For every kid growing up in central Maui, Tom's Mini Mart in Paukukalo holds a special place in their heart. It's where you go as a kid on a hot day, it's where you take your college friends when they come to visit you during summers on Maui, it's where, on very special days, our soccer coach would end practice early and treat the whole team to shave ice, it's the stop on the way home from surfing. I'd always order the bowl, and it would always be too big to finish. Like every other local clan of kids, my friends and I would order our shave ice and sit on the rock wall to eat it. (You know...the rock wall that everyone sits on to eat their Tom's shave ice while friends and family drive past and honk their horns.)
Tom's was the shave ice champion on the island. No other place came close. No question. And then Ululani's opened in Kahului...
It's a small place, just 2 gals working the counter. I had heard amazing reviews from friends and had seen stellar, and I mean STELLAR reviews on yelp. Their ice was supposedly very fine and their syrup not too sweet. I was skeptical as I stood in line. Could something be better than Tom's? I glanced at the flavor menu, and nothing popped out at me. They didn't have the usual dreamsicle and cream soda flavors I would get at Tom's. Hhhhmmm. Strike 1. I look on and I see that they have free li hing mui powder. Interesting. But I'm still not sold on the idea. As I step to the counter, I decide on melona and lilikoi with ice cream and mochi balls (I figured I have to try everything to get the feel for this place). I watch the gals make it and they recognize me from Maui Thing...they're sweet and rave about our cute clothes. Of course, this gets me. Their customer service is unreal :) Then as they make my shave ice, they don't put any cheap ice cream at the bottom, they use Roselani, my favorite. After the actual ice shaving occurs, they proceed to poke holes in the mound of ice for the syrup to seep into! Simply genius! I'm officially impressed and haven't even tasted it yet. I get my shave ice, already in a pretty good mood, and I like it. The ice is fine, maybe too fine, almost slushy status. But their syrup...oh it's good. It isn't too sweet and they don't over, or under-do it. Ululani's doesn't even give you a straw. This is how confident they are in their syrup rationing.
So for straight up shave ice, I was rather impressed with the new guys in town. It was a great experience, fabulous customer service, quality shave ice. I'm sure to be a return customer! But that's not to say I won't return to Tom's. Tom's is much more than just shave ice. It's memories, it's fun and it's tradition. It's an entire place full of great food...musubi, ono hot dogs, and the best boiled peanuts!
A note to Ululani's: your mannequins need bottoms!