We have been to Maui twice now and I've finally compiled a list of places where we ate. We are all about local food and trying hard to avoid touristy places. If you're interested in checking out activities that we did, feel free to visit my travel blog:
Here are the EATS!
Da Kitchen (Rainbow Mall, South Kihei) - YUMMY
On our last trip, the dude at Boss Frog’s recommended this place for local cuisine. It is soooo good. Local divey food. We shared the Hawaiian plate lunch (it’s huge). It has lomi lomi salmon (regional staple salsa type thing with salmon), lua lua pork is wrapped in taro leaves and is so fatty and so good and Kulua pork (shredded pork) and rice vermicelli with chicken. I can eat this for at least 3 days straight. Kalbi ribs special was really good too. I wasn’t wild about the fried noodles, teriyaki chicken (big chunks of breast meat never appeal to me).
Café O’ Lei - OK
The plate lunch ($10) was God awful. It was a few chunks of char siu pork that was so fatty and dry in a bad way, we didn’t even try to finish it. The manoa wrap ($8) was really good (lettuce wrap with ground pork stir fried with lots of good herby stuff and spicy).
Alexander’s Fish and Chips - OK
Pretty decent fish and chips. They tempura deep fry mahi which was good but not wow. Decent for a beach lunch ($12). Small portion, so don’t share.
Star Supermarket - GOOD
We bought a block of ahi sashimi and some marinated ahi poke. Really good and fresh. About $15 total. We also bought some saimin that was really yummy too (got to use that awful pork from Café O’Lei, cut it up and stir fried with spinach, bean sprouts with the saimin). There is a buffet type thing where you can buy cooked food by the pound. It was actually pretty decent for a cheap quick lunch or snack.
Foodland Supermarket - GOOD
We bought marinated ahi poke and octopus. Very good. About $5-6 a pound.
Koiso Sushi Bar – SUSHI HEAVEN
Small 14 seater sushi bar in Kihei (Dolphin Plaza). It’s north of Rainbow mall in a “food court” where there is a Baskin Robbins, Boss Frog’s and a few other food places. It’s open Monday through Sat 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm. It’s always a good sign if you walk into a sushi bar and see Japanese people there. And there they were, about 8 of the 14 were Japanese. The sushi was awesome. We did mostly the fresh fish on the board behind Hiro, the sushi chef (and presumably owner).
We had tai (red snapper), kinhe (a cousin of the red snapper), aji (Spanish mackerel), hamachi (yellowtail), hirame (Halibut), abalone, mirigua (giant clam) and a spicy tuna roll. The aji and kinhe were amazing, like butter. Everything else was really yummy too. It was pricey, anywhere between $6-$9 for two pieces (we think, I kept asking for 2 but the bill would have been way underpriced if it was actually that much for one piece each), but so worth it.
Pupu Lounge – JUST SAY NO
We should have sat at the bar and had a drink instead of dinner the second we stepped into this place. It had all the cheesiness of a tropical island type restaurant where they would fawn over you and do stupid touristy things they think you want them to do. They didn’t do any of that, but it had that kind of feel.
The food was not good. We had the fresh catch (hebe, no clue what kind of fish that is) macadamia nut crusted ($24) and Ric had the surf and turf (local 14 oz strip and grilled fresh catch) ($28). The fish was pretty bad. Overcooked and dry. Much worse than the fancy shmancy restaurants. We had to take it home and doctor it up (I chopped it up and stir fried with peppers, mango, salt, pepper and had it with salsa – fish tacos). The steak was decent. It did actually taste different in a good way since it was local beef. I imagine that it would have been awesome at a good restaurant. Speaking of local beef, one of the workers at Mendes Ranch was telling us about Big Island beef. Apparently, Parker Ranch cows are fed pineapples so the meat is a lot sweeter and really good. They sell them only in Waimea. Ric was salivating hearing about it and pissed that we didn’t know about it when we went. Anyways, back to Pupu. Go for the drinks and have an appetizer at the bar. There are a lot of good tropical drinks like the Lava Flow, Mango Bellini. Those were good.
Maui Tacos – So so
I’m not sure what all the hype is for. I thought their fish tacos were average. It’s a decent lunch to grab and eat, that’s about it.
Local Boy Snack Shop - YUMMY
Just a bit farther north of Pupu Lounge. Luckily, the Pupu Lounge waiter suggested that we go to this cigar shop right by them for Hula Cigars. I saw someone walk around with shaved ice and figured I should have another (I’ve already had about 3 of them during this trip) for the last time in a while. It was sooo good. Definitely the best shaved ice place we went to. They put locally made vanilla ice cream at the bottom and the shaved ice is like a slushie/icee type ice as opposed to little harsher chunks. They also put some sort of evaporated milk on top. Really really good. $3.50 for a “baby” size.
Cigar shop right next to Local Boy Snack Shop
Not that this is food, although I suppose some would beg to differ. We went crazy looking for a Hula Girl store (which is locally made stuff, we were specifically looking for cigars). The Pupu Lounge waiter told us to go to this store. I’m not sure if it even had a name, probably did, but I didn’t notice. Anyways, they have Hula Girl cigars which are flavored. Big guys cost about $7 and they have little packs of three for $3. Vanilla Mc Nut, Chocolate Mac Nut, Mango, Coconut and a few others.
Aloha Mixed Plate - GOOD
We had the Aloha plate and Hawaiian plate (under $10 each). The Shoyu chicken on the Hawaiian plate was good, so was the mahi mahi. The shredded pork on the Aloha plate was good but not as good as Da Kitchen.
Plantation House - DECENT
We were here for the wedding dinner and Ric had the fish and I had the lobster. The lobster was really good, fish was just average. Hate it when fancy restaurants overdo the fish.
Miyaki Fish Market – SASHIMI HEAVEN
We were so disappointed that we didn’t catch any fish on the deep sea charter, so we decided to check out this fish market in Anchor Square, Lahaina (right along the main highway 30, by a Shell gas station). Captain Kim Miyaki has his own boat and owns the market. All the fish was really good looking. He had a board behind him that indicated what was the fresh catch. He was really nice and answered our questions. And by the way, he was cute. He had these little sashimi plates for 2.99 each (about 10 small sashimi pieces). That day, he had moilua and uku. He also had a bunch of other fish and
I started to go into sensory overload so I asked which fish would be good both grilled and steamed Chinese style. He suggested the uku which he said we could also eat sashimi style. Done. Hey, he’s Japanese, so I trust his opinion on sashimi. We bought the moilua sashimi and a slab of uku (a little under a pound). $17.60. We did some of the uku sashimi and had the moilua. It was sooo good. So fresh and not fishy at all. It was just as good if not better than the fancy shmancy Japanese sushi restaurants in NY that we go to when we feel like dropping some serious bucks for awesome sushi and going home still hungry. We lightly seared the rest of the uku with just salt and pepper and lime squeezed on it. It was also amazing.
Local Food - YUMMY
We were super hungry after the deep sea charter and just wanted a little something before dinner. I saw this sign from the street while driving and wondered whether a little hole in the wall (or more accurately, food truck) called Local Food was going to be good (in Anchor Square right by Miyaki Fish Market). We figured we’d try. The plate lunches are $7 and the lady (I think she cooks everything herself and her kids were sitting around doing homework and stuff, so it was totally a mom and pops shop truck) suggested the kulua pork with cabbage. Now mind you, by this point, I’ve had kulua pork twice in 4 days already and was a tad reluctant to do it again, but I said what the hell. It was soooo good. Better than Da Kitchen. The cabbage was still slightly crunchy and the pork was really juicy. The homemade mac salad was also much better than anything I’ve tasted elsewhere with the plate lunches. Word to the wise, order one each. Ric and I finished the shared one in two minutes. No joke! Shaved ice was so-so. The ice was not shaved enough and was too chunky.
Pacific O - DECENT
Beautiful restaurant dining on the beach front. The atmosphere and service was great. The fish is fresh catch prepared about 6 different ways. Ric had the basil tomato prep and I did the wana (sea urchin whipped cream). It was just ok. My complaint about these fancy shmancy Hawaiian restaurants (other than Alan Wong’s and Roy’s) is that they overdo the fish. Overkill with too much saucy fanciness. I’m a total purist and think that seafood should be simple so you actually taste the fish, not the spices or other crap they put on the fish to make it all fancy. So while the atmosphere was nice, the food is not worth the money. I’ll take a food truck or hole in the wall fish and chips place anyday.
Lahaina Fish Co. – ok
I had the ahi sashimi which was ok. Ric had the mac encrusted fresh catch (can’t remember what it was). The food was ok, not spectacular.
Saigon Café - YUMMY
It’s hard to find as most of the guide books will tell you. It’s on Main St but if you keep going down Main St., it breaks off and is confusing. The best way to get there is to take either a left or right on Central (you can only go one way on Central), right on Nani (really quick right), right onto Kaniela. There’s no sign, but it is isolated by itself on Kaniela and Main.
The food lived up to its hype. Being from NY and being able to get amazing Vietnamese food at the drop of a hat, I was a tad skeptical. We ordered the Vietnamese burrito ($23.95) and the day’s special, oxtail soup with noodles ($10.95, I can never say no to oxtail). Both were really yummy. The Vietnamese burrito dish was huge and we barely finished. It’s good to share. My only complaint is that I think it’s ridiculously overpriced for Vietnamese food, but I guess it’s Maui, they can charge whatever they want.
Manana Garage – JUST SAY NO
Frommers had a great review on this place so we decided to do an early dinner before our flight since it is about 5 minutes from the airport. I have to assume that there is a different chef because I usually trust Frommers. It was very mediocre. The ceviche ($13) that Frommers raved about was bland, I had to add salt to it and even then it was so-so. We also had pork cutlets over pasta ($14) which was average (I had no idea that it was Italian style, I could have done a better job using Pregresso bread crumbs). We saw this diner type looking restaurant across the street that said “Local Food” and we thought about it but wound up at Manana Garage. If anyone goes there, please let me know how it is so if it is good, I can live vicariously through you!