A local Maui magazine recently featured a cover story photo of chef Beverly Gannon standing knee high in a pineapple field carrying a sumptuous basket of locally grown produce and fish. "Chef Gannon is Outstanding in Her Field" was the not so original but never the less evocative headline. The article went on to sing the praises of Maui’s most celebrated female chef
A quick investigation revealed the location of her restaurant in upcountry down a little traveled, appropriately named road, Haliimaile, just outside of Makawao. A strange place for a celebrated chef to position her signature location, I thought. But
after paying a visit to Makawao, I was not really so surprised to find the Haliimaile General Store Restaurant tucked neatly into the ranch land and farms of the area. The idea of a restaurant housed in an old plantation style warehouse with a sophisticated menu might seem out of place if you didn’t realize the artistic sophistication lurking here.
We had arrived twenty minutes prior to opening. As there were no cars in the gravel parking lot adjacent to the building, which does bear distinct resemblance to an island style General Store, we didn’t really expect admittance. However, the staff was already in full bloom inside and welcomed us to sit at the airy bar decorated with whimsical fish sculptures and mobiles while they finished preparations for the evening. The casual Aloha atmosphere was evident immediately. If simplicity is the greatest luxury, as its been said, then this is indeed really living.
A quick look around the spacious back room revealed walls bedecked with poster sized write-ups from every major food and tourist industry publication known substantially raising the bar for our anticipated meal.
A mango margarita shortened the wait. A thick, blended concoction of fresh mangos and tequila went down easy as the innocent looking fruit smoothie that it wasn’t. We’d have lingered longer at the bar, but diners were pouring in, nabbing prime tables. Feeling the effects of unseen ingredients, I wisely pushed the remainder of the mango madness toward my husband who’d been eyeing the drink enviously.
Though the menu offered a dozen tempting choices, I started with a fresh salad of red and yellow roasted beets with a fruity glaze that was excellent. The seafood boullabaisse, not typically offered in Hawaii, presented as a huge bowl of various local seafood swimming in a delicate sauce. My husband followed his sushi sampler (ono!) with the prime rib special, perfectly roasted rib meat served with a giant house salad. We finished with desserts of homemade tropical fruit and coconut sorbets.
Haliimaile is destination dining that lives up to all those framed awards and a must to cap off a visit to Maui’s upcountry.