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Smokin’ Hot

The super casual Beach Bums Bar, BBQ & Grill at Maalaea Harbor keeps drawing in fun-loving crowds

Servers Nikki Mitchell (left) and Abby Hatfield flank Beach Bums’ beloved bartender “Dr.” Jay Young during happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. daily at the Maalaea hot spot. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photos

Two former Maui bartenders by night and beach bums by day took their relaxed lifestyle and catapulted it into a smokin’ hot restaurant venture in 2008.

Managing Partner Dave Mecklenburg and his staff are still doing so swimmingly well at Beach Bums Bar, BBQ & Grill at Maalaea Harbor Shops that he and another pal, John Pope, recently purchased Pi Artisan Pizza in Lahaina –(but that’s another story, see Side Orders for more details).

Beach Bums’ concept in Maalaea boasts the state’s largest smoker that slow-cooks up to 1,200 pounds of prime rib, whole turkey, drunken chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket and racks of baby-back ribs all at once. The aromas are incredible and enticing and draw in the crowds.

“When we opened, we had a third partner who worked at an Oklahoma barbecue joint, and he said he had a million-dollar idea. He brought all of the award-winning recipes, and we had a smoker custom built in Mesquite, Texas, for us. It uses all wood, no gas. We like a combo of kiawe and guava woods to make it taste just right,” says Mecklenburg.

Beach Bums also caters the food for some of the top tour boats that depart daily out of Maalaea Harbor, so the kitchen cranks out food like a factory. The difference is that it tastes like home cooking.

Beach Bums Maalaea Executive Chef Dan Kirkpatrick and GM Megan Leake keep the team happy and motivated.

In fact, Beach Bums has been ranked the No.1 Best Barbecue Restaurant on Maui for three years in a row in The Maui News’ Best of Maui contest.

“Our Executive Chef Dan Kirkpatrick has really upped the efficiency and consistency in the kitchen,” Mecklenburg continues. “Between the catering for the boats and the busy dining room, it is no easy feat to do, but he does it.”

“I’ve line-cooked all over Maui,” explains Kirkpatrick. “I cooked at Da Kitchen for nine years, Kono’s on the Green, some TS Restaurants, you name it.”

Since Kirkpatrick has come aboard, the former executive chef Megan Leake has moved up to be general manager.

“With Megan as GM, it’s cohesive. She gets what challenges happen in the kitchen and understands all of the financial aspects,” says the chef. “We’re riding the same train. Problems are easy to fix.”

The full rack of baby back ribs is always a top selling dish, paired with sides of cornbread, baked beans and mac salad.

While barbecue is the main focus of Beach Bums, breakfast kicks things off at 8 a.m. daily. Sip hangover helpers of $3 Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers. Up the ante with Man Am I Hurting doubles for $5. Flex beach-bum muscles for prime rib loco moco, crab cake Benedict, biscuits and gravy and vegetarian omelets.

Over lunch and dinner, tourists fresh off the boats mingle with surfers and nearby condo dwellers as they sip cold brews and sink their teeth into sliced brisket, fresh fish and choice of salads.

Beach Bums has a line of fresh-caught fish coming in from savvy captains with boats in Maalaea Harbor.

Side dishes are plentiful and include spicy mac and cheese, pineapple coleslaw, baked beans, smashed potatoes, cornbread and French fries. Oh yes, beloved steamed white rice is available, too.

With nightly music, casual and kitschy decor and soul-satisfying food with plenty to take home for later at reasonable prices, Beach Bums epitomizes fun. Just like at Moose’s, where the partners first bartended back in the day. Silly signs hang everywhere in the restaurant from “No working during drinking hours” to “Free beer tomorrow” to “I got a new surfboard for my wife and it was the best trade I ever had.”

Customers wearing T-shirts and shorts tap their rubber slippers to the music as they sip from 11 beers on tap and bikini bar libations such as the Thongtini, the Double D Tini and the Brazilian Wax Tini, pegged as “silky smooth.”

Sit around, have a laugh, “slum it” at the harbor and munch buffalo wings, shrimp tempura, Irish nachos, smoked prime rib pupu, crab cakes, chili ‘n’ cheese burgers and Da Kine paniolo chili, or go for the gusto with the BBQ Tailgate sampler.

“Our top sellers are beef brisket and baby-back ribs,” says GM Leake. “It’s a big menu, and we cover a lot of bases. Our Lobster Fest on Tuesdays is hugely popular as is the Rib Fest on Wednesdays. People just love the sauces.”

Having a holiday party? Beach Bums caters any size event, states the menu. You may also check out the logo “Bum Wear” at the front counter, get free parking in the upper lot near the Wailuku side of the mall or ask for a tour of the custom smoker, if you are so inclined.

“We’ve created a really good environment. The morale has gone through the roof,” says the chef. “It’s not just about punching in a time card. You can see the love on the plate.”

Beach Bums fast facts:

• Location: 300 Maalaea Road on the ground floor of the Harbor Shops in Maalaea.

• Hours: Open daily for breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m., lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

• Happy Hour: From 3 to 6 p.m. daily, sip mai tais and margaritas for $4. Well drinks and Kona Longboard beers are $3.50 and Bud Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon, $3.

• Promos: Lobster Fest is offered Tuesday nights. Savor a nine-ounce lobster tail with 12-ounce prime rib for $34.95. Wednesday nights, the Rib Fest draws in diners with a full rack of baby back ribs for $23.95. Both promos start at 4 p.m. on those evenings.

• Live music: Enjoy daily music from 5 to 8 p.m. (For the lineup, see music listings.)

• For reservations: Call Beach Bums at 243-2286.