The trains may come and go at the Pu’ukoli’i station in Lahaina, but the food trucks are likely there to stay. The first one to stick has been Chris Mahon’s Shark Pit Maui Food Truck, serving what he calls “funked up farm food.”
Now this isn’t Mahon’s first time to the rodeo. His recipes at the old Gaby’s Pizzeria repeatedly won awards at the Taste of Lahaina food festival. Later, he opened Paradice Bluz in Lahaina Town. But here at Shark Pit Food Truck, Mahon appears to have found his menu nirvana.
This Lahainaluna alum has taken the bistro movement and bent it to his will, offering vegan, vegetarian and carnivore delights with plenty of Westside swagger. The sauces are rich, the textures are complex and the train depot adds a unique flair, but in the end what makes the truck special is that Mahon truly seems to care what his customers think. In fact, at the end of your meal, expect him to ask how it was.
“Why a food truck and not a restaurant?” he recently posted on his Shark Pit Facebook page. “This is my restaurant. I can do fancy, I can make pretty colors, I can use wild crazy ingredients, and make things sound extravagant. No, I’m not classically trained. Will I be respected by chefs that went to culinary school? I don’t care, I make food for people and it makes them happy. I cook for them, not me.”
The menu visuals recall an old newspaper with headlines like “Lahaina Free Press” and “Area Man Attacks Lunch” across the top–a hint at Mahon’s humor. But he gets serious when it comes to the food. His produce is organically sourced from farms mostly located no further than 50 miles away. His fish comes from local fisherman and divers, and everything else he’s crafted himself.
Mahon’s truck stands out from the rest at the depot. It’s painted a low-pro gray and white, like a shark. It’s also not very big–just 10 by 15 feet or so. Here, good things come from small packages, and locals seem to agree. Mahon says his burgers and fish tacos sell out daily. He’s already won a following after being open less than a year. In fact, this year his Shark Pit truck won second place in the MauiTime Best of Maui Food Trucks category.
“Shark Pit is the first place I caught a wave and a fish,” says Mahon when I ask about the truck’s name. “My food is always fresh. Nothing is is frozen. The pan sautéed fish in the fish taco is topped with a tropical chipotle rub and a raspberry reduction. The ingredients are 90 percent local.”
Looking over the likes and comments on his Facebook page, where he regularly posts daily specials and menu items, people are stoked on his food. His furikake-dusted corn on the cob is an especially popular item–it’s a grilled cob painted with an aioli to make the furikake stick.
His standard menu features a list of burgers, like the $9 Paniolo Burger that features Kauai beef, Maui maple bacon, bleu cheese and barbecue aioli. When I dropped by recently, someone was drowning his Hawaiian Patty Melt (Kauai beef, sautéed mushroom, onion and havarti on rye) with thousand wasabi dressing. It disappeared before my eyes.
I sat down in the shaded community picnic long-table and dove into my funked up fish tacos. Taco plates come with the daily side dish and go for $11. The fish tacos come with his house slaw–crisp purple and green cabbage in dressing and tropical chipotle. I seriously can’t stop dreaming about them at lunch time. Other taco options include his kalbi and spicy shrimp. He also makes a fish burger with ground fish of the day, and a fresh catch plate, too.
The daily specials board is filled with Mahon’s creative fusion of comfort and local food. There’s a Bikini Blonde venison taco, char siu bacon, tomato bisque and grill cheese on rye. There’s always a fresh salad, and he’s been experimenting with quinoa to expand into some new vegan frontiers.
“I’m concentrating on the food revolution,” says Mahon. “Staying with unique local Asian fusion and American soul food. Nothing normal. Funked up farm food is my tag. I serve vegan, not so vegan, vegaquarium and I-eat-meat types, too.”
The Shark Pit Food Truck operates Mondays through Saturdays, 11am to 4pm but closes when he sells out. Check his Facebook page at fb.com/dasharkpitmaui or call 808-298-7776 to put in your order. The train depot is located at the base of Pu’ukoli’i Road, mauka and to your left.
SHARK PIT MAUI
1 Pu’ukoli’i Rd., Lahaina
Photo: Sean M. Hower