Once upon a time, the MauiTime headquarters were located at 505, the shopping center on the south side of Lahaina that was built to resemble a small village right on the beach. I recently made the trek back in order to stop at Surfside Pizza, where Francis Lynch and Carolyn Krisman opened up the front corner spot opposite of Spanky’s at 505 Front Street, which used to be Gabby’s Pizza back in the day.
“We want our guests’ initial thought upon visiting to be that Surfside Woodfired Pizza Kitchen is a place that they are excited to visit again and again,” says Krisman. “We have created a warm and welcoming space and an environment that our customers look forward to returning to. This informs every decision that we make, and we take our guests’ feedback incredibly serious. We serve the best in local craft beer, and wine to match our menu. From our custom oven, spotless kitchen, and attentive staff, all the way to our comfortable, air-conditioned dining room with high-definition television sets, our goal is always to provide an experience that visitors to Maui and to our restaurant want to revisit.”
One of the first things I noticed at the center was the cobblestone-like tile all over the center, an upgrade from the previous cement that was slapped down back in our days there. Surfside also gutted the old restaurant space, and the new makeover is light, modern, and beachy. The restaurant opened up in June 2018, and got their liquor license a little over a year later. They have a stadium-style kitchen where you can see all the action going down, and it’s spotless. The wood-fire oven sits like a throne in the middle of all the excitement, scorching pizzas and sandwiches to perfection. The A/C is key: It’s pleasant, even with the oven blazing.
“There is no doubt that diners have become more sophisticated in the last decade,” says Lynch. “They are increasingly curious about new cuisines and techniques, about where their food comes from, and about the quality and sustainability of their ingredients. Put simply, diners have quite appropriately come to expect more from restaurants of every variety. Keenly aware of these expectations, Surfside Woodfired Pizza Kitchen is uniquely positioned to meet them. Literally nothing in our kitchen is hidden from the diner’s attention. Our farm-fresh ingredients are always stored on display, our custom woodfired oven is always visible, and our team prepares the diner’s orders in an open kitchen so that quality is always assured and they always know they are getting our very best.”
Lynch and Krisman hired Christopher Sailor, a Lahainaluna ex-pat living in Las Vegas, to help design the menu items.
“We had a meeting with our opening chef Christopher Sailer, who is a Lahainaluna Alum in Las Vegas, where we all lived,” says Lynch. “He decided to move back to Maui to open our restaurant and create our fantastic menu; it is with his inspiration that our guests keep coming back. We collectively noticed that the fast-casual trends that were becoming more and more popular on the Mainland had not yet made their way to Maui in significant numbers. We also collectively noticed that fast-casual restaurants, particularly pizza restaurants, could be done better; ‘fast’ does not require diminished quality, and ‘casual’ doesn’t require diminished atmosphere.”
They have six specialty pizzas and six sandwiches. This is plenty because you can also build your own pizza which makes the possibilities endless.
“Our food philosophy is balance,” says Krisman. “When creating our menu, chef Sailer sought a balance of several ideas: the balance between simplicity of a single topping pizza and the creativity of our specialty pizzas; the balance between familiar flavors we all associate with pizza and new flavors for which pizza is a new novel medium. This philosophy extends to our approach to dining as well, striking a balance between a lengthy sit-down meal and a more casual take-out restaurant. Just as our guests can choose between creating their own pizza from over 40 high quality toppings or selecting one of our chef’s specials, they can also stop by for a quick sandwich to-go or sit down and stay a while, comfortable in our air conditioned dining room watching the day’s best sporting events. Our commitment to balance always ensures that it is the customer who decides what kind of experience they will have.”
There’s a pupu called Shaka Bread that is incredible. They take their pizza dough, which is made fresh every morning, and pile on garlic herb butter, garlic cream sauce, and mozzarella and parm, and shove it in their wood-fire stove. It is served with a fresh tomato sauce with chimichurri for dipping. It’s rich with cheese and garlic, but the dipping sauce is juicy, light, and piquant.
“We are putting new items on the menu February 1,” says Lynch. “We will be doing a happy hour, and we are going to be getting ice cream. The kids are going to start coming back at spring break and we are going to be ready.”
I also met manager James Martinez. He was in on a Saturday, training new staff and making it happen. He has some ideas for the new items coming soon.
“Yeah, I am the new guy here,” says Martinez. I am coming in to take this place to the next level. I am working on the addition of some healthy and light dishes. You know, when we get some groups in here we want to be able to appeal to the vegetarian and vegans in the bunch.”
The pizzas are perfectly loaded full of toppings and served melty and crisp from the oven just a few feet away. The bar in the front is charming with a great street view, and they serve wine by the bottle. Their menu also has a selection of satisfying salads.
“In our minds, it is impossible to think about food or anything else on Maui without also thinking about Maui’s one-of-a-kind atmosphere,” says Krisman. “The Maui atmosphere itself should be considered a key ingredient in any recipe on the island, which is why Surfside Woodfired Pizza Kitchen makes no effort whatsoever to obscure the fact that our diners are eating in an island paradise… other than our air conditioning, of course.”
Surfside Woodfired Pizza Kitchen
Open daily, 11:30am-9pm
505 Front St. #101, Lahaina