Ma’alaea General Store Does What it Does Well
Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef. She offers her frank assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Once upon a time, the Ma’alaea General Store sold hammers and red hot dogs.
They still sell the hot dogs, but these days there’s far less in terms of hardware. However, there is a wide selection of hot and cold sandwiches, as well as a few salads.
At the urging of the man behind the counter, we focused on the hot items.
Due to his accolades (which came with a slightly incoherent story), we tried the Hot Cuban ($9.95).
While there is some debate as to the makeup of a “true” Cuban sandwich, most generally agree it starts with a loaf of Cuban bread which is then lightly buttered, cut in half horizontally, and coated with yellow mustard, roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles.
This is not that, and that’s a good thing.
Cuban sandwiches are kind of bland, but this variation places thin-sliced turkey, Dijon, Swiss cheese, and pickles grilled inside two thick slices of heavily buttered Texas toast resulting in melty, messy, greasy goodness.
The Reuben on Rye ($9.95) is also slightly non-traditional in that it’s made with pastrami, but otherwise by the book with sauerkraut, Swiss and 1000 Island Dressing.
Go make sweet music with that thing.
And maybe ask for a towel ’cause that sandwich is begging for one.
The Cheddar Burger ($8.95) arrives on an extremely fresh bun.
We ordered it medium rare but were told it comes “medium well or more.”
Not sure why, but we at least appreciate the honesty that this is not Burger King, and we will not be having it our way.
Nor did we.
The half pound burger arrived well-done with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onion. Everything about it was solid, but we’re not big fans of well-done meat and this didn’t change that opinion.
Meals come with a side of coleslaw that looks traditional but tastes predominantly of onion powder.
Fries can be added in lieu of the slaw for an additional $2.50. They’re thin-cut, skin-on and at 12:30 p.m. a bit cold, limp and giving off the vibe they might have been cooked earlier. Nonetheless, they were excellent.
Speaking of fries, they’re on the Fish Po’ Boy ($11.95).
First off, it’s not a Po’ Boy. It’s more like a Mexican-style fish taco on a bun.
A hearty piece of deep-fried ono rests atop a mélange of raw cabbage and carrots, shredded cheese and fries. There isn’t a Po’ Boy in the entire state of Louisiana with raw cabbage and carrots, but whatever, this strange concoction by any name would taste as sweet. Slathered in garlicky tartar sauce, it works. And works hard.
Now you can’t imagine how many times a day we glance down at the WWED bracelet on our wrist and reflect: “What Would Elvis Do?”
The Ma’alaea General store menu made the answer easy – for once – with their Grilled Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich ($4.99).
Word on the street is this was Fat Elvis’ go-to treat.
Still, the look we received when placing this order could best could be described as “incredulous.”
What can we say?
We like to saunter up to a menu and roll the dice.
Roll. The. Dice.
And boy, did we. PBJB is a taste sensation we haven’t had since swapping lunches with a fellow fourth grader with (far) more creative parents.
Still, it managed to land squarely in the “not quite what we expected” category.
It had impressive black grill marks which led to a bit of a burned taste. Granted, “burned” is a flavor we were accustomed to in our youth, just not with PBJ.
The gargantuan slices of Texas toast act like insulation, thereby keeping the innards cold.
You know how angel food cake tastes kind of like a sponge? This sandwich reminded us of that fact. The bread to filling ratio is waaaaaay off and we would recommend a return to the “slather it in butter and grill it” programming.
The people who work here are welcoming and sweet. They’ll treat you like family in no time, so have an answer ready when you’re asked what you’re doing with your life.
It’s really a breakfast and lunch spot only: the grill shuts down at 3 p.m. most days and the deli at 5 p.m.
Seating is limited and the menu focuses mainly on sandwiches.
You cannot get your burger cooked your way unless your way is well done.
It is what it is.
You’re in Ma’alaea.
You maybe just stumbled off a boat of some sort and you’re starving.
The General Store’s got your back.
You’ll be clutching fistfuls of napkins with a greasy smile on your face in no time.
The Ma’alaea General Store is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The grill closes at 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The deli is open until 5 p.m. daily.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)