Betty’s Beach Cafe

Years ago, back in the day when people dialed up to the Internet and tweeting was still something cheerful birds did in the morning, Maui Time staffers crammed into a tiny little office upstairs from what is now Betty’s Beach Cafe. In those days of writing articles on cocktail napkins and delivering papers from the basket of a beach cruiser, the restaurant downstairs was a dusty old joint called Hecocks, where one could often find Holoholo Girl Samantha Campos sipping martinis and collecting fodder for her weekly column. 

It’s a sentimental spot. But now Maui Time has spacious new headquarters in Wailuku and, after nearly a year of emptiness, the shiny, new Betty’s has cleared the dust and breathed new life into the location. In fact, the whole 505 center is getting a bit of a facelift after being hit hard by the slow economy. Shops that had closed their doors are reopening, while trendy clothes stores, activity stands, spas and—gasp!—a night club fill the empty spaces.

Leading the way is the enthusiastic Betty’s, where I have been a regular basically since they opened. Wise enough to know they’re in a tough spot for business, Betty’s came out of the gate offering great happy hour specials, like the $2 margarita, from 2-5pm every day, and bottomless champagne mimosas for $10 every Sunday for brunch. They’re also carrying on an old Hecocks tradition—serving whole Maine lobsters on Wednesdays for less than the price of two movie tickets.

Recently, the boyfriend and I strolled in for dinner. Luckily for me, we arrived on “birthday night,” which happens once a month. Since my birthday falls in the month of June, I was awarded a special table, colorful leis and a whole bottle of California champagne for $1. Happy birthday to me!

From our table we had an unobstructed view of the sun setting dramatically over the ocean and free back row seats to the Feast at Lele luau. The menu is unpretentious; burgers, salads and sandwiches are the main offerings. We started with hot wings, meaty little chicken drumettes with a spicy vinegar sauce and ranch for dipping. As we were enjoying them the luau started, and we surveyed the crowd of well-dressed visitors sipping their mai-tais while watching a handful of scantily clad dancers perform the hula. For dinner I ordered the mahi mahi tacos. My two tacos came out piled with fresh lettuce and pico de gallo, lots of cilantro, homemade salsa and a side of chili-flavored pinto beans. I offered one up to my boyfriend in exchange for a go at his plate of kalua pork. His generous portion of flavorful pig meat was perfectly salty and smoky, accompanied by tender cabbage and rice. It was a meal that could have come strait from a local auntie’s kitchen.

For dessert we shared a very satisfyingly warm, gooey apple crisp topped with Roselani vanilla ice cream. One of my favorite things about Betty’s is how they do simple things well. They’re not trying to be the next Hawaiian fusion regional restaurant; there are no poke concoctions on the menu and nothing is macadamia nut crusted, sprinkled with coconut or served with chili pepper water. Everything is casual—the people, the décor and food. Betty’s doesn’t claim to be something it’s not, but here’s what it is: well worth checking out. MTW