On Maui, as summer fades into fall, signs of the changing season don’t come from the weather. Here, it’s sunshine and balmy breezes right through the holidays and into the New Year. (And we’re not complaining…)
But even though the climate stays joyfully consistent, things still change come September. As kids go back to school and the busy tourist season ends, an inevitable slowdown ensues. In many ways—from a peace and serenity and “nice, the beaches aren’t crowded anymore!” standpoint—that’s a good thing. But with our island economy so dependent on visitors, the annual autumn lull can make for some tough, lean times. And when pennies start getting pinched, eating out is often the first luxury to go by the wayside.
Not so fast. As we labor to point out each year, a ton of Maui eateries offer kama’aina discounts, giving cash-strapped locals a much-needed break while drumming up business in the process. It’s your classic win-win.
This year—in addition to our extensive listings, which highlight establishments that offer kama’aina specials—we’ve asked several local chefs and food preparers to weigh in with their thoughts on the choicest spots to grab grinds. You’ll find their answers, sprinkled with a few Maui Time staff selections, divided into the three meals of the day and further sorted by price range (we put the emphasis on cheap and mid-range eats but, hey—even when you’re in survival mode you’ve got to splurge once in a while).
From our page to your lips: ‘Ai a hewa ka waha! (Eat until the mouth can have no more…)
Chefs and food preparers:
Chef Bev Gannon,Hailiimaile General Store
Chef Bobby Masters, Hula Grill
Waylon Rich (lead line cook), Cafe Mambo
Josh Richardson (owner & “sandwich wizard”), 808 Deli
Tom Selman (chef/owner), Main Street Bistro
Chef Ryan Urig, Banyan Tree, Ritz Carlton
Don Ritchey (chef/owner), Moana Bakery & Cafe
“For breakfast I’d probably go to the Gazebo. They’ve got great fried rice and with four kinds of sausages, green onions and they give you the option to put warm coconut syrup on it.” – Ryan Urig
“Cafe del Sol for two eggs over easy, crispy bacon and hash browns—the absolute best I have had!” – Bev Gannon
“I like the fried rice with Portuguese sausage and the omelets at the Gazebo. Their mac nut and banana pancakes are good, too. It’s BYOB, and that’s a good thing because we usually start drinking in line.” – Bobby Masters
“Jack’s Inn and Kihei Caffe for under $10.” – WAYLON RICH
“You can get a huge burrito with eggs, your choice of beans, cheese and rice in a flour tortilla with tortilla chips at Maui Tacos. That’s a great breakfast.” – Josh Richardson
Most breakfast joints offer little in the way of vegan options. Moana CafE and Bakery is an exception. Though it’s not on their breakfast menu, they can whip up a killer roasted veggie and hummus wrap. Those in need of a Sunday eye-opener should invest in at least one Bloody Mary (non-carnivores should request it sans-Worcestershire sauce, which has anchovies).
Can’t forget the pancakes at Tasty Crust, the perfect, fluffy, syrup-coated Saturday morning panacea after a Friday night of fun.ff
“Plate lunch at Da Kitchen is $7.50 or so and the portions are huge. I go for the chicken katsu, which comes with three big pieces of chicken, mac salad and white rice. It’s almost enough for two people.” – JR
“I like DollIE’s for lunch. I usually get the Italian grinder, but they make a good Reuben and Greek salad, too. The pizza dough there is killer, really good pizza.” – BM
“Pita Paradise is a good place to go for lunch. I like the Greek gyro. It’s one of the only places on Maui to get a gyro.” – JR
“I like Mala. I’m into tapas so I get little things. They change the menu a lot, but the potato and jalapeno soup is always great. I like to get their ponzu oyster shooters and the ahi bruchetta, and they do a daily fresh flatbread special.” – RU
“One other place I like is the Honolua Store by the Ritz. It used to be more rustic until they re-did it inside; now it’s really nice, but the outside still has that porch you can sit at and eat. They have great plate lunches. The loco moco is good, the pork and peas and the teri chicken, too.” – BM
“Pinatas for a Mexican chicken salad.” – BEV GANNON
“La Provence in Kula is a great one. I like supporting them because it has a pretty authentic French feel, especially in the morning. They are cooking slow, the right way. You have to try their sticky buns—best on the planet, easily. The lunch menu is nice as well and the courtyard setting tops it all off. Also, try their Sunday brunch!” – WR
Santa Fe Cantina for roasted pork tamales or Chile rellenos: “It’s not a soft batter [they are fried in]; it’s a nice, crisp blue corn batter.” – Tom Selman
“[Makawao Liquor Shack & Grindz]: For $10 they have everything.” – DR
I’ve said it before: Island Cuisine in Paia has amazing summer rolls. Pair them with a smoothie blended from locally grown fruit and you have an ideal midday recharge.
The hot bar at Down To Earth has some lovely options, including something called tofu dynamite, which derives much of its power from garlic.
Island Taco has tasty, filling tacos loaded with the meat of your choice and condiments aplenty for $5. And for the truly cash-strapped, there’s the $1 hot dog. Seriously, can you get anything for a dollar anymore?
“I do DollIE’s for dinner and a cold beer because it’s close to my house and they serve until about 12:30am. For those of us in the industry who don’t get off work until 11pm it’s one of our only West side options. They’ve got really good deals on French dips.” – RU
“My dinner choice is kind of a strange place. I like to get delivery from Dante’s at the Cannery Mall. For fast-food Italian it’s really good, and the portions are big. The pastas are killer; you can get them in half sizes or the whole size comes with salad and garlic bread. The sandwiches come with a side of pasta. The fact that they deliver all the way to Napili is amazing to me; sometimes I just don’t feel like going out to eat.” – BM
“For a cheap dinner, I’d go to Wok Star. They’re Kung Pao chicken is really good and you can BYOB, too. That will save you some money.” – JR
“I have to mention Bangkok Cuisine in Kahului. The owner and staff are super friendly, the food is reasonably priced and pretty good. Try the drunken noodles and the coconut chicken soup!” – WR
“I love Thai Chef, too. I do take out from there a lot of times. Their hot and sour soup is good and the pad Thai noodles are, too. I always like the yellow curry or the yellow and green curry mix.” – Ryan Urig
“For less than $20 you can go to Sansei; get yourself a couple of rolls, miso chicken.” – TS
“I like Marc Aurel for the same price if I’m more into ambiance. Good cheese, good wine, good espresso. Having worked there, I can say that the restaurant is super green and super supportive of the arts, two ideals very important to me.” – WR
“[At Asian Star in Wailuku] you could eat outrageously for under $20.” – DR
“Dragon Dragon for their lemon chicken—it is really very delicious.” – BG
Fresh Mint, a phenomenal place, offers many vegan options, though we can’t really get away from ordering the golden fake chicken curry. Amazing.
Got to mention Shangri La’s eggplant bharta here because, yes, there is an Indian restaurant on Maui.