Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef. She offers her frank assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Bitch, make me a sandwich.
This is absolutely not something you should ever say to the lovely lady taking your order behind the counter at the 808 Deli, largely because she is not the one doing the actual sandwich making.
Plus, she just called you “hon” and seems to be a nice person, and your mother raised you better than that.
Still, the finished product soon(ishly and sometimes more like 15 minutes later) prepared for you is the kind of sandwich you’d expect to receive from someone you were clearly exerting unfair and arguably abusive power and control over.
This sandwich just wants to please you.
And hopefully, after a few bites, you’ll even forget why you were angry, you aggro fool.
So what were we talking about?
808 Deli and their consistently-aiming-to-please – nothing over $8 – sandwiches.
For starters, there are a lot of them to choose from: nine paninis and 10 specialty sandwiches are offered along with salads, dolled-up hot dogs and a variety of sides.
The Spicy Tuna Panini ($7.50) attempts to de-blandize the standard fare tuna salad sandwich and does a reasonable job of that with the addition of Anaheim peppers and pickled jalapenos. All told, it’s a chili bonanza with pepper jack cheese and what tastes like Sriracha.
Canned tuna is the tofu of the sea, so consider it just a four-pepper vehicle and you get the drift.
The Roast “Beast” Panini ($7.50) comes with roast beef, salami, Swiss and provolone cheeses, jalapenos and a horseradish spread. The panini sandwiches are all delivered on a grilled, sliced white bread that doesn’t compete with the flavors inside and once again, this combo works.
The Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.50) finds chunks of chicken mixed with walnuts, mayo and a heaping helping of Craisins. It offers no real surprises.
It is what it’s supposed to be, which works for us.
If you’ve ever said to yourself, “you know what would make a good sandwich meat? Cucumbers” then the Veggie-licious ($7) is the sandwich for you.
This ‘salad between two pieces of bread’ is packed with sprouts, tomatoes, red onions, cream cheese spread, avocado slices, a piece of Swiss cheese and several thick wedges of cucumber.
It tastes like, well, a salad between two pieces of bread.
If you’re not a vegetarian this combo may not appeal to you, and we can relate. To each his own.
There are two tables inside the 808 Deli and somehow they always seem to be occupied. At lunchtime you can take a little stroll and enjoy your meal at the empty (during lunch) 808 Bistro or just take your food to go: Kam II beach is right across the street.
The Shitake Beef Melt ($8) is about where we started to realize that we don’t really dig bread all that much.
Granted, this makes critiquing a sandwich completely unreasonable, so take the next couple sentences with a grain of salt.
A big, fat, bready hoagie roll contains 808 Deli’s answer to the Philly cheese steak. Slices of roast beef are covered in sautéed mushrooms and melted Swiss along with a slathering of garlic aioli.
It’s quite good… especially if you dig bread.
We got rid of half the giant bun so as to better enjoy the flavors.
If, like us, bread isn’t so much your bag, then brace yourself for the salad menu.
The Chop Salad ($8) finds a bed of romaine layered with garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, red onions, dry basil, salami slices, feta cheese, and walnuts. The salami is all kind of clumped together, but who cares? The flavor is on point and the portion is huge.
This salad could easily be two meals.
It’s supposed to come with the walnut vinaigrette, but we opted for Italian. Word to the wise: don’t put the entire allotted portion of dressing on. It’s way too much.
Sometimes, after eating at a place a few times in order to review it, there is a powerful sense of “Whew! Glad that’s over.”
To put it plainly, 808 Deli’s Cobb Salad ($8) is the reason we will keep coming back long after these words are stale.
We love a good Cobb and this one is perfection.
We tried to find a discrete way to propose to it.
Once again, a generous bed of romaine lettuce is topped with tomatoes, onions, hard boiled eggs, blue cheese crumbles, two slices of avocado, four slices of chicken and a lavish ration of bacon. You’d be hard pressed to make it for the same price at home.
The menu is limited to sandwiches, paninis, salads and hot dogs, but if you are looking for a portable bite in South Kihei between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., 808 Deli has got it going on.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)