Cafe Central: A tiny cafe started by former Honolulu Coffee Co. partners
Cafe Central is a little sliver of a cafe in the First Hawaiian Bank building. It used to be a broom closet; now it offers pour-over coffees and coffee brewed via siphon. (For the geeks, that's a Bonmac halogen three-unit siphon bar—probably the only one on the island; in training, Cafe Central consulted famed Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco. For the aesthetes, ordering a cup is like watching your coffee being brewed in a stylish, antique chemistry lab.)
Max and Mary Suiter transformed the former broom closet into its current Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired space. Max and his brother started Honolulu Coffee Company, hence the attention to detail in the coffee. But Cafe Central is more than coffee: pastries come primarily from Fendu Boulangerie, supplemented with blueberry donuts from St. Germain Bakery, banana bread from Cakeworks and oatcakes from Akamai Foods. Cafe Central also scoops Il Gelato gelato; an affogato (gelato with a shot of espresso) is a popular request here. The food menu is very limited, with only three sandwiches, but the chicken club sandwich, on a Fendu roll that holds up to a generous, chunky filling, is perfect. Even the acai bowl here is spot on.
Cafe Central has become my go-to spot for a downtown break; mostly because of the sweets and coffee, but also because it feels like a little design oasis. Max, a general contractor, treated this tiny cafe as his own pet project: He commissioned stained glass from a North Shore artist and installed all the wood panelling with wood from a fallen red eucalyptus tree that he had been saving for 12 years.
"We weren't looking to getting back in [the coffee business]," Mary says—the couple had sold their share in Honolulu Coffee Co. long ago. "But when this opportunity came up, one little place, we thought it'd be great."
Cafe Central, inside the First Hawaiian Bank, 999 Bishop St., 306-9284, cafecentralhonolulu.com