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Lahaina, Maui: Part 1

Every visit to Maui, I take a collection of record shots — photos of places that I have photographed before — for the purpose of a record that I can refer to as things change over time.

On this day, I was visiting Lahaina for that very purpose. This spot is along the sea wall at the north end of the business district on Front Street.

Not much has changed in Lahaina since my previous visit — the economic recession that has devastated the mainland has hit the islands equally hard. That "dream vacation" has been put on hold for many families resulting in fewer hotel rooms occupied and fewer restaurant meals served and so on.

Fortunately, most of the more established companies have the resources to survive a turndown for a while. Longhi's opened in 1976 and seems to be still going strong, having expanded to another location at Wailea, Maui and one on O`ahu.

Some interesting information is displayed on their website — "Longhi's has won numerous awards for its outstanding food, extensive wine list and excellent service. In this traditionally family-run business, the high standards are maintained by general manager Peter Longhi on Maui and Charlie Longhi on Oahu, Bob's sons. In terms of atmosphere, Longhi's Restaurants are simply some of the most beautiful restaurants in the world, with a magical energy that reflects its charismatic patriarch, one of the great personalities of our time."

Nearby on the ocean side of Front Street is Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., founded on the popularity of the movie Forest Gump. Personally, I always enjoy the Shrimper's Net Catch — 2/3 pound of shrimp, steamed in beer and perfected with garlic spice (my favorite) or Secret Recipe Cajun spice. And you can enjoy the aroma for days — you can't wash it off your hands — it has to wear off.

And between visits to Maui, one can still enjoy their cuisine at more than 30 restaurants in the chain, worldwide.

Across the street is the Hard Rock Cafe, serving their legendary burgers and other Americana cuisine. I enjoy their food but when I am on Maui, I tend to want to concentrate on seafood — more on that below.

This restaurant is located in the Lahaina Center — a collection of shops, restaurants and services. The larger businesses (especially those with deep pockets) have survived reasonably well but the center does show some of the impact of the recession with a number of storefronts vacant both now and at the time of my previous visit two years ago.

Still standing vigil outside the Crazy Shirt shop on Front street is Master Gates — obviously a whaler as evidenced by the harpoon he holds. I am a long-time collector of Crazy Shirts, with more than 50 of their T-shirts in my wardrobe, acquired both when I lived on Maui and during my frequent visits. And I do wear them — Arizona's warm weather and informality provide an ample opportunity for that.

This particular Crazy Shirt store is quite unique in its decor and accoutrements. On display are many original works of island art and historical photos. One of the significant items on display is the original figurehead from the Carthaginian, the old replica whaling ship that was moored in the Lahaina harbor for many years — but which deteriorated beyond repair and was subsequently towed offshore and sunk to provide an artificial reef and diving destination.

Across the street is the Wo Hing Museum built in 1912 as a temple. By the 1940s, most of the Chinese residents in the area had moved to O`ahu and the temple fell into disrepair. In 1983, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation took steps to restore this valuable historic site. Under a long-term agreement with the Wo Hing Society, the Foundation provided the money and people to bring the temple back to life and operate it as a museum.

In addition to the restored temple, there is a cookhouse on the grounds in which they show films of Hawai`i taken by Thomas Edison in 1898 and 1906.

As promised above, let's talk about seafood. One of my favorite spots is Kimo's. The entrance from Front Street is quite small but the restaurant opens up in back both on the street level and upstairs — the latter offering some stunning views of the Pacific.

The menu generally offers around half a dozen fresh deep ocean fish, the exact variety depends on the season. The names — Ono, A`u, Monchong, Ahi, Mahi Mahi, Opah, Opakapaka, etc. will seem strange at first but the wait staff does a great job of explaining what each one is and what it tastes like.

For dessert, you have to give serious consideration to the Hula Pie — which the restaurant claims is "what the sailers swam to shore for". And who am I to dispute such a claim? The pie is constructed of a crust of crushed Oreo cookies (the hard chocolate part, not the filling), rich macadamia nut ice cream, smothered with hot fudge, sprinkled with crushed macadamia nuts and topped with whipped cream.

Thanks to my Phoenix friend, Dr. Robert Spies, for holding the pie while I operated the camera. He, his wife and I met for lunch at Kimo's and we shared a slice of Hula Pie. Diane was saving her sweet tooth for some gelato, so Bob and I tried without success to polish off the pie — too big for one, maybe (as in our case) for two. And doggy bags do not work well with ice cream.

Bob is a plastic surgeon and I suggest that he consider opening up a clinic right next door offering liposuction for people who overindulge in the Hula Pie. I am certain his practice would be very lucrative there.

For the landlubber, just down the street is Cheeseburger in Paradise. According to Wikipedia, this is part of a chain by the name of Cheeseburger Restaurants — the one in Lahaina being named the same as the Jimmy Buffett song.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Buffett was also involved in creating a chain of Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants and naturally, the legal battles ensued. It was eventually settled allowing the owners of the two restaurants in Hawai`i (this one on Maui and another on O`ahu) to continue to use the name but not for any new locations.

Meanwhile the other chain has been purchased by another company but pays Buffett 4% of it profits in perpetuity. I would say that is a pretty good gig if you can get it.

Along this section of Front Street is a very pleasant sidewalk overlooking a miniscule beach, the base of the sidewalk also providing a seawall for the waves washing ashore at this spot.

Looking down (hard to do with such a beautiful ocean view which includes the island of Lana`i off in the distance), one can see a few rocks embedded in the sand covered with seaweed and opihi (AKA limpets). These are a kind of snail with a very flat conical shell. They were a popular food source for the Hawai`ian people although collecting them in the crashing surf can be dangerous. I have eaten them at a luau and they are quite tasty.

Some of the volcanic rocks are pitch black but provide a habitat for black crabs called A`ama. They have evolved a black coloration that makes them very difficult to spot on such rocks. This shot benefits from the sun being low in the sky, reflecting off the crab shells at a slightly different angle than the rocks. At mid-day, most folks will never see them — although if you know where to look and you do so carefully you will eventually see them as they scurry about looking for food.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com