Picture a white, oval platter. On one side stretch out a glistening, mahogany brown half chicken. Watch as two long, thick beef spareribs (also deep red brown) climb in to spoon her from plump breast to tender thigh. Two bowls cuddle; creamed green beans piled with crispy onions; steaming baked beans. When we taste the slow-smoked, top-notch Oklahoma-style barbecue at Beach Bum’s, it’s like watching Wilma Flintstone make food love to Fred. Delicious, guilty pleasure in a setting that — while the Harbor is under construction — might resemble the Stone Age. Smoking meat is a particular art form, one which takes both talent and patience.
Beef ribs are rubbed out with a homemade spice mix before slow-cooking in the smoker. A half day later they emerge with long flanks charred and tender pink insides. They fall off their bone; they’re done. That so-seductive chicken is massaged with spices, wrapped in bacon, and set astraddle an open can of beer. She relaxes in the smoker’s privacy while the liquid gold tenderizes her flesh and her cloak of bacon keeps the juices in. There is no basting in the smokehouse tradition, so meats and sauces are judged as separate arts. Unfortunately, in our judgment neither of the two house barbecue sauces is a winner.
The “spicy” is undistinguished except for a spiky mesquite flavor; the “mild” is sunk with too-sweet guava. (Combined, they make a decent sauce.) All rubs, sauces, and sides are made in house, which we always admire in a tourist area. James, our Southern Boy, finds the comfort of home in the creamy green beans — but he adds a dash of salt. Molly’s Boston roots want mustard added to the baked beans to dial down the sweet flavor — but she loves their tender texture. Fries are commercial shoestrings (but crispy), the mac-n-cheese average, the salads fresh but uninspired. The open-air bar is often packed with rowdy local sports fans, but the service is still happy-touristy for the sunburned visitors dazzled by their Molokini snorkeling.
We can put up with the toothy smiles (“Hey, how was your day? Where are you visiting from??) … … As long as the drinks still come fast and they check in regularly. NB: Our ratings are for the barbecue, not the rest of the menu.
Address: 300 Ma’alaea Rd., Ma’alaea, Central Maui
Location: in the Ma’alaea Harbor Shops on the lower level, facing the harbor
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hours: Daily 8am-9pm