cow pig bun: the name is just the beginning

Cow-PIg-BunCow Pig Bun. A restaurant’s name can’t get much more straightforward than that. But the food is far from straightforward at this hip new gastropub in Kihei’s Maui Research & Technology Park, as Charles and I found out on a recent visit.

The brainchild of culinary industry superstars Roger Stettler and Greg Shepherd, Cow Pig Bun opened last September in the space formerly occupied by Cafe Carmen. And the name? “Roger and I were barbecuing some beef and pork one evening,” recalls Greg. “I took a selfie and sent it to a friend with the caption, ‘cow, pig, fun!’ My friend read it as ‘cow, pig, bun.’ Just like that, our restaurant was born! When you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’ve got to have a good name.”

Cow Pig Bun may be “in the middle of nowhere,” but the recent completion of Maui Brewing Company’s brewery and tasting room, located right across the street, has given CPB a proverbial shot in the arm. “The brewery’s opening has definitely been great for our business,” says our server Sharon.

The ambiance at CPB is laid-back chill. Amber-colored wooden tables and chairs, brick-red wainscoting, soft grey walls, and a black ceiling lend warmth; a ginormous stainless-steel fork and spoon duo mounted on the wall gives a folksy touch; and blues-style background music by artists like Keb Mo’ puts you in that “let’s kick back and stay awhile” mood. “Our goal was to create something entirely different from what you typically find on Maui,” says Greg. They’ve definitely succeeded. “Customers tell us CPB reminds them of intimate hangout places in the Pacific Northwest.”

In keeping with its gastropub tenor, CPB’s alcoholic offerings are extensive. In fact, they outnumber the food choices 3 to 1. This is where Greg’s prior experience as a liquor consultant for Southern Wines & Spirits serves him well. CPB’s extensive selection of bourbon, rye, whiskey, and scotch, as well as beers, wines by the glass and by the bottle, flights, and specialty cocktails, ensures there’s something for every palate.

Speaking of specialty cocktails ($12 each), our server Sharon highly recommends Charles and I try one. With clever names like Butchertown (Maker’s Mark, muddled pineapple, Fernet Branca, and fresh lime) and Menehune (Maui’s own Ocean Vodka, elderflower, Prosecco, and passion fruit), you know it’s going to be a libation adventure.

Charles is a Manhattan man, so Sharon recommends he go with the Meat Packing District (Michter’s Rye, Cocchi Americano, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino). When personally delivered by bartender Alan, we find the cocktail to be a gorgeous burnished color with a heavenly aroma. Alan tells us Cocchi Americano contains quinine, which offsets the sweetness of the vermouth. Charles finds the cocktail to be ultra smooth with orange notes. This is no accident. Turns out in addition to the floating spiral-shaped orange peel, the glass has also been rimmed with orange, so you smell its aroma with each sip. “It’s like a tropical version of a Manhattan,” he happily declares.

I’ve chosen the Cannibalistic (Espolon Tequila, pho syrup, fresh lime, Thai basil, and ginger). My glass has been rimmed with paprika, sea salt, and red pepper, which provides a pleasant spicy kick with each sip; the cocktail itself is crisp and refreshing, like limeade for adults.

For our noshing pleasure, Sharon has brought us crispy fried chicharrones (fried pork rinds), along with bacon jam for dipping. The jam is a mighty tasty concoction composed of bacon (naturally), fig, maple syrup, and bourbon. I could easily make a meal out of these, but we have much more cow, pig, and bun to sample!

CPB’s congenial manager Jamie stops by to see how we’d like to approach our tasting experience. “Bring it on!” we tell her, and she does. We begin with the House Burger (80/20 burger patty topped with gruyere cheese, arugula, garlic aioli, caramelized onions, and balsamic reduction, served on focaccia bread—$14). The meat patty has a superb taste, and the other ingredients work together to provide a delectable symphony of flavors. Charles can’t get enough of this burger!

Next, we sink our teeth into the Pedro Burger (beef patty topped with pepper-jack cheese, bourbon picked vegetables, and chipotle sour cream, served on an oh-so-soft brioche bun—$14). It’s spicy, but not too; and the pickled vegetables provide a nice vinegary contrast to the sour cream.

Move over kale—Brussels sprouts are the new “it” vegetable. CPB’s version ($10) is deep fried, then sautéed in sweet soy sauce, and garnished with carrots and bacon. It’s rich, earthy, and soul satisfying. What a great way to get your greens!

Sharon brings our next round of burgers: The Bacon Jam (this time the patty is topped with blue cheese, onion, and bacon jam, and served on that lovely brioche bun—$16) and the Mushroom Burger (mushrooms, goat cheese, arugula pesto, and sriracha aioli, also on brioche—$16). The Bacon Jam’s bold flavors make for a heavenly mouthful and, hey, who can go wrong with bacon and blue cheese, right? The Mushroom Burger is a lovely blend of flavors with the arugula pesto providing just the right amount of brightness to counterbalance the mushrooms’ earthiness.

Greg stops by to make sure we’re enjoying our feast. He brings up the absence of french fries on the menu, explaining that the recycled-air kitchen ventilation system makes it impractical to do french fries. “So we do chicharrones instead,” he says. “They actually cleanse the palate much like white rice offsets salty Hawaiian foods.” Charles and I have no issue with the lack of fries, as the chicharrones are definitely off the hook fabulous!

We dig into another side dish—Mac N Cheese ($8). It’s ooey, gooey, rich, and bacon-ey. What’s not to love here?

CPG’s burgers feature beef patties from Brandt Beef in California. The only other restaurant on Maui that uses Brandt beef is Duo at the Four Seasons Resort in Wailea. I’ve had the filet at Duo, and it was the most flavorful beef I’ve ever tasted. Greg says CPB’s patties are cryovaced by Brandt and shipped fresh to CPB, so they’re fresh—never frozen.

Greg tells us CPB has become the late-night hangout for local chefs. “The other night Cameron [Lewark of Spago], Isaac [Bancaco of Ka‘ana Kitchen] Sheldon [Simeon of MiGrant], and Jeff [Scheer of Maui Executive Catering] were hanging out at the bar and munching on our sandwiches. Sheldon says our Banh Mi [$16] is the best in the entire state. When chefs hang out in your restaurant, you know you’re on the right track.”

Greg says we have to try one more sandwich: The BBQ Pork ($12). It features not just pulled pork but also, drum roll please, pork belly. Caramelized onion and coleslaw round out this decadent delight that’s served on a crunchy baguette.

CPB hosts “Knife Fights” the second Saturday of every month (Saturday, March 14 is the next one) featuring three dishes, two local chefs, one hour, and one main ingredient. The $5 per person cover charge is donated to the Maui Culinary Academy. It’s a fun late-night, one-hour cooking competition based on the TV show on Esquire Network hosted by Ilan Hall. Call Cow Pig Bun at 875-8100 for more information. Find Cow Pig Bun on Facebook to stay current with everything happening there!

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Cow Pig Bun, Maui’s hot new gastropub, serving gourmet burgers, sandwiches, and libations in a low-key, kick-back environment.

WHERE •

In Kihei’s Maui Research & Technology Park, 535 Lipoa Parkway, Suite 100.

WHEN •

Open daily from 11am to 12 midnight.

HOW •

Reservations are not accepted at CPB.

For more information please call 875-8100. You may also “Like” them on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/cowpigbun to stay up to date on new happenings.

 

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