One of the quickest ways to a staycation on Maui is to head to Paia, with its wealth of restaurants, shops and laid-back North shore vibe. Few places exemplify this better than Milagros. Situated at the crossroads of North shore and Upcountry at the intersection of Hana Highway where Baldwin Avenue begins its trek up Haleakala to Makawao, Milagros boasts an always-eclectic crowd and a tangible chemistry that lets you know it’s time to take a load off and have a margarita.
What attracts folks to the restaurant’s cozy lanai isn’t the people-watching—that’s just a fringe benefit—but the great food. Specializing in Latin and Southwestern cuisine, the lunch and dinner menu have plenty of signature items that fall in the must-try category.
Start with the fresh fish. They buy fresh local fish daily from Fresh Island Fish Co. and feature a blackened seared ahi burrito that’s like no other. The fresh ahi flavor is allowed to peak with the smoky blackened spices that compliment the also-smoky homemade salsa. Then all of it pops with the sweet chile sauce. The burrito is rolled with black beans and Spanish rice, plus cheese and cilantro.
Served in a blackened BLT, a salmon salad or as an entree during the dinner hours, the various Pacific Northwest-farmed salmon dishes are decidedly not Southwestern. Yet the salmon is amazing in flavor and texture, served with Tupelo honey flown in from Florida and covered in local macadamia nuts. The crunchy buttery mac nuts and sweet sticky honey are light enough to combine with the flakey grilled fish and create a completely new taste sensation; there was not a crumb left on my plate, not a drip of honey left. I am definitely a convert. With the salmon salad, spinach and other fresh veggies are topped with papaya seed dressing, and as an entree at dinner you’ll also get mashed potatoes and cornbread. This is one of the best preparations of salmon that I have discovered.
For keiki, Milagros has it down: their menu offers everything familiar and trusted. My daughter loves the plain bean and cheese burrito; I love that it’s just four bucks. They also give out this awesome thing called Wikki Stix—packets of colorful wax covered string that can be sculpted into any shape—to keep your kid occupied while you’re busy determining what kind of tequila to have in your margarita.
Speaking of which, the bar at Milagros is fully stocked with an astonishing selection of tequila. I have to admit I’m not a tequila expert (or even close to it), but I was ready to receive an education. Ultra premiums like the Gran Patron Platinum and the Asom Broso Anejo aren’t available for margaritas, and are served in snifter glasses for sipping. Margaritas I’m more familiar with, and they have 10 different kinds, from Lilikoi to traditional to mango to their signature DaKine. House tequila expert and Best of Maui-winning bartender Dave Bauss serves them up perfectly blended or on the rocks; I’m making a mental note to come back for a tequila tour. – MauiTime, Jen Russo
Milagros Food Co.
3 Baldwin Ave., Paia
Open daily, 8am-10pm