Sometimes it’s fun to knowingly walk into a time warp, and when that’s what we want, we eat at Makawao Steak House, which feels exactly like an upscale-rural steak house, circa 1975. The cozy lounge features a big wood-burning fireplace that is necessary in the winter months. You can order the full menu here, and the service is just as good as it is in the restaurant proper (which is to say unpretentious, relatively efficient, and usually friendly). The several dining rooms slowly fill up with rough-riding, sunburnt paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys), who’ve cleaned up for a night on the town. A tidy, charming room in back is reserved for high tea — a favorite for birthdays and bridal showers.
There are no surprises on the menu: big steaks, jumbo prawns, and a sprawling, quivery prime rib. The sides are limited but acceptable, and the salad bar is an almost frightening relic from the era we’re revisiting: Iceberg lettuce, shaved carrots, sliced cucumbers, commercial croutons, ramekins of sunflower seeds and raisins, commercial dressings you ladle over your plate … everything you could have wanted before you found out about heirloom tomatoes. Your server will likely recommend the calamari appetizer, an odd combo of fried, breaded calamari steak and caper butter sauce. We feel funny about this dish — the same way we feel about marshmallow cream. It’s tasty but not quite right in its core; we feel guilty after eating it.
The wine list is not creative, but it has a decent selection. Don’t expect guidance from the restaurant about what to eat or drink. As one waitress said to a friend of ours playing big city foodie, “your options are laid out on the menu and are self-explanatory.” Desserts are basically mountains of whip cream, chocolate, and ice cream.
So why eat here? One reason: the prime rib. Pink through and through, it’s tender enough to sever with the edge of your fork, and served in two sizes: huge and gargantuan. While tucking away half of your portion, your mind will helplessly stray to the delicious sandwich you’ll make tomorrow for lunch with the other half. The accompanying horseradish cream could be spicier and the jus less salty, but in all truth the meat is as good as we’ve had at a Four Seasons buffet — for far less coin. It comes with rice, which we swap out for creamy garlic mashed potatoes. After gorging ourselves on this (and skipping dessert) we step out into the cool, crisp air on Makawao’s main drag and look up at the spangly night stars. If you remember what the night skies looked like in 1975, you probably remember stars like these.
Address: 3612 Baldwin Ave., Makawao, Upcountry
Hours: Nightly 5:30pm-9pm