Nourishing Spot

Malama Cafe brings healthy foods to Carolina Beach

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New restaurant owners LEEANN TLUCHOWSKI and KATE PAREDES joined forces to offer a healthy food alternative to the people of Carolina Beach. Malama Cafe has been serving fresh smoothies, wholesome sandwiches, and healthful signature specials to tourists and locals since Memorial Day.

While Ohio natives Tluchowski and Paredes have been friends since they were five years old, this is the duo’s first restaurant venture as business partners. After living many miles apart working different careers, Carolina Beach brought them back together, and they’re thrilled to give something to the island their families love.

Thluchowski is a local food service industry expert already, having worked in her husband’s popular restaurant, Shuckin’ Shack, in various roles since its opening in 2007. Meanwhile, Paredes had been in New York after studying kinesiology and sports science.

They were reunited when Paredes recently moved near the island with her growing family.

“Carolina Beach needed more healthy food with more options for people with dietary needs,” Tluchowski says. “With our background, we thought ‘why not us?’”

They always intended to offer fresh, healthy options, but with COVID-19 spreading, now more than ever they realized the importance of offering delicious dishes made from clean, natural ingredients.

“I think it’s important to know that both of our husbands were diagnosed with cancer,” Paredes shares. “It’s a very personal mission for us . . . We’re making sure our families are eating healthy and eating well, especially with Covid.”

Their “whole foods” menu features the expected coffees, teas, sandwiches, and wraps, as well as loaded bowls and toasts, such as the local favorite, the Malama Smash—toast with avocado, heirloom tomatoes, edamame, and sesame seeds, topped with a hard-boiled egg.

They also offer gluten-free and vegan options. And, in their tourist town, many local food-service industry workers enjoy stopping by before a long shift for a smoothie with protein superfood powder.281a3306resized

“We don’t just put things on the menu because it’s requested,” Paredes says. “We make sure it does reflect the Malama name.”

The Hawaiian term Malama, the duo explains, means to take care of oneself, one’s community, and mother nature.

With love for their local beach, the Malama team is dedicated to both the health of the body and of their environment. For example, they compost everything they can, including all their to-go containers, by working with Wilmington Compost Company. They also sell box water (instead of plastic), as well as reusable bottles and straws.

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Even before the pandemic caused many restaurants to focus on take-out options, Tluchowski and Paredes intended for their cafe to be more of a small, grab-and-go concept.

“We do have seating,” Tłuchowski says, “but we do want to offer quick healthy options.”

Although the Malama Cafe owners don’t have pre-pandemic numbers with which to compare, they feel they’ve had a busy season.

“When we opened a business during Covid, it reaffirmed that we were going in the right direction,” Tłuchowski says. “Healthy has been a trend for a while, but with Covid and all these things going on, people are trending that way and paying more attention to what they’re putting in their bodies. We want to give people those options.”

To read more about Malama Cafe and other women-owned restaurants opening during these uncertain times, pick up a copy of the November Taste issue of WILMA magazine.

To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to

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Categories: Health