CHILLING OUT

Lahaina Coolers is West Maui hangout to relax and enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hours

Lahaina Coolers’ Sean Stover is the general manager, bartender and chef in addition to his other duties at the open-air hideaway. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photos

Brace yourself for an invigoratingly good time at Lahaina Coolers.

Situated on Dickenson Street away from the bustle of Front Street, Lahaina Coolers has been a popular hangout since 1989 with locals and visitors who are savvy enough to find it.

Just look for the record blue-striped marlin displayed proudly that weighs in at 955 pounds and the sea of colorful paper lanterns fluttering in the breeze outdoors on the shady lanai.

“Sure, we’re a bit off the beaten path, but we do get busy as we have a fun bar scene and late-night cuisine, and we’re open for breakfast, lunch, three happy hours, dinner and to-go meals,” says managing partner Cruz Ortiz.

The casual, open-air restaurant famous for Evil Jungle pizza and spicy Azteca shrimp with bacon on a bed of linguine in chipotle wine-butter sauce is less expensive than many of the more upscale counterparts in the historic town.

Lahaina resident Zach Hawley winds down with a frothy craft brew at the casual bar.

“For late-night, we get everybody in the industry from Front Street getting off their shifts at other restaurants,” says Ortiz, who bought into a partnership with “local boy” Neil Hirata at Lahaina Coolers more than a dozen years ago.

“We open at 8 a.m., and serve food until midnight and cocktails until closing,” adds Ortiz, who worked for the Department of Health in Napa Valley, Calif., where she says she “went from don’t drink the wine to now I’m selling it.”

Speaking of wine, Lahaina Coolers flows with a popular monthly wine tasting and the next one is coming up at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7. Peter deAquino will perform guitar music and Geyser Peak wines will be paired with three courses. Buy the package meal with wines for $65 per person, or opt for a la carte pairings.

Begin with a Geyser Peak Monterey sauvignon blanc and fall harvest salad with pumpkin-seed dressing and seared scallops. Follow it with brie wrapped in puff pastry with apple-and-pear compote paired with a Sonoma chardonnay; and sip some cabernet sauvignon as you savor filet mignon with balsamic glaze and sauteed fresh Hamakua mushrooms.

“Daytime, all of the games are on,” says Stover, a self-proclaimed fan. “All of the networks are on the three TVs. We are not a huge sports bar, per se, but we do like to have fun in here.”

The cellar is stocked with Geyser Peak selections for a Dec. 7 tasting.

Fun is to be had, for sure, during three, count ’em, happy hours.

“We have many happy hours,” Stover says. “The first is from 3 to 6 p.m., the late one is from 10 p.m. to midnight. We offer $3 well drinks and $3 draft beers. We also have martini hour from 8 to 10 p.m. with vodka and gin X-Rated Cosmos, Orange Berry and Coco-Coconut Cake martinis. Say that last one five times real fast. It’s a good dessert drink.”

As for the food, “Everything is made fresh in house, even the truffle butter for the bread,” says Stover. “We start the day with in-demand breakfast specialties of fried rice, huevos rancheros, homemade biscuits and eggs and eggs Benedict. For lunch, sink your teeth into Maui Cattle Co. beef loco moco or a nice salad such as Caprese with fresh tomato and mozzarella slices that are artfully arranged. Crab and cream cheese won tons are also a hit.”

Sunday is revered as comfort-food day with down-home dinners served for $16 to $18 a plate.

“We’ll tempt you with our meat loaf, spaghetti and meatballs and chicken and waffles with gravy,” Stover says. “Food that is homey and good.”

Mexican Monday is a dinner promo that starts at 5:30 p.m. Tecate and Corona beer and margaritas are all $3.50 starting at noon. Do try the “beso calientes,” or “hot kisses,” of jalapenos stuffed with shrimp and cheese and wrapped in bacon.

For dinner, dig into five-spiced pork chops, bone-in ribeyes, braised short rib ravioli, fresh fish from Lahaina Harbor and vegan options, too. It’s easy to come and chill at Lahaina Coolers.

Lahaina Coolers fast facts:

• Location: 180 Dickenson St., suite 107 in Lahaina.

• Hours: Open daily for breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m., except Sundays when it’s served until 1 p.m. Lunch runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Sundays, when it starts at 1 p.m. Dinner goes from 5 p.m. to midnight nightly.

• Happy Hours: There are three daily. The first is jumping from 3 to 6 p.m., Martini Happy Hour with vodka or gin is 8 to 10 p.m. and late night Happy Hour discounts are from 10 p.m. to midnight.

• Promos: On Mexican Mondays, get $3.50 Tecate and Corona beers and margaritas beginning at noon. Mexican food specials kick in at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy Comfort Food Sundays specials starting at 5:30 p.m. Sip and savor wine tasting pairings with live music Dec. 7.

• For reservations: Call Lahaina Coolers at 661-7082.

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