Like most foodies, I’ve always enjoyed the sport of finding overlooked eating establishments, restaurants, or hole-in-the-wall places where there are more locals than travelers. On my trip to Maui, I set out to eat my way around the island; one of my few rules was that if I was advised by three different locals to visit a place, I was going to make time to go there.
On Maui, foodie culture is famous for locally sourced ingredients such as fish (like the delicious ono), taro, and beef, which are all hallmarks of the farm- or ocean-to-table meals prepared across the island.
Although word of mouth and great reviews keep travelers and locals coming back, the atmosphere and warm Hawaiian spirit make each trip worthwhile and every bite memorable.
No visit to this island named after the trickster god of Polynesian mythology is complete without eating like a local. So let’s sit down and enjoy some of my favorite restaurants that were recommended to me or that I discovered during my travels.
Note: Some of my meals were hosted. All opinions are my own.
1. Four Sisters Bakery
Since the bakery opens bright and early at 5 a.m., do not be surprised if you join a line of locals waiting to place their orders. Four Sisters Bakery in Wailuku is the place you will hear often recommended as a must-try. Although the bakery is small, its racks are filled with a wide variety of pastries. Make note: Four Sisters is cash only.
What To Order At Four Sisters Bakery
The butter rolls are more often than not the go-to item for most shoppers. If you don’t see them in the front display, simply ask for them. The staff will go and grab you one or more. Have a sweet tooth? Try the mango cake or banana bread. You will be noshing on bits of these items until you realize they are all gone.
Pro Tip: If you happen to be in or around Wailuku in the evening, then head over to Esters Fair Prospect for mixed drinks — or if it’s late, the popular and sometimes rowdy Wai Bar.
2. SixtyTwo MarcKet
SixtyTwo MarcKet is the ideal brunch location, offering seasonal meals based on Chef Marc McDowell’s and Chef Larry Badua’s combined 30+ years of experience at restaurants, ranging from the Ritz-Carlton to the Grand Wailea. Since it’s almost always busy due to its popularity, you should make a reservation if you plan on visiting during the weekend. Although they try their best to accommodate everyone, you may be asked to wait.
What To Order At SixtyTwo MarcKet
On my visit, I went straight for the Maui Cattle Loco Moco with kalua pork, which is an 8-ounce, hand-formed patty with two eggs and a wild mushroom demi-glaze. Other favorites are the corned beef ‘ulu hash with caramelized Maui onions, bell peppers, dried cranberries, and poached eggs with hollandaise sauce.
3. Esters Fair Prospect
What is Maui without the tropical cocktails? Suzanne Navarro and Jessica Everett’s Esters Fair Prospect offers a range of drinks, from mezcal and tiki to cocktails and piña coladas, in a trendy location in Wailuku that offers great views of the Iao Valley. With an energetic young staff, this cocktail bar is where you come to mingle with locals and people who have recently made the island home.
What To Order At Esters Fair Prospect
Start off with a classic mai tai with the house rum blend, or have an Esters Daiquiri that mixes it up with lime, cane, absinthe, and bitters. Dirty Birdy is a sweet mix of tequila, grapefruit, lime, and Mexican fernet, while Comfortably Numb has equal parts rum, sherry, pineapple, orange, coconut, and cinnamon. Also on hand is a selection of Maui wines and craft beers.
Hungry? Check out the small onsite kitchen offering snacks, such as pulled pork sliders and burrata, that pair well with a number of drinks.
4. Wei Wei Café & Noodle House
The small and unassuming Wei Wei Café & Noodle House sits in Wailuku and is often overlooked due to its location and size. Visitors and locals who visit Wei Wei are treated to perhaps one of the best noodle houses on the island. Even with only a few tables, the place never gets too busy. Most orders are takeout, but you might try some of what you just purchased while you’re there.
What To Order At Wei Wei Café & Noodle House
Start with a mini plate of chicken katsu, or barbecue teriyaki chicken, or pork. The saimin noodles with roast duck or wonton soup are delicious and filling, while classic dishes such as ginger, sweet and sour or roast duck are available if you are in the mood for something both delicious and familiar.
5. 808 On Main
808 on Main is where you visit when you’re looking for a belly busting sandwich. A popular destination for business lunches, it is best to arrive early to avoid the lines that will quickly appear and go out the door. What makes 808 stand out, especially when compared to other sandwich shops, is the great service and the friendly crowds that often come out daily to relax and enjoy the environment.
What To Order At 808 on Main
Start off with one of the house favorite drinks, such as the Main St. Mule (New Amsterdam Mango Vodka, ginger elixir, lime juice, and ginger beer) or an Upcountry (prosecco and Maui shrub hibiscus) before diving into the popular Southern Squealer (hoagie roll, pulled pork, barbecue sauce, cheddar, and coleslaw) or shiitake beef melt (hoagie roll, roast beef, Swiss, shiitake mushrooms, garlic mayo, and au jus). If you are brave, upsize your side to barbecue fries (pulled pork, barbecue sauce, shredded cheddar jack, and coleslaw).
6. Kūʻau Store–Paia Delicatessen And General Store
Whether you’re taking the back way to the Road to Hana, returning from it, or decided to go kitesurfing on Ho’okipa Point, the Kūʻau Store is where you stop to reload on snacks, beverages, or Hawai’ian spirit before continuing your journey. From the moment you walk in to this little store located right next to the large surfboard fence, your experience will be peppered with Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, and King Crimson as both staff and patrons hum along while shopping and exchanging a few words.
What To Order At Kūʻau Store
While there, I opted for the shoyu chicken plate lunch that included rice and a side of macaroni salad. Other popular favorites are the smoked barbecue pork sandwich and the Kuau Reuben (pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss, and Thousand Island dressing). Pick up some kombucha, a smoothie, fresh juice, or an espresso. Also pick up a few bags of Sweet Maui Onion Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips, which are my favorite flavor.
7. Pakamon Thai Food
Welcome to Paniolo (Hawaiian for “cowboy”) Country, where a big part of the culture is food carts. While in Makawao, stop at the marketplace on Baldwin Avenue, where you will find local artisans selling their crafts, ranging from art to jewelry. Walk toward the back and past the picnic tables with umbrellas to find the Pakamon Thai Food cart.
What To Order At Pakamon Thai Food
Some of the best pork belly that I have ever tasted! I cannot recommend it enough. The pad Thai with its tamarind sauce with eggs, chives, and bean sprouts is also taste worthy. The sweet potato fries made from Hawaiian sweet potatoes go down well with any entrée. If you love Thai food, then the Thai fried rice and tom kha oup are sure to please. End your meal with coconut tapioca and fresh fruit.
Pro Tip: When you are done, head over to Stopwatch Sports Bar & Grill for a drink. If you happen to be there on either Thursday or Saturday night, stay for the karaoke as some of the locals belt out country classics on the stage.
8. Koholā Brewery
Located in a small warehouse in Lahaina behind a strip mall (West Maui Center) and the Lahaina train station is the Koholā Brewery. Follow the sound of many local musicians who grace the stage playing popular covers from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on most days of the week.
Koholā is a hangout for many expats from California. Come by and grab a seat at the bar or bring your pets and group.
What To Order At Koholā Brewery
If on tap, try the Pineapple Blonde, which has a smooth taste with hints of citrus, grapefruit, and Hawaiian pineapple. Talk Story Pale Ale, with a touch of bitterness that goes down smooth with its notes of caramel, and the Waterman IPA, with citrusy hops, are also great starting drinks. The Lokahi Pilsner has a malty sweetness that is also refreshing.
9. Seascape Restaurant In The Maui Ocean Center
Regardless of whether you decide to visit the Maui Ocean Center or not (although I highly recommend it), Seascape Restaurant in Ma’alaea is its 100 percent sustainable and award-winning restaurant that offers views of the adjacent harbor. Spacious with an open seating layout and wrap-around windows, the restaurant is ideal for family and group dining or for a romantic evening while enjoying the sunset.
What To Order At Seascape Restaurant
The food and beverage director, James Morrison, broke down the selection of dishes coming to my group: Upcountry ulu hummus with taro and sweet potato chips, kalo poke nachos, ahi bruschetta, and bacon marmalade crostini started us off. Our main dishes of moringa tonkotsu ramen, mauka moco, and i’a palai (fish and chips) created a smorgasbord as we all tried each other’s dishes.
10. Huihui Restaurant At Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel
Also offering great views of Kāʻanapali Beach is the Huihui Restaurant, which uses Hawaiian culture not only for the design aesthetic but atmosphere. Come by in the morning to see the sun’s first light fill the environment with a soft glow, or in the evening to not only hear live traditional music but also to learn about the culture and people. Consider a visit much more than dining — it’s a chance to understand the culture beyond saying Mahalo.
Note: If you are arriving in the evening, advanced reservations are needed.
What To Order At Huihui Restaurant
If you are there for breakfast, the hoe uli breakfast includes a Loco Moco patty with brown gravy with your choice of protein with a side of potatoes or poi French toast (homemade mashed taro, sweet bread, and vanilla custard) is also a good choice.
In the evening, dumplings filled with lobster and kelp with chili oil and sweet soy are a great appetizer. Having short rib luau with taro leaf, coconut milk, and vegetables as the sun sets and a trio plays Hawaiian music over the waves is almost heavenly.
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