The humorist Garrison Keillor said it best: “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.”
Food is a fact of life. It provides sustenance, nourishment, pleasure and, when consumed in quantities exceeding the daily recommended guidelines handed down by the good folks at the Food and Drug Administration, pain. The need to eat food is what separates us human beings—life forms, if you will—from rocks, heavy metals and Dick Cheney. It makes civilization possible, and worth living.
Which brings us to this year’s Taste of Maui issue, our annual look at what people—important and interesting people!—around Maui are eating and why. Mostly what they’re eating, sure, but we always try to keep them on the phone just a bit longer to explain why they happen to like one okazuya better than another or why they feel their particular favorite sushi bar is better than all the other sushi bars on the island.
So here’s our look at where some of Maui’s best and brightest (and Fred Spanjaard!) like to go to eat. Oh, and we’ve also got some special listings of various island restaurants that offer kick-ass half-price kama‘aina discounts.
What are you waiting for? Can’t let the food get cold.
Contributors: Jessica Armstrong, Starr Begley, Anthony Pignataro.
Author, Men are Easy
The pressure is on! Well, I’d have to say that there’s a tie for me between Hali‘imaile General Store and Casanova. They’re both in my neighborhood. We love the people and know just what to eat and the service is consistent. We walk to Casanova from our home and sit at the bar. The seafood soup combined with a simple salad is a lovely thing. It’s wonderful and just good. At Hali‘imaile I eat the salad nicoise–an ahi salad with olives and cheese–always perfect. They also have lilikoi iced tea, lilikoi daiquiri or margaritas. Anything with lilikoi at Hali‘imaile is good.
Casanova, 1188 Makawao Ave, 572-0220; Haili‘imaile General Store, 900 Haili‘imaile Rd., 572-2666. (SB)
JO ANNE JOHNSON
Maui County Council Member
This is going to sound really strange, since I usually don’t go to fast food places, but I love to go to Wendy’s. I love their chili! Their chili is excellent. I just get it plain, without rice. I couldn’t make chili that good. Well, it would take me a while. Another place is AK’s Cafe on Lower Main. They have really good food, and it’s all healthy for you. The owner used to work at Maui Community College (MCC) as an instructor. She’s great. And when college is in session, I love to go to the Pa‘ina Food Court at MCC. It’s ono. Everything’s fresh and I’m trying to eat healthier. But I always eat my dessert first because life is uncertain.
Wendy’s, 349 Kamehameha Ave., Kahului, 877-2719; AK’s Cafe, 1237 Lower Main, Wailuku, 244-8774; Pa‘ina Food Court, Maui Community College. (AP)
I really like Charley’s. It’s a cool place to eat and I’m always there anyway. I usually get this Chinese cashew chicken. It’s really good. I also like Fernando’s, that Mexican place right by Borders. That place has super good Mexican food. They make it fast—like, Taco Bell fast—but it’s good, authentic Mexican. I usually don’t have a lot of time, so I’m always grabbing something wherever I am.
Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon, 142 Hana Hwy., Paia, 579-9453; Fernando’s, 270 Dairy Rd. Suite 164, Kahului, 873-7759. (JA)
[Spoken in hot London accent] Cafe Mambo has the best breakfast in Paia for sure. It’s just like very Mediterranean, very North African cuisine. I lived there half my life so it’s stuff I really love. My favorite thing to eat is their omelets which are amazing. They do a really great duck salad–fantastic. The environment is also great, the walls are speckled with my art.
Cafe Mambo, 30 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8021. (SB)
Medical Doctor, Planned Parenthood
I like a lot of places. The Saigon Cafe does Vietnamese, and they’ve got great curried eggplant. I go to Unisan for sushi, especially the unagi caterpillar rolls. Cafe Des Amis does great crepes for breakfast; I get the spinach and feta. Oh, and I love Jacques. It’s great to go to for drinks, food, atmosphere; everything there is really good. Of course there’s Roy’s for fine dining and dessert, especially the chocolate souffles cake. It’s probably the best dessert I’ve ever had. You should definitely try it. A really good lunch place is Briget & Bernard’s. It’s this tiny place that serves German and Swiss food and you’d probably miss it if you didn’t know it was there. My favorite thing there is the calamari Caesar salad.
Saigon Cafe, 1792 Main St. Wailuku, 243-9560; Unisan, 2102 Vineyard St., Wailuku, 244-4500; Cafe Des Amis, 42 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-6323; Jacques Northshore Bistro, 120 Hana Hwy., Paia, 579-8844; Roy’s Bar & Grill, 303 Pi‘ikea Ave, Kihei, 891-1120; Briget & Bernard’s Garden Cafe, 335 Ho‘ohana St., Kahului, 877-6000. (JA)
Middleweight Fighter, Ultimate Fighting Championship
One of my favorite places to eat on Maui? Huh. Wow. I like to go to the Paia Fishmarket. And I like to eat the mahi mahi–the mahi sandwich. The place is small and they make good fish–ahi, all kinds of stuff. The mahi burgers are so good. I love fish. I don’t eat a lot of red meat. I mean, I’ll eat it once in a while, but it makes the weight stick to me.
Paia Fishmarket, 2 Baldwin Ave, Paia, 579-8030. (SB)
KATHY “TITA” COLLINS
Owner/DJ, Mana`o Radio 91.5 FM
I have a few favorite places. I like Kama‘aina Okazuya on Mill and Lower Main, that funky old barbeque shack on the corner. Their barbequed pork is unbelievably tender and sweet, and it’s just delicious with white rice or on a bun. They only make it for our booth at the fair, now. Their food is heavenly. It’s the good old food that I grew up with, like potato tempura and wonderful, fresh salads. I’m totally addicted to the Doma at Cafe Marc Aurel. Oh, and their hummus, too. I’ve never had such creamy hummus. It’s a tradition for mom and me to go to Sheik’s every Saturday morning for breakfast. It’s your typical greasy spoon diner and I always get the fried bacon and egg sandwich because they cook the bacon crispy like I like it. The Market Street Cafe is my new favorite place for lunch. It’s a very nice, healthy menu and they always have a great daily special.
Kama‘aina Okazuya and Deli, Corner of Mill St. & Lower Main St., 281-4213; Cafe Marc Aurel, 28 N. Market Street, Wailuku, 244-0852; Sheik’s Restaurant, 97 Wakea Ave., Kahului, 877-0121; Market Street Cafe, 197 N. Market St., Wailuku, 244-4100. (JA)
Maui Planning Commissioner
I like to go to Wow-Wee Maui’s Kava Bar in Kahului for sushi. Craig and Larry have an incredible sushi bar inside. The fish is always really fresh, and Craig is a great sushi chef. It’s really a great scene and a lot of fun. They can be hysterical, and they always have the latest gossip on the fishing community. What else… oh—Mala! Mala’s awesome. All their seafood and specials are really good. And if you’re lucky and [owner] Mark Ellman is there, it’s great. In Kihei, Eskimo Candy is a great place for lunch. They’re a fish wholesaler, but inside they have a little retail place with a couple tables. They have the best fish sandwiches and best poke I’ve ever had on the island. If you want to take home fish, that’s the place to go.
Wow-Wee Maui’s Kava Bar & Grill, 333 Dairy Rd., Kahului, 871-1414; Mala Ocean Tavern, 1307 Front St., Lahaina, 667-9394; Eskimo Candy Seafood Market & Cafe, 2665 Wai Wai Pl., Kihei, 891-8898. (AP)
I would have to say my favorite place is Kahuna Kabobs in Lahaina. When I’m down there I always hit that place up, it’s in that little international marketplace on Front Street. They’ve got affordable hummus, grilled veggies and healthy things. And they’ve got all kinds of kabobs; beef kabobs, chicken kabobs, veggie kabobs. You should definitely check it out.
Kahuna Kabobs, Lahaina Marketplace, 661-9999. (JA)
Host, Opinions: Maui (Thursdays, 7 p.m., Akaku Channel 53)
I love two breakfast places. First, Kihei Caffe. The portions are huge and they have great bacon. If I’m ever Upcountry on a weekend, then La Provence. They have the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever tasted. They only have them on Sunday, but they have great crepes on Saturday and Sunday. For lunch, I love Fiesta Time in Wailuku. They have the best Mexican food I’ve had on Maui. Dinner, of course, is Waterfront. They always have fresh fish, and they’re consistently good. They also have the best Caesar salad I’ve had—they make the dressing at the table. They put the egg in, the garlic, parmesan cheese, anchovies, right there, tableside. If you’re a caesar salad fan, that’s not to be missed.
Kihei Caffe, 1945 S. Kihei Rd., 879-2230; La Provence, 3158 L. Kula Rd., 878-1313; Fiesta Time, 1132 L. Main Rd., Wailuku, 249-8463; Waterfront Restaurant, 50 Hauoli St., Ma‘alaea, 244-9028. (AP)
Filmmaker, Cutback Productions, Inc.
Gosh, I like to eat. My favorite place is Jacques for their North shore salad. It’s got seared ahi, crab and avocado and it’s really good. I like the Italian place upstairs at the Four Seasons, too, Spago. They’ve got really good pupus like this poke style ahi sashimi, I think it’s called Ahi tartar. I go to Casanova for really good pizza; they’ve got so many good ones. The best croissants are at La Provence in Kula. They do good breakfasts too, like eggs benedict. And the Fish Market in Paia has really good, fresh fish tacos. They’ve got the best fish. Yeah, I like to eat.
Jacques Northshore Bistro, 120 Hana Hwy., Paia, 579-8844; Spago, Four Seasons Resort, Wailea, 874-8000; Casanova, 1188 Makawao Ave., 572-0220; Paia Fish Market, 2 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8030. (JA)
Owner/Producer, Global Media Productions
I have to say that I love Sansei. It’s fun and they have half price sushi. It’s fun, like a big party. I go there all the time and am treated like a regular. I guess I am a regular. My favorite thing at Sansei is the panko roll. It’s their specialty. I’ve traveled the world, in fact I just had sushi in China. Yeah… But I have never seen anything like the panko roll or the mango crab roll.
Sansei, 115 Bay Drive, Kapalua, 669-6286; 1881 S Kihei Rd., Kihei 879-0004. (SB)
Owner, The Studio Maui
I guess my favorite restaurant is Sansei in Kihei. I always go there and get the mango crab hand roll, they’re really good. Cafe Des Amis has a really good chicken mozzarella crepe and Mediterranean salad. I like Flatbread; I think they have the most fresh, lively organic salad on the North shore. And Fresh Mint has really good Vietnamese, it’s really fresh and they’ve got great summer rolls.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, 1881 S. Kihei Rd., 879-0004; Cafe Des Amis, 42 Baldwin Ave, Paia, 579-6323; Fresh Mint, 115 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-9144. (JA)
Founder, GMO-Free Maui
I like to eat organic food—preferably that I grew or that my friends grew. But I’ll eat other things, too. I love organic eggs for breakfast. And organic goat cheese, sprouted grain bread. I eat a lot of whole grains, legumes, salad. I make my own salad dressing. But my favorite store, of course, is Mana Foods. I love their salad bar. I really do like to eat at Flatbread. I love their organic salad with seaweed on it. I like Cafe del Sol, too—they see me walk in, and already know what I want. And I love that little wrap they have at Saigon Cafe—they give you your own little rice papers to make little spring rolls. And the Phanang Curry at Thailand Cuisine in the Maui Mall is really to die for.
Mana Foods, 49 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8078; Flatbread Company, 89 Hana Hwy, Paia, 579-8989; 3620 Baldwin Ave., Makawao, 572-4877; Saigon Cafe, 1792 Main St., Wailuku, 243-9560; Thailand Cuisine, 70 Ka‘ahumanu Ave., Kahului, 873-0225. (AP)
Artistic Director, Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center
We eat out all the time. I really like the bar–I guess it’s the lounge, at the Makawao Steak House. We like to go there after work. They have really good calamari strips, great pupus. It’s dark and funky. In the wintertime it’s great because they have a fireplace, but it’s still a real local theme. Big Deb is our favorite waitress. She’s a famous waitress Upcountry. She’s also at Stopwatch. She’s one of the reasons that we go.
Makawao Steak House, 3612 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 572-8711. (SB)
Co-Founder, Maui Future Arts
I live Upcountry, so my favorite place up here is Hana Hou in Haiku at the Cannery Mall. It’s under new ownership now, and they’re good people and good cooks. They make good local plates and beautiful fish and chips, and their nightly specials are excellent. I go to Mulligan’s on the Blue because they’ve got the ambiance, the beautiful location and the best corned beef and cabbage. On the West Side I go to the Hula Grill and eat in the barefoot bar, I usually get a bunch of their pupus.
Hana Hou Cafe, 810 Haiku Rd., Haiku Cannery, 575-2661; Mulligan’s on the Blue, 100 Kaukahi St., Wailea, 874-1131; Hula Grill, Whaler’s Village, Ka‘anapali, 667-6636. (JA)