leoda’s kitchen and pie shop: food like grandma used to make… only better

Situated on the Honoapi‘ilani Highway in Olowalu, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop is like a roadhouse offering respite for weary travelers making their way to Lahaina. Okay, so it’s not that far, but you can still work up an appetite driving to the west side. And anyway, isn’t anytime the perfect time for pie?

The newest brainchild of Na Hoaloha Ekolu (“The Three Friends”), the company that also owns Old Lahaina Lu‘au, Aloha Mixed Plate, and Star Noodle, Leoda’s offers good ol’ home cooking in an old-timey atmosphere reminiscent of days gone by in Olowalu. The space that used to be occupied by Chez Paul has been completely transformed, with the help of Viking Construction, into an entirely unique new concept. “When Chez Paul closed, we felt it was a really exciting opportunity to establish a new destination eatery,” says Michael Moore, president of Na Hoaloha Ekolu. “We wanted to create a comfortable, homey atmosphere that feels both nostalgic and modern at the same time.”

They succeeded. The sleek and spacious kitchen, walk-up counter, and glass case displaying enticing baked goods speak to the modern element, while the remainder of the decor pays homage to Olowalu’s past. “We used a lot of repurposed materials,” Michael says, “like the colorful wall comprised of old barn and house siding [it’s fabulous!], tables made of decking from a barge that used to ply the waters around the Islands, and a hutch built out of materials from a wall inside the old Chez Paul.”

Joanne and I have brought our appetites to Leoda’s, and we’re ready to dig in. Sitting at one of the wooden picnic-style tables, we immediately notice how cool it is inside this restaurant. Hooray for air conditioning! We begin with the Fried Salad ($6.75)—fried Brussels sprout leaves, mixed hydroponic greens, celery leaves, radish, and local mint dressed with burnt orange vinaigrette. It’s a little slice of heaven on a plate! The Brussels sprout leaves melt in my mouth without any bitter aftertaste, and the vinaigrette is light and complementary (I personally enjoy the taste of greens and prefer they not be overpowered by dressing). This salad is both sweet and savory at the same time, and I love, love, love the radishes—one of my absolute favorite vegetables.

Leoda’s also has a tempting-looking cobb salad on the menu ($10.00), which you don’t often see on Maui menus. Their version is comprised of local baby romaine, watercress, oven roasted tomatoes, avocado, applewood bacon, Kula onion, marinated black olives, Launiupoko hard boiled eggs, blue cheese, and garlic croutons, all served with buttermilk dressing and a slice of house bread. Wowza!

Next we dive into one of Leoda’s signature menu items: the chicken pot pie ($8.50). Who doesn’t love chicken pot pie? It’s comfort food at its finest. Leoda’s version has a delicate crust that’s baked to a crispy golden brown; inside are tender chunks of chicken breast, peas, carrots, and kale (yes, kale!), all enveloped in a creamy veloute. The vegetables are perfectly cooked—not at all mushy—and the ratio of filling to crust is ideal.

Leoda’s has a nice selection of sandwiches and burgers, served on freshly baked bread or signature potato bun. Believe me…this place is a bread lover’s paradise. “Before we opened Leoda’s, the baking team, along with Executive Chef Sheldon Simeon, traveled to do a bread-baking intensive at the famed Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan,” says Michael. This is one investment that has paid off handsomely, in my humble opinion. You can even purchase a loaf or two of your new favorite butter white, hapa, rye, or seasonal whole grain bread to enjoy later at home.

We’ve ordered the seared ahi sandwich ($15.00), fresh sashimi grade tuna served on grilled rye bread, with avocado, caramelized Kula onion, jarlsberg cheese, local basil pesto, garlic aioli, and watercress. The ruby-red fish is perfectly seared on the outside and rare on the inside, the bread is thick and decadent, and the watercress adds a nice crunch factor.

We also try the “ham’n…” sandwich ($13.25)—a killer combination of buttered rye bread, duroc ham, jarlsberg cheese, local basil pesto, apricot-tomato jam, and garlic aioli. This sandwich is positively addictive—I could eat it every day and be a very happy girl. The combination of ingredients is downright masterful, and the zesty apricot-tomato jam…oh my goodness: every bite is a little explosion of flavors.

Sandwiches are served in a metal pie tin on light brown parchment paper, adding to the overall homey atmosphere at Leoda’s. If you prefer to build your own sandwich, you can choose your bread, cheese, veggies, and meat. Tempting burger choices include the blue cheese burger ($11.75) and the patty melt ($12.25), another of my favorites you don’t often see on Maui. Hoagies, hot dogs, side orders like fried mac ‘n’ cheese ($5.75) and scalloped potatoes ($4.75), and a keiki menu round out the menu of main events.

Since the restaurant is called Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, it’s practically mandatory that we try some pie. You can choose a 3” mini pie for $4.75, or go for a 5” regular pie with seven different delectable fillings ($7.50 to $8.75). We’re pretty full at this point, so we try a mini coconut cream and a macnut chocolate praline. Once again, these guys know how to do crust, and the fillings are simply yummy.

Leoda’s also offers a selection of hand held pies, both sweet (two choices) and savory (three choices)—$4.00 to $7.75. I’ve heard rumors that the sweet berry hand held pie, with blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries, is positively the bomb. The one with carnitas, cotija, cilantro, and pico de gallo looks mighty tempting for a Mexican food lover such as myself. There’ll be plenty of goodies still to choose from on my next visit to Leoda’s.

Of course no story about this restaurant would be complete without an answer to this question: “Who is Leoda?” “We wanted a name that felt old-fashioned, but also had a connection to Olowalu,” Michael says. “One of our founding partners, Robert Aguilar, spent many summers visiting cousins in Olowalu from his home in ‘Aiea. His mother’s name, Leoda, seemed a perfect fit. There are photos of her, as well as several depicting other folks connected with Olowalu, hanging in the hallway.”

It seems Na Hoaloha Ekolu has another hit on their hands. “In our organization, we’re not that interested in replicating an existing concept or venue,” says Michael. “This location lent itself to something completely different and fresh.” After our satisfying meal at Leoda’s, Joanne and I can see why it’s the talk of the town. And the thoughtfully conceived menu is yet another example of Chef Sheldon Simeon’s talent for using local ingredient to make stellar creations. This talented, yet humble, chef’s list of professional accolades just keeps on growing including, mostly recently, his nomination for Food & Wine magazine’s annual “The People’s Best New Chef” contest for 2012. Rock on, Chef Sheldon!

–heidi pool





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