I don't believe that when visiting Maui you have to patronize all the well-advertised restaurants and pay for overly-priced, overly-hyped, overly-decorated meals. Slick magazines, 24 hr Maui visitor channel, and glossy books all cajole the visitor to experience Maui by spending big bucks on a gourmet meal.
Yes, there are some excellent chefs on the island, but they are all doing the same thing: basically - seared ahi, crab cakes, crusted lamb, pork, etc many of which are arranged in a Napoleon-like stack surrounded by colorful sauce and often accompanied by a view of sunset by the ocean. Restaurants are featured in a variety of flavors, for example Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Fusion, Local, established, new, etc.
What an industry - remember everyone here has two jobs - one during the day, then a 430pm - 10pm job normally serving the tourist industry (bartenders, waitress, waiter, busboys, valets, kitchen staff, back room, etc (one needs two jobs because the prices here are 25-33% higher than on the mainland - gas @ 2.90 a gallon - even at the local Costco - someone has to pay the ocean freight).
Enough already - two places I visited are really impressive. Both are off the tourist track. One is in Wailuku, the old part of town and county seat. On Upper Market street, across from the First Hawaiian Bank is a charming wine bar (coffee bar by day) - named Cafe Marc Aurel Wine Bar - worthy of a major city - 80 vines by the glass, 20 beers, 9 ports, grappa and Irish whiskey. Appetizers include cheese platter (the winer/diner chooses 3 from goat, stilton, Italian, cheddar, camembert), dolmas, and tzatziki to name a few. A surprising sophisticated find in a charming area reminiscent of older island times. The service is as charming as the little shop. Get to know this area and you won't be disappointed. You'll rub elbows with the locals.
My second recommendation is for a well-known island establishment, Sansei. (One is located in Kaanapali and another in a strip mall near Foodland market in Kihei.) - I enjoyed a meal at the branch in Kihei, and thought it was the finest Japanese-fusion food on the island at an almost reasonable price. This is a place which the locals truly support, no doubt due to the excellent cuisine, top shelf service, knowledgeable sushi staff and a unique menu. - Not for classical Japanese foodies - but for imaginative foodies.
(I have no interest in either places mentioned and will be back in Florida on the full moon, but encourage visitors to this island in paradise to think outside the glossy magazines when you make your dinner reservations. You won't be disappointed.
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