Ulupalakua Ranch

meter-good-greatBelieve it or not, there are elk on Maui. I know that’s an odd way to begin a food blog entry, but there’s a very good reason for that: You can eat them. Granted, you have to drive halfway up a mountain to do it, but it’s worth the trip. Unless you’re one of the elk.

Ulupalakua Ranch (say that three times real fast) is not exactly the type of place you just swing by for a bite, unless perhaps you have a helicopter. [Note to self: Buy helicopter, move to Maui.] Getting to this place takes time, research, a potentially voided rental car contract, and the better part of a tank of gas. Ulupalakua Ranch is nestled on the side of Haleakala, Maui’s eastern most mountain peak. Fun fact: That last sentence represents 100% of my knowledge of Hawaiian geography.

Open 11am to 3pm. My kind of working hours.

Open 11am to 3pm. My kind of working hours.

After a somewhat tiring but breathtakingly scenic drive, my blushing bride and I found ourselves standing outside the ranch store. The only thing we’d had to eat for the past several hours was a half a package of dried pineapple and some samples of lavender tea, so we were good and ready for some real food, dammit. We walked to the back corner of the store and found a modestly-sized menu board with a number of tasty options. As you’d expect from an eatery located on a ranch, most of the menu choices had hooves at one point – no complaints here. For the more empathetic types out there, Ulupalakua Ranch also offers salads and garden burgers.

Hey, cows eat grass right? So eating cows is like eating green stuff by delegating. Works for me.

Hey, cows eat grass right? So eating cows is like eating green stuff by delegating. Works for me.

” Most of the menu choices had hooves at one point “

I considered the elk burger for a while (apparently it’s excellent), but I was feeling more hungry than adventurous so I ordered the beef burger with Swiss and bacon. Baaacconnnnn. My wife was braver than I was and decided on a lamb burger with cheddar and barbecue sauce. Hmm, not too sure about that, but I guess we’ll see. Lamb is one of those things that’s either just amazing or absolutely horrifyingly awful, depending on the quality and freshness of the cut. The closer it is to prancing and bleating, the better.

While we waited for our food we browsed the rest of the store. It contained a charming and eclectic mix of Hawaiian knick-knacks and cowboy gear, as well as a decent collection of locally produced food items. We grabbed a couple bags of Maui onion potato chips (that were made in Texas *cough*) and headed out to the patio.

Just look at that beefy, bacony masterpiece.

Just look at that beefy, bacony masterpiece.

Our burgers came straight off of the grill a few minutes later, perched atop impossibly fresh toasted buns and accompanied by a standard collection of toppings. The beef burger, although straightforward and otherwise unremarkable, was one of the juiciest and most flavorful I have experienced in a very long time. I guess it helps when your beef comes from the other side of your own property instead of the globe.

As for the lamb burger… Ok, honestly I was a bit apprehensive to give it a try but hey! It wasn’t bad at all. In fact it was downright superb, and I was quite pleasantly surprised. My wife began thwacking me on the head with a plastic utensil as I stole another large bite of her sandwich, saying something about “Hey, go get your own!” I was too engrossed in the excellent flavor to really notice, so I just pretended not to hear. (It works when I’m being beckoned outside for yard work, so why not right?)

Ulupalakua Ranch earns an honest and enjoyable 11.3 out of 15 gallons of rental car gas. It’s a bit too far off the beaten path to really make it worth the effort, but if you’re already on that side of Maui definitely pay this place a visit. If you’re crazy enough to attempt the drive to Hana, this also makes a very nice stop along the way.

Ulupalakua Ranch
HC 1
Box 901
Kula, HI 96790
www.ulupalakuaranch.com
Ulupalakua Ranch Store on Urbanspoon

Lamb and cheddar with barbecue sauce. It shouldn't work, but it does.

Lamb and cheddar with barbecue sauce. It shouldn’t work, but it does.



Merriman’s

meter-good+One of the many restaurants on our list of places to visit this trip was Merriman’s Kapalua, a fancy-ish establishment with – you guessed it – a killer view. We’d heard this place can get busy, so we called ahead and attempted to get reservations. Unfortunately, sunset dining times turned out to be very difficult to come by.

The best available dinner reservation time was just after sunset several days later, so my wife and I decided to go there for appetizers instead. Or, as we prefer to say: Pupus (Pronounced “poo poos”). It’s way more fun. Try it. Pupus. (giggle) We dropped our car off at the valet in front of Merriman’s – the only parking option – and walked out to the open seating available on the generously sized patio.

A sunset at Merriman's, as seen through a glass of Fire Rock pale ale. Beyootiful.

A sunset at Merriman’s, as seen through a glass of Fire Rock pale ale. Beyootiful.

” Now I remember why I’ve never liked people with more ab muscles than IQ points “

The patio is located where the old Bay Club swimming pool used to be. Well, actually, it’s still there. The pool has been completely filled with dirt and is mostly covered with a large wooden deck. The uncovered part of the pool sports a lawn and several palm trees. Very strange indeed, but also not really noticeable.

Because this blog is not called “Uninteresting Pool Trivia“, I will now return to talking about food. My better half and I browsed the pupu menu (stifled laugh) and picked out a handful of different items that approximately equated to dinner for two. The service at Merriman’s is a little bit on the slow side, but then again so is Hawaii in general. Besides, we were there to watch the sunset, so it’s not like we were planning on leaving anytime soon anyway.

Pretty darned good sliders. THERE's the beef.

Pretty darned good sliders. THERE’s the beef.

Eventually a tanned and gleeful young lad bounded out of the kitchen area to deliver our four plates of appetizers. “Well gosh!” he said. “With an order this size I’d have thought there were six people here!” Yes, thank you. We get it, we’re little oinkers. Please keep your astute observations to yourself and go iron your collection of khaki shorts. Now I remember why I’ve never liked people with more ab muscles than IQ points.

Thankfully, our pupus (tee hee) turned out to be quite tasty. The smoked bacon and bleu cheese sliders were quite beefy and delicious, and the pork quesadilla was superb – the chili mango “wattah” dipping sauce was to die for. The fish and “chips” (actually breaded and fried eggplant) was also very good; both the breading and the tartar sauce had very nicely amped up flavors. To be somewhat healthy, we also got a goat cheese salad. So there, filter-less meal delivery drone. Nyah.

Warm goat cheese with a crispy crust on froofy salad thing. It was awesome.

Warm goat cheese with a crispy crust on froofy salad thing. It was awesome.

We finished off our “dinner” with some wonderful white chocolate filled malasadas (basically donut holes), complete with local coffee caramel dipping sauce. The molten white chocolate was perilously hot, but we managed to escape with only mildly disfiguring burns. We watched the sun set as we enjoyed our pupus (yes, it’s still funny) – overall it was a very pleasant evening indeed. It took quite a bit longer to get our bill than I would have preferred, but it wasn’t a huge deal … until I saw the total. We cleared $100 easy, even with only one drink each. It must have taken them the whole 30 extra minutes we waited just to total everything up. Well, what’s one to expect? With front row seats for the sunset like we had and more than passable noms, it was still a fair deal.

In the end, I rate this restaurant a decent 9 out of 12 blond-coiffed busboys. The value-for-food formula is questionable, but it does make for a nice night out. If you’re in the mood for a delicious pupu (snort) and your wallet can stand up to a modest beating, stop by Merriman’s Kapalua for a bite.

Merriman’s
Multiple locations throughout Hawaii
www.merrimanshawaii.com

Merriman's on Urbanspoon

The Kahlua pork quesadilla was slam-dunk piggy deliciousness.

The Kahlua pork quesadilla was slam-dunk piggy deliciousness.



The Gazebo

meter-great-haI’ve been to The Gazebo before, so I was excited to have an opportunity to write it up. Well, actually, I was way more excited to eat there – this whole blog thing is more like a side effect.

This restaurant is tucked away back behind the business end of a motel-y looking resort in Napili. To find it, you’ll need to poke around the back roads in the area a bit, keeping your eyes peeled for a teeny little wooden sign sporting the magical words “The Gazebo”. Find a parking spot as quickly as you can or, if there aren’t any (which is likely), just plow your rental car into the middle of a hibiscus bush and climb out of a back window. Start walking through the motel … sorry, “resort” grounds and head vaguely towards the ocean. When you see a line of people waiting near a swimming pool, you have discovered breakfast nirvana.

It is literally a gazebo. No bonus points for having a creative restaurant name.

It is literally a gazebo. No bonus points for having a creative restaurant name.

The wait for a table is rarely less than 15 minutes, and it’s often quite a bit more – that’s the bad news. The good news is that it will be the most pleasant wait you’ve ever experienced. You’re in Hawaii for crying out loud, who cares how long the wait is? Just remember not to wander aimlessly out of line while you gape at the postcard-perfect scenery and bask in the toasty sun.

” Before we could say ‘sugar shock’ our food had arrived “

Once seated, you will find yourself reviewing a lengthy and reasonably-priced menu filled to the brim with just about everything you can imagine and quite a few things you can’t. If this is your first visit to The Gazebo, skip straight to the “Our Specialties” section and try not to giggle with sheer schoolgirlish delight. The white chocolate macadamia nut pancakes are as drool-worthy as they sound. I also highly recommend the banana macadamia nut version, and pineapple is available as well. In a final stroke of tropical genius, you’re provided with coconut syrup to top it all off. Yeah, wow is right.

The only thing that could possibly be any better than that is a little gem I discovered on the specials board: Peanut butter banana french toast. Hot dang do I love peanut butter! I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that before, but no matter. I ordered up the french toast; my wife opted for a banana mac nut short stack and a side of bacon for us to share. Baaaaacccoooooooonnnnnnnnn.

The peanut butter banana french toast special. I am still having dreams about this.

The peanut butter banana french toast special. I am still having dreams about this.

Before we could say “sugar shock” our food had arrived, just as fresh and amazing as I remembered from a few years ago. The waitstaff at The Gazebo are great folks; they’re fast, personable, they get their orders correct, and they keep your iced tea filled. I tried to think of something mean to say about them but I came up with nothing, curse the wily charlatans.

The Gazebo earns an easy 28 out of 30 fluffy golden tropical pancakes; really its only downside is that you have to travel all the way to Maui to visit it. Wait, maybe that’s an upside. Doesn’t matter. Just go there!

The Gazebo
5315 Lower Honoapiilani Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 669-5621
www.mauihawaii.org

Gazebo on Urbanspoon

UPDATE
This restaurant is so nice I reviewed it twice: Random Revisit: The Gazebo

Banana macadamia nut pancakes with juuuuuuuust a dab of whipped cream.

Banana macadamia nut pancakes with juuuuuuuust a dab of whipped cream.



The Beach House Restaurant

meter-good-greatThe Beach House is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand it’s not especially inspiring or unique, but on the other hand it is exactly what you fly all the way the heck out to the middle of the Pacific to experience. I was fully prepared to be unimpressed by The Beach House, but in the end it won me over.

For starters, “The Beach House” is just about the most generic name I can imagine, especially in Hawaii. It’s the John Smith of restaurant names. Just try looking it up and you’ll see what I mean. It’s also located on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton, which causes one to imagine that they serve hotel food, and the menu doesn’t do much to dispel that fear. So far not so good. There are a few kinds of salads, some appetizers, and a couple entrees to choose from, one of which is a hamburger. Oh dear.

” Sorry kids, but today we found Nemo … on our table “

The Beach House also isn’t especially easy to find. One is required to navigate a brain-wrenching tangle of golf cart paths and twisty one-way utility roads through a miniature city of condominiums to get there. If it weren’t for my wife’s ability to navigate, I’d still be driving loops around the island looking for this place. Once you do find the restaurant, you’ll need to park in a beach access parking lot and hoof it a good 100 yards down a paved path to get there. As is my way when faced with a series of annoying challenges in order to fill my empty stomach, I was Mr. Cranky Pants as we finally arrived at the The Beach House.

And then I saw the view.

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit. That there is alright.

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit. That there is alright.

As it turns out, The Beach House is quite aptly named. It’s on. The freaking. Beach. Ok, so the menu is still disappointingly short but come on. That’s a million dollar view. It’s so good in fact that I was able to ignore the painfully touristy music being played, namely Limbo Rock and Blue Hawaii. Props to Mr. Checker and the King, but just… cringe. Anyway, enough about the music and the view and everything else. I finally tore my gaze away from the gorgeous scenery and tried to remember that I was here to feed more than my eyes.

I read through the entire menu, a process that took about 18 seconds, and settled on the probably-average hamburger. Our helpful waitress dropped off our drinks and began listing off the specials. It turned out there were more specials than there were regular menu items, a nice surprise that really helped to address the issue of limited entree choices. At one point the words “grilled ahi sandwich with garlic aioli” were uttered and both my wife and I perked up our ears at exactly the same time. We must have looked like a couple of dogs who were just asked “cookie??” by someone holding a box of Milk Bones, because the waitress immediately got out her pen and started writing things down. Yes, we’ll have those. The sandwiches. Two of those. Bring them now.

I don't need fancy, I just need tasty. And this is it.

I don’t need fancy, I just need tasty. And this is it.

Our sammies arrived (one with fruit, one with fries) and boy did they hit the spot. Stuff like this is exactly my very favorite kind of food: Something simple done oh-so-right. The onion rolls were as fresh as can be, the aioli was bang-on perfect, and the fish… Well, there’s nothing quite like fresh caught fish that was frolicking in the waves just hours before. Sorry kids, but today we found Nemo … on our table. Not all stories end like Disney movies do, but at least they make tasty lunches. At $22 a plate plus drinks, however, The Beach House ain’t cheap. We calculated the prices at $10 for each meal and $12 a person for the view. Still totally worth it.

I rate this place a well-earned 8 out of 10 touristy ukulele songs, earning it an unexpectedly decent spot on my list of favorites. If you’re looking for a meal with a view, The Beach House will be very hard to beat. Just remember to ask for the specials.

The Beach House Restaurant
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
One Ritz-Carlton Drive
Kapalua, HI 96761
(808) 669-6200
www.ritzcarlton.com

Beach House on Urbanspoon

Waterfront dining at its finest. Well maybe not dining, and maybe not finest. But definitely waterfront.

Waterfront dining at its finest. Well maybe not dining, and maybe not finest. But definitely waterfront.



Da Kitchen Cafe

meter-great-Jet lag is a curious thing. Your brain tells you one thing, the clock tells you another.. and neither tend to be correct. That’s why, when I travel, I rely on my stomach to tell me what time of day it is. Just three or four steps off of the plane in Maui, and it was clear I had missed a meal of some kind. I had no idea what time it was, but in Hawaii it doesn’t matter anyway. They should make it a rule that everyone is required to flush their watches down the toilet before stepping foot on Hawaiian soil.

Ok, where to eat, where to eat… As you would expect, the airport is jam packed with tourism brochures doing their very best to pry the money from the wallets of unsuspecting mainlanders. I have no desire whatsoever to visit “Big Mike’s Tourist Tilapia and Surf Lessons” or “Aloha Mahalo Hawaiian Hula Hamburger Hut”. No thank you. When you want local food you should ask a local (duh), and after receiving some advice from a rental car employee we happened upon Da Kitchen a couple miles down the road.


Local Hawaiian awesomeness lurks just inside these doors.

Local Hawaiian awesomeness lurks just inside these doors.


The interior of Da Kitchen is somewhat industrial and the ceilings are – no kidding – at least 25 feet high. Indeed the whole mini-mall complex appears to be a repurposed blimp hangar, but facts such as these matter little when one’s stomach is loudly demanding food. Da Kitchen’s menu is filled to the brim with local Hawaiian favorites, and the specials board alone was over twenty options deep. Quite a few offerings caught my eye, namely the macadamia crusted ahi sandwich with pesto, but in the end I settled on a classic hamburger steak plate lunch. My wife interviewed our waitress to discover what her favorite thing on the menu was, which turned out to be fish and chips.

Speaking of the wait staff (who are quite friendly by the way), all the people who work at Da Kitchen are about 90 pounds soaking wet combined, so I’m pretty sure they don’t actually eat there. If they do, they must have exercise routines that involve burning 4,000+ calories a day. I’ve never been served by a team of olympic triathletes before.


Mmmm, carb heaven.

Mmmm, carb heaven.


Our food arrived and it was magnificent. My hamburger steak was cooked perfectly, heaped with grilled onions and mushrooms, and swimming in lovely brown gravy. The “vegetable” on my plate, the potato mac salad, was excellent as well. The fish and chips across the table from me looked superb, and I knew immediately that I needed to get in on the action. I used the tried-and-true “Hey look a volcano!” trick and swiped one of the crispy golden fillets while my wife scrambled to find her camera. The batter was perfect, the mahi was so fresh it was still swimming and, critically, it wasn’t oily or greasy at all. Deeeeelish.

Overall I rate Da Kitchen 4 out of 5 sunburned tourists, making it totally worth looking up if you find yourself on Maui.


Da Kitchen Cafe
425 Koloa Street
Suite 104
Kahului, HI 96732
(808) 871-7782
www.da-kitchen.com

Da Kitchen Cafe on Urbanspoon


Yes, it really is as good as it looks.

Yes, it really is as good as it looks.