I really enjoy the baby back ribs at the Kahului Ale House. They’re exceptionally meaty and tender and come glistening in a dark, rich smoky hoisin sauce. The meat comes off so cleanly that the bones look like they’ve been lying in the desert for a year. Okay, half a year. A quarter of a year? Certainly, not less than 30 days.
In any case, this is funny because I shouldn’t like the ribs. I mean, they’re not True Barbecue. Calvin Trillin—perhaps the greatest, funniest food writer in the U.S. today—has written much on the subject of True Barbecue. True Barbecue does not come from a restaurant—certainly not one like the Ale House that has running air conditioning and plenty of parking out front.
No, True Barbecue requires a pit. True Barbecue cannot come from an oven or “pressure smoker.” It also—and this part is non-negotiable—can’t have any sauce. Not a drop. Any barbecue flavor comes from the wood, pit and meat.
“Despite my occasional rants, I never truly qualified as a barbecue purist,” Trillin wrote in his 2003 book Feeding a Yen. “A barbecue purist, it turns out, is seriously interested in whether or not the proprietor of a barbecue joint chops his own wood.”
Now, they do very little wood chopping at the Ale House. That’s because the Ale House is what Trillin calls “La Maison de la Casa House.” It’s a continental place, serving foods from around the world that have been so Westernized that they’re unrecognizable to individuals hailing from their native lands. In addition to ribs, they sell sandwiches, salads, wings, wraps, burgers, pizza and appetizers made from jalapeno peppers.
But they do make great ribs. A half order, sold for $19.95, is always plenty for me, though a full rack can be had for $27.95. Their Portuguese Bean Soup, of all things, is also absolutely delicious. The steaks are good, too, if you like those sort of things.
The chicken wraps are wonderful creations and the hamburgers are fine as well. They’re big hulking things that come with bleu cheese and Cajun spices, if you wish, but strangely enough not lettuce, tomato or onion (they’re $1.50 extra).
The Ale House is a manic place. There’s no other way to describe it. The moment you walk in the door, there are innumerable placards, signs, screens and gizmos all competing for your attention.
Once past the t-shirt concession stand at the door, it’s not hard to find the arcade. It’s got half a dozen games, including Golden Tee 2002. Inside are three pool tables, a dartboard and a basketball shooting hoop. Helpfully placed adjacent to the arcade is an ATM, jukebox and a couple of those claw machines that kids use to grab candy and stuffed toys.
Hanging on the walls are sports jerseys and photos—some of which are autographed. A couple windsurfing boards—complete with sails—are suspended from the ceiling. Then there are the usual neon beer signs, flashing beer signs and neon flashing beer signs. The square-shaped bar has trivia games at each corner. I saw at least one inflatable stock car dangling from the ceiling, as well as countless sheets advertising food specials, upcoming shows and contests.
Oh, and there’s something like 20 television sets, which could be showing two or even three different games, unless it’s March Madness, in which case they’re all tuned to CBS.
In truth, I could care less about all that stuff. As I said before, I go for the ribs. MTW