You know how it is. You hear a lot of chatter about restaurants – these guys changed their menu; those guys just renovated; this place was just sold. It’s been that way lately with the Kahului Ale House. I keep hearing about new food items, different owners, renovations and big changes. But I’m never satisfied with hearsay, so I went down there to see for myself what, if anything, was new.
Kahului doesn’t have as many destination eateries as our more picturesque, tourist-heavy towns. Here it seems to be all business, where the restaurants serve the locals. Kahului Ale House has long reigned as Central Maui’s Sports Bar Supreme, but with new owners Brad and Stacy Sundin breathing new attitude into their restaurant, the atmosphere has grown thick and diverse. Clearly, they want to be more than a sports bar.
Stacy Sundin’s bubbly personality gushed as she gave me the grand tour of the restaurant. The sushi bar is getting built here; the baseball wall there was built with the help of a generous customer. They also updated all the flat screens and now all the games are everywhere.
The Sundins are passionate about creating a family-oriented restaurant for Kahului diners. See, they have kids, too. In fact, the younger Sundins have helped craft the very reasonable kids’ menu. For $6, kids can build their own meal concept by picking their own entree, side and dessert. It’s also one of the first places where I’ve seen Spam Musubi on the keiki menu, a favorite item of our island’s small fries.
The dining room is large, with the bar right in the center. One side of the dining room is wooden booths well lit by large windows, with the other side darker and perfect for TV watching (if that is your thing).
I delve into their expansive menu by ordering the lettuce wraps and edamame. A vast mountain of edamame arrives in a basket with its green skins well salted. The lettuce wraps don’t look like much at first, just crisp iceberg lettuce separated into large leaves with a big glop of heavily hoisinned minced filing on the side of the platter. But after I rolled the filing in the wrapper and bit, I was in heaven. The sweet meaty filling performed amazingly well with iceberg – any other lettuce might not have had such a strong crisp shoulder to bear the weight of the pork.
Stacy then recommended the pastrami Reuben on rye with sauerkraut. It comes all hot and melty with plenty of juicy pink pastrami that’s drenched with glorious liquified Swiss. The rye is grilled with butter and crisp, and the Amber Ale sauerkraut gives the sandwich some tang. Sweet potato fries completed my calorie crime; they’re shoestring style here and come in a big stack in a basket. Sandwiches can also come with potato wedges, Parmesan fries, salads or soup. BLT, turkey club, falafel pita, Ahi tuna and grilled vegetable are just some of the names appearing on the sandwich menu.
My dining date ordered the ale-battered fish and chips. The big, crispy battered slabs of flaky Mahi Mahi served with potato wedges and tropical slaw were exceptional.
Indeed, their whole menu is daunting. Dining runs the gamut here from casual sandwiches and finger food to veggie lasagna, BBQ Ribs, Seared Mahi, and hamburger steak.There are soups and salads, pizza, nine wraps and sandwiches, nine burgers, 17 appetizers and a page of entrees, plate lunches and side items, plus a wiki wiki lunch special menu that will get you in and out fast. They have a big selection of American and local favorites, with a sushi bar section on the way.
“We like mixing things up,” said Stacy. “Our dream is to make this into a wonderful family-oriented restaurant by day and a fun place for adults in the evening.”
The Ale House was a hub of activity for the lunch hour I was there. They also offer customers wi-fi, which makes satellite office time easy.
On Tuesdays tacos are on special: just $2 for beef, chicken or pork. They also have daily specials on pupus during their happy hour, which runs Monday to Friday from 3 to 7pm. On Football Sundays, breakfast starts at 8am.
The Sundins credit their restaurant experience to their home state in Arizona, and know how difficult the restaurant business can be from their parent’s Buffalo Bar and Grill. But with a year of Maui under their belts, they are quickly assimilating into the island lifestyle.