Vineyard Food Company’s Affordable Dining Options
Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. She offers her blunt assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
If you’re headed to Wailuku for First Friday tonight and dreaming of a four-course meal on a budget, consider a stop at Vineyard Food Company on (imagine that) Vineyard Street.
This little restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. They also offer a four-course dinner for $25 on First Fridays…and sometimes other Fridays as well. (You may want to call ahead to discern whether or not that’s the case on any Friday that isn’t the first one.)
Tonight’s menu features a baked artichoke and cheese dip served with croustades, a seared ahi salad, and a choice of Kalua pork, chicken katsu, or teriyaki ginger-glazed mahi mahi all served with macaroni salad and white rice. The meal is finished with a piece of pumpkin pie.
Dainty eaters or those on a more limited budget can also enjoy many of the items a la carte for a similarly reasonable price ($8.50 for the salad, $9.60 for the entrees)
Lunch, as mentioned, is served Monday through Friday and a new menu is offered each week. Prices are notably low, but there is a reason for that.
Vineyard Food Company doubles as “Catering From Soup to Nuts, Inc.” and more or less that’s what you can expect: catered food in a sit-down restaurant setting.
The lunch menu offers a variety of different salads each week. The first are something akin to what you might find in a supermarket deli counter: quinoa, potato, tortellini or cole slaw. They are available in small and large portions for $4.50 and $6.50, respectively.
The large portions are indeed, large. A few weeks back Vineyard was offering a curried rice salad with apples, raisin, celery, rice, carrots, and mango. The vegan dish was at once sweet, savory, and satisfying. Served cold, the portion was more than could be finished in one sitting. Not bad for $6.50.
On another occasion, we sampled the Cheese Tortellini with assorted vegetables and pesto dressing. Mixed with the tortellini were cherry tomatoes, onions, artichoke heart, green bean, asparagus, red bell pepper, and carrots. This was also a cold salad – likely premade a day or two before – but still had good flavor and value for the price.
The Sour Cream Potato/Egg salad was less successful, perhaps because the skins were left on the potatoes themselves. Arguably a matter of taste, this is not our preference. Again, thoughts of a supermarket deli counter came to mind, as it was more or less a typical potato salad: not bad, but nothing special.
But it’s not all cold pasta and rice salads. Vineyard Food Company also offers a soup of the day, a variety of green salads, and sandwiches. Regulars include the CS2N Salad ($8.50) with greens, crumbled goat cheese, mandarin oranges, Maui onions, and candied pecans and the Vineyard Burger ($9.50): eight ounces of Maui beef on an onion roll.
Be aware, however, that many things sell out by Friday. Come earlier in the week or expect slim pickings.
The Tuna Melt ($9.50) was served warm-ish. Somehow the tuna was cold but had a layer of melted cheese (how’d they manage that?), and the bread gave the appearance of having been in a Panini maker, but was cool to the touch.
The somewhat plain tuna salad – notable only for a scattering of capers – also came with tomato slices, lettuce, and several thick chunks of onion. The sandwich was served with a handful of potato chips. Although nothing earth-shattering, it was a solid sandwich made better by the fair price tag and clean, sunny ambience.
We also sampled the Mac Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with Mango/Papaya Fruit Salad ($9.60). It offered a good size portion of well-prepared fish. Although a bit under-seasoned, the interesting salad of – what seemed to be, despite the description – pineapple, cantaloupe, green onion, red bell pepper all but made up for it.
Again, the food had clearly been pre-made and reheated. It is what it is.
Go in with related expectations and hopes of having a quick and affordable lunch or dinner in a bright and cheery setting, and you’re likely to leave satisfied.
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.
Dying to know how a certain dish is made so you can recreate it at home? Send in a request, and we will try to pry the secret out of the chef…and even take a run at cooking it up ourselves. Mahalo. -vanessa(@mauinow.com)