Sunday all the way in Kilauea. What makes this even more special is that his bakery is located an hour and a half away from this farmers market. Both Evan and Ursa bake until the crack of dawn, load up his truck, then he drives to set up an hour before the market opens, just in time to meet the demands of eager customers who have already formed a line, as he sells out quickly — all with no sleep.
I can see why he has such a following. I had one bite of the croissant and felt like I was in a French café — so flaky, chewy, soft, light and airy. Words cannot describe the taste. I haven’t tasted bread like this in Hawaii. If you are on Kauai, this is a must try — you won’t be disappointed.
Q. Please tell me the history and concept behind Midnight Bear Breads.
A. My wife Ursa and I started Midnight Bear Breads in August 2011.We started out selling at the Kauai Community Market at Kauai Community College.We baked out of what was at the time Hanapepe Café.We still bake and now have our own bakery/ café. In June 2015, we expanded from doing a few farmers markets and wholesaling to health food stores on island to open our retail bakery in Hanapepe. We began as strictly a bread bakery, then added croissants after a couple years, and now offer breakfast, sandwiches and various coffee beverages. Our name comes from Ursa (also my wife) Major, a constellation, and its meaning, which is “the bear,” and we would always bake in the midnight hours, so the name was fitting.
Q. How did you get into this industry and how did you get to Hanapepe?
A. Ursa had worked at bread bakeries in Vermont before coming to Hawaii. We met farming on the Big island and moved to Kauai together. Ursa had a job at Hanapepe Café in the bakery and began adding artisan breads to their offerings. The owner encouraged her to continue making breads and invited us to sell them at various farmers markets.We had a great reaction from the community on Kauai because what we offered was a unique quality product that wasn’t readily available fresh baked on island.
Q. What makes your breads and baked goods so unique?
A. Our breads are made with simple ingredients: sourdough starter and organic flours, water and salt. The long fermentation process, free form shape, and bake on a stone deck all work to bring out the best flavors from the quality ingredients. We love incorporating local flavors into our breads and pastries, which make them unique to the area.
We have always been committed to keeping the quality high through the best ingredients, lots of long hours and care to be sure our products meet the high standard our customers have come to expect.
Q. What are the most popular items at Midnight Bear Bakery?
A. Some of our most popular items are our French sourdough ($9), rosemary sea salt baguettes ($5), macadamia nut cinna mon rolls ($5) and seasonal fruit danishes ($5.50). And, of course, our breads, the artisan organic breads, are mixed using our 9-year-old sourdough culture. In addition to our regular options, we have an array of additional specialty flavors that may include: rye sourdough, cranberry walnut, roasted garlic, turmeric sourdough, jalapeño and cheese, olive ciabatta, etc.
Q. Can you tell us how we can make bread at home, similar to your style?
A. The best way to make similar bread at home is using a no knead bread recipe and using a Dutch oven to bake the bread in your home oven.
Q. Where do you like to eat?
A. We like to eat at Da Crack Mexican Grinds in Koloa and Kilauea Fish Market.
Q. What makes working in Hanapepe unique to you and why?
A. Having a business in Hanapepe town has been really special. It is known as a sleepy west side town, but historic Hanapepe town is full of unique independently owned galleries, restaurants and shops — no chain stores to be found! We get lots of sun and are right down the road from Salt Pond, which is one of the nicest calm, uncrowded beaches around.
Q. Anything else you want to share? Where else can people find you?
A. We are open Wednesdays-Saturdays at our bakery in Hanapepe.We also attend two farmers markets on Saturdays: Grove Farm Market in Puhi 9:30 a.m.-noon, and Anaina Hou farmers market in Kilauea, 9 a.m.-noon. Our breads are also available at Papaya’s Natural Foods and Café, Hoku Natural Foods and Healthy Hut Market & Café.