The 808 Plates food truck is the great big ocean blue and chrome beauty that parks just to the Waiehu side of the entrance to the Kahului small boat harbor. Brothers Kainoa and Rycin Pavao run the truck (which is open Monday through Friday from 10:30pm to 5pm) and they say every day is different, from the weather to the menu to the tastes of the customers. But mostly they love working for themselves, and at 24 and 22 years old, respectively, they are some of the youngest restaurateurs I know.
They’ve been parking at this spot for about a year now. They said they tried Lahaina and loved it but the drive over the Pali was hard on them. They’ve parked at the other side of the harbor entrance but there isn’t always enough room for the truck over there. They figured on just parking at their current spot every time, and it caught on. They focus their menu around seafood and it changes every day, depending on what the boats bring in.
“Our menu is based on fresh fish,” says Kainoa. “We just figured we would use the resources around us. We have all these fishermen in Hawaii. There are about five or six boats that fish for the truck. Two of them are full time. There is pretty much a fisherman that goes out every other day. That is how we get our fish. We do chicken, steak, ribs and shrimp, too.”
“There are a couple of popular dishes,” says Rycin. “The garlic ahi katsu, the wasabi-glazed ahi katsu, the ribeye steak and the coconut shrimp. We have a big menu.”
I met them early in the morning, as they were writing up the menu. Kainoa says he started working at Costco, then did some work at Kinaole food truck, when his dad offered to help him start off on his own food truck business. He went to the Mainland in search of the truck, an adventure in and of itself, he says.
They only use sashimi-grade ahi for their poke, and it’s really fresh and succulent with furikake and a dark glaze of seasoning. Their ribeye is served steak bites style seasoned just right. They do their ahi katsu in plain, garlic, wasabi style or teriyaki. I tried the garlic ahi katsu. The katsu-breaded, deep-fried ahi chunks are coated in garlic with a garlic aioli on top. It’s one of those dishes you can’t stop eating until it’s gone.
“Growing up over here we hear a lot of people grumbling about their work,” says Kainoa. “I’m just happy we found something we don’t mind doing. We both love cooking, we started off always cooking for family. I like feeding people, I like to see their reaction. I want them to tell me if it’s junk, or tell me if they love it. That is what we are here for.”
They day I went they also had fried poke, breaded teriyaki, Korean chicken, ahi belly and garlic chicken. All their plates come with rice and greens, but the menu does change up frequently with what’s available, and what the fisherman are bringing in. Be warned: if the ahi isn’t perfect, they won’t have poke.
The plates run from $8 to $12 depending on the day. They also do the 4th Friday Town Party in Kihei and occasional private events and concerts.
“I like working for myself,” says Kainoa. “It’s difficult to juggle with my personal life. But at the end of the day we are here working our own business and that feels good.”
808 Plates Maui