Lahaina just got fun again. The Dirty Monkey is a proper bar, restaurant and late night club all wrapped up into one second level balcony location across the street from Lahaina Fish Co. It’s good to see that Alen Aivazian, Brandon Bradford, Ryan Sweeney and Matthew Robb saw the potential to breathe new life in this space that was legendary for getting nuts on the Westside. While the old Moose McGillycuddy’s in Lahaina has been put to rest, The Dirty Monkey will hail a new era of amusement in its place.
I trekked to Lahaina to meet up with operating partner Matt Robb and marketing and events coordinator Amber Meade. They said it wasn’t easy opening The Dirty Monkey. They had to rip out everything and start anew. It took years.
“We wanted a bar in Maui,” said Robb. “We looked for five years. Nothing ever comes available on Front Street. So when we got wind that this place was coming available we hopped on it. There were some big players that were coming after it, too! Hard Rock wanted a spot, Cabo Wabo was looking. We have eight bars in the greater LA area–the Blind Donkey, the Little Bear, the Surly Goat, they all have different names. This is the first Dirty Monkey, and the first outside of LA. We wanted to use 60 percent of existing electrical and plumbing here. But as we started digging into it, we saw that all the electrical was not up to code. We had to go in and completely rip everything out. All the electrical and plumbing. There is not an old piece of plumbing or electrical in these walls. And then it took us nine months to get the permits.”
When you enter, the main bar is to the left and stretches out around the wall in an L shape with lots of seating. This place is device-friendly, and every seat at the bar has a charging station. The balcony is lined with high tops, and there are cushy booth seats and tables, too. The bar has dark charcoal walls, and a fresh new look. Flat screen TV’s are elegantly installed. The bar needs to be big to display more than 200 different whiskey and bourbons.
“I walked this space every day for the last year,” says Robb. “I would envision the bar. I fine-tuned along the way. I really went through the functionality at the bar. We have all of the same type of TVs. Everything is 4K. We’re a sports bar when there is sports. At night when the games are over, we go to old school movies and surfing videos. We like it dark and sexy at night. Dimmed down and very approachable.”
When you’re faced with a selection of so many whiskeys, it may seem difficult to choose. But the staff will help you. According to Robb, they’re creating new whiskey fans every day.
“We work with Maui Stone and Young’s Market,” says Robb. “We have New Belgium Blue Paddle exclusively and we’re going through 10 kegs of it every week. The bourbon selection alone is crazy. I have 215 now, and by the end of March I will have 265. We have some higher-end stuff coming, too. We already went through a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, and we were only allotted one so we’re trying to get another bottle. We decided to really educate the staff so they can educate the patrons. What we have found is there are a lot of locals in this town that have not had the chance to try these, and they’re experiencing a different world. The response is insane. Everyone is here at pau hana trying an E.H. Taylor or Knob Hill or trying the Yamazaki. They’re saying it’s amazing.”
I couldn’t resist having a Paloma at a whiskey bar, but that’s just me. I had to try the grapefruit liqueur with Espolon Tequila, and it was very refreshing. They have an exquisite craft cocktail list with a good balance of rum, gin, vodka and whiskey cocktails.
But this is also a craft brew bar, and they have an extensive selection of craft beer from around the country.
“We have a 16-tap system with glycol chilled lines,” says Robb. “Basically, when it leaves the cooler it continues at 30 degrees all they way ’til it hits the tap and comes out cold. It’s all state-of-the-art nitro-infused. The beer doesn’t set in the lines. There’s nothing worse than having warm beer. Beer is the heart of our company. The whiskey is the face, and the beer is our heart.”
As for the food, the menu is short and simple. Dishes like pub chips, pickle chips, ceviche, wings, corn lollipops, taro burger, slap burger, quinoa and kale salad, shrimp and avo salad, fish tacos round out their offerings. It’s easy relatable American/Californian cuisine. I took a spin through the kitchen and it was immaculate, with a gorgeous fresh caught Mahi getting broken down for their blackened fish tacos.
“We try to make all our food shareable,” says Robb. “We call it modern American share plates. If you’re here with friends, grab some drinks and share some food. The Corn Lollipops are our version of Mexican street corn. The Slap Burger is our rendition of an In and Out Burger, you can add bacon, you can add egg. The shrimp and avocado salad is one of my favorites. The ceviche we wanted to have to feature local fish.”
I dug into the shrimp and avo salad and shared it with our party–there was plenty to pass around. I also enjoyed the Slap Burger: it was a nice size with a soft warm bun and really fresh garnishes. The corn lollipops were delicious and messy. I didn’t try the pickle chips, but they’re up next time I visit.
The evenings here have been going off. Besides hosting a merry pau hana, the bar has sports games and happy hour with live music from 2-5pm daily. Happy hour features $2 off select cocktails and food. The bar stays open until 2am daily and they have DJs and dancing on the weekend, with shuffle board and gaming at the back bar. Kama`aina get 20 percent off, except at happy hour. Live music Fridays will feature the Easy this Friday, and this Valentine’s Day will have a Onesie/Pajama Singles Party.
“We have been doing DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, and we’re going to bring in some live bands,” says Robb. “Lahaina used to be a hotbed for live music. It’s gone to the wayside. There’s no outlet for these guys to come play. So we’re hoping to launch a live music Fridays and have a live act on Fridays with a DJ on Saturdays. As we get into February and March, we want to do an industry night, and do some other things to keep it fresh. I was in Vegas for five years I opened the XS nightclubs. My state of the art JVL sound system is incredible–it’s loud but people can still stand here and have a conversation. I just want people to have fun.”
THE DIRTY MONKEY
844 Front St., Lahaina