Antonio’s (Pasta alla Bolognese with Spaghetti)
Chef/owner Akiyo Murata pours a mean bowl of meaty marinara over his homemade spaghetti. Then he serves it up in an intimate, Italian kitsch restaurant. Over red-checked tablecloths and baskets of bread served with balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, you can find the true love of your life, which would be meat sauce-slathered spaghetti, made from scratch. 1215 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 875-8800.
Sansei (Half-price sushi)
Sansei’s sushi is astounding. Their well-known restaurants are beautiful, but the brilliance of their combinations of the freshest fish, seasoned rice and vegetables stitched together with nori is undeniable. Sansei finds room to extend their gratitude to residents by offering half-price nights. These popular nights also feature Karaoke, but really, we all go for the sushi so we can know what it’s like to eat like a king. 1881 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 879-0004; 115 Bay Dr., Kapalua, 669-6286.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House (Sides)
It would be difficult not to eat beef when you go to Ruth’s Chris, but if you’re vegetarian or on a smaller-than-petite-filet-sized budget, their sides are the way to go. From creamed spinach, broccoli au gratin and fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce to garlic mashed or lyonnaise potatoes, there’s no way to lose. That is, as long as you forget you’re in a STEAK house, you cheap tree-hugger. 900 Front St., Lahaina, 661-8815; 3750 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea, 874-8880.
Penne Pasta (Penne Broccoli with Chicken)
Now this is a meal. You get plenty of penne mixed in with tender broccoli florets and chunks of chicken, then drowned in glorious marinara sauce. It’s so good. It’s also rather filling, which is kind of a surprise, considering that all it’s got is chicken, marinara sauce, broccoli and pasta. 180 Dickenson St., Lahaina, 661-6633.
Polli’s Mexican Restaurant
I have a vegetarian friend who’s always broke and likes to drink margaritas. We go here ‘cuz she gets to eat and drink big, and for under $10. The Chile Queso is a feast of mushrooms, green chiles, onions and tomatoes, topped with Cheddar and Jack cheeses and served with six flour tortillas. And if you want the veggie blend sauteed with tofu, it’s only a dollar more. Plus, if you sit at the bar, you’re bound to get some free entertainment in the form of local stories, jokes and banter. Just make sure you’re not the event du jour—those margs can incite even the meekest of wallflowers. 1202 Makawao Ave., Makawao, 572-7808.
Archie’s (Nabeyaki Udon)
This is the ultimate in Japanese comfort food. Thick Japanese noodles, Udon, sit in a clear steaming broth that’s served in a cast iron mini kettle. They’re mixed in with a generous helping of crisp broccoli, carrots, cabbage, green onion, green beans and zucchini. Then there’s the protein: tofu, fish cake, chicken and a delicious tempura shrimp. Japanese chef Hifumi Tanaka, the wife of the late Archie himself, runs a tight-ship. She’s kept the cuisine consistent over the years, billing it as “ethnic Japanese with a local style.” As for the Nabeyaki, Tanaka’s daughter Margie says simply, “People say it is better than you would find in Japan.” 1440 Lower Main St., Wailuku, 244-9401.
Cafe 808 (Roast Turkey Plate)
With very few restaurants in Kula, Cafe 808 boldly goes where most establishments don’t dare. After all, not all the hungry people in Kula can eat at the Kula Lodge. Cafe 808 isn’t afraid to serve healthy meals for the high-altitude masses in a mess hall atmosphere. So just dress casual. Follow their daily specials, like Thursday’s roast turkey plate, filled with all the wonderful gravy and mashed potatoes your belly craves. 4566 Lower Kula Rd., Kula, 878-6874.
Curry-in-a-Hurry (Eggplant and Pastry)
Everything at this little vegetarian take-out cafe—okay, it’s more of a kiosk—is simply wonderful. But the Eggplant and Pastry is a bit different—think of it as an Indian Pop-Tart, except with eggplant instead of cherry filling. The Basmati rice is also quite good, though that will cost extra. Located in the Lahaina Square shopping center, 661-4370.
Honokowai Okazuya (Mahi Mahi Lemon Caper)
That they charge less than $10 for this plate is astonishing. It’s a plate lunch, sure, but how many plate lunches have you had that include a couple tender, flakey mahi filets swimming in a lemon caper sea? 3600 L. Honoapi’ilani Rd., Honokowai, 665-0512.
Sam Sushi (Sushi)
I feel like I’m giving away a secret surf spot. This Wailuku sushi joint just off Market and tucked away on Vineyard across from the bowling alley is the latest and greatest hard-to-find treasure. Sam Sohn is not only a master sushi chef, he’s an infectiously fun host with a rockstar appeal. And you can always be sure to get the freshest, most creative and dazzling-to-behold plates of raw delicacies. From simple nigiri to more complex rolls, the great thing about sushi is you can try as big or little an assortment as your stomach and wallet can muster. 1951 E. Vineyard St., Wailuku, 249-2420.
$3.95 and up
A & J Kitchen (A&J Combo Plate)
It’s got it all: barbecue beef, barbecue chicken and some of those tangy, delicious Kalbi ribs. Plus the requisite rice and your choice of mac salad or Kim Chee. Don’t get the mac salad! Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because it would deprive you of the opportunity to scarf down some of their wonderfully spicy Korean coleslaw. Located in the Lahaina Center, 667-0623.
Pukalani Superette (Hot Food Deli)
This place deserves props for making it 50 years in business. With independent markets becoming a thing of the past, this endangered species keeps Maui customers coming with their great prices and the self-serve hot food deli. You will find dishes from all over the Pacific like Filipino adobo, Japanese hekka, Hawaiian lau lau and local style shoyu chicken. It’s all packaged with sides and rice and ready to go. 15 Makawao Ave., Pukalani, 572-7616.
Lynne’s Cafe (California Roll)
When I first came into Lynne’s Cafe I couldn’t believe her prices. But the cafe aims to feed the Haiku crowds in a simple, unassuming atmosphere. Somewhere along the line, they forgot to price gouge their customers. You can find lots of reasonable noodle dishes, sandwiches, salads, sushi and local food for under $5. Her California roll is no frills but all good, with avo, imitation crab and cuke, then rolled in nori and rice. You won’t find a better deal. 810 Kokomo Rd., Haiku, 575-9363.
L&L Drive Inn (BBQ Chicken Mini Plate)
When in need of a cheap plate lunch it’s hard to beat L&L. They have all the favorites when it comes to local food, but their BBQ chicken is at the top of the list. Flavors of sweet soy, garlic and ginger mingle with mac salad and sticky white rice. The mini plate has one scoop less rice and a bit less meat, but the servings are still huge. You can’t go wrong for only $4.35, and the Tabasco is free. Pi’ilani Village Shopping Center, Kihei, 875-8898; Wailuku Town Center, 242-1380; Maui Marketplace, Kahului, 873-0323; Lahaina Cannery Mall, 661-9888.
Kahuna Kabobs (No Ka Oi Chicken Kabobs)
None of the kabobs go for more than $10. You can get them with tofu, chicken, fish, steak or shrimp and they’re served with white or brown rice and the Kahuna’s original potato/mac salad. For a little extra you can exchange the white rice with pineapple fried rice, Molokai mashed potatoes or veggies. The unique menu is always evolving and includes wraps, soups, burgers, a house salad, “island-style” curry and shaved ice with nothing to break a small budget. Lahaina Marketplace on the corner of Front St. and Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina, 661-9999.
Fiesta Time (Mushroom Quesadillas)
You can never go wrong with a quesadilla. The trick here is that they fold sliced mushrooms into the cheese. It’s simple and satisfying. Get the combo that comes with rice and beans—you won’t regret it. 1132 Lower Main, Wailuku, 249-8463; 300 Ma’alaea Rd., 244-5862.
Cafe des Amis (Brie & Avocado with Apple and Black Pepper Crepe)
Ooh la la! Le crepe! There are sweet crepes and there are savory crepes but if you want a little of both, check out this unique combo: a thin, light, delicate pancake filled with rich brie, creamy avocado, tart green apple and a dollop of sour cream! C’est bon! It also comes with a house salad of mixed field greens. Beret and faux accent not included. 42 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-6323.