Just Wing It: Maui-Grown Prototype for Franchise
By Susan Halas
Just Wing It opened in March at the Piilani Shopping Center Food Court in Kihei.
The small restaurant offers a limited menu and specializes in chicken wings, chicken tenders (fried or baked), batter fried shrimp, many side dishes (including fried pickles), plus salads and wraps.
The chicken and shrimps are accompanied by a variety of sauces and dressings in mix-and-match combos. They also feature an original Buffalo sauce billed as “mild, medium and volcanic.” Patrons order inside the tiny shop and then enjoy their food at outdoor tables in the food court common area under the shade of large umbrellas.
When Maui Now visited on Sunday (May 6) the joint was packed as patrons waited patiently for their food. More, it seemed, kept arriving by the minute.
A Busy Place: “We Are Just Slammed”
“We are just slammed,” said Mike Capuano,” who with partner Dave Gamberdell, hopes to use Just Wing It as a prototype for bigger things to come.
Capuano said the new fast food outlet has “exceeded our expectations” in its first two months of operation. Customers try it and “keep coming back for more,” he said.
The pair are both veterans of the Maui food scene; they expect to establish a profitable track record for the concept and then expand to Lahaina, Paia and Kahului. Their business plan calls for later growth via franchises or licensing arrangements.
But for the moment Capuano is standing behind the counter and he’s working as fast as he can. He’s taking the orders, running the fryer, dishing out the dressing and sauces and calling out the pick up numbers in clear ringing tones. The best seller is the wings with the garlic-parmigiano sauce which is running neck and neck with the boneless skinless tenders.
Prices for the various offerings seem to be in line with other fast food outlets. Five wings with one sauce and one dressing + celery and carrot sticks for $6.49. Add a small drink for $1. Add a small drink and a small side for an additional $2; or add two small sides for another $3.
At the other end of the wing spectrum, thirty pieces of wings, three sauces and three dressings go for $31.49. Drinks and side dish add combos are also available.
The batter dipped and fried shrimps have a similar pricing structure: five shrimp plus one sauce and one dressing costs $6.99. The menu steps up in various increments to thirty shrimps plus three sauces and three dressings for $34.99.
Side dishes include rainbow French fries, fried onion rings, cole-slaw, rice, potato/mac salad, BBQ beans and other sides. They come in sizes small $1.49, large $2.69 and family size $7.49.
The sauces, said Capuano, are all homemade and “secret” recipes kept under lock and key. The list includes tequila-mango-habanero, teriayaki, honey-mustard, wasabe and quite a few more.
Just Wing It also offers party platters for feeding a crowd and has its own logo t-shirts.
How’s the Food?
The jury is still out on the food.
The early Yelp reviews (almost all from local residents) are mixed. Some gave it three, four and five stars, but others were more critical, saying there was a need for this type of menu, but the food was disappointing.
Maui Now tried quite a few menu items and we also had a mixed reaction.
The shrimp was delicious and so were most of the sauces we tried. Just out of the fryer the shrimps were large, juicy, hot and flavorful. We also liked the wings with the teriyaki sauce, and the onion rings were crispy and nicely done.
Fried pickles are an attention grabber, but the big chunks of dill coated with a thick crusty batter were not our favorites, and the cole-slaw also needed adjustment.
We noted that the food we ate sitting in the food court tasted better, a lot better, than the food that arrived home some 20 minutes later.
Capuano said a “minute in the microwave” would perk it up; but that did not prove to be our experience.
Feedback from Others
We also asked for feedback from Christy Cistone and Lisa Fauble, two Mauians who we met standing in line with us. The ladies took their order home to eat it. Both liked the homemade iced tea and the batter dipped shrimps.
Christy liked the wings with the mango-habanero sauce, noting that the sweet flavor followed by a spicy kick was a good combo. She was disappointed in the fries, which turned limp and soggy in transit.
Lisa thought the chunky fried pickles were good, but was not a fan of the cole-slaw. The women said their total bill was about $30.
Even though some of the items were not up to expectations, overall they liked Just Wing It and would likely be back to sample other parts of the menu.
We also spoke with Gordie Brown and son Noah Splajt of Waikapu, who had stopped in after church and were sampling the food in the shade of the large umbrella. They both gave thumbs up to their lunch selections and said they were “hot and tasty,” good value for total of $20 including beverage.
Just Wing It Maui
Piilani Shopping Center
Open daily M-Sat 10-9, Sun. 11-8