By Claudine San Nicolas
Going out to eat is more than just the food for people like Jenna Mailou and Tiana Kauweloa.
“Tasty Crust is the place where our family used to go all the time so my parents wouldn’t have to cook,” recalled the 24-year-old Mailou, a Paia resident who grew up visiting the Wailuku restaurant on a regular basis.
“It gives us the time to have conversations and talk story,” Mailou said on a recent visit to Tasty Crust with her childhood friend in Kauweloa. The 21-year-old now living in Kahului grew up on nearby Vineyard Street in Wailuku.
“We would just come here and eat,” she said. Her dad brought her and her siblings to Tasty Crust for breakfast while mom went off to work, and then at the end of the day, mom would take dad out and sometimes return to the restaurant with the children for dinner.
Tasty Crust had become such a mainstay that they were almost at a loss when it closed temporarily. “We were all sad when they had to renovate,” Kauweloa said, laughing.
Most times, Kauweloa and Mailou said they indulge in fried rice, eggs and the pancakes. “It’s all good,” Kauweloa said.
For 11-year-old Gerzell Saito of Kahului, Tasty Crust is her weekend hangout with grandpa. They rarely miss coming to Tasty Crust, almost always ordering bacon, luncheon meat and hash browns.
“The bacon’s crunchy and everything tastes good,” Gerzell said. “This is the best restaurant because this is
where me and my grandpa like to go.”
Tasty Crust’s history dates back to the 1950s when the late Mike and Patsy Takaoka assumed ownership in 1957, sold it in 1982, and then bought it again in 1997 when their son, Curtis and wife Naomi, offered to assist so Curtis’ parents could retire. They also get help from their children, Brandon Carvalho and Tammy Idemoto. Curtis’ daughters Dr. Shannon Makekau and Kari Takaoka now live on Oahu and both worked in the restaurant previously.
Local families are at the heart of the loyal base of customers that Tasty Crust has built, says Curtis Takaoka. It thrives today, in part, because of the loyalty and Takaoka’s commitment to keeping regular customers coming back while also offering reasonable prices to family cooks seeking a break from the kitchen from time to time.
“We’re not what you would call ‘fine dining.’ We cook what you cook at home and find comfort in,” Takaoka said. “We’re more of an ‘everyday’ kind of restaurant.”
Amongst the most popular items on the menu are pancakes, saimin and marinated spareribs.
Takaoka said former residents returning home to Maui have visited Tasty Crust just to get the homey-flavored meal they had become accustomed to growing up with.
“The best part of working here is visiting with our regulars, the families. When we don’t see them, we worry about them and when they do return, we’re smiling.”