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Lahaina Beach House: easy living under the hard sun

It has resisted becoming sparkled up and commercial cool, even though it’s on prime oceanfront property

Deck scene.
Deck scene.

It’s heading towards nine in the am. People stand around impatiently, shoulders hunched, hands in pockets, looking up the steps to the deck like they’re waiting for the return of David Bowie. They’re about that age.

“Nine o’clock, dude!” shouts this one guy finally. “I need my shot!”

“I need my everything omelet!” yells this other guy. “Got a long day!”

The heart of the matter: 1/2lb burger and the Hawaii sauce.

We’re at the foot of the steps of one of the best-known eatery-drinkeries in PB. Yet I’m pleased to see that this is the one that got away: it has resisted becoming sparkled up and commercial-cool, even though it’s on prime oceanfront property. It has a surfing school on one side and, wow, spare land on the other. Pretty incredible for this part of town.

Pretty incredible too that an old converted beach house hasn’t been replaced by multi-story condos, because, oh man, the site must be worth a million bucks on its own. But here it is, Lahaina Beach House, looking out over an uninterrupted view of the beach, the waves, the surfers, the ocean, and clear to the other side of da woild, feels like. Only thing is, just now, this time of morning, it’s still kind of chilly out here. And three bins still block the stairway up to the deck.

Finally, a guy comes down and rolls the bins away. We crowd up the steps.

“They don’t screw you here,” guy next to me says. “Talking $3.50 pints. Start your day off right!”

The deck. Least crowded first thing in the morning.

At the bar, the “shot” guy is getting his shot. My neighbor’s saying, “Usual. Bud.” “What about you, bud?” the bartender asks me. “I’ll have a Bud, bud,” I reply. Then we’re over with the crowd on the food side, jiggling to the hip hop as we wait to order.

It’s a basic kitchen with a million-dollar view and a nice full-width griddle so they can make beaucoup burgers at the same time. Me, I figure I’ll go for their basic: eggs and potatoes with bacon (or sausage, but I go bacon) and toast. Costs $11.

Quesadilla make surprisingly filling breakfast.

Uh oh. These guys are cash only. I have just enough to cover my costs. But the cash thing does kinda ring of a place from another time. Its own island. I head out to the sun-splashed balcony. “No alcohol off deck,” says this sign in a way that you can’t ignore it. I settle at one of the wobbly tables they’ve dotted around the space. And it’s just as well I brought my hat. Sun’s getting intense. No sign of umbrellas anywhere. But oh man. This view! Lifeguard Tower 23 is just south of us. And on the right, a couple dozen black wetsuits are strung out to dry on the fence at the PB Surf Shop. More students are getting ready for their lessons. They’re all wearing aquamarine T-shirts, mainly so the instructor can count them.

Of course, it’s only after I get time to really look at the menu that I see what I could have had. For starters, their “U-Call-It” omelets: The key phrase here is “prepared with your choice of any or all of the following: bacon, ham, sausage, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and cheese. Toast included.” Costs $12. Or a large chorizo beef burrito with scrambled eggs, cheese and potatoes. Also costs $12, and, under “cakes,” mixed berry pancakes, filled with blueberries and topped with strawberries and whipped cream and powdered sugar of course, for $10.

So I shoulda looked before I leapt. But the eggs, potatoes, and bacon are just fine. Place is starting to fill up, even at this hour. The great blue lake stretching out below us makes us all feel like a flock of birds blown in from somewhere else. Also, most are drinking already, so people are happier than they should be at breakfast time. Guess it’s hair-of-the-dog time.

Chicken Caesar salad.

And the guys working here are an interesting bunch. “I lived for years with my family in Costa Rica,” says Jarrett, one of the cooks. “Loved it. Came back because of school for our kids. But do I miss it? Oh yes.” Somehow the take-it-easy hippie vibe he exudes just nails what it is about Lahaina that I really like. Besides, it makes conversations interesting. Next day, I’m back. Too late for brekky (It stops at 11:30), so I get a burger. Mainly because, for like $12, they give you a half-pound patty, and this being the Lahaina, I have to make it the Hawaiian, also because it has a slice of pineapple on top, completely coated with a creamy sauce. And of course, underneath is this giant chunk of beautifully marinated beef. It does taste great, and maybe it’s the sea breezes up here, but the whole flavor feels, well, Hawaiian. That creamy sauce: I bet it’s mayo, teriyaki, honey maybe? Touch of cayenne?

Whatever, we get to talking things Hawaiian as I chomp into this and the six giant breaded onion rings you get with it, and this gent knocking back a beer just lets it drop that “Lahaina” is a name that means “hard sun.” I’m about to go “Huh,” and move on, when he says “‘La’ means ‘sun.’ Same as ‘Ra.’”

Wow. Penny drops. The same word for “sun” in Hawaii as in ancient Egypt? That is... mind-boggling! Now I don’t wanna leave. I knew I had good feelings about this place. Just like Hawaii itself. It must have been a crossroads for longer than we can imagine. Hey, are Hawaiians Egyptians? Or are Egyptians Hawaiians?

Maybe if I can come back tomorrow and eat a blueberry-stuffed, strawberry-topped pancake, we can get to the bottom of this mystery. Or not. Either way, I can still get to the bottom of the pancake.

  • The Place: Lahaina Beach House, 710 Oliver Court, Pacific Beach, 858-270-3888
  • Hours: 8:30am-8:30pm daily (But check. They’re having trouble finding cooks).
  • Prices: Sunrise sandwich (stuffed with eggs, cheddar, sausage or bacon), U-Call-It omelets, $12; Lahaina Scramble (with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, fruit, $11; mixed berry pancakes, $10; chili dog, $7; TJ bacon-wrapped dog, $8; wings, $10; coconut shrimp and chips; grilled chicken Caesar salad, $12; fish tacos, $12; Hawaiian Burger, with half-pound patty, slice of pineapple on top, $12; teriyaki mahi sandwich, $12
  • Buses: 8, 30
  • Nearest bus stops: Mission Boulevard at Hornblend
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Deck scene.
Deck scene.

It’s heading towards nine in the am. People stand around impatiently, shoulders hunched, hands in pockets, looking up the steps to the deck like they’re waiting for the return of David Bowie. They’re about that age.

“Nine o’clock, dude!” shouts this one guy finally. “I need my shot!”

“I need my everything omelet!” yells this other guy. “Got a long day!”

The heart of the matter: 1/2lb burger and the Hawaii sauce.

We’re at the foot of the steps of one of the best-known eatery-drinkeries in PB. Yet I’m pleased to see that this is the one that got away: it has resisted becoming sparkled up and commercial-cool, even though it’s on prime oceanfront property. It has a surfing school on one side and, wow, spare land on the other. Pretty incredible for this part of town.

Pretty incredible too that an old converted beach house hasn’t been replaced by multi-story condos, because, oh man, the site must be worth a million bucks on its own. But here it is, Lahaina Beach House, looking out over an uninterrupted view of the beach, the waves, the surfers, the ocean, and clear to the other side of da woild, feels like. Only thing is, just now, this time of morning, it’s still kind of chilly out here. And three bins still block the stairway up to the deck.

Finally, a guy comes down and rolls the bins away. We crowd up the steps.

“They don’t screw you here,” guy next to me says. “Talking $3.50 pints. Start your day off right!”

The deck. Least crowded first thing in the morning.

At the bar, the “shot” guy is getting his shot. My neighbor’s saying, “Usual. Bud.” “What about you, bud?” the bartender asks me. “I’ll have a Bud, bud,” I reply. Then we’re over with the crowd on the food side, jiggling to the hip hop as we wait to order.

It’s a basic kitchen with a million-dollar view and a nice full-width griddle so they can make beaucoup burgers at the same time. Me, I figure I’ll go for their basic: eggs and potatoes with bacon (or sausage, but I go bacon) and toast. Costs $11.

Quesadilla make surprisingly filling breakfast.

Uh oh. These guys are cash only. I have just enough to cover my costs. But the cash thing does kinda ring of a place from another time. Its own island. I head out to the sun-splashed balcony. “No alcohol off deck,” says this sign in a way that you can’t ignore it. I settle at one of the wobbly tables they’ve dotted around the space. And it’s just as well I brought my hat. Sun’s getting intense. No sign of umbrellas anywhere. But oh man. This view! Lifeguard Tower 23 is just south of us. And on the right, a couple dozen black wetsuits are strung out to dry on the fence at the PB Surf Shop. More students are getting ready for their lessons. They’re all wearing aquamarine T-shirts, mainly so the instructor can count them.

Of course, it’s only after I get time to really look at the menu that I see what I could have had. For starters, their “U-Call-It” omelets: The key phrase here is “prepared with your choice of any or all of the following: bacon, ham, sausage, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and cheese. Toast included.” Costs $12. Or a large chorizo beef burrito with scrambled eggs, cheese and potatoes. Also costs $12, and, under “cakes,” mixed berry pancakes, filled with blueberries and topped with strawberries and whipped cream and powdered sugar of course, for $10.

So I shoulda looked before I leapt. But the eggs, potatoes, and bacon are just fine. Place is starting to fill up, even at this hour. The great blue lake stretching out below us makes us all feel like a flock of birds blown in from somewhere else. Also, most are drinking already, so people are happier than they should be at breakfast time. Guess it’s hair-of-the-dog time.

Chicken Caesar salad.

And the guys working here are an interesting bunch. “I lived for years with my family in Costa Rica,” says Jarrett, one of the cooks. “Loved it. Came back because of school for our kids. But do I miss it? Oh yes.” Somehow the take-it-easy hippie vibe he exudes just nails what it is about Lahaina that I really like. Besides, it makes conversations interesting. Next day, I’m back. Too late for brekky (It stops at 11:30), so I get a burger. Mainly because, for like $12, they give you a half-pound patty, and this being the Lahaina, I have to make it the Hawaiian, also because it has a slice of pineapple on top, completely coated with a creamy sauce. And of course, underneath is this giant chunk of beautifully marinated beef. It does taste great, and maybe it’s the sea breezes up here, but the whole flavor feels, well, Hawaiian. That creamy sauce: I bet it’s mayo, teriyaki, honey maybe? Touch of cayenne?

Whatever, we get to talking things Hawaiian as I chomp into this and the six giant breaded onion rings you get with it, and this gent knocking back a beer just lets it drop that “Lahaina” is a name that means “hard sun.” I’m about to go “Huh,” and move on, when he says “‘La’ means ‘sun.’ Same as ‘Ra.’”

Wow. Penny drops. The same word for “sun” in Hawaii as in ancient Egypt? That is... mind-boggling! Now I don’t wanna leave. I knew I had good feelings about this place. Just like Hawaii itself. It must have been a crossroads for longer than we can imagine. Hey, are Hawaiians Egyptians? Or are Egyptians Hawaiians?

Maybe if I can come back tomorrow and eat a blueberry-stuffed, strawberry-topped pancake, we can get to the bottom of this mystery. Or not. Either way, I can still get to the bottom of the pancake.

  • The Place: Lahaina Beach House, 710 Oliver Court, Pacific Beach, 858-270-3888
  • Hours: 8:30am-8:30pm daily (But check. They’re having trouble finding cooks).
  • Prices: Sunrise sandwich (stuffed with eggs, cheddar, sausage or bacon), U-Call-It omelets, $12; Lahaina Scramble (with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, fruit, $11; mixed berry pancakes, $10; chili dog, $7; TJ bacon-wrapped dog, $8; wings, $10; coconut shrimp and chips; grilled chicken Caesar salad, $12; fish tacos, $12; Hawaiian Burger, with half-pound patty, slice of pineapple on top, $12; teriyaki mahi sandwich, $12
  • Buses: 8, 30
  • Nearest bus stops: Mission Boulevard at Hornblend
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