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The Liquor Shack and
Deli: Maui’s Best Burger?

Updated 12:19 PM HST, August 2, 2014
Posted 06:12 PM HST, August 1, 2014

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

It's really not a deli in any sense we would ever imagine, but why sweat the details? Photo by Vanessa Wolf

It’s really not a deli in any sense we would ever imagine, but why sweat the details? Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

When two different people told us Maui’s best burgers are being served at upcountry’s humbly named Liquor Shack and Deli (formerly Liquor Shack and Grinds, near as we can tell), we figured “if a shack is good enough for the B-52s, it’s good enough for us.”

So we gassed up our Chrysler (it seats about 20) and grabbed a wad of that burger money.

Upon first impression, the name fits… sort of.

On the one hand it’s pretty shacky-looking, but delicatessen? Where are the cold cuts, rye bread and pickles, Meshugener?

No matter. To get this party started, we went for the biggest, boldest, dare we say fanciest offering on the +++BURGER+++ list, the Bacon Mushroom Cheeseburger ($7.59).

Smile and say "Bacon Cheeseburger." Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Smile and say “Bacon Cheeseburger.” Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

It arrives with a large (third pound?) hand-formed patty, topped with cheddar, two slices of bacon and some freshish – as in not from a can, yet simultaneously long in the tooth – mushrooms.

It’s a happy thing the soft bun is also huge, as the main star shares the stage with raw onion, tomato slices, romaine lettuce and an absolute deluge of mayo, ketchup and mustard.

All told, it’s pretty good but super sloppy, and we found it difficult to make out any distinct non-condiment flavor, let alone taste the meat.

Enter the Cheeseburger ($5.59), hold everything but the bun, the burger and the cheese.

Now we’re talking.

Although it came with mayo anyway, the food was freshly prepared and the hamburger meat itself had a suggestion of onion – the lack of actual onion in the patty implies the addition of onion powder or French onion soup mix – and nice sear flavor from the flat top.

The Cheeseburger: resistance to mayo is apparently futile. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Cheeseburger: resistance to mayo is apparently futile. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Doneness is not an option – both were cooked well – and like so many other things, what makes for a “best burger” is wildly subjective. We’d probably reserve such accolades for a lightly seasoned fresh ground brisket patty grilled to medium rare, but to each his own.

Regardless, this is a solid offering for what it is.

And what it is is a fresh $6 burger made by a “liquor shack.”  Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Similarly, don’t hit up the Shack hoping for ambiance.

In fact, don’t even try to linger as the strict policy seems to be “get the hell out of here and wait in your car.”

It’s a small space, but the post-ordering insistence that you reunite pronto with the vehicle in which you arrived started to feel a little personal. Is it something we said?

Regardless, don’t try to fight it. Surely there’s a text you forgot to answer or some daydreaming you can attend to.

Order and get out, ya deadbeat: the air in there is not for you. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Order and get out, ya deadbeat: the air in there is not for you. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Talk amongst yourselves and food is soon brought out to your car window by the sweet woman who took your order earlier, alas, sans rollerskates.

On our next visit, we decided to try the Fried Chicken ($9.99).

We received two legs and the thigh of what we can only imagine was once a very obese bird we dubbed Fatty McFlab.

A white meat option would be nice, but the light crisp batter reveals a sinner with a heart (or coating, to be exact) of gold.

It’s beautifully prepared, never-hit-the-gym-a-day-in-its life fried chicken and big, my friends, is beautiful.

You can’t help but love it, and soon the rationalization begins. A little fatty chicken never killed anybody. Well, not immediately anyway.

The sides are a bigger gamble than playing ‘any seven’ at the craps table.

The green beans are an inadvisable choice. Straight outta the can-ton and still cold, only hobos will find this delectable.

The Fried Chicken. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Fried Chicken. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The mayo-laden mac salad comes with peas and carrots. If you didn’t get enough lubrication from the chicken, this will do the trick.

The salted cabbage?

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but apparently briny steamed cabbage is hoping to gain that reputation too.

The salt level may be a bit much for some, but if your ticker can take it, this would be our recommendation of the three.

Speaking of trifectas, on our third and final visit, we went for the Kalbi and BBQ Chicken Combo Plate ($10.99) with kimchi and potato salad.

The kalbi was tender and well-marinated, with excellent flavor.

The Kalbi and Chicken Plate. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Kalbi and BBQ Chicken Combo Plate. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The chicken was a little less fulfilling. Thin-pounded thighs are heavily seasoned with garlic powder and cooked to well done: do not attempt without some kind of beverage at hand.

The sides were hit and miss, yet again.

The kimchi is VERY garlicky – whoa – with good heat. So long as you’re not the main attraction at a kissing booth later, kimchi is definitely the way to go at the Shack.

The potato salad is of the “big chunks of baked skin-on potato swimming in carrot-flecked Lake Mayo ” variety. Not our bag.

Although not (in our humble opinion) a destination dining attraction, if you’re in the Makawao area and suddenly bowled over by a hankering for a freshly made burger, plate lunch or heaping helping of mayonnaise, no doubt the Liquor Shack and Deli can scratch that itch.

Bagel with a schmear, however?

Not so much.


The Liquor Shack and Deli is located at 1143 Makawao Ave in Makawao.

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  • ANoniMouse

    I’d imagine whoever wrote this review is unhappy with themselves. Nothing but backhanded compliments encased in negativity. Check yourself and maybe refocus your efforts to something that may enhance the lives of those that read your apparent slander.

  • amaze

    Good review and accurate!

  • justasking!

    Ahem, did they hit this place up yet for their pass or fail postings in the window..should be interesting!

  • Maui_Mike

    This review is accurate, I have had food here several times, I actually like the food, including the Mac salad, I usually find the articles by Vanessa to be funny and informative, but I must say in this case the thinly veiled sarcasm was too heavy handed this time, I think there is such a thing as trying too hard to be funny or tongue in cheek, some reviews benefit from some levity, this one however did not.

    • rockt647

      my friend’s step-mother makes $73 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 7 months but last month her pay was $7220 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this web sitePAYRAP.COM….

  • Lokahi

    precious few restaurant reviews on maui are anything except for thinly veiled plugs for advertisers. loved this one, it actually seemed like a real review! entertaining and well-written. and the reviewer went THREE TIMES to the joint, which i think shows dedication to fairness. thanks ms. wolf. now go try stewart’s burgers in kihei, and tell us what you think (try the kula burger, it’s the best!)

  • Friendly local

    The actual name of the business is Liquor shack and grinds.It has been there for over thirty years.Was first run(still owned)by the Ha’ole family in the 80’s in 90’s to 2000’s run by Mamasan’s .Then the Hans for 10 years,they retired and then their close family friends(Hamamuras) took over and now run it.The food is great,sure the place is small,but you can always tell them when you’re ordering “easy on the sauce”.A little constructive criticism goes a long way,not sarcasm.Been a long time friend and patron and too bad you didn’t try the spicy chop steak or the meat jun.Really great dishes.

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