By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
People are buzzing about Hilo Bake Co. A maple bacon donut tends to do that among the sweet-treat crowd.
The East Kawili Street bakery, open for only five weeks, has an unassuming appearance but a gut-busting selection of palate-pleasing baked goods.
Do you like s’mores? Donut style? How about coconut glazed? Or a Fruit Loops topping? Get the idea? They’re all creative and delicious ways to liven up the classic cake with a hole. But it’s the the salty bacon and sweet maple combo that drives donut lovers to drool.
Coen Murashige is the brains and chef behind the operation. The 2003 Waiakea High grad trained formally at the Western Culinary Institute — Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Ore. Murashige then “moved back home” in 2007, worked around a while and saved his money until the right opportunity arose. When the lease at 399 East Kawili St. recently became available, he was ready.
You can tell it’s there only by the white-painted letters, “Hilo Bake Company, Bringing you a sweet morning,” on the streetside wall. But inside customers are greeted immediately by a glass display case filled with scrumptious-looking donuts and baked items. “A lot of stuff that I enjoy eating,” he said.
Murashige will be adding French breads and rolls to his racks of fresh-baked goods, along with filled donuts, in the near future.
And next to the bakery is a vacant restaurant that Murashige plans to open later this month with a cafe-type, or “diner-ish” menu, which will complement the bakery.
Family members and four or five employees are helping Murashige make a go of the new business. With no advertising but word-of-mouth and internet reviews, he’s already developed a “nice, steady, comfortable” stream of customers coming through the bakery’s doors.
Several lunch items, including “Da Dog,” a pastry-wrapped beef frank with cheddar cheese and jalapeno pepper, and a ham-and-cheese puff on milk bread, are also available. A couple of picnic tables on the outdoor lanai can accommodate a few who want to sit and grind right away, at least until the restaurant side opens.
Bernie Hocson, who works nearby a MS Auto Body, stops in twice a day. Each time deciding what to get is a “hard decision,” she said. “I never know … it’s all so good. The maple bacon is like breakfast.”
“A lot of people like the maple bacon,” Murashige said. “They had it on the mainland or heard about it and want to try one.”
Murashige, a big man, bristled at the mention of low-calorie items. “I’ll think about putting some in,” he said.
Murshige believes he’s the first to bring the maple-bacon combo, which is popular on the mainland, to Hawaii Island. He’s sampled a number of them from small Portland bakeries but most put a thick slice of bacon on the gooey sweet maple icing. “I always thought it was too much,” he said. Murashige’s creations are topped with maple icing and crumbled bacon for a better balance of flavor.
Same with s’mores, the graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow confection that’s been a tradition with kids around campfires for generations. Several varieties of s’mores donuts are available at gourmet donut shops on the mainland but Murashige believes he’s introduced the first on Hawaii Island stamped with his personal touch.
Murashige said he’s working hard these days and expects to work harder as the restaurant comes alive. But it’s all good for the new owner of Hilo’s newest bakery. “It’s something I look forward to every day.”
Hilo Bake Co. is open 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the weekends, at 399 E. Kawili St., Hilo, next to Kim Yo’s Okazuya.