Main Street Bistro: Inspiring Passions

January 10, 2014, 4:32 PM HST · Updated January 10, 5:35 PM
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By Vanessa Wolf

The "Chinese" Chicken Salad. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The “Chinese” Chicken Salad. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Love and hate: two sides of the same coin.

There are few topics that inspire either heartfelt allegiance or ardent antipathy quite like

  • Piña Coladas
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Cilantro
  • Camping
  • Marmite (or Vegemite, its Down Under brother from another mother)
  • Modern Art
  • Anchovies
  • Poodles
  • Main Street Bistro

Haters gonna hate.

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But they’re also gonna sleep. And pay taxes. And eventually eat something in order to stay alive.

Same goes for the lovers.

What’s our point?

That’s a fair question.

Basically we’re just trying to say that a lot of people have passed through the doors of Main Street Bistro in Wailuku, and we have heard both glorious exaltations and furious rants from several of them.

Who’s got it right?

The Steak Salad has some throwback McDLT plating going on. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Grilled Steak Salad has some throwback McDLT plating going on. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Put down the Haterade/Flirtini and take a deep breath as we do our best to sort this whole east coast/west coast Main Street Bistro rivalry thing out.

We started with the Roasted Beet Salad ($10.95).

Three slices of beet, nine honey roasted cashews and some blue cheese crumbled over a standard baby greens mix. The flavors were spot on, but this rabbit snack is probably best left to the aspiring models in the house: within an hour we were hangry all over again.

Our second visit landed us on the “Chinese” Chicken Salad ($11.95) side of the wall.

A moderate portion of the same greens is topped with a scattering of green peas, cashews and pancetta, some chicken slices and a mountain of wonton strips on top.

It was very Beverly Hills socialite: pretty, thin, forgettable.

What we’re really wondering is what makes this Chinese?

Or is that maybe why “Chinese” is in quotes? Or maybe “Chinese” is code for something not Chinese, but not entirely not Chinese either? Write us if you know.

The Shrimp Burger positively oozes aioli. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Shrimp Burger positively oozes aioli. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The Grilled Steak Salad ($13.95) is the most inclined to put some meat on your ribs.

The dish arrives deconstructed with the steak on one side and the salad on the other, keeping the hot hot and the cool cool, much like a McDLT.

Our waitress was beyond slammed – apologizing over and over that “I’m the only one here today” – so she didn’t ask how we wanted the meat prepared.

The salad portion is pretty much exactly like the Roasted Beet (minus the beets) and the roulette wheel spun in our favor as the steak arrived arrived medium rare: perfect for us, but possibly way too undercooked for some people. It didn’t really seem grilled and had a deluge of watery gravy on it, but it was still far and away our favorite of the three.

The restaurant is large and typically packed. One server (or even two) isn’t nearly enough. As a result, service is consistently pokey and apologetic, but the women themselves were always gracious and sweet.

Some of the MSB dissension comes down to the chef/owner, who has garnered himself something of a “Soup Nazi” reputation.

The Lamb Burger. Baaaaaaa. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Lamb Burger. Baaaaaaah. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Adored – if not revered – by regulars, he himself often serves the diners sitting at the counter facing the kitchen.

From experience, we can assure you that cooking a busy lunch service by yourself is not easy, and this may explain why he was also described to us as “surly,” “grouchy” and even “mean.”

You be the judge. If nothing else, he appears to be passionate about what he does.

As for what he does, the Grilled Shrimp Burger ($6) came highly lauded by MSB regulars.

Maybe we hit it on an off day, but Holy Aioli, Batman! Does there really need to be this much mayonnaise on top of the already oily “burger”?

Whole shrimps are encased in a black peppery, eggy batter that is then fried. It’s spicy and darn greasy and the poor little pre-buttered sweet bread bun does not survive the tour.

Next time we’ll ask them to hold the aioli and the black objects on the plate (fried basil leaves?) and hopefully we’ll be able to discern more of the delicate shrimp flavor.

The Onion Rings may force you to join a gym. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The “Capitol” Onion Rings may force you to join a gym. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

We fared much better with the Lamb Burger ($7).

Although it arrived cold, it was cooked to order. The ground lamb had quite a bit of fresh parsley mixed in, but the gamey flavor of the meat still shined through. The Kalamata olive spread added a delightful salty touch.

The ¼ pound burger arrives on an itty bitty bun making it seem both huge and diminutive at once: fat man in a little coat.

It’s probably not enough to make a meal for most people, but add on an order of “Capitol” Onion Rings ($7.25/$3.95 for a half order) and you’ll be begging for mercy.

The half portion alone is truly massive. We imagine the full size is brought to the table in a wheelbarrow.

The paper-thin onion slices are dredged in flour and deep fried: a dead ringer for the French’s French fried onions used in the ubiquitous Thanksgiving green bean casserole.

Eat too many and you’ll hate yourself later, but they sure are mighty good going down.

The Split Pea Soup. Focus and shift into soup mode. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Split Pea Soup. Focus and shift into soup mode. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The restaurant offers a daily homemade Soup of the Day ($2.95 cup/$5.95 bowl), and – perhaps not surprisingly from Maui’s answer to the Soup Nazi – on all three occasions this was the highlight of our visit.

Whether Split Pea, Minestrone, or Mushroom, all three were fresh, homey and hit the spot. That stated, maybe ignore the menu altogether and see what specials the chef has whipped up that day. Just try not to get yourself yelled at in the process.

Located at 2051 Main Street in Wailuku, Main Street Bistro is open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday.

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