Newest highly rated Hawaii restaurant suddenly closed by the state

There’s no question that restaurants in Hawaii are struggling in more ways than one. As a result, many have closed, mainly due to financial and staffing problems. But this closure came as a big surprise, especially given the high rating on review websites, and was not caused by any of the above causes.

Department of Health closes Cafe Mambo in Paia Maui

The Hawaiian Department of Health (DOH) has issued a red “Closed” sign to Café Mambo to protect public health. – Hawaii DOH.

The DOH said Cafe Mambo should remain closed until all violations are resolved, after which the DOH will allow the restaurant to reopen. You may recall that the revered Lahaina Fish Co. on Maui last summer was also among those closed by the state.

The violations occurred during the routine inspection, which took place on March 14, 2023. The DOH found both critical and non-critical food safety violations, including:

  • Cockroaches throughout the facility.
  • The kitchen doorway was known for flies and other pests.
  • Lack of proper temperature control for cold food storage.

To fix the issues, the DOH said the following actions are needed:

  • Professional pest control to eradicate pests.
  • Invoices for pest control issued to the district inspector.
  • Thorough cleaning to eliminate all possible food sources for pests.
  • Screens at the kitchen doorway to reduce pest entry when the door is left open.

A follow-up inspection is scheduled for tomorrow, March 17, 2023.

This is a very serious situation. Others have gone even further claiming rodents (although not mentioned by DOH), and specifically food storage violations. A few years ago, BOH editors Jeff and Rob both got food poisoning at a restaurant in Kauai, apparently as a result of refrigerating tartar sauce after leaving it at room temperature. That restaurant, which is no longer in operation, was also cited by the Ministry of Health.

Excellent customer reviews of Cafe Mambo.

Reviews on multiple websites, including TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Yelp, have been very positive, with 4-5 stars. The staff was rated as friendly and people liked their duck fajitas, among other things. For the most part the only negatives were noise, slow service and location. Oddly enough, a long time ago, a person noticed that there was a worm in their food.

Here is an example of a recent review, which was not unusual to praise the restaurant: “Excellent meal, our party of 6 were seated and served quickly. I had the Crispy Duck fajitas which were excellent. Others in my party had the shrimp special which they loved. High ranking for the duck burger and onion rings. Come hungry, portions are generous.”

Another recent comment interestingly said that despite the actions of the health department, it “still gets my four stars because I personally have never had a problem, and have actually always enjoyed the restaurant and menu over the years. Fast, unique and tasty. I just hate that they had to violate food safety and have an overall lack of care and concern for the safety of their customers… So ultimately good food, terrible management, but the actual restaurant itself deserves four stars.

Hawaii restaurants are struggling; 4 More Shutter Full.

Widespread issues rock iconic Hawaii restaurants and visitors.

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