Monday, November 06, 2006

Maui, Part 4, Section B: Don't Forget The Little Guy--Hitting Up Maui's Local Grindz

(this is not my idea of good vacation food)

Allright, fuck
seared ahi.

sauteed onaga.

$40 hotel breakfasts and crappy island style tacos.

'Cause let's be honest here. You don't go to Hawaii for just that.

Before I start to sound like a
2Pac song about food, I'll just say it. You go to Hawaii for the local food, my favorite being the plate lunch--you know, the usually bad-for-you-in-one-way-or-another meats served most always with two scoop rice and mac salad. The stuff that doesn't quite fall into any certain ethnic category as far as Japanese, Korean, or Chinese, but that for sure falls into the "hearty," "comforting" and "filling" categories. Hey, get money, take money, whatever. You gotta hit 'em up.

The first local joint we hit up in Maui was Hanafuda Saimin, located in the Azeka (Long's Drugs) shopping center in Kihei. Starving after a five hour flight from L.A. in which the stupid airline did not serve any food but rather charged us $4 for a shitty "snack pack" and $5 for an Asian chicken salad, we ran into this place while cruising down Kihei Rd. Two things caught our eye as we walked into this small storefront located next to a cheese shop that is named, funny enough, Who Cut The Cheese? One, there were two very large local construction workers sitting at one of the tables slurping up bowls of saimin--a good sign if I ever saw one. Second, the walls are plastered with dollar bills decorated by who I'm assuming are customers. Also nice because it gave us something to look at while waiting for our food.

dolla dolla bill y'all

We looked at the menu for a couple minutes, trying to decide from a variety of plate lunches consisting of everything from kalbi ribs to katsu to curry but in the end we both decided that some fried saimin would hit the spot. Hanafuda lets you pretty much add anything to your saimin, so Isaac and I opted to add some fried Spam and kimchee into the mix to kick things up a notch.

The huge plate was filled to the edge with noodles and came with a scoop of mac salad on the side. Their "noodles to ingredients ratio, " which seemed like a good 2:1, made sure that we didn't get too much noodles nor char siu, spam, kimchee and scallions with everybite. We also liked the nice chewy bite of the noodles. The one thing we didn't like, however, was that the dish was waaaaay too salty, but fortunately, the mellow creamyness of the mac salad and a few glasses of ice water helped to calm it down. We had to be careful to ration the mac salad so that we did not finish it before we finished the saimin, else we'd die of thirst. Despite the salty fried saimin, we thought Hanafuda Saimin was decent, and we'd give it another go the next time we're in South Maui; based on what we observed while we were in the restaurant, it seems as though the restaurant has a good local following since our waitress knew most of the customers by name. It also seemed as though the place makes a mean Korean Style Fried Chicken--a dish they had posted up on the dry-erase specials board--as we heard a couple of customers ask for it.

everything's better (but saltier!) with a little spam

Kihei Caffe (no, I am not tripping--they actually spell it with two "F"s) isn't really a traditional local plate lunch joint as much as it is a "regular" cafe that sells sandwiches, salads and burgers and a few local plate style breakfasts and lunches as well. We had Kihei Caffe's breakfast twice while we were in Maui actually; my brother had gone to pick breakfast up one morning and Isaac and I went on a separate occasion during our actual honeymoon. Sitting out on the huge lanai of our condo, my family members enjoyed a variety of Hawaiian style breakfasts such as Portuguese Sausage and Eggs, Loco Moco, Corned Beef Hash and Eggs, and Macadamia Nut Pancakes whilst enjoying the morning view of the Pacific. My Portuguese sausage and eggs breakfast hit the spot, with its slightly spicy sliced sausages, fluffy scrambled eggs, and perfectly browned fluffy biscuit. I was a little annoyed at my brother at first because I thought he'd had the good sense to get me rice instead of potatoes with my breakfast, but I later found out that only certain breakfasts come with rice (e.g. the corned beef hash) unless you ask for it. That, and the potatoes, done "homestyle," were delicious--soft on the inside but a little crispy on the outside, with some of the skins left on and a little onion to taste. I had a bite of my Mom's mac-nut pancakes which were nice and fluffy despite the fact that they'd gotten a little cold in transport. My brother's loco moco, however, despite a tasty gravy, was pretty disgusting with its rubbery hamburger patty. (Don't use the photo as a measure though--alot of it got smooshed in the car on the way back)

not so hawaiian, but still hit the spot

you'd have to be loco to like this loco moco

pillowy mac nut pancakes

This stereotypical "beach shack" eatery has a good following amongst locals and tourists alike as it was quite crowded with both before 9am on a weekday morning. The line was about 6 customers deep and almost going out the door, but service was efficient and friendly. After finding a table on their patio, our Spam & Eggs breakfast plates were soon brought out. I hate to say it, but I was really disappointed in this breakfast. The fried Spam was a little too undergrilled and the biscuit, which had been warm, fluffy and nicely browned on the cut side last time, was cold and crumbly this time around. Knowing that you have to ask to sub rice for potatoes, we asked for rice this time, but realized that we shouldn't have as it was just plain mushy. I hope that Kihei Caffe was just having an off day because I really liked their friendly neighborhood vibe--I mean, McDonald's Spam and Eggs Breakfast kicked this shit out of the water for heaven's sake--and judging from my very decent Portuguese Sausage breakfast a few days prior, it seemed like they were just having a bad day.

makes me wanna sing love shack & rock lobster

i wanted to like this spam-a-lot, but didn't

mc-better than mc-kihei caffe's that day

We'd been told by a couple of people to try this place for some good local grindz, so one afternoon before heading upcountry to the
Haleakela Crater, Isaac and I hit up Da Kitchen in Kihei.

located in da' rainbow mall

This little mini-mall restaurant has more of your typical Hawaiian plate lunch style grub--teri beef & chicken, katsu, kalua pork, lau lau, saimin, even a chow fun dish they call "Won Fat Guy's Chow Fun"--and everything sounded so good that we experienced a slight case of analysis paralysis while scanning the menu. After standing there like idiots, staring at the menu board with our mouths half open in way that people could see the imaginary cartoon bubble over our heads that said "duh," and after a few "go ahead--we don't know what we want yet's" to other customers walking in after us, we finally decided on at least one thing to order.

"Uh yeah, could we have a..."

(Pause as I kept scanning the menu board)

"uhhhhh...a loco moco?"

The girl behind the counter wrote it down while we kept staring at the menu then looked back at us to let us know she was ready to take down our next item.

"And we'll also have a uh...wait...umm..."

The girl behind the counter seemed to know that we needed to be taken out of our misery: "You know, the loco moco is ALOT of food. You two could probably share it and it'd be enough."

And you know? She was right. The styrofoam box containing our loco moco, a dish I can only describe as a "heart attack on a plate" of hamburger steak and a fried egg over rice and smothered in rich gravy, was literally bursting at the seams and oozing with gravy. The hamburger steak, with its dense patty, had a nice charred beefy taste and was delicious. Mixed with the slightly crisp edges and runny yolk of the fried egg, it proved that protein and cholesterol were indeed good things. A bed of fluffy white rice was the perfect sponge to soak everything up. All was good--all, that is, except for the gravy, which we both thought was a little overkill. There was so much of it, first of all, that it seemed to form a moat of gravy around the egg and second of all, we didn't really care that it had so much onion and mushroom in it. The side of potato-mac salad was pretty damn good with the potato giving it a unique edge, but we would have prefered it not having been soaked in all that gravy. Other than the gravy overload, it was allright--at least our bellies were full to keep us warm for that afternoon's trek up to Maui's volcanic summit.

would you like some loco moco to go with your gravy?

not such a little guy, this one: the haleakela summit

Because we were tourists ourselves--it had been over 20 years since I'd been to Maui and it was Isaac's first time--we were a little restricted in both time and location by our vacation schedule, but had we had a little more time on the island, we definitely would have gone to some other local faves. Fuck that East Coast/West Coast shiznit--we're putting
Sam Sato's, Honolua General Store, Honokowai Okazuya & Deli, and Kitada's just to name a few on our list of "Hit 'Em Up" joints for next time.

Stay tuned for Part 4, Section C when Isaac and I visit another little guy who's all about the island, but not necessarily this island.

Hanafuda Saimin
1279 S. Kihei Rd. #304 (located in the Azeka Shopping Center)
Kihei, HI 96753
(808) 879-9033

Kihei Caffe
1945 S. Kihei Rd.
Kihei, HI 96753
(808) 879-2230

Da Kitchen
2439 S. Kihei Rd.
Kihei, HI 96753
(808) 875-7782


Kirk said...

Hi Pam - Da' Kitchen is pretty much known for the huuuge portions....I can't even finish the loco moco from there. The spam looked kinda weak - it needs to be more it becomes a bit crunchy on the outside. mmmm-Spam!!!!

elmomonster said...

I'm already missing the food from our Big Island trip last week. Although I had loco moco at the place that purportedly invented it (Cafe 100 in Hilo), the one you and Isaac had looks a lot more appetizing, what with the mushrooms and onions and all.

Sadly, I only had one spam musubi, and not much more spam that that...I should've dropped in to a McDonalds...didn't know they had Spam, rice and egg breakfast!

Edna said...


Darling - I have missed your blog. I too have been away and looking forward to restarting my food blog.

Thanks for the great post... I also will be on holiday in Hawaii in one week.

Ta Ta for now.


Chubbypanda said...

Spam spam spam spam...

I love Hawaiian food. I love spam. Glad you see you were able to score more than mediocre tacos and overpriced hotel food during your trip.

- Chubbypanda

Daily Gluttony said...


Oh my God were the portions huge; in fact, looking back at the photo of the loco moco, it kinda looks like Haleakela doesn't it? With the egg being the clouds and the huge moat of gravy being the actual crater? OK, i've really lost it now...


I'm glad you had a great time on the Big Island! It's the only island I haven't been to yet so it's on our list of places to go! I only had one Spam musubi on our trip too--and I got it at the ABC store!


Thank you for the kind words! Have a super time in Hawaii!


If I didn't care about living past 40, I'd eat Spam everyday.

Chubbypanda said...

That's why the food gods invented Spam Lite. =)

- Chubbypanda