Saturday, November 04, 2006
Maui, Part 4, Section A: Don't Forget The Little Guy--Tacos in Maui, WTF?
next good/cheap food: at least 5 miles.
The good news is that you're basking in the throes of paradise. There is no work to do, your inbox is temporarily empty, your boss is not asking you for the seventh time to reformat your report because the CEO is blind. If you felt like you didn't want to move a muscle, you pretty much wouldn't have to, except for maybe a few quick squiggles of your hand to scrawl an illegible room number and signature for yet another mai tai. The sun's rays make you all warm and fuzzy inside, and on the outside, a a nice shade of glowing bronze.
The bad news is you're probably stuck in a tourist trap. Which for all the reasons I mentioned above isn't at all a bad thing. But when there are thousands of other people besides yourself on the island for those same exact reasons, restaurateurs are going to try and market to all of us suckers, I mean, tourists.
Fine dining with an ocean view!
Voted Best Restaurant Three Years In A Row! (as determined by Random-Maui-Tourist-Guide)
Award-winning chefs will prepare Maui's best seafood as you dine under the stars!
It's all a big to-do production, this tourist-destination restaurant business. Sometimes it's simply annoying, like when Isaac and I decided to not leave our resort one morning for the sake of relaxation and spent forty bucks on a shitty hotel omelette and generic pancakes. Sometimes the food's good, but still too expensive because you're paying not only for the food but for an experience--one that would mimick the Disneyland of Fresh Fish, if there ever was one. And sometimes, you get a good one, and it's just right.
hey--the pepper was free! the other stuff? not so much.
But what about the little guy? I mean, surely there's got to be stuff to eat outside of the grandiose resort, right? I'm talking places where there is mostlikely no view or ambiance whatsoever, where the food is maybe served on paper plates or where you can perhaps bus your own table...places that a few locals may even patronize. These were the kinds of places that my hubby and I were actually seeking out on our vacation over the big fancy restaurants, but because we were tourists ourselves, it was a little difficult knowing where all the good ones were (or at least having the time to get to the good ones) despite having done a little bit of research. There were some good ones, but there were certainly some not-so-good ones as you could already tell from our very un-extraordinary taco stand experience on the road to Hana.
Speaking of tacos, we were surprised that there seemed to be somewhat of an interest in them on the island. We knew in the back of our heads that finding good tacos in Maui would be somewhat akin to finding good sushi in the Midwest, yet our curiousity led us to try not only those heinous road to Hana tacos but also tacos from a popular Hawaiian taco chain, Maui Tacos. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from my family's condo rental in Kihei, Maui Tacos seemed like a convenient place for a bunch of us grumpy travellers and wedding preppers to grab a quick bite and also to see what all the hub-bub was over tacos on this island.
how do you say "baja fresh" in pidgen?
Despite the faint glimmer of hope that we'd be wowed by some unique Hawaiian-Mexican fusion flavors, we were--as expected--thoroughly unimpressed. My Baja Fresh-esque two taco combo plate was just allright, but I kind of almost wish it had been really bad, because then it'd been able to kill me quickly without me having to think too much. The combo of somewhat-tasty- steak-with-shredded-lettuce-and-cheese-overkill-on-lukewarm-tortillas-along-with-some-decent-yet-generic-beans-and-rice was so mediocre that it was almost as if someone were trying to kill me with a cookie-cutter. I will give these guys a "A" for service, however, since the guys behind the counter were nothing but smiles and "no problems" even though most of my family members couldn't make up their fucking minds on what to order and literally took up half of the tiny restaurant's space just standing there blankly staring at the menu board. Oh, and by the way, I just found out that Maui Tacos has franchised locations nationwide; meaning I coulda gotten some of this shit in Boise, Idaho if I wanted to.
acceptable by maui standards; not so acceptable by l.a. standards
But oh no--these weren't the last tacos we had in Maui. After a few hours of hanging out and playing around at Makena's beautiful Big Beach, we were completely famished, and it just so happened that the Jawz Tacos truck was sitting there right as we turned onto Makena Alanui Road. Now you and I both know that despite the taco truck facade, this conveniently located truck preys on hungry beachgoers like myself and is just as much of a tourist trap as any of the resort restaurants in neighboring Wailea. But as hungry as we were and as disheveled as we looked coming straight from the beach with damp clothing and sand sticking to our skin, this little wood-paneled taco truck on the side of the road was a much more logical choice than anything, say, at The Grand Wailea.
do you like my "please support the little guy" disguise?
We all know that on the whole, food in Maui is quite expensive and even the Jawz Taco truck was no exception. A refried bean taco costs 5 dollars and tacos with any kind of meat in them cost at least 6; burritos start at 6 dollars and hot dogs are a whopping $4.50. Isaac and I ordered a couple of mahi mahi tacos to scarf down and what we got was twelve bucks worth of more mediocrity. These tacos were defintely more tightly constructed and better team players than those we had on the Road to Hana, but that's not saying much. The fish was quite fresh, yes, but the taco itself was quite bland. As a general rule for all fish tacos, the sauce is key in tying all the elements of the pillowy tortillas, flaky fish and crisp cabbage together, and the sauce on these bad boys couldn't quite make the cut, leaving the cleaner flavors of the fish and cabbage to just simply sit there doing nothing. And at six bucks a pop, they were quite a ripoff considering I can get a taco bursting with all kinds of flava's back home in LA for under a buck. But we were in Maui after all, and at least we were able to drive back up to Ka'anapali with less acid in our stomachs (as well as less money in our pockets).
next thing you know, carl's will have a "six-dollar taco"
After having had tacos from three different places in Maui, I can now say with complete confidence: Don't do it.
Before you start chasing me with dogs and torches for ever considering eating tacos in Maui, let me just assure you that it's not all we ate in terms of cheaper, non-fancy, non-resort food. Stay tuned for Part 4, Section B, when Mr. and Mrs. Gluttony wise up to not eating tacos in Maui and try out some of the "little guys" who serve local fare.
2411 S. Kihei Rd.
Kihei, HI 96753
(other locations throughout Hawaii and the U.S.)
Makena Alanui Rd (mauka side) near the entrance to Big Beach