Roll With It: Merienda Serves Up Refined Roadside Filipino Fare on Maui
Find lumpia shanghai, Filipino style breakfast, sisig tacos and more on a stretch of HI-30 in Lahaina.
Roll With It is a Frolic series about food trucks we’ve seen out and about. We’re tracking them down and trying dishes to bring you the 4-1-1.
Driving back to Ka‘anapali from dinner in Lahaina one night, I notice a cluster of food trucks at a shopping center right off the highway. I’m stuffed, but I’m also on Maui to snoop around for tasty gems. A black truck draws my attention: Merienda—Spanish and Tagalog for snack—is painted on its side, along with a banana leaf. Is this a Filipino food truck? I decide to come back the next day to investigate.
In daylight I return to snag some food and talk story with Motely Adovas, one of the chef-owners. Adovas is from the coastal town of Cabugao in Ilocos Sur, Philippines and grew up on the Valley Isle, where he honed his cooking skills at the University of Hawai‘i’s Maui Culinary Academy and later under fellow Filipino chef Jojo Vasquez of Fond Lahaina. He was still a culinary student when he met Danielle Soriano from San Juan City in Manila; now she’s the other chef-owner of Merienda.
Both are committed to furthering the Filipino food movement in Hawai‘i, which has long had homestyle Filipino eateries but not much of the elevated Filipino food found in larger mainland cities. Of all the islands, Maui has become the epicenter of a small-scale upscaling of Filipino food. So while Merienda serves up a wide swath of pan-Asian fusion offerings, its roots are undeniably Pinoy.
At a glance:
The menu is split between meriendas, which are small plates, “buns” or sandwiches served on brioche rolls, and “feasts” that mostly come with garlic fried rice, egg, salted cabbage and namasu. I note cheffy twists like okonomiyaki brussels sprouts ($14), Taiwanese salt-and-pepper chicken ($12) and a Phili-Bistek sandwich ($18) with caramelized onion jam and Japanese mayo. A few Filipino dishes really pique my interest: lumpia sticks ($12), the tocilog feast ($15) and sisig tacos ($8). If only I had more companions—then I could also try the umami fries ($10) or the crispy chicken sandwich ($16).
We recommend these dishes:
- The long lumpia sticks are made using the entire length of lumpia paper, creating layers of super crispy exterior. Fried to a golden brown, they deliver a juicy pork filling that totally fulfills my food memory craving. The nuoc cham sauce served on the side goes well with them, the perfect balance of sweet, sour and funky.
- I would recommend the Tocilog to anyone who loves a Filipino breakfast. If you can get over the fact that the egg is soft-boiled instead of fried, you can appreciate the tender, flavorful, sweet glazed pork belly. The garlic fried rice is fragrant and warms your belly with deep garlicky goodness. Pickled onions and cucumber namasu round out the plate with texture and acid. Add bites of your crunchy lumpia in between for bonus pops of texture and umami.
- The first day I went for the sisig tacos, Merienda sold out 90 minutes after opening—I had underestimated those in the know. The sisig is made in the traditional style using face meat, bits of fat and tender meat crisped up and mixed with a citrus soy sauce. Then “pinoy de gallo” is layered on top, the fresh crunch of onion, tomato and herbs laced with patis or fish sauce. The tacos are finished with a creamy sriracha aioli, everything piled into two super thin and tasty white corn tortillas, which Adovas tells me are imported from L.A.
- Keep an eye out on Instagram for specials and pop-ups in other locations!
How It Rolls
- Where: 1221 HI-30, in the Lahaina Cannery Mall parking lot
- When: Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Payment: Cash or credit card
- Follow: @merienda.maui
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