When it comes to making initial determinations about a restaurant’s overall concept, you should always pay attention to the name. The Stopwatch Bar & Grill in Makawao is a bar, primarily. And a very good one, at that.
As a bar, Stopwatch functions most prominently as a neighborhood tavern. Its blue-collar regulars hail mainly from the upcountry region, and generally stop in after work, during lunch break or on a well-earned day off. It’s easy to assume that, for them, time stands still—thankfully, as they sip their happy hour brew or libation of choice.
Occasionally a patron can witness a random family or tourist couple wander in, breathless and wearing windbreakers, possibly from a recent biking excursion down the crater. But more often than not, the expansive horseshoe-shaped bar will be filled with the friendly local gentry, casually drinking beer and chatting freely with one another.
Stopwatch is also an occasional sports bar, housing no less than four regular and two large screen televisions, with an appropriately raucous game-time ambience. This lively intermittent event is thwarted by the bar’s lush tropical surroundings. The patio offers bicoastal sunset views that throw an amber glow across the faces of patrons sitting in wooden chairs and atop barstools, as well as on the flushed visages of the affable, briskly moving bar staff.
Later in the week, after the sun goes down, Stopwatch plays host to a myriad of local bands, mostly of the classic rock, country and blues genres. On these nights, the live group of musicians will set up against the wall facing the bar, with a small square floor in between marked for dancing, next to a rock bridge lined with greenery that marks a path to the modest but clean restrooms.
Of course, Stopwatch also features a full kitchen serving a respectable menu of American comfort foods, with some local flourishes. The usual suspects of tavern fare—Buffalo wings, jalapeno poppers, onion rings—are served hot and crispy, along with a surprisingly meaty and succulent barbeque ribs appetizer. They also offer this diner’s favorite fry, cut in hearty steak wedges and lightly browned to bronze-tinged golden perfection.
They make fresh soups daily; a Caesar salad—or one with Haiku greens—can be topped with grilled mahi. Sandwiches run the gamut from Reuben or roast beef au jus to grilled smoked turkey and cheese or a garden veggie burger. You can top them with teriyaki sauce or sauteed mushrooms, onions and/or bell peppers for little more than a dollar.
There are nightly chef specials, usually featuring a fresh, locally caught fish filet, served with steamed white rice, fries or garlic mashed potatoes, along with soup or salad. And the menu lists entrees like New York steak, jumbo fried shrimp, fish and chips and Thai veggie stir fry, all offered at moderate prices.
But the crowd pleaser at this establishment does seem to be the burger, in all its third-pound, Maui-grown beef glory. The juicy, all-American classic comes grilled medium-well, can be topped with a number of the usual cheeses, as well as bacon, and appears most adept at feeding the hungry, tired, working and sporting classes in equal measures. MTW