Best of Maui Food and Drink

FOOD & DRINK

BEST LOCAL FOOD

Da Kitchen
Ask my brother (and most men), and he’ll say this writeup needs only word: waitresses. True, Da Kitchen is staffed with bronzed Barbie dolls who are as much pleasant people as their countenance is cute. But there’s more to it than that. Their Kolaa Street location has bookended many a trip to the OGG, and their BYOB policy makes green bottle imbibing much easier than ordering. Hawaiian plate? Chicken katsu? Burger? Chinese chicken salad? Deep fried spam musubi? Dessert? Luckily, the choices are hard because everything is good. So no mattah what, your pick is a good one. Harder still is finishing your meal; portions are notoriously massive, and if you don’t share, you’re sure to have leftovers for lataz. 2439 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 875-7782; 425 Koloa St. #104, Kahului, 871-7782; Ste. 102, 658 Front St., Lahaina, 661-6761, da-kitchen.com @anuheayagi
Runner-Up: Aloha Mixed Plate, Lahaina

BEST RESTAURANT

Lahaina Grill
Lahaina Grill takes your night out and elevates it to a dining experience. Their menu is a well-designed emporium of delicately crafted plates; everything is excellent. The service never fails to anticipate your next move. The lighting and ambiance are golden, backed by the good conversation of people enjoying themselves. Lahaina Grill celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and has dedicated the 20th day of each month to honor kama’aina. Yet another reason to honor them as the best in the business. 127 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina, 667-5117, lahainagrill.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Cafe O’Lei, Kihei

BEST DINING WITH A VIEW

Merriman’s Kapalua
The view from the outdoor deck at Merriman’s literally takes your breath away; dining with a view really doesn’t cover it. Kapalua is one of the truly special places on the Earth, blessed with excellent weather, amazing sunsets and tantalizing peeks at our neighbor islands. Makes you hungry, doesn’t it? Well, you’re in good hands; Chef Peter Merriman has been in Hawaii since the ‘80s and his knowledge of local ingredients elevates his dishes to the level of locavore art, rivaling even the surrounding beauty. 1 Bay Dr., Lahaina, 669-6400, merrimanshawaii.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Mama’s Fish House, Paia

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

Star Noodle
From the moment its doors opened, Star Noodle opened up dining options on Maui. Their selection of dishes is as zen as their decor. Singapore noodles, garlic noodles, ramen, handmade bao, ssam of the day—the list goes on. The menu is Asian fusion at its finest, and reasonably priced to boot. They’ve recently launched a takeout program where you get a free reusable bag; the more you reuse it, the more discounts you get. Of course, the only thing better than taking out is dining in. 286 Kupuohi St., Lahaina, 667-5400 @jenrusso
Runner-Up: 808 Bistro, Kihei

BEST BURRITO

Maui Tacos
When you want a burrito, you think Maui Tacos. Is it the fact that they have just about every kind of filling you could want: shredded beef, grilled chicken, grilled steak, BBQ pork, grilled fish? Or is it the options: smothered in sauce and cheese, take it to go, chips on the side? Or it could be the names: the Lahaina, Hana, Hookipa, Napili. (My favorite is the Paia, a vegetarian delight to which I add their fantastic grilled chicken.) In the end, whatever the reason, one thing’s for sure: they always make it fresh, quick and ono at Maui Tacos. 2411 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 879-5005; other locations islandwide, mauitacos.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Amigo’s, Lahaina

BEST SEAFOOD

Pacific’O Restaurant
Pacific’O sits right on the beach at 505 Front Street; you can watch the boats come in to Lahaina Harbor from your table. This connection between the ocean and the restaurant is celebrated through their menu, infused with passion by Chef James McDonald. Using the freshest seafood from local sources has inspired Chef McDonald’s dishes, like coconut macadamia nut fish and crispy ahi, but in the end it’s your votes that helped Pacific’O float to the top. 505 Front St., Lahaina, 667-4341, pacificomaui.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Waterfront Restaurant, Wailuku

BEST PUPUS

Tiffany’s Bar & Grill
The most common word I’ve heard to describe Tiffany’s is local. You only have to take one look at the 93-item menu to understand. There’s chow fun—that’s the fat noodle (if you’re new to noodles)—oxtail soup, Bi Bim Bap, mochiko chicken and, of course, Spam and egg sandwiches. And that’s just the tip of the pupu iceberg. Last time I was there three parties, including mine, ordered the sizzling steak bites. They turned out to be a carnivore’s dream, medium rare and tender. The entertainment, a big part of the package, includes multiple TVs broadcasting sports events like UH football, pool tables and karaoke after 9pm. 1424 Lower Main St., Wailuku, 249-0052 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Mala Ocean Tavern, Lahaina

BEST STEAK

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
The cowboy ribeye is a juicy, marbled, delightful cut of USDA prime, but you can’t go wrong with any of the beef selections at Ruth’s Chris. They serve filet, New York, porterhouse and T-bone and bring out the flavor with perfect temperature treatment and a pat of butter melted over the meat. The steak is outstanding all by itself, but I have a feeling voters have also tried some of the sides and sauces that only add to the experience. 900 Front St., Lahaina, 661-8815; 3750 Wailea Alanui, Wailea, 874-8880, ruthschris.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Makawao Steak House, Makawao

EDIT PICK: Best Place To Challenge the Chef

Lulu’s Kihei
If you think you have the cajones, head into Lulu’s Kihei and order the burger challenge. Its just you and 32 ounces of beef on a bun. You can even get fancy and order whatever you want on the burger. If you eat it up inside of 10 minutes, the meal is on the house and your picture goes on the wall. Sounds easy right? Chef Tracy and her big buggah burger are waiting. 1941 South Kihei Rd., Kihei, 879-9944 @jenrusso

BEST MEXICAN FOOD

Amigo’s
MauiTime readers know that bigger is not always better when it comes to their favorite eateries. Case in point: Amigo’s. While they have multiple locations, in Kahului, Kihei and Lahaina, the restaurants themselves are rather diminutive. Don’t be deceived, though. Their menus are anything but. They prepare their steak, shrimp, fish, chicken and pork in a dizzying array of choices. Not to be outdone, the bar menu offers somewhere around 15 different kinds of tequilas, beer—imported and domestic—and the traditional island drinks. So you can pair your chile verde with a Mexican beer, your shrimp taco (one of my favorites) with Patrone tequila or your enchilada al pastor with a mai tai. This is Mexican food at its most authentic and reasonably priced. 658 Front St. # 145A, Lahaina, 661-0210; 333 Dairy Rd. # 110B, Kahului, 872-9525; 658 Front St., Lahaina, 661-0210 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Fiesta Time, Wailuku & Paia

BEST DINNER

Mala Ocean Tavern
It’s impossible to get tired of the menu at Mala; there are so many different things to try, bolstered by solid, comfort-food favorites. Mala is my muse when it comes to dinner. Its contemporary and international flair keep things interesting, and the wine list is fantastic. Chefs Mark and Judy Ellman have traveled the world and gathered the best of what they’ve tasted. If you aren’t sure what to pair with your meal, their knowledgeable staff is at the ready with suggestions and sips to assist you. It’s nice to be in the hands of professionals. 1307 Front St., Lahaina, 667-9394, malaoceantavern.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Outback Steak House, Lahaina & Kihei

BEST FISH SANDWICH

Paia Fish Market
The size is ample, and the coleslaw is their own secret recipe that marries with the fish flavors perfectly. I love the Cajun-style mahi, while my husband digs the ahi. To each his own, and each can get his own, sonce the Fish Market boasts a great variety of fish and preparations. Top with vinegar, an option you won’t find too many places on Maui, but that’s supplied at every table here. 110 Hana Hwy., Paia, 579-8030, paiafishmarket.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Coconut’s Fish Cafe, Kihei

BEST BURGER

Cool Cat Cafe
Which of Cool Cat’s 13 scrumptiously unique burgers are you loving up at the moment? Me and the Duke used to be an item: onion ring, barbecue sauce and bacon. But then I had a thing for Don Ho: bacon, Jack cheese, pineapple and teriyaki glaze. Now I’m kinda into the Leader of the Pack, a simple lettuce/tomato/onion combo. This is one case where having been around the block is a very good, very delicious thing. 658 Front St. #160, Lahaina, 667-0908, coolcatcafe.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Cafe Mambo, Paia

BEST SEAFOOD

Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Once again, it’s Sansei by a landslide. Chef DK Kodama’s lively sushi bar and Hawaiian fusion menu have forever changed the game for sushi on Maui. Legendary nights have been spent eating half-price delights and watching friends sing karaoke while sucking down sake bombs, but it’s the lovely rolls that keep me coming back no matter what the hour. Whether it’s the 69 roll, yaki-maki, Sansei special, Hawaiian roll or sashimi or nigiri, they have the finest seafood selection and exemplary culinary creativity. 600 Office Rd., Lahaina, 669-6286; 1881 South Kihei Rd., Kihei, 879-0004, sanseihawaii.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Sushi Paradise, Kihei

BEST LOCAL PIZZA

South Shore Tiki Lounge
The bomb pizza is served here from lunch through midnight, almost unheard of on Maui, but voters have taken note. They handmake every bit of their pies, from crust to sauce to toppings, with fresh local ingredients. ‘Da Hawaiian is epic, with fresh chopped pineapple and juicy ham. The exotics are good too: the Chicken Thai-Phoon features chicken breast, fresh herbs, sweet Thai chili sauce, peppers and onions; it’s a Bangkok pizza party in your mouth. Drop in, get a table on the deck, listen to some live music—there’s no better way to enjoy pizza on Maui. 1913 S. Kihei Rd. # J, Kihei, 874-6444, southshoretikilounge.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Lahaina Pizza Company, Lahaina

BEST BBQ

Beach Bums Bar & Grill
If you’re an aficionado of barbeque you’ll know that wet vs. dry—a kind of Coke vs. Pepsi thing—is the difference between slathered in sauce, an all-over-your-face experience, or dry, which gets its flavor from slow cooking or smoking. Beach Bums Bar and Grill at Maalaea Harbor aims to provide both. They cook their ribs, brisket, etc. for as long as 12 hours in a monster smoker. So if you want your meat to bask in its own smoky splendor, as I do, you have that option. But if you want to walk on the wet side you can still slop it up, slathering to your heart’s content with the housemade sauces available at your table. Either way, delicious.
300 Maalaea Rd. # 1M, Maalea, 243-2286 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse, Kihei

BEST LUNCH

Stella Blues Cafe
Stella Blues Cafe boasts a spacious dining room, air-conditioning and cushy chairs—the perfect environment to take in a quick or leisurely lunch. Their comfort-food menu has all the standards— sandwiches, salads, wraps and hot dishes—but if you follow their Facebook page you’ll get the tempting heads-up on the lunch specials of the day. They buy local ingredients and their portions are generous. Here’s my hint: take a late lunch and stick around for the happy hour that starts at 4pm and features live music daily. 1279 South Kihei Rd., Kihei, 874-3779, stellablues.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Pita Paradise, Kihei

BEST VEGETARIAN

Fresh Mint
Fresh Mint Restaurant in Paia makes kick-butt vegetarian food, including vegan offerings. But the dishes, like the golden soy chicken curry, are so artfully prepared that they not only appeal to vegetarians and vegans (their target audience, obviously) but to meat eaters as well. There’s not many places that tempt such diverse palates. Guess that’s why they’re Best of Maui material again this year.
115 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-9144 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Veg Out, Haiku

BEST FISH TACOS

Maui Tacos
MauiTime readers love Maui Tacos’ fresh approach to the fish taco. Chef Pepe’s signature cilantro jalepeno sauce seals the deal. Shells and chips are fried in 100 percent cholesterol-free vegetable oil, but they offer soft taco shells, too. I like to add their housemade guacamole and salsa to everything. Add their beans, made with no lard, and it’s no wonder these babies are considered the best. 2411 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 879-5005; other locations islandwide, mauitacos.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Paia Fish Market, Paia

BEST LUAU/DINNER SHOW

Old Lahaina Luau
The last time I patronized the Old Lahaina Luau, I was tagging along with the Travel Channel’s Taste of America crew. Off the record, they asked me how this show stacked up against the competition. I can’t remember exactly, but I made some cheesy comparison between the tallest tiki and most manini menehune. Meaning, this West side mainstay is far and away known as the biggest and best luau the island has to offer. From talent to eats and bottomless drinks, it’s a feast for the eyes and opu, exemplifying the merits of malo and the coconut bra. 1251 Front St., Lahaina, 667-1998, oldlahainaluau.com @anuheayagi
Runner-Up: Feast at Lele, Lahaina

BEST SMOOTHIE

Jamba Juice
Were it not for Jamba Juice, I might be dead. Or at least missing a finger. Seriously. In the throes of chemo (with a nasty case of MRSA, aiming to rid me of my right index), a power-size anything—plus a free immunity boost—was all the food I could stand to stomach. If it stuck around long enough, it was likely my sole sustenance for days on end. Based on the votes, it would seem Jamba Juice has saved many MauiTime readers’ lives, too. Though it may not be the garden-fresh, roadside variety, there’s something to be said about Jamba’s consistency/cost/convenience. With cancer gone and my infection healed, I have renewed love for all things—one being fingers…the better to grip my power-size cup! 247 Piikea Ave., Kihei, 891-8874; 170 Papalaua St., Lahaina, 661-1054, jambahawaii.com/maui.asp @anuheayagi
Runner-Up: Joy’s Place, Kihei

BEST LOCAL PLACE TO BUY WINE

The Wine Corner
Wine Corner delivers in the two key wine-buying areas: knowledge and selection. Even if you don’t have a specific bottle in mind, the experts at the Wine Corner can guide you toward the perfect choice for any pairing or occasion. And with all of their specialty liquors and hard-to-find beer, you might want to pick up more than wine. 149 Hana Hwy., Paia, 579-8904, mauiwinecorner.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: TIE: Hawaii Liquor Superstore, Kahului; Who Cut the Cheese?, Kihei

BEST CHEF

Sheldon Simeon, Star Noodle
Chef Sheldon Simeon has a lot of undertstated elegance in his menu, but he’s dedicated to the ingredients and making them the real star of the show. I’ve seen him at work on the kim chee that’s made primarily to end up as a paste that graces the sizzling ribeye and the Brussels sprouts. It looks like a lot of trouble; it takes days to make this one ingredient that goes in the dish, but it pays off in flavor. That’s is the kind of attention to detail that makes Chef Sheldon the master, and Best of Maui’s Best Chef. 286 Kupuohi St., Lahaina, 667-5400 @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Bev Gannon, Gannon’s, Wailea

BEST LOCAL ICE CREAM

Roselani Tropics Ice Cream
Ben, Jerry, Haagen and Daz might be the big boys on the ice cream block but it’s the local girl, Roselani, that MauiTime readers really go for. Why? Maybe it’s because they use island ingredients: macadamia nuts, coffee, pineapple, mango, poha berry and a whole host of other flavors. Or maybe because it’s made right here on the island and has been since 1932 by three generations of the Nobriga family. Or maybe because, well, it’s awesome. My favorite, haupia—of coconut fame—is beyond creamy. Say what you like about market share. I’m voting for the hometown wahine. 918 Lower Main St., Wailuku, 244-7951, roselani.com @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Ono Gelato Company, Paia, Lahiana & Kihei

BEST PANCAKES

Tasty Crust Restaurant
If you eat something often enough you’ll discover the “secret” of its success, right? Not when it comes to Tasty Crust pancakes. I’ve never figured out what it is that makes them so…tasty. I’m not usually one for hot cakes, too heavy. But these are different—light, fluffy even. They sit, unadorned on your plate, no strawberries, no whipped cream. These cakes seem confident in their ability to wow you by their very simplicity. And they do. Order a short stack, two piece or as part of a larger meal. 1770 Mill St., Wailuku, 244-0845, tastycrust.com @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Gazebo Restaurant, Napili

BEST PLATE LUNCH

Aloha Mixed Plate
Aloha Mixed Plate celebrates the diversity of our ethnic backgrounds and brings local favorites to a gourmet level thanks to Executive Chef Craig Masuda of Old Lahaina Luau. The dining room is casual and outdoor, but overlooking the ocean in Mala, a surprisingly beautiful spot to consume your plate lunch. The Hawaiian plate is epic; Chef Masuda oversees this preparation of pork, served here as kalua pig and cabbage, with lomi lomi salmon, poi, macaroni salad and haupia, and it’s under $10—unless you upsize it to Bamboocha and add a laulau. If you aren’t in the mood for Polynesian paralysis, try their shoyu chicken, which you can get in large or mini portion. 1285 Front St., Lahaina, 661-3322, alohamixedplate.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Da Kitchen, Kahului & Lahaina

BEST BUSINESS LUNCH

Cafe O’Lei
Cafe O’Lei’s lunch menu offers the right portions at the right price, the two essential ingredients in a good business lunch. They have multiple locations islandwide, and the menu changes a little bit with each one, so no matter where you plan to meet you’ll likely have a Cafe O’Lei option. Their crab club is a wonderful sandwich of crab salad and bacon on foccacia, and their mahi is consistently great, served with rice and Caesar salad. I can’t come in without ordering the French onion soup, topped with puff pastry baked to order. Whatever you order, it’s a great way to seal the deal. 2439 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 891-1368; other locations islandwide, cafeoleirestaurants.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina

EDIT PICK: Best Way (Since Mom) To Be Forced to Eat Your Veggies

Kula Country Farms Delivery Service
Despite my best intentions, I admit I don’t always get my Food Pyramid-approved quotient of fruits and veggies. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that the chips and beer yell so much louder at the grocery store. Enter Kula Country Farms delivery service. They cut out the middle man and deliver fresh—and, better still, locally grown—produce to you. Currently they have two dropoff spots—at the Kahului YMCA and the Pacific Whale Foundation store in Maalaea—but they’ll come anywhere if at least ten people will commit to making regular orders. Not since I left Mom’s table have I been so effortlessly and lovingly coerced into eating right. 878-8381 or kulacountryfarm.com @jacobshafer

BEST HEALTH FOOD STORE

Mana Foods
Every time I go into Mana Foods—celebrating 25 years serving Maui’s health food community—it’s a hub of activity. From their quaint light-green storefront, you enter into an emporium of organic, natural, gourmet and prepared foods. They also have vitamins, home and garden goods, books, body care and organic clothes. There’s a bakery and a hot food section that features vegan, vegetarian and lots of gluten free options. Their customer service is great, and they put a lot of thought into the providing the best products at the best prices. I love the produce section, where they feature a bounty of Maui grown veggies. Whether you’re shopping for groceries or just looking for a good-for-your-body snack, Mana Foods is the spot. 49 Baldwin Avenue, Paia, 579-8078, manafoodsmaui.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Hawaiian Moons Natural Foods, Kihei

BEST FARMERS MARKET

Honokowai Farmers Market
The view at this market has to be a factor in the voting. Directly across from the Honokowai Beach Park, it offers spectacular views of both Molokai and Lanai. They’re not the biggest market on the island. In fact they’re one of the smaller ones. But there seems to be a lot of market per square inch, packing in an abundance of local fruit, veggies and mouthwatering displays of sauces, dips, pestos, breads and other goodies. The staff is helpful, friendly and just this side of perky and available to assist you with your shopping needs Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7am to 11am. 3636 Lower Honoapiilani Rd., Lahaina, 669-7004 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Maui Swap Meet, Kahului

BEST BREAKFAST

Kihei Caffe
People-watching on South Kihei Road is awesome; the parade of pink-skinned tourists, scantily-clad beachgoers and colorful local characters provides an endless source of amusement. And the outdoor, sidewalk-hugging seating at Kihei Caffe offers the perfect vantage point. But I digress. The category isn’t Best Place to Oogle Strangers, it’s Best Breakfast, and on that count the Caffe delivers (maybe it’s the extra “f”?). Whether you’re hankerin’ for a fluffy stack of banana mac nut flapjacks or a worchestershire-slathered Benedict, they’ve got it, served with aloha (and, if you want, a side of bacon). Space can sometimes be tight during the morning rush, but if you have to wait a few minutes for a table, there’s that people-watching to keep you occupied. 1945 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 879-2230 @jacobshafer
Runner-Up: Charley’s Restaurant, Paia

BEST ITALIAN FOOD

Casanova Italian Restaurant and Deli
For more than two decades, Casanova has offered the whole package: fresh ingredients, authentic recipes and amazing entertainment. In Italy, pasta is eaten primi piatti, as the first course before your main dish and that option’s available here, including their homemade linguine, available at lunch and dinner. Their pizza is made in a wood-burning oven, their mozzarella is made in-house. Quite simply, you can’t get any closer to Italy on Maui. 1188 Makawao Ave., Makawao, 572-0220, casanovamaui.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Penne Pasta Cafe, Lahaina

BEST FINE DINING

Mama’s Fish House
Mama (that would be Doris Christenson) knows best, and has been fine-tuning Maui’s Best Fine Dining establishment for the past 27 years. From the moment you arrive you feel like royalty; once you’ve been seated and taken in the unique, intricate decor, you know you’re in for the meal of a lifetime. From the sweet, ripe papayas swelling with grilled beef to the coconuts teeming with raw fish to the mahi mahi stuffed with crab and lobster to the black pearl dessert course, you’ll be dreaming of coming back before it’s even over. 799 Poho Pl., Paia, 579-8488, mamasfishhouse.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Spago, Wailea

BEST LOCAL CHEAP EATS

Sam Sato’s
It’s the insiders’ go-to for getting your grind on. “I know people who get off the plane from wherever, and that’s their first stop. Before seeing Grandma. Before getting settled. Before freshening up. Everything is better after a bowl of their dry mein,” says regular Traci McDonald. From saimin that will satiate even an addict’s fix to manju worth hand-carrying to loved-ones across oceans, they serve up something for everyone—but cater to born-and-raised palates—at bargain prices. They’ve been doing it for almost 80 years—the first store opened in 1933—and we hope they do it for 80 more. 1750 Wili Pa Loop, Wailuku, 244-7124 @anuheayagi
Runner-Up: 808 Deli, Kihei

BEST FISH AND CHIPS

Alexander’s Fish & Chips
The fish and chips competition on Maui is stiff, and once again Alexander’s has come out on top. Their crinkle-cut fries are my favorite style, and the fish portions are ample and delicious. Choose from three options—ahi, ono or mahi—and pair with ample sauces and sides. 1913 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 874-0788 @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Paia Fish Market, Paia

BEST NOODLE SHOP

WokStar International Noodle Cafe
It’s easy to see why MauiTime readers love Wokstar; it’s got a great, convenient location on South Kihei Road and their Asian-fusion dishes are fresh and fast. Nowhere else on the planet (that we know of) can you find peanut butter and jelly jaffel sandwiches, noodle bowls and spring rolls on one menu. They open at 9am and even have a breakfast chow fun for die-hard noodle fans. They’re also open ‘til midnight for late-night eaters; there’s nothing like scarfing a bowl of kung pow—featuring spicy chili and veggies with egg noodles—after a few beers. The noodle menu is also very vegetarian friendly: all dishes start veggie and you add meat and protein options as desired. 1913-D South Kihei Rd., Kihei, 495-0066, wokstarcafe.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Ramen Ya, Kahului

BEST SPAM MUSUBI

Nagasako Okazu-y
Nagasako’s is a neat little nook that epitomizes the mom and pop M.O. Nostalgic, cluttered and (on the deli side) a little cramped, it’s one of the last holdouts for that old Lahaina town feel. The grinds are mean, though there are few places to sit. But who’d want to with all the West side adventures that await? The beauty of the plate lunch is its portability, after all. Appropriately too, they’ve snagged the award for Best Spam Musubi—the ultimate local-style meal-on-the-go. Why? They keep it simple. Just one kind on the menu. With energies focused, and Spam sauteed in special sauce, it’s no wonder it’s a winner. 845 Wainee St., Lahaina, 661-0985 @anuheayagi
Runner-Up: Minit Stop, locations islandwide

BEST CHINESE

Dragon Dragon Chinese Restaurant
No mean feat, topping a Best of Maui category three years in a row. But that’s exactly what Dragon Dragon has done. How do they do it? Friends of mine swear by it for large family gatherings, birthday celebrations, etc. They also offer dinner packages for two, four or six. And their regular menu is a tome, featuring a whopping 116 items! Oh, and did I mention they serve dim sum (my personal favorite)? These wonderful little bamboo baskets full of buns, dumplings, etc. are available at lunch. Hmm, given that they’re a three-time winner, maybe they should be called Dragon Dragon Dragon. 70 E. Kaahumanu Ave. # B12, Kahului, 893-1628 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Fu Lin Chinese Restaurant, Lahaina

BEST JAPANESE

Kobe Japanese Steak House
My friends travel thousands of miles to come to Maui and eat at the Kobe Japanese Steak House. We go every year to experience the teppanyaki chef’s wizardry with fire and knives. Japanese teppanyaki-style dining is all about socializing and good food, and Kobe delivers both. After you’re seated, the chefs really put on a show, and add their own touch of comedy, too. The steaks and other proteins are traditionally served in sliced or bite-size portions that are grilled in front of you, served with fresh grilled veggies like mushroom and cabbage and a variety of dipping sauces. Itadakimasu! 136 Dickenson St., Lahaina, 667-5555, kobemaui.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Tokyo Tei, Wailuku

BEST SHAVE ICE

Local Boy’s Shave Ice
One word: mochi. Two words: azuki beans. In both these things, I find eternal happiness. The fact that they’re free add-ons to Local Boy’s shave ice is a supernova blow to my munchie mind. Also free are extras like ice cream, gummy bears and li hing mui powder. But it’s the Kauai Cream that they’re famous for. It’s more than mere condensed milk poured on top, but the recipe is secret. Sized “Big Baby,” “Pretty Mama” and “Papa Nui,” they’re more than enough to share (but you won’t want to). As for me, I go for broke with lychee and lilikoi syrups, doused over snow with just-right generousness. 624 Front St., Lahaina, 344-9779; 1941 S Kihei Rd., Kihei,
875-6731 @anuheayagi
Runner-Up: Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, Lahaina

BEST FOOD BOOTH AT THE FAIR

Chow Fun, Maui County Fair
I know chow fun is not considered a gourmet dish; in fact it may even be regarded as simple. But, at the risk of hyperbole, I would argue that the chow fun created by the Wailuku Hongwanji and brought to the Maui County Fair each year is one of the best foods in the universe. It’s perfectly balanced, from starchy, flat white noodle to green onion to limp but not stringy bean sprout to ground beef. But you don’t have to take my word for it—just take one look at the line that lasts all night. @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Flying Saucer

BEST VIETNAMESE

A Saigon Cafe
Word of mouth counts for a lot in the Maui restaurant community. Just ask regular customers of A Saigon Café. Located in sleepy Wailuku—under a bridge—it has still managed to be on the Best of Maui list multiple times. It probably has a lot to do with dishes like their ever-popular burritos. No beans or cheese here—these are Vietnamese-style, rice papers wrapped around sprouts, mint, basil, veggies and tofu, beef or chicken. There’s pho, the Vietnamese version of beef noodle soup and clay pots with either chicken or shrimp and so much more. One of my personal favorites? Sweet Thai iced tea, heavy on the sweetened condensed milk. Great with anything you order. Don’t let their out-the-way location fool you. This place is worth finding. 1792 Main St., Wailuku, 243-9560 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Bale, Kahului

BEST HOSTESS BAR

Saigon Palace
“Can I buy you a drink?” is always a welcome phrase when you’re surrounded by pretty girls, lavishing you with attention, even when you’re telling them the same tired jokes they’ve already heard a million times. And if getting fawned over by cute girls is your thing (and not having them run screaming, attempting to claw out their eyes in disgust), Saigon Palace is the place to be. Looking to get your groove or game on? Saigon Palace also boasts a dance floor and pool tables, where you can flirt with all the pretty ladies. According to its Myspace page, Saigon Palace is a Leo, but with a fun atmosphere, generous drinks, good food and better company, it’s sure to be compatible with anyone. And maybe, if you’re generous enough with the drink, those jokes will finally be funny. But probably not. 310 Hookahi St., Wailuku @angryshortgirl
Runner-Up: Club Diane, Kahului

BEST PAU HANA

Milagros Food Co.
MauiTime readers know a great pau hana spot when they see one. Their famous $3 Sauza margaritas and $3 Kona brew happy hour starts at 11am and takes the edge off the day straight through ‘til 6pm. Add a platter of nachos or a quesadilla on their Paia people-watching lanai and you’re really cooling your heels. If the day’s stresses don’t melt away, try one of their fine sipping tequilas—it never fails! 3 Baldwin Avenue, Paia, 579-8755 @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Lahaina Coolers Restaurant, Lahaina

BEST MAI TAI

Lahaina Mai Tai Lounge
Ah, the mai tai—an integral part of the island experience. There’s hula, beautiful beaches and that lovely concoction of light and dark rum and pineapple juice. Right? Not so fast says managing partner Michel Roy and bartender Pepe Nuno of Mai Tai Lounge in Lahaina. A true mai tai has a number of ingredients—light rum, dark rum, orange curacao liquor (made on Oahu by the Portugese, btw) and orgeat syrup but no pineapple juice. It’s this attention to detail and discerning MauiTime readers that have placed them at the top of the mai tai heap. Head over to the West side and give our regards to Pepe. 839 Front St., Lahaina, 661-5288 @nancykanyuk
Runner-Up: Kimo’s, Lahaina

BEST FEMALE BARTENDER

Sarah Stern, South Shore Tiki Lounge
Is it her curls, curves and smile or her quick, professional service? Which is more intoxicating? Either way, Sarah puts a smile in her service and can fix you a drink when one is needed. It helps that she’s stationed at one of the hippest, most popular drinking holes on the South side, where the food and cheer are as good as the peeps behind the bar. 1913 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 874-6444, southshoretikilounge.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Candice Seti, Ambrosia Martini Lounge

BEST MALE BARTENDER

Dave Bauss, Milagros
Dave is well-known for his margarita skills, but you may not know he’s our resident tequila expert with over 40 different varities at his bar. His other talents include a sixth sense for when you need another drink, or anything at all for that matter. You’ll find him in starting at 3pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Have a glass of Centennario Silver for me. 3 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 879-8755 @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Jake Morris, South Shore Tiki Lounge

BEST LOCAL COFFEE HOUSE

Maui Coffee Roasters
Maui Coffee Roasters is the favorite coffee house of Maui, serving premium pulled espresso shots and amazing pastries in a classic cafe environment. Located at the crossroads of Kahului, Dairy Road and Hana Highway, the shop is a hub of caffeine-fueled activity. Their breakfast sandwiches are the bomb, but the menu morphs just as easily into lunch with wraps, salads and bagels. And their “happy-cappy” hour keeps you perked up with $1 cappucinos from 2pm to 6pm. Plus, if you need gourmet beans this is the place to buy them; they have an international selection and everything you need to brew a great cup at home. 444 Hana Hwy., Kahului, 877-2877 @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Anthony’s Coffee Co., Paia

BEST LOCAL BOOZE/BEER/WINE

Maui Brewing Co., Beer
My only beef with Maui Brew Co. is that they don’t sell more of their awesome concoctions (the ones you can sample from the tap at the Kahana restaurant/pub) at gas stations and grocery stores for convenient pau hana pickup. Admittedly it’s a minor quibble, especially since the three types that are available in eco-friendly six-packs islandwide (Big Swell IPA, Bikini Blonde lager and Coconut Porter) represent the quality and craftsmanship that go into MBC’s ales. Crack one open, pour it in a glass (if that’s your thing) and savor it: a truly local product from a fine company and, most importantly, a damn good beer. 4405 Honoapiilani Hwy. #217, Lahaina, 669-3474, mauibrewingco.com @jacobshafer
Runner-Up: Ocean Vodka

EDIT PICK – Best Place To Get Perfect Head Every Time

Dog & Duck
Calm down, I’m talking about beer head—as in, the tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide at the top of your draught. Too much ruins the glass, not enough and you feel shorted. At Dog & Duck your head is just right, aesthetically pleasing, releasing the aromas of the quality draught beers they offer. But don’t stop with just the head; the food is awesome too. Chef Simon Jones hits it outta the park with whatever he’s working: grilled salmon, peas, potatoes, corned beef, fish and chips. Their late night pupus are the perfect head pairing, and with their happy hour specials you can buy two appetizers and get one free. Beers on tap include Stella, Guinness, Harp, Bud, Bud Light and more. 1913 South Kihei Rd., Kihei, 875-9669 @jenrusso

BEST BAR

Ambrosia Martini Lounge
The art of mixology is not one to scoff at—it takes delicately balanced chemistry to imbue you with that buzz—and Ambrosia is on the cutting edge of this sweet science. Whether you’re after the latest trendy concoction or an old, favored standby, you’ll find it here, with good vibes and company to boot. Cheers. 1913-H South Kihei Rd., Kihei, 891-1011, ambrosiamaui.com @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Charley’s Restaurant, Paia

BEST SERVER

Amy Adams, Cafe Des Amis
Cafe Des Amis personifies casual. And at casual restaurants, sometimes the tendency is for the service to get casual too. Not so in this case. Amy, like her cohorts, is professional, friendly and efficient, effortlessly tending to your needs as you enjoy the delicious crepes and wraps that have made this joint a North Shore mainstay. We’re not saying that winning Best of honors should automatically earn Amy higher tips, but we’re not not saying it either. @jacobshafer
Runner-Up: Charissa Hernandez, Tiki Lounge

BEST BARISTA

Dean Wong, Green Banana Cafe
Dean Wong is the ultimate host; his astonishing energy radiates throughout Green Banana Cafe (which he owns). And his espressos are perfect. Also, have you been by for the hula show? Te Tiare Patitifa performs every other Thursday at 6pm, offering the perfect blend of Tahitian dancing and coffee. But the proof is in the pudding; no really, Dean and Green Banana make the best damn banana pudding ever. 137 Hana Hwy., Paia, 579-9130 @jenrusso
Runner-Up: Kim Brown, Akamai Coffee, Kahului/

This is After Entry