Comfort food is trendy right now, but Bev Gannon was way ahead of the curve, opening her Wailea comfort food joint, Joe’s Bar and Grill in 1995. Comfort food is an aptly named genre of cooking, food that fills the tummy, eases anxiety with familiarity, but it is often associated with dives and diners. It doesn’t have to be that way. At Joe’s Bev Gannon has tackled the comfort food genre with her gourmet finesse and elegance, and added an international flair with asian inspired comforts as well.
Joe’s is almost hidden in Wailea tucked down by the Wailea tennis courses on the lesser travelled Wailea Ike Place. This peaceful open air restaurant location has beautiful Banyan Trees, Haleakala views and amazing sunsets. Bev Gannon’s husband Joe Gannon, channeled his background in show biz, designed the lighting and interior, imbuing the inside of the dining room a theatrical warmth that sets the stage for great food.
You get the best of both worlds with Joe’s menu. There are a few famous items stolen from the Haliimaile General Store, like the baked crab dip appetizer that I could eat any time of the day, and the black market ribs that fall off the bone. Joe’s stands forthright in creating its own renowned and celebrated dishes. Their wine list is fantastic, wines ranging from $30 to $250, and glasses to pair with anything you have. The well stocked bar serves martinis in stemless glasses nested in a bucket of ice: its so nice to have a martini that never goes warm.
The ahí carpacccio is raw fish like you have never had before. Do not reach for the soy sauce, this fish has been thinly sliced and served with large pieces of shaved parmesan and lemon dill aioli. It melts in your mouth, and the cheese and lemon provide the bang that you are used to seeing in the soy and wasabi combo. It is a refreshing change. If your old standby is the traditional ahi sashimi, don’t worry, it is represented here too. In fact their list of appetizers like the prime rib quesadilla, and fried calamari with nuoc cham sauce, and beet tower is a fantastic mix of acquainted favorites with new charm.
From their list of salads I couldn’t resist the steakhouse commonplace iceberg wedge to see how Joe’s would make it special. The iceberg was green and crisp and well endowed with homemade blue cheese dressing and crisp pancetta sprinkled over it. The fresh iceberg popped under the tang of blue cheese and the pancetta gave it the perfect accompanying crunch, comfort all the way. The winter harvest salad caught my eye with dried apricots and pumpkin seeds and passion fruit vinaigrette, but it will have to wait till next time.
Chef Gannon’s ribs are well known and special, smothered with her own barbecue that is as rich as her Texas roots, but it was the seafood pot pie that stole the show. The sauce that surrounds the shrimp, scallops and fresh fish, is creamy and rich like a bisque, with pearl onions, edamame, corn and potatoes. The dish is topped with a puff pastry crust that changes the dish from soup to spectacular.
The chicken and waffles is a new item on the menu, while unfamiliar and mysterious here on Maui, I have seen it many times as a southern treat. Gannon’s interpretation a homemade cornmeal waffle with a savory butter and chipotle maple syrup that would be good on its own. The buttermilk marinated chicken breast with the perfect crisp fried breaded exterior, juicy tender interior adds the kick for this breakfast meets dinner meal.
If you are not up for adventure, the meatloaf is where comfort food got its name. Whipped potatoes hold up this generous slab of loafed ground meats, perfectly seasoned, light as a feather, with Gannon’s barbecue sauce baked into a tangy crust on top. Whatever you can’t eat makes a great sandwich the next day, don’t be afraid to take home a doggie bag, just so you can save room for dessert.
At Joe’s the server will tell you that their signature chocolate bread pudding is amazing, my advice is to go with it. The brioche in this bread based dessert is baked in Haliimaile. The chocolate flavor is deep and rich, and the egg custard fluffy, but the whole dish is made by the homemade caramel sauce drizzled over it. It is so delicious I wanted to take it home in a bottle. Unfortunately they don’t offer it that way, you have to come to Joe’s to get it.