Mixing Comfort with Class at Gannon’s in Wailea
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When I met with chef Beverly Gannon back in August 2015, the mood was serious. Grim. Emotional.
“I sort of had to pull the covers over my head for 24 hours and go, ‘This really didn’t happen, did it?!’” she told me back then, after a business agreement ended and her longtime Wailea restaurant, Joe’s, abruptly closed its doors. “Now it’s, ‘Where do we go from here?’”
Important question. Gannon put a lot of thought and soul-searching into the answer, before deciding that Joe’s would stay closed. But not forgotten. Although the restaurant went through a brief incarnation last year as Joe’s Neuvo Latino with upscale, global Latin food, for most of its lifetime, it was known simply as Joe’s, where people could count on high-quality, homestyle comfort food. Now, those favorites from Joe’s have a new home at its sister restaurant, Gannon’s, located at the Wailea Golf Clubhouse.
“I figured there were enough people who went in there over a 19-year period, that if they wanted to experience the food, then they now have a place to do it,” explains Gannon, who recently added some Joe’s decor, like famous photos and records, onto the wall at Gannon’s. “So for me it’s like, ‘Here’s your choice: you can have it down-home or you can have a little more refined.'”
Ahi Carpaccio (Joe’s) or Ahi Poke (Gannon’s)?
Iceberg Wedge (Joe’s) or Butter Lettuce Bouquet Salad (Gannon’s)?
Joe’s Favorite Meatloaf (Joe’s) or Wagyu New York Strip Steak (Gannon’s)?
Chocolate Bread Pudding (Joe’s) or Coconut Custard Roulade (Gannon’s)?
“A real sort of balance of people seeing, you can come in and have a reasonably-priced dinner for where we are, or you can have that higher-end item if you want it,” Gannon explains.
Some of Joe’s specialties are also available during happy hour at Gannon’s. Or, we should say, happy hours, from 3 p.m. to closing time (around 8:30 p.m.), among the longest spans of daily drink and food specials on Maui.
“We’ve been doing some homage to Joe’s in the Happy Hour, so we have the meatloaf sandwich and BBQ ribs,” says Gannon’s executive chef Bret Pafford. “It’s become its own little micro-restaurant within the restaurant; there’s a lot of activity around the bar and all the cocktail tables.”
Gannon’s also has outdoor seating with sweeping ocean views. Chef Pafford, who previously worked in Seattle and Lake Tahoe, says he can’t get enough of the sunsets from the lanai.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he says. “I think we do get 180-degree ocean views, and you’re able to see from Makena all the way to Lāna‘i and Kaho‘olawe and all that.”
Pafford says he features five or six different fish from local Maui waters on a nightly basis. Another point of pride is what Gannon calls her “secret garden.” She can’t yet reveal where the fresh, organic Maui produce is coming from, but she and Pafford agree, it’s “amazing.”
“For us, we get our deliveries on Wednesdays, and it was harvested on Tuesday,” explains Pafford, who says that means local products like lettuce, herbs, broccolini, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips and potatoes are used fresh every week, instead of every few weeks. “We’re using right around 85, 90% of local produce, and we’re very fortunate with Bev’s connections that we’re using upcountry.”
So how does Gannon’s reflect, well, Gannon? She says while her flagship restaurant upcountry, Hali‘imaile General Store, was opened decades ago on a small, shoestring budget, by the time Gannon’s opened in 2009, she could afford to design it as the “restaurant of my dreams.”
“I actually got to have it look the way I wanted, I got to have the tables and chairs that I wanted,” she says, adding that her vision for a red bar was realized, along with the oceanview seating. “It’s just a beautiful restaurant that has a lanai that overlooks some of the most beautiful golf course and ocean views, and if you turn around you can see Haleakalā. It’s a pretty special spot,” she smiles.
When asked if she received any closure, financially or otherwise, on her Joe’s business dealings from last year, Gannon says, “Not yet; we’ll see what happens.” But from wanting to curl up in a ball and pull up the covers seven months ago…Gannon has bounced back, stronger than ever.
“I learned last year that retirement is probably not in my future,” Gannon says, adding she ended 2015 on a very successful note, with a renewed appreciation for her dedicated staff. “I probably worked harder than I had worked in 20 years that year, but then looking forward, now it’s about giving ownership to my managers that work for me, so that I can maybe take a step back. I’m never gonna be out of it. I’ve finally realized, I will never be out of it; it’s got my name on it! But I could work a little less, so that’s my goal for 2016.”
Both of Gannon’s restaurants are taking part in Localious month in March, to support Hawai’i farmers and agricultural education in schools. Learn how you can help here.