You probably think of the Shops at Wailea as a fancy visitor shopping destination, but lately I’ve been finding more reasons to visit. Like Keoni’s Hot Lava Dancefit studio free Saturday Zumba class, Bootzie’s Enchantress Gallery featuring local artists, and, recently, The Pint and Cork.
The Pint and Cork had a quiet opening last June, and their bar and menu have evolved quite a bit since then. The gastropub has a modern layout with flat TV screens mounted over the bar, and a sound system that plays retro tunes. Walking in, it feels like you’ve stepped into a global metro location, with dim lighting, dark masculine wood furnishings and crisp climate control.
“This doesn’t look like Maui,” says Chef Maka Kwon. “You could be on Oahu, this could be Chinatown. This could be San Francisco in the Tenderloin. You could be in LA.”
The bar has a strong whiskey selection, big craft beer list and a tight gastropub menu.
“We have a lot of craft beer,” says Scott Pacer, Managing Partner at The Pint and Cork. “We have a great whiskey list. Our menu for whiskey is nice. It has all the notes and descriptions for each whiskey to help you order. We don’t have the biggest whiskey selection but we have one of the best ones, just from the sheer fact that we are knowledgeable and able to go into the descriptions more than other places. We carry a lot of Maui Brewing Co. beer. The menu has evolved into what it is today. In June, the menu will change again. Every quarter we change a few things around. People that come here want to taste different things.”
The menu has a lot of unique dishes, but everything is very comfort food-oriented.
“I lived in Kauai for 10 years, and I love fish sandwiches,” says Pacer. “I have never had a better one than this one on our menu. I don’t like getting them too dry; this one is never dry, it has tonnato sauce and Swiss. The moco is delicious–it’s my favorite: pork stew, slow cooked, and we throw it on two scoops rice and put two fried eggs on top. The shrimp and grits is really good–it started out on the breakfast menu for football season. On the entrees, I love the ribeye. Chef Maka does such an amazing job with the red wine gravy. I’m from the midwest originally, so I’m a big gravy guy. I can’t get away from it. Our chicken marsala is also strong.”
The entree menu is fairly new. Pacer said it’s a bit of a challenge to keep expanding the menu but they keep everything really fresh.
“We don’t have a big kitchen,” says Pacer. “It’s not big enough to have a heat lamp. So all the food comes straight from the chef to your table. Our mac and cheese is made to order from scratch. It takes a little longer to make. Same with the chicken wings.”
Despite being a gastropub, Chef Maka has developed a few unique vegetarian entrees that blew me away. In fact, I like some of them more than the meat dishes. He says his wife, Maui photographer Jessica Pearl-Kwon, is a vegetarian, and has inspired, tested and approved the dishes that appear on the menu.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff on the menu that my wife eats because Jessica is a vegetarian,” says Kwon. “The mushroom salad is something I would always make for her. Now there is a cult following for that. It’s just simple. We treat the mushrooms like we respect them. We cook them for literally 11 seconds, we want them medium rare, almost the texture of abalone. It is just a fun menu.”
Then there is the green bean tofu salad with lilikoi dressing.
“I buy a lot of herbs at home but then you only use them for particular things so after a while they die in the fridge,” says Kwon. “So in our house all the herbs we have we break them down and use it in our salads, and I would put all kinds of veggies like green beans. My wife said you should put this on the menu but I said no, this is our thing at home. But it made it on the menu with a lilikoi dressing. It’s all fresh herbs, cilantro, Italian parsley, mint, Thai basil, a little bit of greens, green beans, carrots, radish, and tofu. The herbs give it lots of flavor.”
Ultimately, Kwon said he wanted to develop a gastropub menu around dishes that he knows chefs want to eat.
“Chef George Gomes Jr. was my mentor for about eight years,” says Kwon. “Before I was working here we were brainstorming ideas for menus and gastropubs, and we thought what about food that we want to eat as chefs. You know when you go to a party, if you are a doctor people ask you about health, if you are a mechanic people ask you about their car. If you work at a restaurant, people are asking you about what to eat. So the menu is based on what I want to eat.”
Kwon likes fish, so naturally the poke dish is incredible.
“I am a seafood guy, I love fish,” he says. “The fresh catch today is herb-crusted ono, with mashed potatoes and Hamakua mushrooms. It is very simple, very clean, something easy on the palate. We are a gastropub so we gotta have mac and cheese. Mac and cheese has a lot of Bechamel, lot of cheese, lot of black pepper, creamy as hell. We have made about 20,000 mac and cheeses so far. It’s a ridiculous number.”
Their bib burger is also popular, named as such because you need a bib to eat it.
“We almost didn’t put the burger on the menu,” says Kwon. “The burger is a pain in our side from the beginning because we have to age the beef. We want it aged 28 days. Then after we grind it, we bloom it for 24 hours. Then we mix it and patty it. It’s the beef that makes it so good. Plus everything that goes with it: the fried egg, the Russian dressing, the bacon. We have sold over 24,000 burgers.”
The Pint and Cork has a happy hour daily from 2pm to 5pm and industry late night special, too. They’re open from 11am to 2am daily, and the kitchen serves food until midnight. On Wednesdays, they do a wine or whiskey special. Check their website for updates on their events at Thepintandcork.com.
Pint and Cork
3750 Wailea Alanui Dr.
Kihei, HI 96753
All Photos By Sean Hower