Three’s Bar & Grill is owned by three ambitious chef-owners, each of whom has his own perspective on food (Pacific Rim, Hawaiian, and Southwestern). When it first opened in 2010, we were exhausted just trying to read the almost terrifyingly sprawling menu. Each cuisine was so thoroughly represented that trying to figure out what to order was next to impossible, and the kitchen struggled to send out consistently delicious dishes. We feared these young chefs — who also have a catering business together — were more focused on protecting their own dishes than figuring out what their customers wanted to eat. The menu — and most of the dishes — needed some serious editing.
Our fears were unfounded. Over the months the menu became tighter and more focused, while the font increased and the number of pages shrank. They’ve pared out the less successful dishes — these cuisines don’t always blend well — and developed an interesting offering. Their original slogan, “Wailea food at Kihei prices” has not exactly been lived up to — they have a way to go before their product is “Wailea” great — but the prices are indeed reasonable. (Entrees are usually under $16.) These owner chefs clearly care about their business, their customers, and their food, and we see ample evidence that they will only continue to improve as time goes on.
We like anything that pairs the kalua pork and sweet CoCoNut Porter barbecue sauce: they come as a sandwich (with Asian slaw) and in a quesadilla (with spiced mango chutney). Sweet, smoky, messy … we are glad these dishes have survived every menu iteration. We also like their buildit-yourself burger. The coconut-crusted fish sandwich (whatever’s available that day) is also nice, and comes with a tasty pineapple Asian slaw. The specialty fries are worth the upgrade — we like the sweet potato and the roasted garlic.
The papaya salsa on the fresh fish preparation is the perfect sweet counterpart to the blackened crust, and the “deluxe” Hawaiian loco moco is the best representation of this staple we’ve had. This dish is not for the faint of heart (and we have to share it). Eight ounces of burger, two eggs (your choice of style, we like over easy), and onion rings come over sushi rice. The wild mushroom gravy is flavorful and earthy, and the bacon just pushes this to the limit. It’s also available for breakfast, and we’ve seen more than one single guy polish it off before heading to work. (Or surf.)
The ribs come flavored by a nice rub and slathered with a sweet-heat barbecue sauce (guava and chipotle), plus wasabi mashed potatoes and that Asian slaw. We skip the flatbreads, which have been soggy too often.
Salads are fresh, and the lilikoi vinaigrette is tart, but not too. The sushi is good, if you’re in the mood, and the wasabi cocktail sauce that comes with the raw oysters is very nice. We like that you can order one oyster at a time, rather than committing to a whole plate. This flexibility is carried into the dessert end of the menu, too, where there are several tiny little desserts offered for only $3. The price is right, but they’re not skimpy on the presentation or ingredients: just miniaturized. One of their teensy sundaes carefully topped with whipped cream and hot fudge, and a cup of their excellent coffee make a satisfying end to a meal. The prices are low enough that we don’t mind spending a little more on these “extras.”
That coffee — an excellent blend from Maui Oma, the local roaster — is part of what brings us back in for breakfast. We like the egg breakfasts best, because they are most consistent. The French toast is candy-sweet (caramelized on the edges) and we just don’t find the guava jelly and lilikoi cream cheese fillings appealing. The pancakes have ranged from fantastically delicious to passable to inedible on three separate occasions. The Benedicts are solid, and the lobster Benedict, if you can stomach it for breakfast, is almost too-silly luxury … but for $15.95, not a bad deal.
Service is good and seems efficient, although we have to say we have rarely been able to experience it without a chef-owner stopping by at least once to see how we are being treated. We’re not sure if they treat all of their customers this way or if it’s because they know who we are. (James judged a cooking competition that Chef Cody Christopher won, right around the time this place opened.) It’s certain that one of the reasons this restaurant continues to improve is because the chef owners are invested in its success — and at least one of them is always on-site.
The restaurant is located in the old Bada Bing! location, and they wisely gutted the wreck and made the interior welcoming and level-floored and well-lit. There’s a large lounge area to the left, separate from the rest of the restaurant, with a big bar, comfortable couches, and lots of live music. If you’re wondering where the night life is on Maui, it’s here — their permit allows dancing and serving alcohol until a crazy-late 2am.
To the right as you enter is the small dining room — which feels more like a hall, and probably was at some point — and an outdoor lanai that is breezy (sometimes too breezy) during lunch, but shady and pretty during breakfast, and cool at dinner. Unfortunately, the large tree that shades it also drops all over the lanai. This and the wind blowing in dirt and sand make it almost impossible to feel clean. Every time we visit, we notice the dirt on the lanai and around the front entrance of the still rather ramshackle building. Someone should be sweeping up at least once a day, and probably twice, and a power wash once in a while wouldn’t hurt. For this reason, sitting inside, for us, is nicer, even if it is a bit stuffy and loud when the music is pumping in the lounge.
The very reasonable prices, generally good food, and excellent cocktails (try the margarita) make this a good choice for families and anyone else looking for a decent meal that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Address: 1945 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, South Maui
Location: In Kalama Village, near Serendipity.
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch Wed-Sun, Dinner
Hours: Daily Mon-Tues 3pm-10pm, Wed-Sun 8:30am-10pm