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Famous Dave’s brings award-winning barbecue to Lahaina

By Staff | Jan 27, 2011

Head Bartender Mark Chambers (left) and Vice President Prashant Sharan sit before a barbecue meal, including the Feast-For-Two served inside the lid of a new galvanized garbage can raised six inches off the table and featuring spareribs, chicken, beef brisket, cole slaw, fries, beans, corn on the cob and cornbread muffins. Photo by Rob Reed.

LAHAINA — If you are strolling along Front Street’s oceanfront wall in downtown Lahaina and have a hunger pang, just “direct your feet to the mauka side of the street,” and you’ll see a large, colorful sign proclaiming “Famous Dave’s.”

Just a few easy steps up to the second level and you’ve discovered ocean views, picturesque sunsets and the finest Bar-B-Que available in the U.S. and possibly in the world!

Oh yes! Winner of over 500 BBQ awards, Famous Dave’s has received wide acclaim and praise from guests and critics alike!

“We’re excited to be a part of Lahaina Town — we think it’s going to be a great fit,” said Prashant Sharan, vice president of operations for Famous Dave’s in Lahaina.

“We want our guests to know they don’t have to travel the country to find great barbecue — we’ve brought it to Lahaina for them.”

And Dave Anderson, also known as Famous Dave, lives for barbecue. Growing up in Chicago, Dave’s passion for ribs began as a young boy, when his dad would bring ribs home from work in his lunch bucket. His dad would get the best tasting, slow-smoked spareribs from street corner vendors, who used 55-gallon smokers filled with charcoal and smoldering green hickory wood — the hickory wood Dave uses today!

Dave spent more than 25 years of his adult life searching all over the country for the best barbecue and feasting on a variety of smoked meats and sauces available. After many all-night cooking and tasting sessions with thousands of batches of sauces in his home, he finally developed and perfected the best BBQ sauces his friends and family had ever tasted.

Today, there are six award-winning Famous Dave’s sauces representing different regional tastes Dave discovered during his travels throughout America. And my partner and I were privileged to sample these special sauces on a variety of superb barbecue dishes, raising BBQ cuisine to heavenly heights!

In 1994, Dave opened his first Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que Shack in Hayward, Wisconsin, on Round Lake, featuring his slow-smoked ribs and his own secret barbecue sauces. The restaurant was an instant success, serving up to 8,000 people a week in a town of only 1,800!

His honors, blue ribbon awards and recognition over the years are just too numerous to mention on one page, but let’s hear it from the man himself when asked, “How do you make legendary pit barbecue?”

Dave stated, “First, crisscross the country for 25 years finding the best barbecue in America. Then slow-smoke only the finest meats, rub each cut with special sauces and seasonings and finish over an open flame. Finally, create the most award-winning barbecue sauce in history. Before you know it, your barbecue’s legendary and you’re famous — or at least your food is!”

And did we ever feel privileged sampling the immense barbecue feast presented before us!

First, genial Head Bartender Mark “Chewy” Chambers introduced us to a sampling of award-winning sauces: Rich & Sassy, a Midwest tomato-based sauce; Hot & Sassy, a somewhat hotter version; Texas Pit, smoky & mildly spiced; Georgia Mustard, a vinegar, brown sugar, mustard-based sauce commonly found in the Appalachians and Southeastern states; and Sweet & Zesty, a kid-friendly sauce that is not only sweet but delivers full flavor. For hotter versions, Wilbur’s Revenge and Pineapple Rage sneak up on you!

Our banquet began with the All-American BBQ Feast-For-Two. It is so large that it is served inside the lid of a new, shiny galvanized garbage can set up on a stand about six inches high off the table — a feast worthy of a photograph!

Artistically arranged on the lid was a half-slab of St. Louis-style Spareribs; half of a marinated Country-Roasted Bar-B-Qued Chicken; tender and flavorful Texas Beef Brisket; Famous Fries (Russet Potato Wedges); creamy cole slaw; deep, rich-flavored Wilbur Beans; four pieces of corn-on-the-cob; and four Honey-Buttered Cornbread Muffins that melt in your mouth!

Spareribs are just the starter for Dave’s Appetizer Sampler Platter; in addition, enjoy luscious Fried Chicken Tenders, Catfish Fingers breaded in a Cajun-seasoned cornmeal, Onion Strings and Traditional or Boneless Wings with your choice of sauce.

The Not’cho Ordinary Nachos would certainly satisfy a group of hungry diners. Tri-colored tortilla chips are topped with Wilbur Beans, Famous Chili, shredded lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, seasoned sour cream, Rich & Sassy Sauce and your choice of Barbequed Meat, Texas Beef Brisket, Georgia Chopped Pork or Pulled BBQ Chicken Wow! What nachos!!

A serving of tender thighs is featured in the Huli Huli Charcoal Chicken smoldered above a charcoal pit, then slathered with Dave’s own version of Island Style BBQ Sauce and caramelized over an open flame. Dave’s version of an

Island Classic Sauce is using flavors of soy, sesame, garlic, ginger and sweet and hot chilies mingled with brown sugar, honey and lime. It’s accompanied with a creamy macaroni salad full of cheddar cheese, onion, garlic, green pepper and Hellfire Pickles!

Throughout this elaborate feast, either Mark or server Robbie Dunn graciously monitored each selection, assisting us with identifying the herbs, spices and sauces utilized in each fine offering.

The Texas Manhandler is the sandwich that separates the men from the boys: Real Texas Beef Brisket and zesty Hot Link Sausage, sliced thin, piled high and crowned with Hellfire Pickles! As if this wasn’t enough for any hearty diner, for only $3.99, one can add a cup of chili, fresh garden salad or a side caesar salad to any meal! Such a deal!

Dave understands that you can’t wind up with the best-tasting barbecued ribs if you don’t start with the best quality raw product: St. Louis Spareribs. Unlike cheaper quality cuts of ribs you find in most places, this rib is the best available.

Dave’s then takes it a couple steps further to ensure the ribs you get are the most tender and meatiest possible. First, the less-than-tender piece of meat on the underside of the rib, called the skirt, is trimmed away. Second, Dave insists on a slab of ribs of more than two-and-a-half-pounds-plus, rather than the commonly used 1.75-pounders. This large slab of ribs has gained Famous Dave’s the national distinction of being the home of the Big Slab.

I must make a personal comment about the ribs — these were the largest, most meatiest and most tender we’ve ever enjoyed. I could only eat one! This brings up another plus for their ribs. On the menu, they offer three selections of Extra, Extra Large Ribs — the Big Slab with 12 ribs, the Half Slab with six ribs and the One-Third Slab with four ribs.

Remember that these huge ribs are hand-rubbed with Dave’s Secret Blend of Special Spices, then pit-smoked for three to four hours over a smoldering Sweet Hickory fire ’til it’s falling-off-the-bone-tender. Then the sauce is slathered on and sealed in their famous flavor over an open flame to give it that thin, crispy caramelized coating. You like yours un-sauced? Then order ’em “naked!”

For those preferring lighter fare, a new item on the immense menu is the Citrus Grill with only 600 calories or less. We thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing Citrus Grilled Salmon — what a catch! A beautiful six-ounce salmon filet is grilled to perfection and drizzled with their new Honey Chipotle Lime Glaze, then served with juicy grilled pineapple steaks and fresh steamed broccoli. The broccoli is worth mentioning twice — brilliantly green and even the stem so tender, it tasted like a healthy dessert!

Oh, speaking of desserts, do save room to be spoiled with your choice of four delectable desserts.

Try the cool and tangy Key Lime Pie, so smooth with a house-made crunchy graham cracker crust.

For the Hot Fudge Kahlua Brownie, the warm, walnut-covered chocolate brownie is soaked with Kahlua Liqueur and topped with vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream.

Our favorite was Dave’s Famous Bread Pudding — an old-fashioned, melt-in-your mouth, house-made bread pudding with a butter graham cracker crust, smothered in pecan-praline sauce and served again with vanilla bean ice cream. The Better-Than-Mom’s Pecan Pie, served warm with vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream, ran a close second!

For stay-at-home entertaining, it’s important to know that Famous Dave’s is also famous for his catering service. They start the smoking stage in the restaurant and then finish at your home with a grill carried on a trailer, still using their famous sweet hickory wood fire.

So, if you are strolling down Front Street, driving by or even if you’re at home with a hankering for ribs, don’t hesitate — give you and your family a treat! Head for Famous Dave’s Best Bar-B-Que at 736 Front St. in the heart of Old Lahaina Town. You’ll be greeted with aloha and become a fan of Dave’s award-winning dishes. Bon Appetit!

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 661-1125 or 661-1126.

Pau for now…