Maui Food and Dining

Leoda’s Led by a New but Familiar Chef

October 27, 2016, 11:24 AM HST
* Updated October 27, 11:31 AM
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On November 9, 2011, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop opened its doors in Olowalu, along a remote stretch Honoapi‘ilani Highway, as one of the few places to eat between Mā’alaea and Lāhainā. Chef Alex Yago was there, and remembers “all the heart and soul that went into putting the recipes in.”

Yago then moved over to add his culinary skills to the Old Lāhainā Lū’au, staying within the Nā Hoaloha ‘Ekolu family. The restaurant group consists of not only the lū’au and Leoda’s, but also Star Noodle and Aloha Mixed Plate on the west side.

Then, five years after he left Leoda’s, Yago, Maui-born and a UHMC culinary arts graduate, had the chance to rejoin the team in Olowalu. He’s now the executive chef, in charge of a bustling kitchen that looks a lot different than he remembers it!

“We have a walk-in now that wasn’t there before; we had reach-in fridges,” he recalls. “We have a dry storage now, it’s not just shelves.”

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In that time span, Leoda’s also added a breakfast menu, which includes favorites like cornflake-crusted chicken and waffles; eggs Benedict with Launuipoko Farm-fresh eggs, handmade sourdough English muffins from the bake shop and a vegetable patty with brown rice, Hoaloha Farms taro, zucchini and more; and a Bloody Mary with house-crafted tomato base and smoked salt. Yes, smoked — the salt goes the kiawe-wood smoker out back, and is also used on the pastrami, which is smoked as well, along with the pulled pork, turkey and, eventually, fish.

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Speaking of turkey, it’s such fan favorite, Leoda’s offers a Thanksgiving Thursday dinner; roasted turkey with all the trimmings, available now through December. As far as an official Thanksgiving dinner, Leoda’s is bringing back its wildly popular special from last year: house-made turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and a slice of pumpkin pie for $19.75. You can take it to go, or dine-in until 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  Call (808) 662-3600 to pre-order your Thanksgiving meals (and pies!) starting Nov. 1; you have until Nov. 22, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

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English benedict with house-made vegetable patty and Leoda's bloody mary, along with chicken and waffles. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

English benedict with house-made vegetable patty and Leoda’s bloody mary, along with chicken and waffles. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Maui Now's Kiaora Bohlool interviews Leoda's Executive Chef Alex Yago. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Maui Now’s Kiaora Bohlool interviews Leoda’s Executive Chef Alex Yago. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Dining room at Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Dining room at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Leoda's bloody mary. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Leoda’s bloody mary. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Cooks in action at Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Cooks in action at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

House-smoked pastrami, and club sandwich at Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu. English benedict with house-made vegetable patty and Leoda's bloody mary, along with chicken and waffles. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

House-smoked pastrami, and club sandwich at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu. English benedict with house-made vegetable patty and Leoda’s bloody mary, along with chicken and waffles. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Smiles from the counter staff at Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

Smiles from the counter staff at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

The Nā Hoaloha restaurant group is known for not only giving thanks, but giving back to the community in big ways. 2016 marks the group’s 30th year in business, spurring what’s called “30 Acts of Aloha,” which will detail 30 solidly identifiable acts to help local nonprofits, community causes and the islands at large. The 30 acts, to be completed by the end of the year, help the restaurant group “honor its commitment to community, the perpetuation of culture and the protection of our ‘aina.”

As for Leoda’s, the pies are flying out the door and customers just keep coming back for the breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Yago says once people give Leoda’s a try, they’re hooked. It’s just a matter of them slowing down on their highway cruise long enough to take a break and enjoy some quality comfort food, whether they sit down to eat or grab it and continue on their way.

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“Just stop and try it,” he smiles. “Make it a pit stop!”

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