Learning the history behind some of Maui’s favorite haunts adds a whole new level to your experience!
1. Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon
This north shore hot spot is known for its epic live music, its laid-back atmosphere, and fabulous breakfast. This wasn’t the first Charley’s on Maui, however. In 1969, Jim Fuller opened Charley’s in Lahania as a fresh-fruit juice stand, supplying carrot juice and avocado sandwiches to surfers, hippies, and locals. Once Lahania grew too big for Jim’s liking, he moved him and his 160-pound Great Dane named Charley over to Paia. Charley the dog became a town favorite and was often found lounging around the restaurant or sauntering about town. Some have heard the rumor that Willie Nelson used to be the owner of this bar, but that fact has become skewed over time. Years ago, Willie happened upon Charley’s for breakfast one morning and became fast friends with Jim and Charley the dog. Willie did perform there, with his first Charley’s show pulling in 800 people. You’ll still get a peek at Willie from time to time when he’s not playing a round of poker with good friends Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson. This legendary saloon is as fun as ever! Stop by for a pint and soak up the history.
Rumor has it that Charley’s has been acquired by some investors involved with Fleetwoods. Jonathon Herman no longer owns Charley’s.
2. Mama’s Fish House
Everyone knows about Mama’s Fish House, with their 5-star food and breathtaking views. A rumor started years ago about how Mama Doris actually acquired this stunning property. It’s been said that Papa Floyd, her husband, actually won it in a poker game! While this story wouldn’t be the craziest thing Mama Doris and Floyd have done, it’s not the truth. The story of how Mama’s Fish House came about is actually much more exciting than a poker game!
In 1960, a very young Floyd and Doris packed their 2 1/2-year-old son and necessary provisions into a 38-foot sailboat, leaving San Diego for the Marquesan Islands, 3,600 miles south. At this time there were no electrical navigation aids. Like many sea captains before him, Floyd navigated by sun sights taken with a sextant. Through squalls and spells of no wind, this family of three adventured on the open sea for 36 days, and Mama Doris cooked a hot meal for her family nearly every day!
After 3 months there, they sailed to Tahiti, where Mama had a daughter, making their family complete. This family of four spent time sailing to the Cook Islands, the Kingdom of Tonga, New Zealand, French Polynesia, and finally Lahaina. Nine years after moving to Maui, they purchased property to extend their love of food and aloha to others. They used their experience abroad to showcase fresh fish, vibrant flavors, and above all, a deep sense of respect for the ocean and its bounty.
They may not have won this restaurant in a poker game, but it was definitely a gamble. No one thought a fish house would survive in 1973, as steak houses were all the rage. But Mama had witnessed the beauty of these dishes on the French Polynesian islands and believed in their ability to transcend popular belief. Over 40 years later, she still stands at the helm of her very successful dream.
We’ve recently heard from Mama’s Fish House’s General Manager Tami Joslin that rumors of their having sold Mama’s are untrue. The original owners of Mama’s Fish House continue to own the restaurant and never intend to sell it.
3. T. Komoda Store & Bakery
Most people can’t even keep themselves alive for 99 years, yet this thriving establishment has managed to keep its doors open for almost a century. And it wasn’t with money from a corporate takeover or by modifying their menu to change with each new decade. The cream puffs they made, in the beginning, are the cream puffs they make today. And with the line wrapped around the block before they open their doors at 7 am, you know they’re doing something right. And they’ve managed to keep it all in the family. The original owner, Takezo Komoda, handed the business over to his sons. Two of his eight children still work there, pulling in 8-hour days. The business has been handed down the line and is now in the capable hands of Takezo’s granddaughter, Betty, and her husband. Get in line for a cream puff and walk out with a little piece of delectable memorabilia from a mom-and-pop shop that has lasted the test of time. They close for a few weeks to “renovate” every year, which is actually their employee vacation time. Taking care of their employees so they can better take care of their clients!
4. Mulligans on the Blue
While it’s hard to get a clear-cut answer on the origin of the Hawaiian Flag, it’s easy to see that the Union Jack represented it. The flag has gone through a few makeovers, but it’s told that the Jack was retained to show King Kamehameha’s friendship for fellow ruler King George III, who was the king of Great Britain and Ireland. The eight stripes represent the major Hawaiian Islands. Therefore, it is actually a gesture of local support when you cheers a pint at the only Irish-owned bar and restaurant on the island of Maui!
5. Tasaka Guri Guri
There is an unspoken rule about Guri Guri when you come to Maui. I found out the hard way after living on Maui for 6 months. A friend from work mentioned this tasty treat, and I stared blankly at him, thinking he was speaking a different language. Horrified, he proceeded to tell everyone within a 2-mile radius that I had yet to try Guri Guri. I asked everyone exactly what it was, but they all had elusive answers. The reason no one can describe it is that there is nothing quite like it anywhere else! This sherbet-sorbet-ice cream concoction is a well-guarded recipe brought over with Jokichi Tasaka from Japan in the early 1900s. The name comes from a play on the word “good”, which is meant to sound similar to “goodie, goodie”. With only two flavors, pineapple and strawberry, this family-owned and operated establishment has managed to remain a local favorite for over a century. But don’t take my word for it. You just have to try it. And then you can add yourself to the list of locals who aren’t able to describe it.