Maui Food and Dining

Haui’s Life’s A Beach Defies The Stereotype

March 14, 2015, 6:55 PM HST
* Updated March 14, 7:11 PM
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By Vanessa Wolf

Located in the Triangle, Haui's is many things to many people. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Located in the Triangle, Haui’s is many things to many people. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

In John Hughes’ 1985 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film starring Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, we are taught not to stereotype others based on appearances.

Haui’s Life’s a Beach – a veritable chameleon of a bar/restaurant/karoake joint/low brow watering hole  – offers a notable, first-hand lesson on that very topic.

Arrive at 1 p.m. and find a somewhat dark, but generally hospitable beach bar suitable for families and little ones.

Arrive at 1 a.m. and it’s a somewhat dark, very crowded, very drunken, somewhat dicey beach bar suitable for karaoke fanatics and other revelers.

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Choose your poison.

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That stated, and with respect to food, Haui’s offers more than you might expect.

In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions…

The Brain

The A La Carte plate offers 1,111 options. We went relleno, relleno, taco. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The A La Carte plate offers 1,111 variations. <<fizzle. fizzle. spark!>> We went enchilada, enchilada, taco. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

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Much like many of the beach bars on South Kihei Road, Haui’s specializes in Americanized Mexican and burger-ish offerings.

To get the full effect, we went with the A-La-Carte ($4/$7/$9).

Mix and match your choice of three taco fillings in three different shells, four different enchiladas and chile rellenos into the combo of your choice. Sound easy?

We’ll have you know

P (n,r) =  n! / (n-r)!

reveals that 1,111 combinations are possible.

Our minds completely blown, we found ourselves playing it safe with the Chicken Enchilada, Cheese Enchilada and Steak Taco ($9).

The Steak Taco presented basic run-for-the-border fare: steak meat, orange shredded cheese and iceberg lettuce in a crunchy corn tortilla. On the upside, the salsa is fresh and flavorful and goes a long way to uplift what might otherwise pass for thinking outside the bun down the street.

The Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas fared better. Quite cheesy in one case and loaded with moist shredded chicken in the other, there are no surprises here… And why would you want one?

The Athlete

The interior is a bit dismal in daylight, but hey, there are pool tables. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The interior is a bit dismal in daylight, but hey, there are pool tables. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

“If you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand.”

That’s pretty cold, Phil Collins, but if you want to get the job done quickly, then toss the Chimichanga ($8, $10 with pork, beef or chicken) her way.

This dense, meaty, deep fried linebacker will drag someone to the bottom faster than you can say “Su-Su-Sussudio.”

Allegedly invented in Tucson, Arizona, this dish further bolsters our “solid Americanized Mexican” claim in both flavor and existence.

A large flour tortilla is filled with beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and even meat, if you so decide. Then it’s thrown in a vat of boiling oil, fried until crispy and ready to knock you out.

Just two hits. It hits you. You hit the floor.

The Basketcase

The Chile Relleno, a la carte style. Not too shabby for four singles.

The Chile Relleno, a la carte style. Not too shabby for four singles.

We’ve said it before, and – brace yourselves – we’ll say it again: The Chile Relleno is the baseline by which all Mexican restaurants can be judged.

The verdict on Emilia’s Chili Relleno ($4 a la carte/$10 for two with beans and rice)?

Not guilty by reasons of insanity.

Seriously though, made with a fresh Anaheim pepper, it’s one of the cheesiest rellenos we’ve ever encountered.

Fresh green pepper? Check. Light egg-based batter? Check. Gooey cheesy innards? Oh yeah.

For what it is and where you are, this is as solid a rendition as you’ll find anywhere. Even crazier? For once, the price is right. 

The Princess

Arguably the leanest and meanest of Haui’s Mexican offerings, the Fish Tacos ($12) would get our vote for Prom Queen if not for all the dairy.

Fish + shredded cheddar cheese + sour cream = Why?

So long as any wind is blowing and you're properly SPF'ed, the front deck is the way to go. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

So long as any wind is blowing and you’re properly SPF’ed, the front deck is the way to go. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Granted, the menu spells this out, so it’s our fault for not having all the less authentic items (Iceberg lettuce, we’re looking at you) withheld, but still.

We love how there is a choice of battered cod (100% guaranteed this is lounging in a freezer right now) and grilled mahi (no brainer), but the adornments could use some help and the tacos are on the pricier/smaller side.

Still want one? Wait for Taco Tuesday when The Princess is cheap and easy and get fishy for just $3 a pop.

The Criminal

The Appetizer Sampler ($12) is the dish your mother warned you about.

The deep fryer puts in some overtime with four perfectly crisp, lightly breaded, Buffalo sauce-on-the-side chicken wings ($10 as an individual app.)

“THIS is a derelict?” you scoff.

But don’t underestimate this hooligan.

He steals all your booze and keeps the party going with several sticks of Fried Zucchini ($8 as a solo appetizer), a hypocritical favorite. Inside, it’s healthy green veggie goodness. Outside, it’s toilet papering your house.

The Appetizer Sampler is a veritable smorgasbord of deep fried foodstuffs. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Appetizer Sampler is a veritable smorgasbord of deep fried foodstuffs. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The Sampler rounds out with Jalapeno Poppers ($9 as an app) and Onion Rings ($8 standalone).

Stuff’s frozen, suspended in dark
Think of the tender way hot fryer oil treats prawns

Low temps may pull us apart
Don’t let that grease get into your heart, baby

Don’t you forget to strain me
Don’t Don’t Don’t Don’t…

We don’t know this, but odds are all four items are pre-made, pre-battered, previously frozen and liberated from a giant bag before frying, but hey, it’s a bar.

And under those terms, the only real appraisal involves deep fryer finesse. When it comes to governing the grease, we render Haui’s crew legit.

As for the rest of the staff, front of the house service can be scattered and staff seems to turn over regularly.  On our visits this led to confusion with both the menu and the bill, but the friendly waitresses persevered until all was resolved.

Haui’s Life’s a Beach is a cute outdoor beach bar, grimy local watering hole, pool and foosball table recreation center, loud karaoke mecca and better-than-you-would-think option for a cheap and flavorful lunch.

Granted, you may not want to fraternize with everybody in that lineup, but you know what they say: Life’s a beach sometimes.

*******

Life’s a Beach is located at 1913 South Kihei Road. They are open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.

 

 

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