Leave it to two longtime bartenders to come up with the game plan for a casual and affordable restaurant that livens up Maalaea day and night.
"We've been on the island for about 20 years each," says Dave Mecklenburg of himself and his partner in the business, Skip Hildreth. "We were bartenders at both Maui Brews and Moose McGillycuddy's."
The duo decided to strike out on their own and opened Beach Bums Bar & Grill in the former Blue Marlin near Maui Ocean Center in the Harbor Shops. It's open air, facing the boats in the harbor with surfboard-shaped tables and funky, fun beach memorabilia.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Partner Dave Mecklenburg’s got a good thing going on with affordable smoked meats and fish dishes, icy brews and nightly music.
"We tried to go with the beach theme. You can tell we worked at Moose's for a long time, because we ripped off their good decorating ideas."
While the restaurant has been open since February of 2008, its claim to fame is now its smoker, which was installed last October.
"We now have this huge smoker that can do up to 1,200 pounds of meat at once," says Dave. "It's a monster. It was custom built for us in Mesquite, Texas. We do everything from ribs to drunken chicken to pulled-pork sandwiches and even prime rib."
Many of the recipe ideas came from their mutual friend in Oklahoma City, who runs a hugely popular Southern-style barbecue restaurant there.
Beach Bum chefs fuel the smoker mainly with kiawe wood and a little guava wood to impart the sweet taste. According to the Internet, Hawaii has over 150,000 acres of dry kiawe forests that are descended from one tree planted in 1828 in Honolulu. So this monster smoker, possibly the biggest in the state, isn't going to run out of fuel for the fire anytime soon.
The drunken chicken is slow smoked from the outside and steamed on the inside by using a can of local Maui lager as the steam source. Fall-off-the-bone tender, it's accompanied by pineapple cole slaw. The barbecue spare ribs are dry rubbed and slow smoked and served with fries and Southern- style corn bread.
The smoked prime rib appetizer is only $6.95 and the complete dinner is only $18.95. You can also get smoked turkey, ham and bratwurst and even smoked Spam, which is included in the barbecue sampler.
"The kind of food that we do is very good, simple food. It's all got a nice wood flavor. Of course, being located right on the harbor, we do a lot of fish. We've cultivated a lot of good relationships with people on the boats. We're open from breakfast through dinner."
Fresh Maui catch is brought to the door by local fishers and you may enjoy baked opakapaka with rice, tropical fruit salsa and sauteed vegetables for $15.95. Basket meals of fish and chips are great for sharing. Other starters range from nachos to fried zucchini.
Breakfast highlights are prime rib loco moco, OMG "Oh My God!" omelettes, eggs Benedict, eye-opening Bloody Marys and much more.
Rounding out the menu are burgers, keiki meals, salads and desserts such as house-made pineapple cobbler and two scoops of ice cream.
Since the owners have a bartending background, drinks have fun and racy names such as Bikinitinis - from the Thongtini to the Speedo to the Brazilian Waxtini. Happy hour runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m. and live music is performed nightly from around 6 to 9.
"Wednesday is blues, brews and barbecue with specials on food and beer," says Dave. "This is a great spot. It kind of reminds me of the Gazebo."
Skip loves his new gig, too. "Beach Bums is a nice, casual, kicked back place to hang out and enjoy good food, drinks and views." Call 243-2286.