Man first roamed the earth 50,000 years ago. It took him about 40,000 years after that to settle down, start painting his cave and recognizing Fido as his loyal companion. However, it hardly took any time for him to begin producing alcohol for consumption. And a mere 5,000 years later, man brewed beer.
Soon taverns developed in Mesopotamia. Not long after people started eating popcorn. And then came the rules: daily beer rations were doled out according to social standing. This protected consumers from innkeepers’ price gouging. Drinking was encouraged for good health. But man could not live by drinking alone. By the fifth century, there were pretzels.
Beer also became an important bartering commodity, used as a primary source of payment, trading and taxing. Breweries and ale houses flourished. By the 15th century, beer became a sole source of hydration, since cholera and the plague were having their way with local drinking water sources.
That meant there were a lot of people getting really drunk. Not even the invention of French fries in the 18th century could stop the onslaught of pub restrictions that followed. Licensing became more rigid. They strictly enforced hours of operations. Obviously, society needed stronger measures to alleviate the people’s increasing inebriation. Somebody had to save beer from itself.
In 1860, respite came with the arrival of fish and chips. It was good, heavy food, and for a while it seemed to work. But by 1919, Prohibition took effect.
Although Prohibition was enforced to reduce crime and moral corruption, it was largely a failure. In fact, its disastrous results—increased alcohol consumption, organized crime, J. Edgar Hoover—sent politicians back to the bar. The Prohibition ended in 1933 and two years later, people started drinking canned beer.
And in 1964, the ultimate bar food staple emerged in Buffalo, New York. That would be chicken wings.
Walk into most urban bars today and you will find bowls of nuts, pretzels, popcorn, potato chips, wasabi peas or pickled mango deliberately placed between drinkers. The food is usually carb-ed to absorb alcohol while salty enough to encourage more drinking.
On Maui, the few kitchen-less bars make do with bags of potato chips, spiced almonds or an occasional oyster shooter. But one neighborhood pub in particular features a full menu of acceptable bar snacks that fulfill the starchy/salty quotient you seem to crave when you’re drinking, and yet won’t ache the belly with an excess of grease.
For almost a decade, the staff at Kahale’s has been pouring drinks with one hand and working The Autofry with the other. No muss, no fuss, they say. No bells to contend with or cranky chefs to “kiss your grits.” It’s just a fully enclosed, 350-degree deep-fryer that cooks frozen foods in two to seven minutes.
“It’s got the best personality of any cook I’ve worked with,” said one bartender. “Every once in a while, a couple of wings fall on the floor but other than that, it’s real handy.”
Kahale’s bar menu prices range from fries going for $2.50 a basket to calamari rings priced at $6.50. They also have chicken egg rolls, Buffalo wings, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, chicken/shrimp/or fish and chips and chicken nuggets. The taquitos especially seemed to be the hit with one regular.
“They’re perfectly cooked and very cornmealy,” she said. “They make you want to do tequila shots. But maybe that’s the hot sauce.”
Fifty thousand years in the making, and worth every minute.