Five for Five: Five Places to Eat in Lahaina for Around Five Bucks
Wharf Center, Lahaina, 661-0210
1 Lengua taco and 1 tacos al pastor, $6
Before you say “ewww”: I eat tongue, and lots of other animal parts, too. If you’re going to talk sustainability, I’m going to talk about how we should be utilizing all of the animal if we’re going to kill it to eat it. (Hot dogs don’t count.)
Here’s how I first did it: I walked up to order and asked them if the lengua was good. While the server eyed me to see if I was joking, he offered, “You can try it.” I said yes, he said something in Spanish to the dude cooking, who in turn looked at me and laughed. The server handed me a small cup with the lengua and it was delicious, so I ordered one lengua and one al pastor. Al pastor is food of the gods, marinated and roasted pork, garnished with onions and cilantro. Simple and delicious. The two dudes proceeded to laugh some more and talk some more in Spanish; they couldn’t figure out why one white-looking girl had any interest in eating such ethnic food. But if you want culinary adventures and to expand your palate, you have to taste the world around you.
Lengua tastes like beef. Filet, tri tip and ground beef all have a beefy taste, so why not the cow’s tongue, too? The texture is soft, and there is a lot of flavor, like the meat has been sauteed with aromatics and seasoned well. It’s chopped into small pieces, so in case you were picturing a corn tortilla around a slab of cow tongue you can stop. I would ask about the preparation if I spoke Spanish; as it was they couldn’t stop giggling at me. Now that I always order the lengua they’ve stopped laughing. Next up: cabeza taco.
Aloha Mixed Plate
1285 Front St., Lahaina, 661-3322
Shoyu chicken mini-plate, $3.95
The mini-plate—also known as the hobo—is the half-size little bruddah of the plate lunch. If you’re strapped for cash (or don’t have a huge appetite) but still want plate lunch goodness, this is your compromise. Aloha Mixed offers several mini-plate options ranging from $3.95 to $5.95, like the loco moco, teri beef, breaded teri beef, mahi and the hamburger steak. With some beautifully seasoned proteins, a scoop of rice and a bit of cabbage, this is eating like a king for a pauper’s price. Your main sacrifice from a regular plate is the omission of mac salad and one less scoop of rice.
Mini plates are also excellent for portion control and keeping the calories down if you’re into that kind of thing—guilt-free dining if you will. I’ve also found that the service is fast; my takeout arrived before I could send out a text message and I’m pretty quick with a smart phone. Of course, Aloha Mixed Plate has a beautiful ocean-front view and an outdoor dining area, so dine in when you can and soak in the beauty.
693 Front St., Lahaina, 661-8558
Teri Chicken Sandwich $7
The Sunrise Cafe is right on Front Street behind Lapperts. For such a little joint they serve big portions, and the chicken sandwich is no exception. Over six inches on a big soft wheat roll, with warm chicken breast chunks smothered in a thick teriyaki sauce with lettuce and tomato. Sometimes it features thin carrot shreds, sometimes cucumbers or sprouts. It comes with chips or a green salad, pasta salad or fruit. The salad is fresh greens with slices of cucumber and tomato and a delicious dressing.
Sunrise is a small locally owned cafe, with perfect proximity and views of Lahaina harbor. Dining is very casual; outdoor plastic tables and chairs. If you’re taking it to go, call ahead.
843 Wainee St., 667-6655
$5 lunch special, $3 breakfast
Serving American breakfast, Vietnamese cuisine and dim sum through the wee hours helps Lahaina Cafe stand out in a crowded field. For their lunch special, they take three items off the regular menu and transform them into the featured items of the day (call ahead to get details for that day). Though I’ve tried many things—including the excellent dim sum—I always return to the barbecued chicken. It has an excellent sweet, caramelized crust, the seasoning is light and lets the fresh herbs and veggies stand up around it. I’ve had it with vermicelli noodles and jasmine rice; either way it’s delightful.
Another great deal that deserves mention is the $3 breakfast. Two eggs, two pieces of bacon and your choice of hash browns, rice or toast. Hearty, straightforward and filling, plus you can get it until 4am.
Commercial Mexicana Store
840 Wainee St., Lahaina, 661-6193
Chile Relleno a la carte, $5.95
Enchiladas a la carte, $2.50
Visiting this little store is like shopping in Mexico—lots of imported goodies. But they also have a hot food section where you can get special creations in the Jalisco style. Jalisco is a state in Mexico, maybe more well-known for its tequila production or the towns of Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara.
The Chile Rellenos here have a following; if you don’t arrive pre-lunch rush, you might not get them at all. The chiles are stuffed with cheese and the egg batter fried around them is puffed up and plump. They’re served with a flavorful red sauce featuring carrots and onions. By themselves the rellenos are $5.95 but if you want the plate, for $2 more you get rice and beans. They always have enchiladas as well for $2.50 apiece and other options that change daily; you can make a killer combo plate if you’re willing to spend a bit more.
Got a hot food scoop? Contact Jen Russo at 808-280-3386 or fax to 808-244-0446.