Locals Supporting Local: Verde Restaurant

This blog is part of a series from Mālama Kaua’i  & Tasting Kaua’i, highlighting local restaurants that source locally for their ingredients, sharing their tales of the pandemic and their battle for resiliency. Each week we encourage our readers and fans to support this restaurant as a movement to keep our small businesses who support our local food systems alive.

Verde Restaurant has been in operation for almost 13 years since March 2008 starting from the Kapaa location and now at their current location in Lihue. Verde is woman-owned and minority-owned by Maris Manzano who embraces diversity and a unique work culture in the company. Verde means “green” in Spanish, and Verde aims to practice sustainability in their day-to-day operations — from using eco-friendly products to locally sourcing ingredients, food products and services. We talked to Maris to learn more about what they’ve been up to.

What’s happened to your restaurant during the pandemic?

Our business model has changed several times over the past 12 months. Interestingly, just weeks before the pandemic, we launched our delivery service within Lihue area.  So, by the time stay-at-home was in order, we had a delivery system in place and eventually expanded to Kapaa and South Side. We reduced hours, seating capacity, ran a limited menu, cross-trained staff, implemented a hand washing procedure, amongst many other things.

Definitely a lot of changes within a short amount of time in between.  With everything a blur and a lot of unknowns, we basically grasped on to our values to keep ourselves grounded.  And values are like bamboo — it’s a good combination of strength and flexibility.  With values clearly defined, we’ve witnessed first-hand in several ways how they’ve become effective and healthy in guiding decisions and the ultimate direction of the business.  Internally, values have allowed our employees to be resilient and to work effectively during these uncertain times. Externally, values have allowed vendors, lenders, landlords and people from different industries an opportunity to lift one another. Values gave the community a chance to make an informative decision who to support during these tough times. Eventually, you end up taking care of each other. You win with others.

…values are like bamboo — it’s a good combination of strength and flexibility.

Have you tried pivoting – if so, what have you done and how has it worked for you?

When things slowed down, we found ourselves an opportunity to finally kick start our tortilla production. We taste-tested a lot of recipes using locally sourced ingredients that are accessible throughout the year.  We have the basic flour tortillas and 2 local flavors: ulu tortillas and sweet purple potato haupia tortillas. We started conservatively by supplying tortillas in-house and incorporating them into our menu.  Our goal is to branch out to wholesale accounts.  Currently, our tortillas are available for purchase at the restaurant and Lawai Market and are being used by Keoki’s Paradise for their tacos. 

Tell us about your local sourcing.

Verde restaurant locally sources our ulu from Mālama Kauai, sweet purple potato and ulu from Hawaii Ulu Cooperative, produce from Dang’s Farm and Jesse Layoen Farm, Kaua’i beef from Wailua Meat Co., coffee and tea from Kauai Roastery, Pineapple Ginger Beer from Aloha Ginger Beer, kalo crumbles from HI Plant Protein, gelato from Papalani Gelato and local honey from Tomoe Honey.

As a locally-owned business, we value the support from keeping it “local”.  It’s just a boomerang effect to practice the same towards fellow local businesses, if possible.  By supporting local businesses, you are contributing to keeping the heart and essence of the local economy beating.

What’s your future vision for local food and restaurants on Kaua’i? How do you think we’re going to get through this together?

We envision a local economy thriving from anything locally grown and locally crafted.  A vision where creative minds do not need to look further than what is accessible, sustainable, cost-effective produce, crop, raw material and service. Even if it’s starting from introducing (or re-introducing) one sustainable produce/crop and how to make this available and economical throughout the year.  It starts somewhere but it takes time, effort, capital and dedication.

For hours, menu, online ordering & more visit Verde Restaurant online.