The story of Rita’s, the newest Kihei Kalama Village restaurant, begins with a romantic vacation getaway. It’s the vacation owner Steve Warsh took in 2005 that made him decide Maui was the place to be.
“It’s pretty simple,” says Warsh. “My soul belonged here. I’m a Type A personality. Here on Maui is where I can relax.”
Warsh spent the last 14 years in Las Vegas in another industry, but says he was ready to get back into food and beverage.
“I hadn’t been in the restaurant industry in 20 years,” says Warsh. “Rita’s is the tenth restaurant I’ve been involved in.”
Rita’s opened at the end of last summer, taking the spot left vacant by Lulu’s Kihei. The second story, open-air restaurant is spacious, comfortable and offers great ocean views. There’s a large deck area, but also a significant bar with sports running on TV screens.
As for the menu, Warsh says he was going for classic steak and seafood because he felt that niche wasn’t being filled. He selected the all prime menu personally and says he has the only all-prime menu in town.
“I know all about these cows,” says Warsh. “I sourced all grass-fed Iowa beef. They are all humanely raised. Our lobster comes live from Portland Maine–they are never frozen.”
During a recent visit, I dove into their live Maine lobster, which is served with butter, lemon and sauteed vegetables. The presentation was amazing, but the lobster did all the work. There was barely any room for veggies! The lobster was served with the tail cracked open–you just pull out that luscious meat and dip. Same for the claws.
The menu is full of seafood and steakhouse standards done with their a special twist. In November, Chef Josh Marten came on board to offer consultation to Rita’s–he tweaked the menu with his touch of sauces and pastas.
The dinner menu highlights many select cuts of meat, from filet to porterhouse, and fresh catches from local fisherman. They have a fresh catch trio that Warsh says is one of the most popular entrees: three filets with three different sauces. There are also scallops and Alaskan king crab rounding out the seafood offerings. All of the seafood reappears in the salad menus (there’s a steak salad, too). On the sides menu, they spare nothing from cheese-infused spinach to garlic mashed potato.
For pupus, you can expect lots of rich seafood starters like lobster bisque, steamed clams, crab and shrimp stuffed mushrooms, seafood wontons, coconut shrimp and fried calamari. Rita’s also offers some raw items too, like the seared ahi Rita style and the poke platter. I devoured some of their poke, which is served on crisp triangles of fried wonton chips and stacked high into a tower. The fresh cubes of shoyu-seasoned ahi sprinkled with chopped green onion were flawless.
Happy hour starts at 3pm and all pupus go on sale at half off till 6pm, with select Mai Tais and Margaritas for $3. Draft beer and wine is two bucks off and house martinis are $3.50. Live music each evening starts at 4pm, with rotating artists.
I dropped in to listen to Aloha Bluegrass on Saturday afternoon. Bluegrass may have come from Kentucky, but I swear it’s better enjoyed over Mai Tais and sunsets. Speaking of which, the Mai Tai here is a bold concoction of rum and fresh pineapple juice that’s served in a pint glass like most of their cocktails. Warsh says his favorite margarita is the “Kevin’s Coconut” but Rita’s has a mind stopping 17 different margaritas to choose from.
Lunch starts at 11am and is more casual than their dinner. Choose from burgers and fish and chips, and a few of the dinner favorites like ribs and seared ahi. Dinner starts at 6pm, with a change over to white table cloths and napkins that add a bit of extra elegance to the dining room as the sun goes down.
Warsh says that Rita’s is just a small mom and pop restaurant and he’s there every day. “Rita’s is for those of us who want Ruth’s Chris cuisine at Outback prices,” he says.
Steve Warsh’s Top 5 to Try
- Prime Rib–The tenderness of slow roasted beef with a cabernet au jus will melt in your mouth. Served with gruyere and Swiss horseradish.
- Bone-in Rib Eye–Not just for paniolos, their red wine demi glace is just the right touch of flavor for their robust rib eye.
- Ahi Rita Style–Lightly seared with garlic panko and a balsamic reduction.
- Baby Back Ribs–Somehow Warsh obtained the secret recipe for the sixth best ribs in the nation. Try these dry-rubbed, slow-smoked ribs as they drop off the bone.
- House salad table side–The traditional salad at a steakhouse. It’s almost a dying art, but you can experience it here, and it’s included with all of their entrees or as a stand-alone dish. The salad features red onion, green olives, romaine and tomato, and the dressing is made table-side as well with fresh lemon and olive oil.
1945 S. Kihei Rd.
11am to 11pm
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.