Hecocks (Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms)
Tucked away in an oceanfront corner of the 505 Front Street shopping center, Hecocks is filled with surprises like amazing sunsets, casual atmosphere, a luau show and fat Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. Yeah, they could be a meal by themselves. The rich and spicy sausage meat bursts into whole mushroom caps, then the whole things are roasted or heated somehow until they’re just right. 505 Front St., Lahaina, 661-8810.
Milagros Food Co. (Blackened Blue Ahi Taquitos)
Probably the most popular pupu on the menu, the Ahi Taquitos are quickly becoming standard fare for most Milagros’ regulars. Heaven forbid their cozy North Shore kitchen should ever run out of this sashimi-grade ahi glazed with a unique house blend of blackening spices, chopped fresh cilantro, then rolled in a natural blue corn tortilla and deep-fried to medium rare. But the key ingredient is that complementary fresh fruit salsa with Asian gooseberry (yeah, okay so it’s kiwi but it sounds much more exotic this way, don’t you think?), Maui pineapple, cantaloupe, sesame seeds and chipotle chili pepper. Mmm… If you’ve never tried them, you shouldn’t try them now. You’ll ruin everything. 3 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8755.
Buzz’s Wharf (Fried Calamari Rings)
Who says fried calamari rings are just an appetizer and don’t constitute a proper meal? Now see here, sir! Have you ever eaten these fried calamari rings? They’re crispy, tender and delectable. Much like Lay’s Potato Chips, you cannot eat a mere one. Were I a religious man, I would dub them the Lord’s fried calamari rings. Plus they come with tartar and marinara sauce. Located in Ma’alaea Harbor, 244-5426.
Mambo Cafe (Paella)
Like many great dishes, paella is highly interpretive. There are many ways to make it. In the county of Valencia, Spain, poor fishermen and servants would take the leftovers of lavish banquets held by their rulers and add in whatever other ingredients they could get from the fields. That’s right—leftovers! These days, paella can be made using an endless combination of seafood and meats, vegetables—but always with rice—and is considered Spain’s most popular culinary creation. You’ll find Mambo Cafe’s version to be a non-leftovered and delicious mix of Spanish rice with fresh fish, calamari, chorizo, chicken and shrimp. 30 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8021.
Stella Blues (Tropical Wings and Garlic Bread)
Here you have to get a bit creative. Rather than hunt around the menu for an entree that’s less than $10—don’t bother, nothing’s close—you get to coble together one of your own. Start with their Tropical Wings pupu, which is a plate of their large chicken wings slathered in “tropical” glaze and served with bleu cheese dressing, then add on an order of garlic bread. Trust me—it will fill you up. Located in the Azeka Mauka complex on Pi’ikea Rd., Kihei, 874-3779.
SandBar & Grill (Crab Cakes)
While crab cakes might be the official food of Chesapeake Bay, the crab cakes of the SandBar in Paia will do quite nicely, thank you. Not only are they delicious, tender and filling but they’re also just under $10 so they suit our island-living pocketbook as well. The two thick, furikake-crusted patties of fresh crabmeat and seasoning served with a miso-soy aioli would please even the most pretentious Maryland crab cake eaters. 89 Hana Hwy, Paia, 579-8742.
Manana Garage (Corn Bread)
Good corn bread is fluffy in texture and creamy in taste. Manana Garage’s version is better than you can imagine. It’s fluffy as a sponge cake with pieces of corn and jalapenos. What’s best is they dish it up in large portions and serve it with plenty of butter slices. Top shelf margaritas are just the thing to wash it down. 33 Lono St., Kahului, 873-0220.
I’o (Cowboy Ribs)
Bet you never thought you’d see Chef James McDonald’s ritzy, glitzy I’o on a guide to Maui’s cheap eats! But beneath this establishment’s shiny metal interior and panoramic ocean views are some real bargains, foremost of which are the Cowboy Ribs. For just nine bones—get it? See, I used the word “bones” instead of “dollars”… oh, never mind—you can get a plate of “delicate slow braised baby back ribs.” And since this is a high-class joint, they come slathered in “hoisin barbeque glaze” instead of some mere sauce. Plus, you get a bit of green apple confit on the side, to add a little sweetness to the ribs. Now that’s highbrow! 505 Front St., Lahaina, 661-8422.
Kahale’s Beach Club (bar food)
Bar food is the quintessential meal for a perfect afternoon or evening spent performing excess consumption. In fact, a good pile of wings can easily right your head’s sideways spinning. And they pair perfectly with beer. At Kahale’s, you’ll find fries, wings, poppers, shrimp and chips, taquitos… basically everything you could possibly dream of eating while you have a buzz. 36 Keala Pl., Kihei, 875-7711.
Hula Grill (Crab & Macadamia Nut Wontons)
You get a small steamer bowl with five wontons—no more and no less. They’re fluffy and crabby on the inside and crunchy on the outside—just like life. Oh, and that innocent-looking bowl of shoyu/spicy mustard dressing they give you on the side? It’s tasty, but it will make the inside of your face feel like it’s on fire if you dunk your wonton in too deep. Whaler’s Village, Ka’anapali, 667-6636.