It’s a spacious restaurant in sunny Lahaina with an inventive, mostly vegan menu, a commitment to zero waste and plenty of free parking. No wonder Moku Roots has been getting a lot of positive buzz since Alexa Caskey and Erica Gale opened the farm-to-table establishment last May.
“Erica and I had the same vision – wanting to offer healthy foods and better options than were currently available on the westside,” explains Alexa. “There are a couple of good spots, but with a limited menu. For people who wanted vegetarian and vegan options, we wanted to tackle everything other than kale salads and acai bowls and smoothies. Also, we were trying to solve the problem of how difficult it is to go out to eat, especially take-out, with nothing ending up in the landfill.”
To reduce waste, Alexa and Erica eliminated one-use containers. Since most of the food is sourced locally, farmers bring items in boxes that are recycled. Papaya stems are used as straws. Takeout food is wrapped in taro and tea leaves.
Embracing good causes like health and the environment will not sustain a restaurant if the food is unappealing. The “roots food” offered by Moku --“ingredients that support your health, are kind to the environment, and are, of course, mouthwatering” – is catching on. “It’s been pretty busy since the day we opened the doors,” Alexa notes. “I would guess we have maybe a 50-50 mix of locals and visitors.”
Bringing Farm to Table
Since locally available food is continually changing, any successful farm-to-table operation requires ongoing thought, planning and creativity. Alexa and Erica are up for the challenge.
“My farm has had an abundance of eggplant in the last three months, so we offered an eggplant Reuben sandwich and eggplant meatballs,” Alexa says. “We change about 25% of the menu monthly just to keep everything fresh. Other restaurants have one or two things that are vegetarian or vegan for the entire existence of the restaurant. Although we have tons of options here, but we don’t want the menu to get boring. We’re going to add six new things to the menu Monday.”
Although not 100% vegan, Alexa feels that Moku Roots provides “the most unique menu with the most vegan choices available on Maui. Any other restaurant that can cook the amount of stuff that we cook and have the depth of menu is not vegan-vegetarian.”
Moku continues to explore new plant-based options, such as a yacon, a species of daisy originating in the Andes with sweet-tasting roots. According to Alexa, “we’re going to keep it fresh for the locals. I never heard of yacon before June, and now it’s all over the menu.”
Changing the Community
The unique restaurant is already having a positive impact on the community. “Something that’s really cool is we get a lot of meat-eaters, locals who grew up here and are trying to eat a little healthier,” observes Alexa. “The tarot burger is relatable enough. Our menu is savory and filling enough to appeal to people who would normally opt for something like plate lunch that has a lot of meat.”
For many, dietary preferences are shaped at a young age, and Moku Roots has not forgotten the children. The menu will soon include vegan mac and cheese and little vegan pancakes.
Moku Roots is located at the Lahaina Gateway Center at 335 Keawe Street #211, 808-214-5106. If you’re in the mood for a tarot burger, an eggplant Reuben, raw vegan lasagna, a YLT -- yacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich -- or whatever new creations show up on the menu, check it out.