Aloha Mixed Plate:
My sense of AMP before we went was that his was a casual eatery serving basic but quintessential Hawaiian fare, moderately priced. I knew that they were near the beach, popular, and had a good happy hour. I also heard that because of their position next to the most popular Luau, you could hear some cool music while you eat. That made it sound like a good place to go for our first night while were tired from travel and needing something cheerful but low key. I was smart enough to make a reservation even though it wasn’t the kind of place I thought you’d need one, especially for the early 530 Happy Hour time.
It was a great thing I made a rez, for one. People eat EARLY in Maui for many reasons--beach activities, lack of big lunches, early sunsets, lots of families traveling with young kids. I highly recommend reserving all your meals, even ones that seem like casual spot. We saw tons of people waiting for tables and we came "off season" We booked 2-3 weeks ahead and still had some limitations-- next time I’ll book 4 weeks ahead for Maui!
I wasn’t expecting AMP to have such stunning ambiance. It was casual in the sense that it wasn’t a fancy restaurant, but it provided jaw dropping ocean views and a remarkably sexy ambiance. The setting definitely screamed “Welcome to Maui”, The happy hour menu provided some interesting deals on food and drink, but wan’t a game changer. I’m not sure we ended up ordering anything off the HH menu. As we were on a Babymoon, I took a mocktail of Lychee Lemonade, but my husband tried a bloody mary. We sat next to a woman on the plane who had recommended them on the plane. My husband got the poke of the day which was Marlin. They accommodated his mayo allergy and prepared it in other style. I couldn’t have any because of being pregnant. It looked and smelled amazing, such huge fresh chunks of fish meat. He said it was steak-like fish and he seemed to relish his first poke of the trip. I had their signature “Mixed Plate” which came with teriyaki beef, shoyu chicken, and grilled white fish with white rice and mac salad. DH had a fish sandwich for his main. I really enjoyed my mixed plate, tho it was so huge I couldn’t finish it even having skipped a real lunch and not having an appetizer. It would be great to share a mixed plate with a couple apps is my idea for others. (DH is a “pescaturk” so he doesn’t eat chix or beef.) The fish surprised me as it looked like a piece of plain, dry white fish. It wasn’t dry at all and it was quite tasty tho simple. One of my favorite things about being in Maui is plain white fish is not “boring” to me as it is on the mainland. It tastes fresh with better flavor and texture than it does at home. The beef was nothing special but hit the spot and the chicken was quite moist and flavorful with it’s saucy marinade. DH seemed happy with his sandwich tho it surely wasn’t as special as his poke. We were seated right on the water and the sunset view was utterly magical. The proximity to the water is really something. The service was great and the vibe was mellow and lovely. This is one I would prioritize coming to not necessarily for mind-blowing food, but solid, tasty regional food at a reasonable price with an exceptionally delightful atmosphere well suited to families or honeymooners. Great to mix into your itinerary to balance out the expense of fine dining.
Somehow this ended up on my casual lunching bookmarks from Yelp. As a compromise to my husband who doesn’t want every moment of his vacation planned out, I don’t calendar-plan lunches, I usually have a bookmarks list of casual spots that I pull from as needed. This was a super convenient location across from the Lahaina Safeway in a little strip mall. I didn’t realize it was a taco truck, but that felt kinda fun after a morning at the beach. Cash only. The tacos however, were a bit spicy for my taste and a bit dry. Coming from LA, I wasn’t particularly impressed with their mex food. The service was friendly, it was fast, and we fed our leftover chips to baby wild chickens hanging around the picnic tables in the parking lot next to truck. So it was nice memory, but not for the food. Especially not the $10 chips and guac which was store bought chips and watery, not avocado-pure guac. I would skip.
This spot had a lot of mixed reviews, but I decided it had enough potential as the menu looked good and it was right on the beach. It ended up being maybe our best meal or close runner-up. For a Babymoon/anniversary trip, it was exceptional for romance. We arrived just before sunset and were seated right next to the water with an anniversary card. You can literally walk onto the beach from their patio and we took the opportunity to do a photo shoot of the gorgeous sunset before ordering anything. I got the perfect pregnancy pic with which to make my social media announcement. Tiki torches stud the sweeping ocean views, it’s really something. We watched a local skipping rocks in an ancient cultural tradition and saw luau dancers practicing on the beach before heading next door for a show. The bread and butter was to die for, and the cocktail of the day had passionfruit and farm fresh basil— one for my DH with vodka and a mocktail version for me. Festive and delicious. The server was excellent and patient. We started by sharing the fried Surfing Goat cheese salad with roasted maui onion, which they brought out already split on two plates— always love when places do that. Surfing goat is a popular foodie item on maui menus and we could see why. The roasted maui onions were incredibly good. Sharing meant small amounts of these goodies so maybe splurge and get a salad a person. The entrees were well described by server which helped us decide— I got the popular Coconut crusted Mahi with Toasted coconut and crushed macadamia nuts, Thai peanut coconut sauce, tropical fruit salsa, jasmine rice and black Thai mochi rice. DH the seafood risotto with Kauai prawns, fish and scallops, scallion oil, and beech mushrooms. Both were outstanding. My mahi plate had a LOT going on, and I was all about it. The vegetables were more than garnishes- generous and delectable, the farm-to-table aspect of the restaurant shone here. The variety of sauces and textures on the plate made for such fun eating. I really loved that dish, and could taste the care and whimsy from the chefs. DH’s dish was more about the seafood, really showboating the various fish, many of them local. The scallops were especially perfect and I was glad he shared one with me. The sauce of the risotto was tasty, but it was a green sauce and as I crave saffron flavor when I eat a seafood risotto, that basil-forward rice would’ve gotten old for me to eat a whole plate of, so even though the dish was cooked very well I was happier with my mahi as it offered more variety of flavors and textures. For dessert we ordered a cheesecake with lime pearl “caviar”. The texture was more loose than a traditional cheesecake but the flavors were spot on. Then the server brought a complimentary dark chocolate flourless cake for an anniversary treat! Decadent. The desserts were small so it was easy to finish everything. The chef owner made rounds twice during our meal, once just to chat with everyone and once to show off a huge newly caught fish fresh off a nearby boat that they were going to be serving the next day. His exuberance added to the pleasing atmosphere. Overall, a perfect and incredibly romantic meal. Value was decent.
From the lunch list, we happened to be nearby this legendary spot after snorkeling one day. Kihei is about 45 min drive from Lahaina. Luckily there was no line when we arrived. Maybe because weren’t there in high season, or early, or got lucky. They do take credit cards. We split pancakes with coconut and pineapple and I had fried rice with three kinds of pork (ham, Portuguese sausage, and bacon) and fried egg. DH also had a breakfast burrito that had big chunks of roasted skin-on red potatoes which looked tasty. Large menu sure to meet different tastes for families with picky eaters. I’m not sure it was so exceptional as to drive an hour out of your way for or wait in line for as long, but since we were near and no line it was completely awesome. Photo of pancakes is before dousing in two types of syrup— maple and passionfruit. Super satisfying after hours in the water. The nearest bathrooms are in this funky little shopping plaza mall next door which had neat shopping. I bought a cute pineapple xmas tree ornament personalized with our travel date.
One look at the menu of Star Noodle, and I knew I had to go. Try to read their menu online and not drool. Plus the Top Chef connection— Sheldon from season 10 used to be the exec chef before he opened his own restaurant(s). The downside of Star Noodle is that they’re a bit inland, so all indoors and no views--one sunset was sacrificed for this meal. The upsides are everything else. Fantastic food and one of our only dinners under $100 for two people on this trip. My husband’s dietary restrictions influenced some of our order— we shared the taro sesame dumplings (vegan), the mixed mushroom medley, the Singapore noodles with shrimp but hold the chicken, and the prawn tempura. The pork belly buns are apparently their most popular dish, so I asked the server if I should order it for myself even tho my husband couldn’t partake, and the server said I could order just one bao a la’ carte, so I did that. Everything was outstanding. The bao was especially scrumptious. Even though I seem to order pork belly fairly often, I’m kinda picky about eating meat that fatty and not the type who automatically loves everything pork belly. This one, though, was incredible. The char sui flavor of the sauce was perfection, the texture of the pork belly was absolutely luscious without being overly fatty, and parts of the meat had a pleasing crunch. The bun was great and the pickled onions made it sing. Honestly, I wish I had been forced to order the full sized appetizer so I could have eaten three of them! The shrimp tempura was maybe the largest I have ever had, and utterly fantastic. The Singapore noodles had interesting depth of flavor, a unique spice that was pleasing to us both, and good crunchy elements from the veggies. The taro dumplings were different and enjoyable— the combination of taro and sesame in that savory context worked well, though it wasn’t a substantial dish— the plate amounted to a few bites that wasn’t filling. The mushroom dish was a powerhouse of flavor, though again fairly light for an appetizer. Thus, the meal was super but I had room for ice cream afterwards. Of course at this price point— why not? While this restaurant is not upscale, it is quite popular and you should book as far ahead as you can. I tried to book 2-3 weeks out and couldn’t find the times I needed online, though they accommodated me when I emailed.
The only scheduled definite lunch plan I had was Leoda’s Pie & Kitchen. It appeared in lots of research and was also conveniently located not too far south of Lahaina near one of our surf spots. Since I couldn’t enjoy any alcohol or raw fish on this vacation, I was determined to get some great dessert. The lines can get long, but I got there before noon and it wasn’t too bad. Did it live up to the hype? I went back… twice. I ended up eating or sharing 6 servings of pie. My favorite was the pineapple macadamia nut, and I repeated this one twice. I ate half of one the way to the airport when we had to leave Maui and the other half when I finally arrived home to self-soothe against the bitterness of being done with the vacay. I shared the chocolate macadamia cream pie which was exceptionally rich and decadent, just masterful. And that’s coming from someone who’s not a big chocolate cream pie fan usually. We also shared a lime pie (like key lime except these limes didn’t come from Florida) which was excellent. We also shared a coconut cream pie, very good. I wouldn’t mind being forced to eat my way through their pie case, I absolutely loved their stuff. Their savory stuff, however, was a bit meh. I got my surfer dude a turkey sandwich as they boasted in-house roasted turkey, and it was just ok. My Portuguese sausage hot dog was messy and the bun wasn’t the best apparatus for containing the meat. I did really get a kick of the pineapple cole slaw. I couldn’t get enough pineapple on my vacation (hot tip: when you’re stocking up at safeway for hotel snacks, get cheap containers of freshly cut pineapple for your mini fridge. Holy Moly!) and while the slaw was heavy on the mayo, I’m okay with that. A good tip from my OB was to get your savory stuff from the farmer's market in the same parking lot, then just order dessert. Leoda’s, I love you.
The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea:
Somehow, months ago when I began my Hawaii restaurant research I got it in my head that I wanted the romantic anniversary night dinner to be at Hotel Wailea. I can’t even remember what resource(s) led me to this conclusion, and I had a nagging feeling as my research continued that my early selection might not have been the best. Nobody on Chowhound mentioned it, that's a red flag. Yet something I'd seen had convinced me it offered unparalleled romantic sunset views and was underrated with incredible food, so I stuck by that early decision despite failing to see it come up in subsequent research. Usually I am hardcore about food coming before atmosphere, but as this was a babymoon/wedding anniversary romantic trip to Hawaii, I was putting more emphasis than usual on scenic views. I wanted to go deep into that paradise fantasy of stunning oceanside sunsets, and I thought the anniversary meal should be the most romantic setting I could find. So it was the first rez I made months ahead, asking for a table overlooking the water. And it ended up being a total mistake. First of all, we were staying in Kaanapali, just north of Lahaina, and didn’t understand the traffic patterns of driving to Wailea for dinner. Somehow I got carried away doing my anniversary night make up and didn’t do my usually meticulous timekeeping, and we left the hotel room a little late. And then we got stuck in terrible bumper to bumper traffic (Maui only has a few big roads and when there's an accident or rush hour, in this case both... yuck!) We were not going to make it there it time for sunset. I called them on the way to explain my situation, how we were running late to our special anniversary dinner, and the Maitre’ D said the usual thing about “see you when you get here”. We were 25 minutes late. Unheard of for me. The sun had set and there were just some lingering colored light over the ocean. The view is actually overlooking from high up, more looking down on, not right next to like some of the other restaurants we had dined at. And the only tables that really got the view at all were the best ones right next to the window. Which I had asked for months ago, but because we were late, we had forfeited our special table. I really didn’t like the tone of the Maitre D, who was obviously dealing with a sad pregnant lady who missed the sunset at her anniversary dinner, when he explained he could not give me the good table I saw available because someone else was waiting for it. I could have at least gotten the sunset dregs if he had let us have it, but he didn’t and he wasn’t particularly nice about it. Then they brought us two glasses of prosecco as our special anniversary treat, which would have been a nice touch if not ignoring the detail I had given them (in the rez notes and then again visually) about being pregnant, so I couldn’t enjoy it. A dessert instead would have been better or an amuse. The atmosphere, without the window table or the light by which to see the water, didn’t seem special at all and I had that gut-sinking feel right away that this had been the wrong choice. The menu confirmed my fears. It was VERY expensive, and only one of the proteins on the entree side was locally sourced. The dishes that our server recommended as being the best— the scallops or the crab pasta or the short ribs— were all flown in from maine or alaska or new zealand. There was no amuse bouche, instead we paid $16 for literally 4 bites, two each. Those bites were better than apps or entrees. We shared their truffle risotto which was tasted good but was nothing inventive and luke warm. My husband had the local fish, which he liked—I didn’t find it inspired. I ordered the crab pasta because that would usually be a comfort food for me and I was a bit sullen at that point. It was just alright. I ate half and my husband finished it. FYI, 90% of the time I finish every bite of my food when I eat out. We did order dessert, a chocolate molten cake stuffed with banana ice cream and topped with molten marshmallow. That was probably the best thing we ate at $16 for the dessert. It was pretty small. Overall, it was the least best (e.g. worst) meal of our trip and the MOST EXPENSIVE. Not that this place was on your list, since I don’t know how it got on mine, but definitely keep it off.
Hula Grill (at Whaler's Village)
On our relaxed pool/beach day where we didn't leave the resort we walked up Kaanapali beach to "Whaler's Village". In my research this had come up as a cute shopping area. Nothing cute about it, it's a shopping mall. They do have lots of dining options tho, and Hula Grill is right on the beach, your feet in the sand. It's a moderately luxe chain but boasts lots of local fresh fish. We split a fish of the date plate which had a lovely buttery sauce as well as some fish tacos. The portions weren't big and the prices weren't great, but it all tasted good with perfect oceanside ambiance. Lots of local beer options.
We had been to Roy’s in Oahu in 2012 and had such a tasty meal. I never could reproduce that meal the couple of time I visited mainland Roy’s, but I heard that the OG Hawaii locations were much better than the ones in the US. I didn’t like the atmosphere or service of the Oahu Roy’s so much, but I just remember everything tasting so darn good that I wanted to go again. Also it was super convenient to our hotel, basically just across the parking lot. Service was good and atmosphere actually better than the Oahu branch, but I didn’t find the food as exciting as I had remembered. We shared crab cakes which were small deep fried pellets, not good. My husband got to eat a beautiful looking poke duo which was probably the best thing on the table that night, but being pregnant I didn’t get to partake. My cooked sushi roll was fun because I miss sushi so much, and it was flavorful, but it was pretty tiny for $17. only 4 or 5 cut pieces, it resembled a half roll of sushi more than a roll. The butterfish dish was pretty great, I love the moist fish and the tasty variety of sauces, but since we had been eating great fish all week it didn’t have quite the same draw as it did in my Hawaiian memories of lore. We finished with the pineapple upside down cake which was adequate but not exceedingly delicious, and again, tiny. The overall prices, portions, and corporate feel of the place just didn’t seem worthwhile compared to some of our other Maui meals like Pacific O, Aloha Mixed Plate, Star Noodle which all had so much more character and local flair as well as more interesting menu items. Not to say that Roy’s is a terrible choice, but I’ll probably skip it on our next Mail visit as the local food scene is so worthy of exploration. The bill ended up being one of the higher bills of the trip, which just didn’t seem like an accurate value representation considering I left able to eat more cookies in our hotel room. They also do this annoying thing where they ask you while you’re still waiting for your entree if you want to order dessert, explaining that it takes an especially long time to cook, as if it that’s why they need to know in advance. Well, it doesn’t actually take THAT long, and it certainly feels like they’re trying to get you out the door quickly, not do you some big favor by saving you a torturous wait for dessert. We didn’t order it ahead as suggested but rather after our main course, and it felt like it came in a perfectly normal, reasonable fashion.
McDonald’s in Lahaina:
My OB-GYN reminded me that Mickey D’s serves a local’s menu, and the breakfast platter has rice, Portuguese sausage, spam, and eggs. They also have some fruit pie flavors we don’t have on the main land, and fry them to order. I stopped here for lunch one day while my husband surfed. I almost walked right out because I didn’t see the Hawaiian menu and thought the location I had entered didn’t offer it. Luckily, I asked. It’s called the local special and it’s not always on the board. They were out of Spam, so I was given regular sausage. Pretty tasty for a cheap, quick meal! The cook time was exceptionally slow, however. Soy sauce is given for the rice.
I went back on forth during my research phase on Mama’s Fish House. With mixed reviews from foodies, I couldn’t tell if the expense was worth it. The menu didn’t speak to me when I examined it. I just wasn’t sure. By the time my OB GYN recommended it highly, just 2 weeks before our vacation, there were zero reservations for the whole week were there. Chows seem to prefer Merriman’s anyway, so I was happy enough choosing it for the other splurge meal. By the time I got organized, they only had 5 PM on the last day of our trip. It seemed awfully early, but it ended up being a great time. We got there in time to snag a happy hour beverage (that ends at 5!), saving $9 from my husband’s extremely hard core mai tai with visible layers of booze and sexy pineapple foam. We also had time to walk down to the beach of the cove below and enjoy the sensationally beautiful spot. This probably would have been the perfect romantic foodie anniversary dinner instead of the Hotel Wailea. (Which actually someone here TOLD ME and I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED!) Except I can’t regret coming here on our last night because it capped off the Babymoon in such a perfect way. I’m pretty sure our window side view was better than whatever HW would have been if we had gotten the sunset window experience. Even though our table side view was stupendous, we did take a stroll out on their patio to watch the sun set into the ocean in the most magical way in between the apps and the entrees. When we came back we got to gaze at the lovely afterglow views which evolved into dramatic colors. The food did not disappoint! The amuse was a beautiful offering of marinated pineapple. It’s like they knew it was my last night and couldn’t get enough pineapple. The bread was offered with a bowl of chunky tomato water instead of butter. That stuff was gold, I started dipping everything in it. We ordered an appetizer pupu sampler which came with a lobster tomato salad, a cheese and strawberry salad, a poke, and a pork quesadilla. The portions were small of each but it was great variety of color and flavor. My husband got the poke and I got the pork. The cheese salad used that great local Surfing Goat cheese. For the mains- we split two: The Local Caught Fish Of The Day and The Kona Kampachi: Fresh Thyme, Lemon & Sichuan Peppered with Truffled Potato Ravioli, Haiku Fennel Ragout, Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Capers, & Castelvetrano Olives. I wish I could definitively recall what type of fish the special was, it has a luxurious buttery sauce and moroccan spiced roasted vegetables on a potato puree. It was delicate and packed with flavor. It had also came with an enormous, perfect prawn. The Kona Kampachi wasn’t one the server was pushing as their top, but when he described it with its mediterranean flavors on a local fish, it sounded like a great contrast to the preparations we’d had so far on the island. IMHO It truly was exceptional, in particular the potato ravioli with truffle were sinfully good, I could have eaten plates of those, slowly savoring every bite. Somehow, we were stuffed by the time we finished the mains and, uncharacteristically, I couldn’t do dessert. The bill was less than I expected from such a high-caliber fine dining establishment, it did help that we’d snagged a round at the bar during happy hour— and we left feeling maybe we had saved the very best for last. Certainly a contender for your splurge meal on Maui, Merriman’s seemed to have it all with it’s sweeping ocean views and superbly prepared fresh fish. We also enjoyed live music with our dinner— a young woman playing covers on her guitar and singing. We came on a Sunday.
Note: One evening after all-day tour we ate at a restaurant in our hotel, which was only serviceable. Our accommodations at the Hyatt Regency were otherwise exceptional.
split salad, would get my own next time!
Before I doused in maple and passion fruit syrups
Great mushroom medley
That scrumptious pork belly bun
Singapoore Noodles with shrimp
Pineapple Macadamia Nut pie
Chocolate Mac Pie
amuses you pay for
choc molten with banana ice cream and marshmallow top
fish of the day in buttery sauce
Butterfish and cooked fish sushi with mac nut
Pineapple upside down mini-cake. Don't have to order it during your mains!
coconut cream pie and another pineapple mac in bkg
Off menu local's breakfast with reg sausage when out of spam
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