41 E. Lipoa St., Kihei
The whole romantic Valentine’s Day dinner scene changes when you have kids. Fine dining is not an option with a rambunctious four year old. So this year, I took the path of least resistance and found a restaurant the kids would love and invited some friends with children to come along and have some fun.
Putting romance on the backburner, I headed over to the new Kihei restaurant, Sharky’s Family Fun Center. Sharky’s—which goes past family-friendly and is actually designed specifically with children in mind—is the brainchild of Maui resident Craig Snyder. There are wall murals, games like Dance, Dance Revolution, Skee-Ball and air hockey, and a giant pirate ship that kids can climb into (but parents, sadly, cannot). There’s also a video gaming room, and a ticket redemption zone where keiki can claim prizes.
When we arrive, our group is seated at the giant picnic bench-style table, carved from a log. It’s a little difficult to negotiate the benches, but once I’m settled in the seating’s comfortable. The dining room has lots of other, regular-size tables to accommodate families as well. Our server brings us a pitcher of water and cups and suggests the jumbo buffalo wings ($10.95) as a starter. I go for it. The wings come in several different flavors: teriyaki, mild, hot or shark bite. Owner Craig Snyder explains “shark bite” is his personal favorite, but we wimp out and go for the hot, and we aren’t disappointed. The crunchy skin and juicy meat were appropriately spicy and saucy, and the bleu cheese dressing provides a classic complement. The little ones grabbed the carrot sticks and celery, and the dads barely got a taste.
Sharky’s menu doesn’t have a kids’ section. Rather, the concept is food everyone can enjoy. French fries ($4.95) and cheese bread grace the list of appetizers, while each pasta option has a small size, including a pasta and butter dish ($3.95). Among the sandwiches you can order peanut butter and jelly ($4.95) served with fruit cocktail. We won’t tell the kids but there are some items that really were meant for adults, like the signature stuffed burgers ($10.95). We ordered one with Swiss, mushroom and jalapenos. You know that the patty is homemade because it just got stuffed to your specifications. The burger is huge and was oozing with the cheese and mushrooms.
We also ordered the large pizza ($15.99 with sauce and five toppings of your choice). Sauce options include tomato, pesto, Alfredo, garlic oil or BBQ. We went the traditional route with a half pepperoni and mushroom and half pineapple and ham. The large comes out in a rectangular pan, like a cookie sheet, and feeds a lot of people. Our group—from young to old—gave the pizza a thumbs-up, as did our neighbors who ordered the massive family size.
In all, the evening was smooth, with the kids loving the pirate ship and gaming area, scooping up tickets by the handful and generally having a terrific time. Sharky’s is working on getting a liquor license and plans to serve beer in the future, good news for adults trading in date night for kid night. In the meantime, the food and fun make for a worthwhile package—and I plan to come back just for more buffalo wings.