Comfort food is both trendy and timeless, something Bev Gannon understood when she opened Joe’s Bar and Grill in 1995. The idea is simple yet often overlooked: food that fills the tummy and eases anxiety with familiarity. And even though it’s often associated with dives and diners, it doesn’t have to be that way. At Joe’s, Gannon tackles comfort food with her typically gourmet finesse and elegance and adds an international flair with a few Asian-inspired dishes.
Joe’s is almost hidden in Wailea, tucked down by the tennis courts on the less-traveled Wailea Ike Place. The peaceful, open-air location features beautiful Banyan trees, Haleakala views and, naturally, amazing sunsets. Joe Gannon, Bev’s husband and the restaurant’s namesake, channeled his background in show biz, designed the lighting and interior, imbuing the dining room with a theatrical warmth that sets the stage for great food.
Joe’s menu boasts a few familiar items from Gannon’s famous Haliimaile General Store, including the baked crab dip appetizer (which I could eat any time of day) and fall-off-the-bone ribs. Yet for the most part, Joe’s goes its own, delicious way.
The ahi carpaccio is raw fish like you’ve never had before. Don’t reach for the soy sauce—this ahi has been thinly sliced and served with large pieces of shaved Parmesan and lemon dill aioli. It quite literally melts in your mouth, the cheese and lemon providing the bang you’re accustomed to getting from soy and wasabi. It’s a refreshing change. If your old standby is the traditional ahi sashimi, don’t worry—it’s represented here too. In fact, their list of appetizers—like the prime rib quesadilla, fried calamari with nuoc cham sauce and the beet tower—is a fantastic mix of well-acquainted favorites with a twist.
The wine list is fantastic—with bottles ranging from $30 to $250 and glasses to pair with anything you have—and the bar is fully stocked. Martinis are served stemless in an iced bucket; it’s a treat to not have it go warm.
From the list of salads, I selected the old iceberg wedge to see how Joe’s would make it special. The lettuce was green and crisp and well endowed with homemade blue cheese dressing and crisp pancetta. 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 also caught my eye, with dried apricots and pumpkin seeds and passion-fruit vinaigrette.
Chef Gannon’s ribs are renowned, smothered with her own special sauce that’s 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 it from soup to spectacular.
The chicken and waffles is a new item, a Southern treat that’s mostly mysterious on Maui. Gannon’s interpretation is 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 exterior is juicy and tender and adds the kick to this breakfast-meets-dinner meal.
If you’re not up for adventure, the meatloaf is comfort food personified. Whipped potatoes hold up a generous slab of ground meat, perfectly seasoned and 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, if only so you can save room for dessert.
The signature chocolate-bread pudding is to die for. The chocolate flavor is deep and rich, augmented by fluffy egg-custard—but the whole dish is made by the caramel sauce. It’s so delicious I wanted to take it home in a bottle. Until they add that to the menu, I’ll just have to come back for more.