Culture with your Coffee at Belle Surf Café
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In a cozy spot along South Kihei Road, Belle Surf Café is giving diners a taste of France, with a twist. The owner says it’s a cross-cultural creation.
“I can take ideas from France, and have all my ideas come in here with how to make people happy and feel comfortable to be here,” says Marion Girardin, who has taken her French background and mixed in into the melting pot that is Maui, where she’s lived for the last 11 years.
The cafe takes pride in its small-batch specialty coffee, genuine sweet and savory crêpes and comfy outdoor seating.
When I ask how much this resembles a café in France, Girardin laughs, “We miss the glass of wine and the cigarettes but yeah, pretty close!”
Belle Surf Café shares space in the Aloha Open Market with what Girardin calls “a little family” of merchants with its own (free) parking lot. There’s a gift shop, scooter rentals, farmers market, sunglass store and smoke shop, all across from Kukui Mall in Kihei. The previous café had primarily focused on coffee drinks, but when Girardin took it over four months ago, she added crêpes, salads and other food items to the menu, saying she feels it’s important to have a really complete breakfast.
“I have four different savory crêpes for everybody. One is with bacon, one is with chicken, one is with salmon; we have the keiki crêpe with mozzarella,” she says.
Then there’s a number of sweet crêpes with various combinations of strawberry, banana, Nutella, jam and honey. Other breakfast items include banana bread, bagels and French baguettes with toppings.
And DO NOT forget the coffee. It’s a big deal.
“We select the best coffee in the world, I will say,” smiles Girardin, who supports small family plantations in Eastern Africa and South America with top-quality, single-origin coffee beans, often sold at a varying market price. They’re prepared using traditional methods like v60, Chemex, cold drip, espresso, cappuccino, flat white and macchiato.
“It is coffee without any pesticide; all natural, all organic,” she explains. “We also get the coffee fresh two times per week. We don’t make any big order for amounts, we like to have the fresh coffee because that’s the best way also to keep it with the best flavor, the best taste, so it’s small batch always.”
In the window, there’s also an eye-catching glass cool-drip system for iced coffee, which takes about 12 hours to filter.
Breakfast is offered from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. After that, lunch runs until 3 p.m. The café will be partnering with the organic produce farms at Hāna Ranch for its greens and salads. Her favorite salad is called Marius & Jeannette, named for a famous French movie, made with French Comté cheese, tomatoes, Kalamata olives and Kula organic lettuce.
When Girardin says, “I want to support Hawaiʻi, I want to support the roots, I want to support local people,” she means it. She’s set up a little boutique area in the café, with a range of locally-made products like soaps, snacks and unique gifts.
Surf shots adorn on the walls. An old globe, games and books rest on the shelves. Two ceramic ladybug chill on a table. Girardin says she’s taking it slow to style the café with authentic, thoughtful decor.
“Because here is my happy place, I really want to have my own touch on it,” she says. “It’s not done yet, but little by little, I try to choose every piece of the café, with time and love. I’m not going into one shop to buy everything for the café.”
Before she was crafting culinary creations for her customers, the mother of three spent years cooking for her family. But she thought about expanding her talents beyond the home kitchen. Like coffee, the idea of a café had been brewing for a while.
“I really wanted to do it, but I was really scared, just because it’s scary to have your own business; you never know how it’s going to be,” she explains. “But I really feel life is short, I really feel it’s a good thing to be happy when you’re going to work because it’s pretty much 80% of your day.”
Girardin has worked to create “a good family team; a good vibe,” and as the coffee pours, the customers just keep trickling in. Voila!
“Yes, I am busy. Yes, I am working a lot, but I love it,” she explains. “I am really stoked to do what I love.”