Fodor's Maui (2016)
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Maui Dining Planner
Updated by Lehia Apana
For a place the size of Maui, there’s a lot going on when it comes to the dining scene, from ethnic holes-in-the-wall to stunningly appointed hotel dining rooms, and from seafood trucks to oceanfront fish houses with panoramic views. Much of the food is excellent, but some of it is overpriced and touristy. If you’re coming from a “food destination” city, you may have to adjust your expectations.
Follow the locavore trend, and at casual and fine-dining restaurants choose menu items made with products that are abundant on the island, like local fish, onions, avocados, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, hydroponic tomatoes, myriad herbs, salad greens, kalo (taro), bananas, papaya, guava, lilikoi (passion fruit), coconut, mangoes, strawberries, and Maui pineapple. You can also look for treats grown on neighboring islands, such as mushrooms, purple sweet potatoes, and watermelon.
“Local food,” a specific and official cuisine designated as such in the 1920s, is an amalgam of foods brought by the ethnic groups that have come here since the mid-1800s and also blended with the foods native Hawaiians have enjoyed for centuries. Dishes to try include lomilomi salmon, laulau, poi, Portuguese bean soup, kalbi ribs, chicken katsu, chow fun, hamburger steak, and macaroni salad. For a food adventure, take a drive into Central Maui and have lunch or dinner at one of the “local” spots recommended here. Or get even more adventurous and take a drive around Wailuku or Kahului and find your own hidden gem—there are plenty out there.
MAUI DINING PLANNER
EATING OUT STRATEGY
“Where should we eat?” With scores of restaurants competing for your appetite—not to mention your dollars—the very idea of having to choose may seem daunting. But our expert writers and editors have done most of the legwork—the dozens of selections here represent the best eating experiences Maui has to offer. Search “Best Bets” for top recommendations by price, cuisine, and experience. Or find a restaurant quickly; reviews are ordered alphabetically within their geographic area.
Hawaii is an extremely kid-friendly place. The vibe is casual, and even the fancy restaurants have a menu for keiki (children), usually along with a box of crayons or other diversion tucked away somewhere. Some of the hotel restaurants feature cute-as-a-button “knee-high buffets” for the kids. Take advantage of local treats and experiences such as shave ice and a luau.
Smoking is prohibited in all Hawaii restaurants and bars, including on patios and other outdoor dining areas.
Maui is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. It’s always best to make reservations in advance, especially if you’re traveling in a group of four or more. If you’re determined to go to places like Mama’s Fish House or the Old Lahaina Luau, you should make reservations as far in advance as possible. Most other places will do their best to accommodate you, even at the last minute.
WHAT TO WEAR
Casual clothing works for just about every restaurant on Maui. For dinner at hotels and other upscale restaurants, it’s nice to see men in shirts with collars and women in evening resort wear, but nothing dressier is required anywhere. Bring a sweater or cover-up in winter months—many restaurants are open-air and can be breezy.
HOURS AND PRICES
Restaurants on Maui are busiest from 5 to 7, the early-bird-special hours and sunset time. By 8:30 many dining rooms are quiet, and by 10 most are closed. Places with popular bars and karaoke usually keep the kitchens open, too, but serve a limited menu. Unfortunately, many hotel restaurants are expensive and not very good; the best are listed here. To dine well on the cheap, look for coupons in the Maui News, found mostly in the “Maui Scene” section on Thursday, or check online for coupons at sites such as www.originalcouponbook.com . Or go into Central Maui and enjoy the great ethnic restaurants where locals eat. Many upscale restaurants offer discounts of up to 50% during slow months (September-November). As for tipping, 18%-20% is considered standard for high-quality service.
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West Maui | Kaanapali and Honokawai | Kapalua and Nearby | South Shore | Central Maui | Upcountry | North Shore | Road to Hana
Beautiful West Maui encompasses the area from tiny Olowalu, with its famous mom-and-pop Olowalu General Store, full of local-style bentos (box lunches), all the way north to the ritzy Kapalua Resort, with its glitzy (some say tired) annual wine-and-food festival. In between are Lahaina, the historic former capital of Hawaii, with its myriad restaurants on and off Front Street, and the resort area of Kaanapali. Have some fun checking out restaurants in the nooks and crannies of Kahana, Honokowai, and Napili, north of Kaanapali. All over the west side you’ll find a rainbow of cuisines in just about every price category.
Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop.
$ | AMERICAN | Slow down as you drive through the little roadside village of Olowalu, about 15 minutes before Lahaina town if you’re coming from the airport, so you don’t miss this adorable farmhouse-chic restaurant and pie shop, where everything is prepared with care. Old photos of the area, distressed wood, and muted colors set the mood. Try the signature ahi Benedict for breakfast. For lunch, have a sandwich or a burger with Kula onions. A rotating menu of nightly dinner specials offers comfort food at its best. All the breads are homemade and excellent, and most ingredients are sourced locally. Don’t get too full: you must try the pie—the banana cream is out of this world, or dig into the Olowalu lime pie. | Average main: $15 | 820 Olowalu Village Rd. | Olowalu | 808/662-3600 | www.leodas.com .
Olowalu General Store.
$ | HAWAIIAN | A Maui landmark for almost seven decades, one of the island’s last true mom-and-pops is best known for its hot dogs, homemade Spam musubi (a slice of Spam on top of a block of rice, all wrapped in nori), and boiled peanuts. Don’t overlook the plate lunches—Kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, and Korean teriyaki beef are best sellers—or the burgers. Full, local-style, hearty breakfast plates that include juice or soda are just $5.99. There are also smoothies, scoops of Maui’s own Roselani Ice Cream in eight tropical flavors, and a wide selection of shave ice flavors. | Average main: $8 | 820 Olowalu Village Rd. | Olowalu | 808/667-2883 | No dinner .
Maui’s Food Trucks: Movable Feasts
As in so many other places, food-truck culture is taking hold on Maui, but don’t expect to find well-equipped, customized trucks like the ones you see on the Food Network. Most have no websites, Twitter accounts, or Facebook pages; some don’t even have phones. And many have irregular days and hours of operation. So just take a chance and consider it an adventure. You can also follow @FoodTrucksMaui on Twitter, or check Facebook.com/FoodTrucksOnMaui , for the latest information.
A group of trucks has formed a sort of food court by the harbor on Kahului Beach Road opposite the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (1 Cameron Way, Kahului). The best of these is the Geste Shrimp Truck, which serves four different preparations of shrimp with sides of crab, mac salad, and rice. Hours are generally Tuesday-Saturday 10:30-5:30.
Aloha Mixed Plate.
$ | HAWAIIAN | From the wonderful folks who bring you Maui’s best luau—the Old Lahaina Luau—comes this casual, multiaward-winning, oceanfront eatery. If you’ve yet to indulge in a “plate lunch” (a protein—usually in an Asian-style preparation—two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad), this is a good place to try one. The menu features fresh local fish preparations, lots of local produce, and such favorites as saimin, laulau, shoyu chicken, kalua pork, and poi from the restaurant’s own farm. Take your plate to a table so close to the ocean you just might get wet. Oh, and don’t forget the mai tai! | Average main: $10 | 1285 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/661-3322 | www.alohamixedplate.com .
Frida’s Mexican Beach House.
$$$ | MEXICAN FUSION | No matter the cuisine, serial restaurateur Mark Ellman always delivers. This, his third oceanfront eatery along Front Street (the other two are literally next door), is no exception. The setting is reason enough to dine here, but the food attracts diners all on its own. You’ll find familiar Mexican menu items such as huevos rancheros and chiles rellenos, plus some Latin-inspired dishes, but adventurous diners who try such dishes as grilled Spanish octopus are rewarded with exotic and surprising flavors. The more than 40 varieties of tequila dominate the bar, and there’s a wide selection of cocktails, beer, and wine. An open-floor dining area is situated parallel to the ocean, which means every seat scores an ocean view. | Average main: $34 | 1287 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/661-1278 | www.fridasmaui.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Gerard’s.
$$$$ | FRENCH | Classically trained French chef Gerard Reversade, who started as an apprentice in acclaimed Paris restaurants when he was just 14, has for more than three decades remained true to his Gascony roots. His exacting standards—in the dining room as well as in the kitchen—have always been the hallmarks of his charming eponymous restaurant. He cooks his way, utilizing island ingredients in such dishes as escargots forestière (with garlic and mushrooms), chilled cucumber soup, and the ahi tartare with taro chips. The wine list is first-class, and the dessert list is extensive. Floral fabrics and white tablecloths evoke a French country inn. The service here is impeccable. | Average main: $45 | The Plantation Inn, 174 Lahainaluna Rd. | Lahaina | 808/661-8939 | www.gerardsmaui.com | No lunch .
Honu Seafood & Pizza.
$$$$ | ECLECTIC | Celebrity chef Mark Ellman and Judy Ellman have introduced another excellent restaurant to the Maui dining scene. This oceanfront fish house and pizza restaurant is right next door to their popular Mala Ocean Tavern. Much of the seafood comes from the East Coast and Pacific Northwest: clams, crabs, mussels, and lobster. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired brick oven (is there any other way?). The wine and cocktail lists are fabulous. Judy designed the sleek, bright interior with white walls, abundant use of wood, and large windows showcasing an unparalleled ocean view. | Average main: $36 | 1295 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/667-9390 | www.honumaui.com .
$$ | AMERICAN | It’s been a popular, casual spot with locals since it first opened—several owners ago—in 1989, and to be around that long, it’s got to be doing something right. You can get everything from huevos rancheros to local-style fried rice at breakfast; plate lunches, salads, wraps, and more for lunch; and fresh fish, chicken, steak, and pasta for dinner. If that’s not enough for you, there are separate pizza, pupu, and bar menus. In the truest sense of the phrase, there’s something for everyone. Since this restaurant buys its fish from Lahaina Harbor anglers, the catch of the day is always a good bet. | Average main: $23 | 180 Dickenson St. | Lahaina | 808/661-7082 | www.lahainacoolers.com .
$$$$ | AMERICAN | At the top of many “best restaurants” lists, this expensive, upscale bistro is about as fashionably chic as it gets on Maui. The food and service are consistently excellent and the place is abuzz with beautiful people every night of the week. The Cake Walk (servings of Kona lobster crab cake, sweet Louisiana rock-shrimp cake, and seared ahi cake), toy-box tomato salad, and Kona-coffee-roasted rack of lamb are a few of the classics customers demand. Newer items include Marcho Farms center-cut all-natural veal osso bucco and seared lion-paw scallops. The full menu—including dessert—is available at the bar. The interior is as pretty as the patrons. | Average main: $45 | 127 Lahainaluna Rd. | Lahaina | 808/667-5117 | www.lahainagrill.com | No lunch .
$$$ | ITALIAN | A Lahaina landmark created by Bob Longhi (“a man who loves to eat”) Longhi’s has been serving pasta and other Italian fare to throngs of visitors since 1976. Although Bob’s children run the restaurants now, his influence is still strong. Many of the classic dishes on the menu are his: prawns Venice, steak Longhi, and the signature lobster Longhi for two. The wine list is award-winning and gigantic. There are two spacious, open-air dining levels. Breakfast pastries are made in-house. TIP Before the rest of Lahaina (or Wailea) wakes up, have yourself a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and some good, strong coffee to start the day. There’s a second Maui restaurant at The Shops at Wailea. | Average main: $34 | 888 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/667-2288 | www.longhis.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Mala Ocean Tavern.
$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | Chef-owner Mark Ellman started Maui’s culinary revolution of the late ‘80s with his restaurant Avalon, and Mala is a more than satisfactory successor. The place is adorable; the best tables are on the lanai, which actually juts out over the water. The menu reflects Mark’s and his wife Judy’s world travels with dishes influenced by the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Italy, Bali, and Thailand. Every item on the menu is delicious, and there’s a focus on ingredients that promote local sustainability. The cocktails and wine list are great, too. Another location of Mala is at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort, but the Lahaina original is highly recommended. | Average main: $30 | 1307 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/667-9394 | www.malaoceantavern.com .
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | Sophisticated outdoor dining on the beach (yes, truly on the beach) and creative Island cuisine using local, fresh-caught fish and greens and veggies grown in the restaurant’s own Upcountry Oo Farm (and, quite possibly, picked that very morning)—this is the Maui dining experience you’ve been dreaming about. Start with the award-winning appetizer of prawn and basil wontons, move on to any of the fantastic fresh fish dishes, and for dessert, finish with the banana pineapple lumpia served hot with homemade ice cream. | Average main: $38 | 505 Front St. | Lahaina | 808/667-4341 | www.pacificomaui.com .
$ | ITALIAN | A couple of blocks off Front Street in Lahaina, this small restaurant packs a powerhouse of a menu with pizza, pastas, salads, and sandwiches. Heaping plates of reasonably priced, flavorful food make this low-key place a perfect alternative to an expensive night at the resort. House favorites include the cheesy baked penne in tomato cream sauce, and the linguine in clam sauce with lemon butter. There are nightly specials like the osso buco on Wednesday, made with lamb instead of veal and served with fettuccine and salad. Two can easily split a salad and entrée and leave completely sated. | Average main: $12 | 180 Dickenson St. | Lahaina | 808/661-6633 .
$$ | ITALIAN | Aromas from a wood-fired oven lure you into this cozy Italian restaurant set just off of Front Street, and the extensive wine list tempts you to stay awhile. Quality is paramount here, and it’s clear that no shortcuts are taken. Proof: the flour, mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and olive oil are imported directly from Italy, and the chef-owner Michele Bari (also from Italy) honed his skills at the prestigious Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli (International School of Pizza) in Venice. Favorites include the salumi plate served with house-made foccacia, the creamy risotto with pomodoro sauce and the kale and sausage pasta. The desserts change regularly—if you’re lucky, the addictive tiramisù will be on the menu. | Average main: $22 | 878 Front St., Units 7 and 8 | Lahaina | 808/667-7667 | www.salepepemaui.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Star Noodle.
$$ | ASIAN | In the very short time since it opened this wonderful spot has become one of Maui’s best restaurants. It’s way up above the highway in a light industrial park, but don’t be discouraged by the location. Take the drive, so you can discover a hip place and a welcoming staff who know the meaning of “aloha.” There’s a communal table in the center of the room, smaller tables around the perimeter, and tall chairs for those who like to eat at a bar. Menu-musts include the Ahi Avo, pan-roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and kimchi purée, and any of the noodle dishes, especially the Lahaina fried soup (fat chow fun, pork, bean sprouts). The cocktail list is fabulous and the Stargarita—a citrus-spiked take on a margarita—earns its “star” moniker. | Average main: $18 | 286 Kupuohi St. | Lahaina | 808/667-5400 | www.starnoodle.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice.
$ | CAFÉ | Nothing says you’ve arrived in Hawaii like a mound of fluffy ice drenched in rainbow-color syrups. Ululani’s has upgraded this simple treat to gourmet proportions, with superfine ice shavings and homemade syrups in exotic flavors. Local favorites include guava, li hing mui (which is a savory-sweet plum flavor), and mango—though not necessarily as a combo. Fun add-ons like sweet adzuki beans and mochi balls complete the frosty experience. Expect long lines on most days. When you do make it to the counter, friendly service is just about guaranteed. The original location is in Lahaina (there are two now, both on Front Street), but there are also branches in Kihei, Wailuku, Kahului, and at the Hyatt Regency Maui in Kaanapali so satisfying that sweet tooth is a short drive away from wherever you are. | Average main: $5 | 819 Front St. | Lahaina | www.ululanisshaveice.com .
KAANAPALI AND HONOKAWAI
CJ’s Deli & Diner.
$ | AMERICAN | Chef Christian Jorgensen left fancy hotel kitchens behind to open a casual place serving simple, delicious food at reasonable prices. The mango-glazed ribs, burgers, and classic reuben sandwich are all good choices, and the pineapple fried rice is ono (delicious); just order and pick up at the counter, and take your food to a table. If you’re traveling to Hana or the Haleakala crater, buy a box lunch and you’re set. If you’re staying in a condo, the “Chefs to Go” service is a great alternative to picking up fast food (run-of-the-mill and usually lousy). Everything is prepped and comes with easy cooking instructions. And if you decide, even on the spur of the moment, that Maui is a nice place for a wedding, CJ’s can cater it. | Average main: $12 | Fairway Shops, 2580 Kekaa Dr. | Kaanapali | 808/667-0968 | www.cjsmaui.com .
Duke’s Beach House Maui.
$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | The spot’s the thing—the view is amazing—at this casual eatery just steps from the beach on the grounds of the Honua Kai Resort & Spa. The food is reliable, the style all surfer-dudes and little grass shacks, and the signature cocktails big and pineapple-garnished. The fresh fish is a good bet, and you’ll know from the aroma when you enter that there are burgers on the grill. Kimo’s original hula pie is reason enough to come. You can buy the cool retro plate on which it’s served for $20. | Average main: $28 | Honua Kai Resort & Spa, 130 Kai Malina Pkwy.| Kaanapali | 808/662-2900 | www.dukesmaui.com .
$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | A bustling and family-oriented spot on Kaanapali Beach at Whalers Village shopping center, this restaurant designed to look like a sprawling ‘30s beach house represents a partnership between TS Restaurants group and Hawaii Regional Cuisine pioneer chef Peter Merriman. It serves large dinner portions with an emphasis on fresh local fish—try the macadamia-nut crusted catch, fire-grilled ahi steak, or coconut seafood chowder. Just in the mood for an umbrella-adorned cocktail and some pupu? Go to the Barefoot Bar, where you can wiggle your toes in the sand while you sip. The beach is nicknamed “Dig Me”—you’ll understand why after just a few moments. | Average main: $29 | Whalers Village, 2435 Kaanapali Pkwy. | Kaanapali| 808/667-6636 | www.hulagrillkaanapali.com .
$$$$ | ASIAN | This nicely appointed open-air restaurant gives hotel dining a better name. The ocean views are stunning, and the gentle trade winds cool the night air. The glassed-in sushi bar is gorgeous. But it’s the food that makes Japengo worth a visit. The award-winning sashimi-style hamachi and watermelon is delicious, while the fresh local fish is well prepared and perfectly accompanied. Many dishes are offered in half-portions at half-price, the better to taste more of the creative menu. Perhaps most surprising are the desserts, which are crazy good. Even if dessert translates for you to “chocolate,” the flaming piña colada crème here will change your mind forever. | Average main: $38 | Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, 200 Nohea Kai Dr. | Kaanapali | 808/667-4909 | www.japengomaui.com | No lunch .
Pulehu, an Italian Grill.
$$$ | ITALIAN | This restaurant proves that good food doesn’t need to be complicated, using many local Maui products to do what the Italians do best: craft simple, delicious food that lets the ingredients shine. Must-haves include the ahi carpaccio, seared scallops with smoked pork belly, and the deconstructed tiramisu. The wine list is excellent. In addition to the great food and drink, the service is stellar and the glassed-in exhibition kitchen provides an eyeful of culinary entertainment. | Average main: $32 | The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, 6 Kai Ala Dr. | Kaanapali| 808/667-3254 | www.pulehurestaurantmaui.com | Closed Tues. and Wed.
Fodor’s Choice | Roy’s Kaanapali.
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | Roy Yamaguchi is a James Beard Award-winning chef and the granddaddy of East-meets-West cuisine. He has restaurants all over the world, but his eponymous Maui restaurant was one of the first, and it’s still one of the best. It’s loud and brassy with a young vibe, but even if the atmosphere isn’t quite your thing, come for the food. Signatures like fire-grilled, Szechuan-spiced baby back pork ribs, Roy’s original blackened ahi tuna, hibachi-style grilled salmon, and the to-die-for hot chocolate soufflé have been on the menu from the beginning, and with good reason. Roy’s wine list is exceptionally user-friendly. The service here is welcoming and professional. | Average main: $36 | 2990 Kaanapali Pkwy. | Kaanapali | 808/669-6999 | www.roysrestaurant.com .
Sangrita Grill & Cantina.
$$$ | MEXICAN | The menu categories at Sangrita may be familiar, but the authentic ingredients and deep flavors are new. The guacamoles and salsas—all house-made from scratch—come with a bottomless basket of corn and flour chips. The carnitas braised in duck fat are stellar, and the avocado fries with cilantro pesto aïoli are addictive accompaniments. Seafood fanatics will love the chipotle-steamed mussles and octopus carpaccio. Save room for the unique flan for dessert. The cocktails prominently feature tequila and mezcal, and the wine list is affordable. The partially painted wooden tables and chairs are intriguing, and the service is delightful. | Average main: $30 | Fairway Shops, 2580 Kekaa Dr. | Kaanapali | 808/662-6000 | www.sangritagrill.com .
$$$$ | STEAKHOUSE | If you’re celebrating a special occasion and want to splurge, this just might be the place for you. You’ll descend a grand staircase into an amber-lighted dining room with soaring ceilings and a massive artificial lagoon complete with swans, ducks, waterfalls, and tropical gardens. Chef Geno Sarmiento’s classic steakhouse menu features favorites like the bone-in ribeye and prime New York strip, and gigantic à la carte options big enough for two. Lighter appetites can choose from several chicken and fish dishes, including the must-try blackened ahi starter. The restaurant claims one of the largest wine cellars in Hawaii, with 1,500 bottles. | Average main: $40 | Hyatt Regency Maui, 200 Nohea Kai Dr. | Kaanapali | 808/667-4506 | www.sonzrestaurant.com | No lunch .
$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | Executive chef Tom Muromoto is a local boy who loves to cook modern, upscale Hawaiian food. He augments the various fresh fish dishes on his menu with items influenced by Hawaii’s ethnic mix. This casual, open-air restaurant is the only place on Maui—maybe in Hawaii—where you can have a Native Hawaiian combination plate that is as healthful as it is authentic. Sunday brunch, complete with strolling Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers, is renowned here; and if you’re around for any holiday, chow down at the amazing holiday brunch buffets. | Average main: $26 | Kaanapali Beach Hotel, 2525 Kaanapali Pkwy. | Kaanapali | 808/667-0124 | www.kbhmaui.com | No lunch .
$ | ECLECTIC | Sandwiched between a dive shop and a salon in a nondescript mini strip mall, this small place has only a few stools and a couple of tables outside, but it’s fast and the food is consistently good—all it takes to keep the place filled with locals. The beef black bean chow fun and the mahimahi with lemon capers are the top-selling favorites. There’s plenty more, including vegetarian and lighter fare such as Grandma’s spicy tofu, egg fu yung, and even a veggie burger. This isn’t a good option for a late lunch, because it’s closed 2:30-4:30. | Average main: $12 | 3600-D Lower Honoapiilani Hwy. | Honokowai | 808/665-0512 | No credit cards | Closed Sun.
$ | ITALIAN | When it opened in 1995, this was an over-the-counter pizza place. It has evolved over the years into a local favorite, serving Italian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern comfort food as well as pizza. The pies are so popular because of the top ingredients—100% pure Italian olive oil and Maui produce whenever possible. The menu also features gyros, falafel, grilled fish, rôtisserie chicken, and tiramisù. | Average main: $14 | Honokowai Marketplace, 3350 Lower Honoapiilani Rd. | Honokowai | 808/667-2929 | www.pizzaparadiso.com .
KAPALUA AND NEARBY
The Gazebo Restaurant.
$ | DINER | Breakfast is the reason to seek out this restaurant located poolside at the Napili Shores Resort. The ambience is a little funky but the oceanfront setting and views are spectacular—including the turtle, spinner dolphin, and, in winter, humpback-whale sightings. The food is standard diner fare and portions are big. Many folks think the Gazebo serves the best pancakes in West Maui. Have them with pineapple, bananas, macadamia nuts, or white chocolate chips, or make up your own combination. You will almost certainly have to wait for a table, sometimes for quite a while, but at least it’s a pleasant place to do so. | Average main: $11 | Napili Shores Maui, 5315 Lower Honoapiilani Hwy. | Napili | 808/669-5621 | No dinner .
Sea House Restaurant.
$$$ | SEAFOOD | Built in the 1960s at the Napili Kai Beach Resort, before there were laws forbidding construction so close to the beach, this restaurant is literally footsteps away from gorgeous Napili Bay. Wear your beach wrap to breakfast and enjoy the signature oven-baked pancakes or Molokai sweet potato egg frittata. For dinner, start with the award-winning poke (raw fish) nachos and move on to spice-crusted ahi. The menu also offers other fish from Hawaiian waters and fresh local produce. Portions are generous. Folks who are gluten-free will find excellent choices here. | Average main: $32 | Napili Kai Beach Resort, 5900 Lower Honoapiilani Rd. | Napili | 808/669-1500 | www.seahousemaui.com .
$$$ | JAPANESE | For a quiet, light dinner, or to meet friends for a cocktail and some ultrafresh sushi, head to this handsome restaurant on the lobby level of the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. You have your choice of sushi, sashimi, and a list of rolls. The especially good Kai special roll combines spicy tuna, yellowtail, and green onion. In keeping with the hotel’s commitment to the culture, the restaurant’s design was inspired by the story of Native Hawaiians’ arrival by sea; the hand-carved ceiling beams resemble outrigger canoes. | Average main: $30 | The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, 1 Ritz-Carlton Dr. | Kapalua | 808/669-6200 | www.ritzcarlton.com/kapalua | Closed Tues. and Wed. No lunch .
Fodor’s Choice | Merriman’s Kapalua.
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | Perched above the postcard-perfect Kapalua Bay, this is the place to impress your date. An opulent dining area sets the mood for an equally lavish meal. Chef Peter Merriman highlights the islands’ bounty, using fresh seafood and ingredients from local farms. With so many tempting creations, consider the duo option, which features two smaller-size entrées on one plate. You can’t go wrong with the macadamia nut-crusted monchong or the roasted Jidori chicken. Gluten-free diners will be impressed with the selection as well. Save room for the toasted coconut crème brûlèe, then complete the experience at the restaurant’s oceanfront lounge and fire pit. | Average main: $40 | One Bay Club Pl. | Kapalua | 808/669-6400 | No lunch | Reservations essential .
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | High on the hill overlooking the Kapalua resort, this casual restaurant offers ocean, mountain, and resort views. The kitchen crew makes good use of the island’s bounty, with dishes featuring greens and vegetables from Waipoli and Nalo farms, locally and sustainably caught fish, Maui pineapple, and Roselani ice cream. Menu item descriptions detail where almost every ingredient is sourced. | Average main: $38 | 200 Kapalua Dr. | Kapalua | 808/669-9600 | www.cohnrestaurants.com .
Plantation House Restaurant.
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | It’s a bit of a drive, but when you get there you’ll find a beautiful and comfortable restaurant with expansive views of the ocean below and the majestic mountains above. Chef JoJo Vasquez, who is known for local sourcing of as many ingredients as possible, calls his cuisine “Hawaiian Eclectic.” | Average main: $40 | Plantation Course Clubhouse, 2000 Plantation Club Dr. | Kapalua | 808/669-6299 | www.theplantationhouse.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar.
$$ | ASIAN | If you are a fish or shellfish lover, then this is the place for you. One of the most wildly popular restaurants in Hawaii with locations on three islands, Sansei takes sushi, sashimi, and contemporary Japanese food to a new level. Favorite dishes include the mango-and-crab-salad handroll, panko-crusted-ahi sashimi roll, Asian shrimp cake, Japanese calamari salad, and Dungeness crab ramen with Asian-truffle broth. There are great deals on sushi and small plates for early birds and night owls. This busy restaurant has several separate dining areas, a sushi bar, and a bar area, but the focus is squarely on excellent food and not the ambience. There’s another branch in Kihei Town Center (1881 S. Kihei Rd. ; 808/879-0004 ). | Average main: $26 | 600 Office Rd. | Kapalua | 808/669-6286 | www.sanseihawaii.com | No lunch .
South Maui’s dining scene begins at Maalaea Harbor and wends its way through the beach towns of Kihei and Wailea. There are plenty of casual, relatively inexpensive eateries along the way—until you reach Wailea, where most of the dining is pricey. Some of it, fortunately, is worth it.
KIHEI AND NORTH (MAALAEA)
$$$ | ECLECTIC | Chef-owner Eric Arbogast has admirably turned this tiny space tucked into a corner of a strip mall into a comfortable restaurant serving well-prepared, delicious food. Signature dishes include spicy tuna nachos, Togarashi seared ahi, fresh local fish (prepared nightly in at least four different ways), Asian-style marinated grilled steak, and South of the Border-style marinated pork. The wine list is user-friendly, and the service is welcoming. | Average main: $27 | Kihei Town Center, 1881 S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/879-1110 | www.cuatro808.com | No lunch .
Fodor’s Choice | Kihei Caffe.
$ | AMERICAN | This small, unassuming place across the street from Kalama Beach Park has a breakfast menu that runs the gamut from healthy yogurt-filled papaya to the local classic, loco moco—two eggs, ground beef patty, rice, and brown gravy—and everything in between. And the best thing about it is that the breakfast menu is served all day long. Prices are extremely reasonable and it’s a good spot for people-watching. This is a popular place with locals, so you may have to wait for a table, depending on the time and day. | Average main: $8 | 1945 S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/879-2230 | www.kiheicaffe.com | No dinner .
$$ | INDIAN | Here you can enjoy a lovely ocean view while feasting on authentic Indian cuisine. Appetizers like papadum chips and samosas are served with homemade chutneys. There are 10 breads—naan and more—that come hot from the tandoori oven, along with six mix-and-match curries, lots of vegetarian selections, kebabs, and biryanis. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday evenings and a popular Sunday brunch buffet. | Average main: $20 | Menehune Shores, 760 S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/875-6666 | www.monsoonindiamaui.com | No lunch Mon. and Tues.
$$ | MEXICAN | This family-run restaurant serves authentic flavors from Mexico City and other regions of Mexico. In fact, just about everything in the place has been brought directly from Mexico, including the furniture, paintings, and artisanal plates hanging on the walls. All menu items—from the chips and salsa to the margarita mix—are made in-house, and the food is fresh and full of flavor. Try Grandma’s classic chicken mole recipe, which packs more than 25 ingredients, or the creamy langostino enchiladas. If you can restrain yourself, save room for dessert—there’s a small but savory dessert menu. Like any good Mexican restaurant, the bar is stocked with 40-plus tequila options. | Average main: $18 | 1279 S. Kihei Rd., Suite 122 | Kihei | 808/868-4357 .
Sarento’s on the Beach.
$$$$ | ITALIAN | This upscale Italian restaurant’s setting right on spectacular Keawakapu Beach, with views of Molokini and Kahoolawe, is irresistible. After years of serving dinner only, it now offers breakfast service, so diners can enjoy the extraordinary view in the morning too. The breakfast menu offers all the regular fare; dinner has a decidedly Italian bent, with dishes like penne alla vodka, spaghetti with Kobe meatballs, and osso buco. The food is very good if a bit old-fashioned, and the portions are quite large. | Average main: $38 | 2980 S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/875-7555 | www.sarentosonthebeach.com | No lunch .
South Shore Tiki Lounge.
$ | AMERICAN | Come on, how can you come to Hawaii and not go to a tiki bar? And this one—tucked into Kihei Kalama Village—is consistently voted “Best Bar” (and “Best Pizza”) by locals. During the day, sit on the shaded lanai to enjoy a burger, sandwich, or, better yet, one of those delicious specialty pizzas, crafted from scratch with sauces made from fresh roma tomatoes and Maui herbs. Seven nights a week, the tiny bar area lights up with a lively crowd, as DJs spin dance tunes under the glowing red eyes of the lounge’s namesake tiki. And you can order food right up until 10 pm. | Average main: $15 | Kihei Kalama Village, 1913-J S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/874-6444 | www.southshoretikilounge.com .
$ | THAI | Fragrant tea and coconut-ginger chicken soup begin a satisfying meal at this excellent Thai restaurant, set unassumingly in the middle of a shopping mall. The care and expense that has gone into the interior—glittering Buddhist shrines, elaborate hardwood facades, fancy napkin folds, and matching blue china—also applies to the cuisine. Take an exotic journey with the fantastic pad thai, special house noodles, curries, and crispy fried chicken. Can’t decide? Try the family dinners for two or four. The fried bananas with ice cream are wonderful. There’s a second location in Kahului’s Maui Mall, a perfect choice before or after a movie at the megaplex. | Average main: $15 | Kukui Mall, 1819 S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/875-0839 | www.thailandcuisinemaui.net | No lunch Sun.
Three’s Bar & Grill.
$$ | ECLECTIC | The name of the restaurant comes from the three young chefs who met working at a Wailea restaurant, only to decide in 2010 to strike out on their own. Each has a distinctive style (Hawaiian, Southwestern, and Pacific Rim), but somehow it all works. The food is good, with a large selection of salads, burgers, and flatbreads for lunch; fresh fish and steaks are served at dinner. There’s also a raw bar, sushi, ceviche, and poke. Their daily happy hour offers some killer deals. The space is as big as the menu with three separate dining areas, plus an outdoor patio. | Average main: $25 | 1945-G S. Kihei Rd. | Kihei | 808/879-3133 | www.threesbarandgrill.com .
Beach Bums Bar & Grill.
$ | AMERICAN | Its proximity to the harbor and a good surf spot means that this joint is always jumping, and the look is funky, beachy, and kitschy. There’s a major cocktail list, and drinks are prepared by experienced, excellent bartenders. But the draw here is definitely the barbecue—ribs, chicken, and prime rib, all smoked on-site. Try the Tuesday night lobster fest or the Wednesday night ribs fest for big portions at low prices. The sweet-potato fries drizzled with honey are an obvious must. | Average main: $16 | 300 Maalaea Rd. | Maalaea | 808/243-2286 | www.beachbumshawaii.com .
Seascape Maalaea Restaurant.
$ | SEAFOOD | A good choice for a seafood lunch, the Maui Ocean Center’s signature restaurant (aquarium admission is not required to dine here) offers harbor and ocean views from its open-air perch. The restaurant promotes heart-healthy cuisine, using sustainable seafood and trans fat-free items. Fresh fish entrée, lunch-size salads, sandwiches, burgers, fish tacos, teriyaki tofu, fish-and-chips, chicken, ribs, and a full kids’ menu are on offer. There’s something for everyone here, and the view isn’t bad either. | Average main: $15 | Maui Ocean Center, 192 Maalaea Rd. | Maalaea | 808/270-7068 | www.mauioceancenter.com | No dinner .
The Plate Lunch Tradition in Hawaii
To experience island history firsthand, take a seat at one of Hawaii’s ubiquitous “plate lunch” eateries, where you’ll be served a segmented Styrofoam plate piled with a protein—usually in an Asian-style preparation, like beef teriyaki—two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and maybe a pickled vegetable condiment. On the sugar plantations, immigrant workers from many different countries ate together in the fields, sharing food from their kaukau tins, the utilitarian version of the Japanese bento (a divided box filled with savory items). From this stir-fry of people came the vibrant pidgin language and its equivalent in food: the plate lunch.
At beaches and public parks you will probably see locals eating plate lunches from nearby restaurants, stands, or trucks. Favorite combos include deep-fried chicken katsu (rolled in Japanese panko flour and spices), marinated beef teriyaki, and miso butterfish. Saimin, a noodle soup with Japanese fish stock and Chinese red-tinted barbecue pork, is a distinctly local medley. Koreans have contributed spicy barbecue kalbi ribs, often served with chili-laden kimchi (pickled cabbage or, sometimes, cucumber). Portuguese bean soup and tangy Filipino pinakbet (a mixed-vegetable dish with eggplant, okra, and bitter melons in fish sauce) are also favorites. The most popular contribution to this genre is the Hawaiian plate, featuring laulau, a mix of meat and fish and young taro leaves, wrapped in ti leaves and steamed, kalua pork and cabbage, lomilomi salmon, and chicken long rice, and haupia (coconut pudding) for dessert.
Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante.
$$$$ | ITALIAN | Overlooking the ocean from a bluff above Wailea Beach, this outdoor Italian restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea is beautiful both day and night. For lunch, indulge in a lobster sandwich or one of a variety of stone-baked pizzas. At dinner, try the Italian-inspired salads and a house-made pasta. Not surprisingly, the wine list includes excellent Italian choices. Live classical music often adds to the atmosphere, and occasionally you can spot celebrities at the bar. | Average main: $40 | Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, 3900 Wailea Alanui Dr. | Wailea | 808/874-8000 | www.fourseasons.com/maui/dining/restaurants/ferraros_bar_e_ristorante .
$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | Dinner here is accompanied nightly by heavenly sunsets. The Polynesian-style thatch-roof, open-air restaurant “floats” atop a saltwater lagoon. It’s exotic, romantic, and well suited for special occasions. When you order, you don’t have to wrestle with the restaurant’s formidable name (it’s Hawaii’s state fish); simply tell the valet or concierge you’re going to “Hoo-moo-hoo-moo.” Obviously, fresh fish dominates the menu here, but there’s also Niman Ranch angus, lamb, and even a vegetarian plate. Order the “Growing Future Farmers Salad”—$1 of each one sold goes to the Maui County Farm Bureau program of the same name. For dessert, try an over-the-top Humu pie. | Average main: $35 | Grand Wailea, 3850 Wailea Alanui Dr. | Wailea| 808/875-1234 | www.grandwailea.com/dine/humuhumunukunukuapuaa | No lunch .
Fodor’s Choice | Ka’ana Kitchen.
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | This signature restaurant at the island’s most stylish luxury resort, Andaz Maui at Wailea, has it all. The farm-to-table menu is truly market-based, with most ingredients sourced within the Islands. The wine list is marvelous, the service is stellar, and the views are spectacular from every table thanks to the tiered layout. But wait, there’s still more. The whole space has been masterfully designed—there are dining seats available at the cocktail bar and at strategic locations around the gorgeous exhibition kitchen “counters.” Interaction is part of the experience: guests are encouraged to walk around to see what the cadre of cooks are up to and ask questions. It’s better than a beautiful restaurant with creative and carefully prepared food—it’s fun. | Average main: $40 | Andaz Maui at Wailea, 3550 Wailea Alanui Dr. | Wailea | 808/573-1234 | www.maui.andaz.hyatt.com .
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | The renovations took a long time (almost nine months) and cost a lot of money (more than $5 million), but the result is spectacular. While the setting is anything but humble, the menu at Ko—which means “sugarcane” in Hawaiian—features dishes from the many cultures of the plantation era, some of which are local family recipes. Executive Chef Tylun Pang adds modern, innovative twists to the Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese dishes. The cocktail and wine lists arrive via iPad. Take note of the tabletops—glassware, cutlery, plates, bowls, serving pieces—as they are among the most handsome anywhere. | Average main: $45 | Fairmont Kea Lani, 4100 Wailea Alanui | Wailea | 808/875-2210 | www.fairmont.com/kea-lani-maui .
$$ | ECLECTIC | The wooden surfboards hanging above the bar and surf videos playing in the background set a decidedly chill vibe at this buzzing restaurant, the creation of local celebrity-chef Peter Merriman. He offers a menu that highlights local bounty, with such standout dishes as poke tacos, pumpkin ravioli, and fish-and-chips. Just about any of the wood-fired pizzas is a smart choice, particularly the Bourgeois topped with lobster, wild mushrooms, and garlic white sauce. Dine outside and watch the sun dip into the Pacific or pull up a seat at the expansive bar and sip on the popular Monkeypod mai tai—you’re on island time now. | Average main: $25 | 10 Wailea Ike Dr. | Wailea | 808/891-2322 | www.monkeypodkitchen.com/wailea .
Fodor’s Choice | Morimoto Maui.
$$$$ | MODERN ASIAN | If you’re a fan of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America, rejoice. Maui now has an outpost of Masaharu Morimoto’s eponymous restaurant. Located at the Andaz Maui resort, it’s as hip as hip can be, in every way. Outdoor tables, a bustling dining room, and a sushi bar all make it a lively choice. But the reason to go is for the food. There’s a long sushi-sashimi menu, and the fish is the freshest. The tuna pizza is scrumptious; the fresh fish, steak, and lobster dishes are big enough to share. | Average main: $43 | Andaz Maui at Wailea, 3550 Wailea Alanui Dr. | Wailea | 808/243-4766 | www.morimotomaui.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Pita Paradise Mediterranean Bistro.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | The restaurant, with its warm decor and friendly staff, set the tone for a relaxed dining experience. But it’s the food that’s the main event here. The owner is a fisherman himself, so you know the fish here is the freshest available. Lunch features affordable and delicious Greek-Mediterranean appetizers, fresh salads, and, of course, the signature pita sandwiches. The spicy falafel and Greek burgers are standouts. In the evening it’s transformed into an Italian-Greek bistro with entrées like chicken fettuccine and moussaka. Save room for the award-winning baklava ice-cream cake—yes, that’s right!—made with Maui’s own Roselani Hawaiian vanilla-bean ice cream. | Average main: $20 | Wailea Gateway Center, 34 Wailea Ike Dr., A-108 | Wailea | 808/879-7177 | www.pitaparadisehawaii.com .
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | It’s a marriage made in Hawaii heaven: the California cuisine of celebrity-chef Wolfgang Puck combined with Maui flavors and served lobby-level and oceanfront at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort. Try the spicy ahi tuna poke in sesame-miso cones to start and then see what the chefs-in-residence can do with some of Maui’s fantastic local fish. It will cost you, but the service is spot-on, and the smooth, Asian-inspired interior allows the food to claim the spotlight. | Average main: $42 | Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, 3900 Wailea Alanui Dr. | Wailea | 808/879-2999 | www.wolfgangpuck.com | No lunch .
Fodor’s Choice | Tommy Bahama.
$$$ | MODERN AMERICAN | It’s more “Island-style” than Hawaii—and yes, it’s a chain—but the food is consistently great, the service is filled with aloha, and the ambience is Island refined. Try the ahi poke napoleon (with capers, sesame, guacamole, and flatbread), the Kalua pork sandwich, any of the generous salads, or the local fish preparations. The crab bisque is worthy of a cross-island drive, as are the desserts. The cocktails are among the best and most creative on the Island. | Average main: $35 | The Shops at Wailea, 3750 Wailea Alanui Dr. | Wailea | 808/875-9983 | www.tommybahama.com .
Maui Shave Ice and Ice Cream
The two most critical components in the making of the Islands’ favorite frosty treat—shave ice—are the fineness of the shave and the quality of the syrup. The shave should be almost powdery, like snow. Top that ice with tropical flavors like mango, lilikoi , or guava. For a multipart taste sensation, start with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom (and maybe some Japanese adzuki beans), add shave ice and flavoring, and then top it with a drizzle of cream or a sprinkle of li hing mui powder for a salty-pungent kick. A great pick is Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice ( www.ululanishawaiianshaveice.com ), which makes “gourmet” shave ice and has locations all over Maui.
Prefer ice cream on its own? Maui’s own Roselani has been made from scratch in Wailuku since 1932. Look for the brand’s line of Tropics flavors, available at all Maui supermarkets. Haupia (coconut pudding) is the best-selling flavor. Some of the best ice-cream parlors are Puukolii General Store & Ice Cream Shoppe at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas (6 Kai Ala Dr., Kaanapali | 808/667-3200 ), Royal Scoop (2780 Kekaa Dr., Kaanapali | 808/661-3611 ), Peggy Sue’s (1279 S. Kihei Rd., No. 303, Kihei | 808/875-8944 ), and Makawao Sushi & Deli (3647 Baldwin Ave., Makawao | 808/573-9044 ).
Central Maui is where the locals live, and the area where you can find just about every ethnic cuisine in the Islands. Savory saimin shops and small joints dishing up loco moco —hamburger patties set on top of two scoops of rice with rich brown gravy—are plentiful. Be sure to check out Wailuku: drive along Lower Main Street, and take a chance on any of the numerous mom-and-pop eateries—it’s truly a culinary adventure. If you walk along historic Market Street, you can shop for antiques between bites.
Kahului offers more variety, because it’s in the main traffic corridor and near the big-box stores; on a few menus you can even find potatoes instead of rice. If you want to eat like a local and, more importantly, at local prices, don’t miss Central Maui.
$ | ASIAN FUSION | Dinner and lunch items are affordable and delicious at this Asian bistro. At lunch, try the flavor-packed char siu bao (barbecue-pork-filled bun) sliders and the gigantic crab club sandwich. Favorite dinner options include the Asian-braised pork belly and the vegetarian putanesca. Breakfast is equally tempting and is served only on the weekends. | Average main: $16 | 2062 W. Vineyard St. | Wailuku | 808/242-2742 | ariasmaui.com | No dinner Sun. | No credit cards .
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | The location of this Mediterranean restaurant is smack-dab in the middle of Kahului, making it a convenient choice for lunch or dinner. The menu features everything from salads and crêpes (both savory and sweet) to pastas and simple fish and meat preparations. A tapas menu (available after 3 pm) changes weekly and always has an excellent selection of dishes. If you’re flying out on a red-eye, this is a perfect place for dinner before heading to the airport. | Average main: $26 | 33 Lono Ave. | Kahului | 808/873-3650 | www.bistrocasanova.com | Closed Sun.
Fodor’s Choice | Da Kitchen.
$ | ECLECTIC | This extremely popular purveyor of all food “local” is bright, shiny, comfortable, and able to accommodate at least 20 more hungry diners than before. But don’t worry, the food is every bit as good as it’s ever been. Try the signature mahimahi tempura, loco moco, Hawaiian plate, chicken katsu, and daily mixed bentos; and rest assured that everything on the menu is delicious and portions are gigantic. The upbeat ambience is reflected in the service as well as the food. There’s an “express” location in Kihei, but we recommend the happy, always-crowded Kahului location. | Average main: $14 | 425 Koloa St. | Kahului | 808/871-7782 | www.dakitchen.com | Closed Sun.
Koho Grill and Bar.
$ | AMERICAN | If Hawaii had city-style diners, this would be Maui’s version. For those looking for a hearty breakfast, a business lunch, or a quick, simple dinner, this is a great choice. Burgers, sandwiches, salads, sizzling fajitas, and pastas are all menu staples. Year after year, Koho proves itself as a casual, family-friendly restaurant still worth recommending. | Average main: $12 | Queen Kaahumanu Center, 275 W. Kaahumanu Ave. | Kahului | 808/877-5588 .
Marco’s Grill & Deli.
$$ | ITALIAN | One of the go-to places for airport comers and goers, this popular Italian restaurant also draws a steady crowd of local residents, mostly for “business” lunches. Meatballs, sausages, and sauces are all made in-house; the owner was a butcher in his former life. There’s a long list of sandwiches that are available all day, and the salads are big enough to share. There are gluten-free options here, but note that substitutions or special requests are not recommended. | Average main: $18 | 444 Hana Hwy. | Kahului | 808/877-4446 .
$ | ECLECTIC | Hawaii’s favorite casual, eat-in or takeout restaurant, Zippy’s was founded more than 45 years ago. Today Oahu has more than two dozen locations from which to choose, and Maui waited a long time to get one. It’s a diner-type place with a big menu and takeout is available 24 hours a day. Spaghetti with chili, oxtail soup, Korean chicken, chicken katsu, noodles, and burgers are just a few of the tasty menu options. Napoleon’s Bakery counter up front serves its only-in-Hawaii-style turnovers, pies, cakes, and pastries, as well as made-to-order malasadas and andagi. | Average main: $10 | 15 Hookele St. | Kahului | 808/856-7599 | www.zippys.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Ba-Le Sandwiches & Plate Lunch.
$ | VIETNAMESE | It began as a French-Vietnamese bakery on Oahu and has branched into popular small restaurants sprinkled throughout the Islands. Some are kiosks in malls; others are stand-alones with some picnic tables out front, as is the case at this location, which is one of four on Maui. Vietnamese pho (the famous soups laden with seafood or rare beef, fresh basil, bean sprouts, and lime) share menu space with local-style saimin and plates of barbecue or spicy chicken, beef, pork, or local fish served with jasmine rice. The delicious sandwiches—bánh mì in Vietnamese—are perfect for lunch to stay or to go. There are a slew of tapioca flavors for dessert. | Average main: $9 | 1824 Oihana St. | Wailuku | 808/249-8833 | www.balemaui.com .
A Saigon Cafe.
$$ | VIETNAMESE | Locals have been flocking to this off-the-beaten path gem for years, lured in by the reliably delicious Vietnamese cuisine at decent prices. It’s tucked behind a nondescript overpass, it doesn’t have a website, and only recently did they put a sign on its building. The dishes are served family-style, and just about everything on the menu is a winner, but you can’t go wrong with the green papaya salad, rice in a clay pot, and the make-your-own Vietnamese burritos. A recent renovation has freshened the place a bit, but the real reason to dine here is what’s on the plate. | Average main: $19 | 1792 Main St. | Wailuku | 808/243-9560 | No credit cards .
Fodor’s Choice | Sam Sato’s.
$ | HAWAIIAN | Every island has its noodle shrine, and this is Maui’s. Dry mein, saimin, chow fun—they all come in different-size portions and with add-ins to satisfy every noodle craving. While you wait for your bowl, try a teriyaki beef stick or two. Save room for the popular turnovers (pineapple, coconut, apple, or peach) and traditional Japanese manju filled with either lima or adzuki beans. At busy times—which is almost always—you will likely have to wait for a table or a stool at the counter; write your name on the little yellow pad at the takeout window. | Average main: $8 | The Millyard, 1750 Wili Pa Loop | Wailuku | 808/244-7124 | No credit cards | Closed Sun. No dinner .
Simply Healthy Cafe.
$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | This is Central Maui’s hidden jewel for reasonably priced, local-style lunches that are good for you. The menu is not only diabetic-friendly, it’s also high in fiber; low in salt, sugar, and fat; and seasoned with fresh herbs under the expert guidance of chef Joe Wilkinson. Besides veggie options, local favorites include ground turkey chow fun, hot-and-sour soup, and baked fish with ginger lime sauce. All entrées come with sweet potatoes, brown rice, taro, and salad or any combination of the above. Simply Healthy can be hard to find; look for the Cameron Center building between Maui Memorial Hospital and the main Wailuku police station. | Average main: $6 | J. Walter Cameron Center, 95 Mahalani St., Room 21 | Wailuku | 808/249-8955 | No credit cards | Closed weekends and holidays. No dinner .
Stillwell’s Bakery & Cafe.
$ | BAKERY | Roy Stillwell has been around Maui for a long time, and is unquestionably one of the best pastry chefs on the Island, so this is the place to come for coffee and an outrageously good macadamia-nut muffin or a renowned cream horn. At lunch time you’ll rub elbows with local folks who work in the area; they come for the fresh sandwiches served, of course, on homemade breads (try the crab-cake sandwich), and for the Chinese chicken, tofu, and shrimp and crab salads. Be sure to order a macoco roll on the side. The desserts on display will surely make you drool—oh, go ahead, you’re on vacation! And if you’re celebrating a birthday (or any other special occasion) Roy is the guy you want to bake your cake. | Average main: $12 | 1740 Kaahumanu Ave. | Wailuku | 808/243-2243 | www.stillwellsbakery.com | No dinner .
Fodor’s Choice | Tokyo Tei.
$ | JAPANESE | Getting there is half—well, maybe a quarter—of the fun. Tucked in the back corner of a covered parking garage, Tokyo Tei is worth seeking out for wonderful local-style Japanese food. At lunch you can rub elbows with bankers and construction workers; at dinner, three generations might be celebrating tutu’s (grandma’s) birthday at the next table. This is a bona fide local institution where for more than six decades people have come for the food and the comfort of familiarity. Enjoy the freshest sashimi, feather-light yet crispy shrimp and vegetable tempura, and local-style bentos and plate lunches. | Average main: $12 | 1063 Lower Main St. | Wailuku | 808/242-9630 | www.tokyoteimaui.com | No lunch Sun.
Take the drive up the slopes of magnificent Mt. Haleakala and you can find an abundance of restaurants catering to both locals and visitors. Haliimaile General Store is a landmark in the middle of rolling pineapple fields (Maui Gold Pineapple Company is still growing pineapple in this area), and in the paniolo (cowboy) town of Makawao you can sidle up to everything from an Italian restaurant to a farm-to-table standout. Upcountry also encompasses cool Kula, with a few mom-and-pops. Many visitors opt to check out nearby farm tours between meals.
Casanova Italian Restaurant & Deli.
$$$ | ITALIAN | An authentic Italian dinner house and nightclub, this place is smack in the middle of Maui’s paniolotown of Makawao. The brick wood-burning oven, imported from Italy, has been turning out perfect pies and steaming-hot focaccia for more than 20 years. You can pair a pie with a salad (they’re all big enough to share) and a couple of glasses of wine without breaking the bank. The daytime deli is fabulous for breakfast, a cappuccino, croissants, and people-watching. The place turns positively raucous—in a good way—on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. | Average main: $28 | 1188 Makawao Ave. | Makawao | 808/572-0220 | www.casanovamaui.com .
Grandma’s Maui Coffee.
$ | AMERICAN | If you’re taking a drive through gorgeous Upcountry Maui, this is a great place to stop for a truly homegrown cup of coffee and a snack. All of the coffee is grown right on the slopes of Haleakala and roasted on the premises in a 100-year-old roaster proudly on display. The baked goods are fabulous—particularly the lemon bars—and the variety of menu items for breakfast and lunch is vast. Eggs, omelets, crêpes, and fantastic home fries are served for breakfast, while salads, sandwiches, lasagna, and more can be ordered at lunch. Enjoy your coffee and goodies on the lovely deck overlooking the central valley. | Average main: $9 | 9232 Kula Hwy. | Kula | 808/878-2140 | www.grandmascoffee.com .
Haliimaile General Store.
$$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | Chef-restaurateur Beverly Gannon’s first restaurant remains a culinary destination after more than a quarter century. The big, rambling former plantation store has two dining rooms: sit in the front to be seen and heard; head on back for some quiet and privacy. Classic dishes like Bev’s “Famous” Crab Pizza, Asian duck tostada, grilled rack of lamb, and many more are complemented with daily and nightly specials. To get here, take the exit on the left halfway up Haleakala Highway. | Average main: $38 | 900 Haliimaile Rd. | Haliimaile | 808/572-2666 | www.hgsmaui.com .
$$ | ITALIAN | Dishing up home-style comfort food with an Italian accent, this out-of-the-way eatery is worth the drive to scenic Kula, no matter when you arrive. Start the day with their crab cake Benedict, grab any one of their outstanding panini around lunchtime, or come for dinner, when a dizzying array of choices await, including favorites such as vodka pomodoro with seafood, vegetable lasagna, and filet mignon. A spacious dining room and casual vibe make this place a great option for families and groups. | Average main: $22 | 4566 Lower Kula Rd. | Kula | 808/871-2960 | www.kulabistro.com | No credit cards .
Makawao Sushi & Deli.
$$ | ECLECTIC | It may seem an odd mix—sushi and deli—but this is a cute place on Makawao’s main drag, where you can sip an espresso and snack on pastries, sandwiches, or any of the sushi rolls. The menu is much longer than you might expect, and the fish is always fresh. The most popular rolls are the 007, a spicy tuna roll topped with ebi, avocado, and unagi sauce, and the Rockin’ Roll, a traditional California roll wrapped with tuna and covered with baked scallops. The baked mussels are divine and so is this place’s version of ahi poke. | Average main: $25 | 3647 Baldwin Ave. | Makawao | 808/573-9044 .
Market Fresh Bistro.
$$$ | MODERN HAWAIIAN | This hard-to-find restaurant tucked into a courtyard serves farm-to-table food prepared by chef Justin Pardo, formerly of Union Square Café in New York City. In addition to offering locally grown and produced ingredients, Pardo nods to healthful eating by using reductions and infused oils rather than butter. Representative dishes include the Upcountry vegetable salad and creative fresh fish preparations. Reservations are essential for the Thursday-night prix-fixe farm dinners, which are pricey. Lunch, however, is much less—around $12. Brunch is served on Sunday only. | Average main: $75 | 3620 Baldwin Ave. | Makawao | 808/572-4877 | www.marketfreshbistro.com | Closed Mon. No dinner Fri.-Wed.
The North Shore sets the dramatic stage for Maui’s most famous—and most expensive—restaurant, Mama’s Fish House in Kuau. The area also encompasses the great food town of Paia and the up-and-coming restaurant town of Haiku. Be sure to bring your bathing suit for a dip in the ocean at one of the nearby beaches.
Fodor’s Choice | Colleen’s at the Cannery.
$$ | AMERICAN | You’d never guess what’s inside by the nondescript exterior and the location in an old pineapple cannery-cum-strip mall. Colleen’s is one of the most overlooked restaurants on Maui. It’s popular with locals for breakfast and lunch, but try it at dinner when the candles come out and it’s time for martinis and fresh fish. The food is excellent, in particular the huge salads made with Upcountry’s best produce, the fish specials, the burgers, and the simple roast chicken. When dining here, you’ll feel like you’re at a hip, urban eatery. | Average main: $20 | Haiku Cannery Marketplace, 810 Haiku Rd. | Haiku-Pauwela | 808/575-9211 | www.colleensinhaiku.com .
$$ | ASIAN FUSION | This off-the-beaten-path izakaya-style Japanese eatery is worth the trek to sleepy Haiku. The intimate restaurant is packed just about every night, and reservations aren’t accepted, so it’s a good idea to arrive early. Diners flock here for chef Hiro Takanashi’s eclectic menu that includes everything from specialty French fries and fusion sushi rolls to fresh sashimi and some of the best tempura around. Ingredients are key, and the extensive menu and nightly specials take its cue from what’s fresh from local farmers and fishermen. The homemade green tea and black sesame ice cream flavors are too tempting to choose between—try a scoop of each. | Average main: $18 | 780 Haiku Rd. | Haiku-Pauwela | 808/575-2939 | www.nukamaui.com | Reservations not accepted .
Mama’s Fish House.
$$$$ | SEAFOOD | For almost four decades, Mama’s has been the Maui destination for special occasions. A path of gecko-shape stones leads through the coconut grove past the giant clamshell and under the banyan arch to an ever-changing fantasyland of Hawaiian kitsch. The setting couldn’t be more spectacular, and the menu names the angler that reeled in your fresh catch. The savvy servers can explain the various fish types and preparations, and you’d be wise to heed their recommendation. Just be sure to save room for the deservedly famous Polynesian Black Pearl dessert. | Average main: $50 | 799 Poho Pl. | Kuau | 808/579-8488 | www.mamasfishhouse.com .
Café des Amis.
$ | ECLECTIC | The menu is a little neurotic—in a good way—featuring Mediterranean and Indian dishes, but the food is fresh and tasty. This budget-friendly café offers flavors and preparations not easily obtainable at other Island eateries, with a nice selection of sweet and savory crêpes, Indian wraps, and salads. Now, you can have a cocktail, wine, and beer, too. All in all, you get delicious, good-value food, as well as excellent people watching from the umbrella-shaded tables outside. | Average main: $16 | 42 Baldwin Ave. | Paia | 808/579-6323 | www.cdamaui.com .
$ | ECLECTIC | Paia is one of Maui’s most interesting food towns, and this Mediterranean-inspired joint is right in the thick of things. It’s kind of frenetic in every way, from the menu to the style and the service. But the food is great and well priced, and the people-watching is fascinating. The husband and wife owners, from England and Spain respectively, decorated the place with Moroccan clay pieces; teak and coconut-wood tables are set in the middle of benches with Middle Eastern pillows. The menu goes all over the place, too, with all-American burgers, island fish, falafel and hummus, Spanish tapas, and paella. | Average main: $15 | 30 Baldwin Ave. | Paia | 808/579-8021 | www.cafemambomaui.com .
Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon.
$$ | AMERICAN | A Maui institution, this place has suffered in the cleanliness and customer-service departments as of late, so check recent customer reviews before going. It’s known for meeting your cowboy-size breakfast appetite: omelets, pancakes, and sausage biscuits with country gravy lure customers in. Charley’s also serves hearty portions for lunch and dinner, including handmade pizzas and awesome burgers. The saloon is open until 10 every night; you can party until 2 am on Friday and Saturday. | Average main: $19 | 142 Hana Hwy. | Paia | 808/579-8085 | www.charleysmaui.com .
$$ | PIZZA | This Vermont-based company marched right in to Paia in 2007 and instantly became a popular restaurant and a valued addition to the community. As part of the company’s mission, it started “giving back” to local nonprofits immediately. But it’s not just good for its altruism; the food is fantastic. There’s a big, primitive-looking, earthen, wood-fired oven from which emerge utterly delicious flatbread pizzas. The bustling restaurant uses organic, local, sustainable products, including 100% organically grown wheat for the made-fresh-daily dough. The place is a good spot to take the kids. There’s a no-reservations policy, but there’s “call-ahead seating,” so you can put your name on the wait list before you arrive. | Average main: $22 | 89 Hana Hwy. | Paia | 808/579-8989| www.flatbreadcompany.com | Reservations not accepted .
Fodor’s Choice | Hana Ranch Provisions.
$$ | ECLECTIC | Modern farmhouse decor sets the tone for this chic eatery, a relative newcomer to Paia town. As its name suggests, the restaurant sources most ingredients from its ranch on Maui’s rural east end. The eclectic rotating menu takes it cue from what’s in season, but you’ll always find made-from-scratch baked goods, house-smoked meats, and locally sourced organic produce. Can’t decide? Simply close your eyes and point at the menu—yes, everything is that good. Make room for something from the inventive cocktail or dessert menus, which also changes depending on what’s fresh. | Average main: $19 | 71 Baldwin Ave. | Paia | 808/868-3688 | www.hanaranchprovisions.com .
Maka by Mana.
$ | VEGETARIAN | When the popular Mana Foods market opened this bright and airy restaurant a few blocks down the street, health-conscious foodies rejoiced. Dishing up raw and vegan food that’s also gluten-free, their inventive offerings are tasty enough to tempt those who aren’t accustomed to a plant-based diet. Try one of their fresh-squeezed juices or smoothies to start, plant your fork into one of their vibrant salads, or bite into one of their flavor-filled sandwiches. You’ll want to save room for a slice of pie, which comes in flavors including lilikoi blueberry and raspberry mango. | Average main: $12 | 115 Baldwin Ave. | Paia | 808/579-9125 | www.makabymana.com .
Fodor’s Choice | Paia Fishmarket Restaurant.
$ | SEAFOOD | If you’re okay with communal picnic tables, or taking your meal to a nearby beach, this place in funky Paia town serves, arguably, the best fresh fish for the best prices on this side of the island. Four preparations are offered and, on any given day, there are at least four fresh fishes from which to choose. For the non-fish fans, there are burgers, chicken, and pasta. The side dishes—Cajun rice, home fries, and the amazing hand-cut crunchy cole slaw—are all as delectable as the main event. You can have a beer or a glass of wine, too, as long as you stay inside, of course. There’s a sister restaurant in Kihei. | Average main: $15 | 100 Hana Hwy. | Paia | 808/579-8030 | www.paiafishmarket.com .
ROAD TO HANA
Hana is far from a foodie destination, but its emerging restaurant scene offers several great places to delight your taste buds.
Fodor’s Choice | Hana Fresh Market.
$ | AMERICAN | Directly in front of (and associated with) Hana Health, you’ll find rows of tables laden with delicious and organic fresh salads and entrées worthy of any chic farm-to-table restaurant. Fresh fish plates, poke bowls, panini, and wraps are just a few of the always-changing choices. Early birds can enjoy made-to-order omelets and waffles, or sip on fresh fruit juices and smoothies. Best of all, the produce comes from the restaurant’s own farm, directly behind the health center. If your accommodations include a kitchen, stock up here on bags of fresh veggies at incredibly reasonable prices. | Average main: $10 | 4590 Hana Hwy. | Hana | 808/248-7515 | www.hanafresh.org .