Thursday, February 17, 2011

Maui and Sons Bar & Grill: Taking a vacation from myself

This past Monday night, cupid’s love arrows created one of the worst traffic jams I’ve ever experienced in LA. For 45 minutes, I sat in my car, my hands kneading the stirring wheel in frustration, while the traffic around me barely moved.

The most obnoxious part about the havoc Valentine’s Day was wreaking on my commute was not that love was the root cause, but that I almost missed the Bar Method class I had signed up for that evening. And I couldn’t miss Bar Method. I always go to Bar Method on Mondays. And then I always go home to eat quinoa and watch “How I Met Your Mother” and “Gossip Girl,” before going to bed at precisely 10 pm so I can be up at 6 am to go for a run before work, because I only like to run in the morning when the air quality is relatively unpolluted by exhaust and toxic fumes and crazy motorists.

This may come as a bit of a shock, but I can be a bit… tightly wound.

Sure, I have my moments when I let loose, skip Bar Method, drink more than a moderate amount of wine and stay out past my self-imposed curfew, but I’m not the type of girl anyone would describe as a party animal.

Or any type of animal, really. Unless that animal is a giraffe (my unfortunate nickname in high school).

So I need a bit of encouragement (usually from my older friends who are, ironically, the ones who are most likely get me to act my age) to “kick back.” Last night, however, I found encouragement from a location – the recently opened Maui and Sons Bar & Grill adjacent to the Egyptian Theatre and Pig and Whistle in Hollywood.

The casual space, a collaboration between Sunset Entertainment Group and surf brand, Maui and Sons, is a breath of fresh ocean air on the chaotic strip of Hollywood Blvd. that is more typically known for serving overpriced drinks to underdressed patrons. There’s no such attitude or pretension to be found at Maui and Sons Bar and Grill – just a carefree aloha spirit and the type of fare that one might expect to find in Venice. Funky, neon-colored tropical and frozen drinks are served with tiny umbrellas, $3 beers are served in frosted glasses, and the entire menu of Hawaiian BBQ-inspired eats is available for under $10.

With the giant shark situated outside of the entrance and kitschy beachy décor that includes a communal surfboard table, Maui and Sons is not the type I place I would normally visit to “kick back” after a long day of work. It’s not a wine bar (though there is wine on the menu), and I’m more likely to be excited about a cheese plate than a basket of Maui Cheese Fries ($4).

But Maui and Sons has a certain charm to it, and the fun fare is more ambitious than the price tags would suggest. Tightly bound Shaka Rolls, a take on Indonesian lumpia, are neatly packed with ground pork, ginger and garlic and served with a sweet chili sauce ($5). Tempura-battered Pumpin’ Popcorn Shrimp ($8) served with a Japanese-style spicy mayo are remarkably similar to what one would encounter at an Izaka-ya, and Lava Wings ($4 for a half dozen, $7 for a dozen) are a lip-numbing bite courtesy of their sticky overcoat laced with Sriarcha, Thai bird chili, jalapeño, and chipotle.

With a cold glass of Wyder’s Pear Cider, a sweet soda-like beer that would likely make beef aficionados roll their eyes in disapproval, I found myself more relaxed than I have been in ages. I wasn’t worrying about whether I was getting enough vegetables or whether my car was still okay at the meter on Las Palmas. I was enjoying a moment outside of myself – at a place outside of my usual trajectory.

I gladly accepted a second cider when the offer was made and gladly latched on to the Duke Burger ($8) when a platter of the ambitiously-topped ground chuck sandwiches and accompanying Maui onion potato chips arrived at the table. Despite the heavy application of flare that includes house teriyaki sauce, grilled Dole pineapple, spicy mayo, suno muno cucumbers, cheddar cheese, and cayenne candied bacon, the overall package works. It’s a somewhat absurd combination of ingredients, but completely delightful – particularly with the sweet slabs of thick-cut bacon. I found myself more smitten with the burger than I was with the Huli Nuli Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos ($6) and the Cosmic Teriyaki Bowl ($6) with smoked tofu and vegetables – the two items that I thought would be most appealing to me when I initially studied the two-page menu.

It appears that some time during my evening at Maui and Sons, my tightly wound self unraveled a little bit. I would blame the beer, except no one would actually let me call Wyder Cider, “beer.”

So instead, I’ll blame the setting and the princely hosts who showered me with a feast of fried eats that made me remember what it was like when I considered French fries my favorite vegetable.

It was a well-needed vacation from myself that – traffic obliging – I would gladly return for in the future.

Maui and Sons Bar & Grill
6708 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 463-3130

Note: All menu items listed above were hosted by the restaurant.


Ashley said...

HA-pig and whistle. That one brings back some memories.

Esi said...

lol, this place doesn't sound like you at all. That said, since it's just down the street from my new apt., I'm curious to try the $3 beers...and yeah, Wyder's Cider is not beer :)

Eliza said...

They had me at $3 beers and I don't even drink beer. And it's conveniently walking distance from my apartment.

Bianca said...

I remember reading your tweets about the traffic. It's super brutal so I know how that stress can be. I'm glad you got to unwind, even at an unsuspecting place like this

Gabriel said...

The worst traffic in LA is Always Valentine's day. People feel obligated to do something and Inevitably they all drive to Hollywood for the night. Do what I do, work at home or take a day off work. If you must go out, keep it next to home.

Gastronomer said...

I love this: "vacation from myself." We all need that sometime! Welcome to the delicious world of guilt-free deep-fried fare. I hope you'll stay a while!

Diana said...

Ashley - Shudder. I haven't had a vodka cran since that night. :(

Esi - Yeah yeah yeah, I know! But it's darn tasty and that's all that matters to this mouth! ;)

Eliza - Nice! They have volleyball on Sundays too...

Bianca - It really was terrible! This meal definitely helped perk up my mood!

Gabriel - Now I know, stay far far away from my car on Valentine's Day!

Cathy - I may stay for a while... if you'll join me on my vacay?