Comfort Eats: Find Sourdough Waffles and Perfect Pizzas at Wicked HI Café
This little Waialua café uses wild yeasted dough for its waffles, pizzas and sandwiches.
Wicked HI Café doesn’t have fancy ovens. It barely has a kitchen—just a waffle iron and two ovens not much bigger than a toaster oven, in a space the size of most home kitchens. But, like the beehives that owners Ashley Moran and Brandon Slowey started with, what comes out of Wicked HI Café’s compact space is as delicious and wondrous.
Tipped off by a friend who lives on the North Shore, I had first come to Wicked HI Café for its sourdough waffles. I kept returning for them throughout the past few months, as the world grew increasingly fraught, for a taste of comfort in the form of caramelized waffles—slightly tangy from a long fermentation, a little bit doughy like if you smooshed brioche into a waffle iron, with bits of crunch from the pearl sugar dispersed throughout.
I came for the waffles, but also fell in love with the pizzas. The pizza emerges with a touch of char, the crust puffy and pleasantly sour, offset by a drizzle of honey in the Honey Goat pizza ($14), also topped with goat cheese, arugula and tomatoes. I hadn’t expected such pizza perfection given the setup—a little Waialua cafe sharing a space with a thrift shop and ice cream counter.
Before opening their own café, Moran and Slowey were inspired by a similar one in Naples, Italy—in a basement and ovens that weren’t woodfired, but still turned out pizzas that made them swoon. They discovered, “as long as you use wholesome products, that’s the main thing, and you can make anything special,” Moran says. Wicked HI Café began in November 2019, serving sourdough waffles, pizza and honey slush.
The slushies began five years ago at the farmers markets, with Moran and Slowey serving pineapple, liliko‘i and dragon fruit slushies sweetened with honey. Slowey is a beekeeper, and the pair wanted to grow a honey business to support beekeepers and pollinators, which help produce one-third of the world’s food crops. Along the way, Slowey also picked up a passion for sourdough: “another project like beekeeping—it’s a living thing, you need to feed it and keep it at a proper temp,” Moran says. “We use an old world fermentation style, which eliminates the need for any commercial yeast.”
The starter they use for the pizza dough and waffles began about five years ago, when Slowey mixed bee pollen, flour and water. And like the starter that you split to start a new batch, Brittany, Slowey’s twin sister, took the sourdough and began her waffle obsession. The dough combines imported 00 Italian flour, vanilla bean, butter, eggs and, of course, honey. It ferments for about 30 hours, a process that lives up to its maker’s name. You can get the waffles drizzled with honey ($5) or as the Wicked Waffle ($12), two of them topped with fresh fruit. Other options include bacon, egg and cheddar ($10), for a savory sweet combination.
Wicked HI Café has scaled back its hours and days since the lockdown, but Moran says the tight-knit Waialua community, which also supports their backyard hives, helps keep them afloat with orders. “Luckily, we got everybody hooked when we did.”