Three’s Bar & Grill: Food & Friends First
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It seems like in Hawai‘i, certain things matter more here than in other places. Like surf. And food. And sharing those things with friends. Maybe it’s just me. And three great guys I met recently, who became friends while working in the restaurant business in Wailea, and surfing in their off-time.
“We used to hang out and talk about food,” says Travis Morrin, Three’s chef, co-owner and catering director. “We figured out if we started our own catering company, we could pretty much pick our own events and surf whenever we wanted.”
They named their food truck and catering business Three’s, for three friends who specialize in three different types of cuisine: Hawaiian, Pacific Rim and Southwestern. It became so successful, the business partners started looking to lease a restaurant space with a commercial kitchen.
They found one. The former Bada Bing Italian Restaurant in Kīhei’s triangle area at 1945 South Kīhei Road became Three’s Bar & Grill. In 2010, the friends did all the renovations themselves, from floors to ceilings. They even hand-made their wooden booths. These three were committed.
“Definitely, ‘learning curve’ is a good way to put it,” says Jaron Blosser, Three’s chef/co-owner. “We’ve all been chefs before; we kind of just took a leap of faith to really jump into this big location and make it work, especially at the lowest part of the economy in 2010.”
They had a background in food (and surfing), but not business. At least, not right away. They learned as they moved forward as a team.
“It’s been like figure skating and listening to AC/DC at the same time,” laughs Cody Christopher, Three’s chef/co-owner. “It’s been awesome. It’s been a big learning experience.”
Christopher has crafted a mango habañero hot sauce that’s made at Three’s and bottled upcountry, along with a pineapple chipotle chutney, which are available for sale or shipping. He’s also hand-made many of the wooden plates used in the restaurant.
As far as the three business partners, here’s how Christopher breaks down what each one brings to the table:
“We have Chef Travis, he’s our local boy and he also does all of our catering.”
“Jaron is definitely our sushi guy and he watches the numbers. We all watch the numbers, but that’s kinda of his forte.”
I’m the Southwestern guy; steaks, smoky flavors and chef operations, food costs and systems. And, I fix stuff. If it breaks, I fix it.”
Three’s catering operations helped bolster the restaurant in the early years. The catering side is still thriving today; it’s a 24-hour operation that includes food truck events, weddings and daily cuisine for Pacific Whale Foundation’s dinner cruises out of Lāhainā Harbor.
Three’s Bar & Grill built up a solid reputation in its own right, as more and more customers kept coming through the door, then coming back again.
“Over the years, we’ve learned to practice quality and consistency; they are the number one things for a successful restaurant,” says Morrin. “You can do it good, but you gotta do it good every day.”
Three’s menu is a mix of top-notch breakfast favorites, with six different eggs Benedicts, multiple omelettes, huevos rancheros and stuffed french toast with Kula strawberries and lilikoi-guava cream cheese.
At lunch, something happens that’s not easy to find elsewhere on Maui: at 11 a.m. the raw bar lights up, with a full sushi menu, sashimi and even oysters ($2 during happy hour), which remain available through closing.
“We ship them in fresh every single day, so it’s just one of the cool things here at Three’s that a lot of places don’t do,” says Blosser. “We shuck them fresh to order, which is amazing; a lot of places don’t do that.”
The sashimi samplers include a masterful array of seafood like Kauai prawns, tako, hamachi, scallop, ahi, saba, surf clam salmon and unagi.
“We always offer good prices, but you’re getting something that you feel like you can get in Wailea for less of a price,” adds Blosser.
Lunch also includes a range of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers and entrées, with either a Hawaiian, Pacific Rim or Southwestern influence. Or sometimes, all three get mixed into one menu item.
“Because we’re such good friends and we spend so much time together, the menu has morphed,” Blosser explains. “It’s not just separate cuisines, but they’re fusion-intertwined cuisines, so you’ll see dishes that have all three of those cuisines at once.”
Dinner adds on entrées that include Three’s traditional ramen with locally-made Iwamoto family noodles, Hawai‘i Ranchers’ 16-ounce grilled ribeye steak and Asian-inspired beer can chicken with Maui Brewing Co.’s Coconut Porter. And don’t forget, that raw bar is still open!
“The food shines as well as the service, but the food is absolutely amazing,” says Blosser. “We’ve focused all our attention on that over the last six years.”
Three’s also puts the focus outward, on the community. The Kama‘āina Give Back program offers 10% off to local residents, then donates 10% to a recipient of the month, like a charity, group or cause. See one example of that here, when Three’s chose Maui Pasta Company as its recipient in March. This month benefits Hawai‘i Agriculture Foundation (HAF) and Maui County Farm Bureau.
“My whole theory on doing business on Maui is to give back,” says Morrin.”If you give back to the community, if you put in that effort, I don’t know what it is, the laws of karma or something, but it comes back to you.”
Right now, Three’s is also offering 20% off breakfast, lunch or dinner, anytime other than happy hour. Check out our Maui Dining app for the deal.
Beyond food, Three’s hosts some unique events during the week, like a comedy night; live piano, guitar and jazz; and Salsa dancing. Here is the schedule.
Live music is jamming on Three’s outdoor patio pretty much from open to close every day, which is 8:30 a.m. (8 a.m. on weekends) until 10 p.m.
“We’re trying to create an experience for our guests,” says Morrin. “It’s great food, great atmosphere and it’s consistently that way each day they come in.”
And there are more experiences to come, as the guys plan to open up another restaurant in Kīhei. Called Fork & Salad, it will be housed in part of the former Stella Blue’s building in Azeka Mauka, and will basically offer a salad extravaganza.
“We are going to have six kinds of greens and about 45 different salad ingredients,” Morrin explains, adding there will be kombucha on tap, juices and organic coffee.
“Our mission is to make farm-to-table cuisine quick, convenient and affordable, so that everyone every day can eat, and in doing so we support our local agriculture,” he says.
The up-and-coming fast, casual eatery debuted some of its locally-sourced, chef-inspired salads at Maui County Ag Fest on April 2.
Once the restaurant is ready, the grab-and-go aspect is no joke: the goal is to have “salad technicians” build your salad in front of you in three to four minutes or faster.
So when will it open?
“We’re hoping by June 1st, and we feel pretty confident because we’re basically doing all the work by ourselves, so it’s kind of up to us,” Morrin smiles.
You can see some of the chefs’ hands-on building projects and culinary creations on Fork & Salad’s Facebook page.
Three friends, six years after manifesting a dream, still love food and surf. They keep balance in their business, finding time to rip it up when the waves get good, and even taking a surf trip to a secret location last year.
With a new business taking shape, Blosser sums it up for all three: “We are pretty stoked on where we are right now.”