Lahaina Coolers

Popular West Maui hangout uncorks wine dinners, happy hours, comfort-food meals

General Manager Sean Stover (first photo) is a bartender and chef at Lahaina Coolers. • The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

Tucked away on Dickenson Street from the hustle and bustle of Front Street, Lahaina Coolers is a fun West Maui hangout for locals and for tourists who are savvy enough to find it.

Just look for the record-holding, blue-striped marlin hung from the ceiling that weighs in at 955 pounds and colorful paper lanterns outside. My old neighbor Rick Medenwald was the captain when the massive marlin was hooked by a wahine in 1990 and her record hasn’t been broken since.

“Sure, Lahaina Coolers is a bit off the beaten path, but we’ve become known for our monthly wine dinners and we have a fun bar scene and late-night cuisine and we serve breakfast, lunch, three happy hours, dinner and to-go meals,” says Sean Stover, general manager who is also a bartender and a chef.

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

That’s why the monthly wine dinners are so popular. The feasts are not only tasty but the price is right on the money as well. And in recent months, music has been thrown into the mix.

“Last time, we had two-time Grammy Award-winner Garrett Probst,” says Stover. “This time at our Oct. 6 wine dinner, it’s Alex L. Calma, a local guitarist as well as singer who does a lot of covers.”

For starters, sip Ruffino pinot grigio and savor fresh shrimp-and-ono ceviche with lime, serrano chile and mango with crunchy banana chips.

“We pick a different winery each time,” Stover says of the process he goes through with owners Cruz Ortiz and Neil Hirada. “I work with our distributors, sit down and taste a bunch of wines and then I create a menu around the varietals. It’s a great deal at $65 per person. We do smaller portions. But when it’s all said and done, you are full when you leave here.”

The next course of gingered sweet-potato soup with toasted coconut and pumpkin seeds at the Oct. 6 dinner will be paired with Chateau St. Michelle chardonnay. Then you may imbibe in Black Stallion pinot noir and sink your teeth into filet mignon with balsamic syrup and herbed goat cheese.

“It’s not a short pour on the wine,” Stover explains. “I usually feature George Howard from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and he comes and talks. The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. and it lasts about two and a half hours.”For late-night, Front Street workers getting off their shifts at other restaurants flock there for food served until midnight and cocktails until closing.

One of the popular entree, ribeye steak. • Lahaina Coolers photos

“Daytime, all of the baseball and football and college games are on,” says Stover, who is a self-proclaimed college football fan. “All of the networks are on the three TVs.”

In addition, there are many happy hours at Lahaina Coolers.

“The first is from 3 to 6 p.m., the late one is from 10 p.m. to midnight. We also have martini hour from 8 to 10 p.m. nightly.”

Sunday is known as Comfort Food Day as entrees are served for just $16 to $18 a plate. Choose homey food like spaghetti and meatballs with garlic cheese bread, chicken-fried steak, bacon-wrapped meat loaf and chicken and waffles.

For more details, call Lahaina Coolers at 661-7082.