Our resident gastronome shares writeup-worthy grinds that missed the BOM buffet
By Jen Russo
Part of what makes Best of Maui so wonderful is that it highlights (nearly) all the awesome bars and restaurants MauiTime readers love. Though we pack the Food & Drink section with tons of categories, there are a few notable eateries that inevitably don’t make the plate. So this week, I’m dishing a few hot scoops that Best of Maui missed.
Serpico’s in Pukalani is tucked away right off Old Haleakala Hwy, but is worth seeking out. This small mom and pop establishment has a sister restaurant in New Jersey, so these guys know how to spin za in the tradition of old Italian-American pizzerias. From your dining room seat, you can watch as chefs toss fresh dough and prep pies for the oven. Of their pizza offerings, my favorite is their primavera, featuring a mix of mozzerella, tomatoes, broccoli, garlic and ricotta. But the goodness doesn’t stop there. Their calzones, pastas and salads are equally ono–not to mention their tasty hot subs and sandwiches.
Hands down, Max Bistro in the Ha’iku Town Center is my pick for best destination dining in Ha’iku. Chef Curtis Hintz’s menu explores the imbibe-able world with international dishes, to which he’s applied his own comfort food twist. From lip-licking fast food with Max to Go during the day, to dinner paired with nice wines and evening entertainment, Max’s brand of foodie fusion is a good go-to no matter the meal. I always order the gado gado, an Indonesian, vegan-friendly platter of blanched veggies served with a spicy peanut sauce. Too, their seafood-full paella, salmon with shitake mushrooms, cassoulet, satay and gnocchi are so good, you’ll be planning your return visit to Max before you’ve signed the bill.
In Makawao, Market Fresh Bistro offers a menu any true locavore would love. They picked up on the homegrown trend before it got hot, leaving the big restaurants to follow suit. The list of offerings may be short and simple, but it focuses on fresh produce and ingredients from Maui’s farmers and fishermen. Their tree-shaded outdoor dining area is perfect for romantic breakfast, brunch or lunch, and their fresh fish benedict or waffles with fruit and whip cream are supreme.
Bringing fresh faces to the dining and lounge scene in South Maui, three young chefs—Jaron Blosser, Travis Morrin and Cody Christopher—got together and created the Three’s Bar and Grill, in the Kihei Kalama Village. Each with their own culinary expertise, the food at Three’s is eclectic, featuring fine dining from tapas to seafood, plus a sushi and a raw bar. Their late night entertainment line up is equally diverse. This Saturday, for example, they’re hosting a fundraiser headlined by Erin Smith, Kanoa, Ryan and Wolf, and Paula Fuga. And, you can always count on them for Thursday nights with Arise, and Friday nights with DJ Unique.
Up the drive at Hotel Wailea, Capische is a one of a kind dining experience. Their intimate dining room is perched high above Wailea and has incredible South Maui sea and sunset views, overlooking their Japanese garden. Chef Brian Etheredge has created a fantastic menu that explores fine Italian and French cuisine, proving you can have the best of both worlds. Chef Etheredge’s commitment to excellence is evidenced in their exquisite attention to detail. Every sense is engaged during your dining experience–from taste, smell to sound. The wine list is spectacular, garnering attention from Wine Spectator year after year, which helps lend to Capische being the perfect place for romance (many of my friends have proposed here). Right now, they’re offering a great kama’aina deal, where if you buy one entree, you get the second one half-off.
Where’s the beef? Look no further than South Maui’s newest burger contender, Fat Daddy’s. Ordering at their walk-up window may be casual, but choosing of their heady options is an event not to be taken lightly. Choose from their predetermined winning combos, or choose your own toppings from a selection of veggies, sauces and cheese, for a custom delight. Their fries are sweet potato belly bombs, and a great accompaniment to their prime beef and bun combos.
Hard Rock Cafe is a hub that rolls under the Best of Maui radar, and we too-easily take them for granted. Sure, this foundation of rock is a corporate cafe packed with mainland memorabilia, but of their many star moments they’ve given our isle, they deserve tribute. People from all over Maui come out for their incredible shows and catch a casual dinner beforehand. It was the place to be for the Andre Nickatina and Mickey Avalon show, Bad Brains, and the Women Who Rock fundraiser, and will be the place to be for upcoming events, guaranteed. Their hard working staff—namely Barry Cales and Jill Holley—are committed to bringing great events to Lahaina, and they do so with classic Hard Rock flair.
CJ’s Deli’s tagline is “the comfort zone”—and they mean it. Their huge menu is pleasantly priced, featuring their noteworthy reuben and pastrami sandwiches, plus pineapple fried rice and fresh baked sweets. Their cheerful dining room features free wireless internet access, opening at 7am with a full breakfast menu. You order at the counter and settle into a booth indoors, or you can opt for outdoor seating. CJ’s is a godsend for Ka’anapali visitors and upper west side residents who need a quick place to eat en route to or from Lahaina. Located in the Fairway Shops right off the highway, there’s plenty of parking at this eatery that stays open until 8pm.
Late night dining has gotten a boost on the west side from Lahaina Cafe. Where else can you find a dining room open until 4am?! One late night, when every other Lahaina locale was closed, I was lucky to find them and had the opportunity to try their fantastic Asian food menu, and ate Vietnamese-style spring rolls, dim sum, steamed shrimp dumplings and grilled chicken vermicelli salad, all after hours. As for beer and wine, you can bring your own (within legal drinking hours, of course), the perfect partner to their off-the-hook dim sum that’s the closest thing I’ve yet found to my favorite flavors from Chinatown.
When you want to get the full happy-hour-on-the-beach kind of treatment—but want to stay out of Ka’anapali—head over to Betty’s Beach Cafe at 505 Front Street. This restaurant overlooks the southern most shore of Lahaina, and features happy hour specials everyday from 2-5pm. The bar is lovely, and with $2 margaritas, $3 Mai Tais, $4 mojitos, and $4 Kona brews, it’s a deal that’s hard to beat (plus for just $2 bucks more, you can make it a double). Hungry? Their pupus cover the bases. And on Sundays, bottomless mimosas will send you on a mini mind vacation.
Alive and Well’s deli is my go-to place for quick family lunch or dinner. My four year old is crazy for their mac and cheese, and I can breath easy knowing its made with the best ingredients—the next best thing to homemade. Here is a hint: they don’t put the hot foods out on Sunday, but if you ask for leftovers, they’ll pack it up cold and sell it by the pound. The deli sandwiches are delish—full of fantastic veggies, soft whole grain or whole wheat bread, and no nitrates in their cold cuts—and won’t hurt your purse, priced at just $6.50. I haven’t yet met a Central sandwich that can beat ’em, and I can tackle my grocery list while I’m there, to boot. Park right in front so as to get in and out quick, and keep up with the downtown buzz.
The Kahului Ale House is has got something going on every night of the week. If you want a place to stop in for a beer, check in on the game(s), have some food, or be entertained, this is the place head to, in Kahului. Their dining room stays busy thanks to multiple draws, including daily specials, gluten-free options, TV screens everywhere and even a game room. Try their $2 pints (all the time) or additional happy hour deals, Monday through Friday, 3-6pm.
Ruby’s Diner has got great family dining in Kahului. This is the kind of place where servers will gather to sing you “Happy Birthday” over a complimentary be-candled sundae. They also have a dude that comes around making baloon creatures for keiki. They’re accessible menu appeals to everyone, and they’re incredibly accommodating for large parties, even ones with small kids. I for one love their salads—all of them huge—but have a hard time choosing between Thai shrimp, barbecue chicken, classic Cobb and Chinese chicken salads. With kids meals come a small ice cream cone, and further sweet is their old fashioned fountain and ten different shake flavors to choose from.
Bistro Casanova is Kahului’s newest addition, a elegantly European eatery on the corner of Lono and Kaahumanu Avenue. I live nearby and will often pickup takeout for the family, but dining-in is a great experience also. Get a bite to eat or down cocktail on your way to shows at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center; when you are all dressed up, it’s the place to go. They have tapas and drinks by the carafe, and while I’m partial to their filet and ribeye, the seafood salad, pastas and crepes rock my world. But the next time it’s date night, I’m ordering paella for two. How about you?