Big Kahunas Cafe & Grill
Get a taste of the islands in Merrimack
Ask who the Big Kahuna is, and husband-and-wife team Amanda and John-Paul Spooner point to each other. The both bring island lore and recipes to their restaurant from the far reaches of Java, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Their food options are health-oriented, locally sourced and mindful of Mother Earth. John-Paul says, “They call it a New Age mentality, but really, we are reaching back to the traditional ways of our ancestors.”
Big Kahunas Cafe and Grill is a two-part operation. The café offers choices for vegans, Paleo dieters and those on a gluten-free diet, with a menu including breakfast and burger bowls and a host of other choices with variations of presentation to fit any dietary need. Comfy couches offer seating in the simple, California beach shack-inspired space. Occasionally, they host musicians to make it a community-centered space complemented with local art and crafts.
The other side of Kahunas is island-inspired catering, which has drawn fans from around the region, including the local island of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts. One of their specialties is an authentic Hawaiian Luau, complete with a pig roasted in an earth oven or imu. “We do this with respect for the animal that is sacrificed,” says John-Paul. A local seventh-generation farmer feeds the pigs on organic scraps from the café. The whole process is handled as it has been for 5,000 years on the Hawaiian Islands. It starts with an herb bath and ends with a prayer. Each stone that lines the pit is hand-selected to survive the overnight roasting process. Staff is onsite for several days to oversee the cooking. The pig is, in effect, steamed and is gelatinous when served, but Spooner says, “The flavor is unmatched.”
Kahunas also roasts pigs above-ground. Spooner says he enjoys how different cultures feast on an animal, saying, “Latinos send in their elders first, so they can enjoy the prized, crispy skin.”
Side dishes for their island feasts can also include jasmine rice steamed in banana leaves, an authentic Hawaii mac salad and a tropical fruit display. Other choices include island-style BBQ pulled pork and beef rendang. See the family recipe for the latter here.