You know how every town has that quintessential corner deli that makes you think, “What would we do without that place?” Okay, maybe in France and Switzerland they have about 20 per village, but all you really need is that single best one and the rest are moot.
CJ’s Deli and Diner in Ka’anapali is about the best bet for a corner-deli on the island, though it’s not really located on a corner but rather in a strip mall off the highway. Oh, if only we could transplant it to Lahaina!
CJ’s fits the criteria in several ways. First of all, it’s open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. This accommodates hungry people on their way to work as well as early-bird diners. And it’s not like some delis that just slap together a half-ass breakfast menu to lure you in.
The eclectic menu includes fresh fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, smoothies, bagels and killer “Kahuna” pancakes. For lunch and dinner you have Maui’s finest ingredients at your fingertips. Be ready to feel the onset of a terrible-twos tantrum at having to pick just one thing.
Secondly, it’s a fun place. It’s got bright walls and paintings, a festive artsy menu, wooden booths and an open dining area with tables and chairs. There are also a couple high-rise counters where people bring their laptops or reading materials and get in the zone for a while. In fact, it’s where I’m writing these very sentences right now.
Mostly though, the food rocks. The portions are big, everything’s under $10 and there’s an abundance of sandwiches, plate lunches, burgers and salads for carnivores and herbivores alike. You order at the counter, pay and then wait for someone to bring your heavy, carefully prepared food at your table. Today the place was packed yet we still got our lunch in less than 10 minutes.
I ordered the spinach salad, which was a jumbo plate of spinach leaves, peppers, onions, olives, feta cheese and homemade pita tossed with just the right amount of tangy vinaigrette. My friend got the sauteed mahi mahi with white rice and potato salad.
It was more than she could consume. She shared a bite of fish with me and it was bangin’, for lack of a better word—very tender and lemon-buttery.
And let’s not forget about dessert. CJ’s boasts an epic pastry: the Hana bar. They styled out the Hana bar with vanilla ice cream and a mango-apricot glaze to win over the judges at Taste of Lahaina for best dessert.
I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is, besides a square of divine goodness, but I love it unconditionally. They’ve also got sundaes, shakes, floats, homemade pie, brownies and strudels, but the Hana bar is the only way to go.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve earned myself another Hana bar. MTW