It’s the end of the year, a time for predictions, reflections and celebration. The food and beverage industry had a promising 2010; despite the recession, statistics showed people are still eating out and spending money on food. That suggests it’s not merely about sustenance, but the social aspect of dining. What does this mean for Maui? It’s not only visitors who patronize restaurants—locals love food, too.
New restaurants opened, and though they may struggle, many marked one-year anniversaries with the hope for more. Happy first birthdays include: Bistro Casanova, Diamonds Ice Bar & Grill, David Paul’s Island Grill, Max Bistro, Duke’s Beach House, TiaJuana’s and Monsoon India.
Perhaps owing to the collective belt-tightening, 2010 saw an influx of food trucks on-island. The area I dubbed “food court by the sea” on Kahului Beach Road has blossomed into a bustling market of prepared foods, especially on Saturdays. You can get fresh grilled meat plates for $6, shrimp, tamales, lau laus, chow fun, hekka and fresh cuts of fish, all by simply pulling off of the side of the road into what was once an empty dirt lot.
Frozen yogurt came back with a vengeance. Tutti Fruity in Kahului was the first, and earned a loyal following. In Paia, Green Banana started slinging its own frozen concoction, along with healthy smoothies, while Yogurtland opened at the Kaahumanu Center and Pinkberry at the airport. Meanwhile, Ono Gelato (technically not frozen yogurt, but in the frigid treat department) expanded islandwide.
Wailuku saw a pair of closings and re-openings: Cafe Marc Aurel became Wailuku Coffee Company and Maui Bake Shop renovated and returned. Four Sisters Bakery opened a second location on Vineyard, for brunch and lunch, featuring Asian favorites and plate lunches. King’s Chinese BBQ opened on Market, featuring wallet-friendly breakfasts: meat, egg and rice plates for $2.99.
In Lahaina, Star Noodle created the biggest buzz of the year. Its gorgeous Zen interior aligns with the modern Asian cuisine, and Chef Sheldon Simeon modestly serves up some of the most delicious noodle dishes and dim sum favorites available on the planet. Seriously. Speaking of dim sum, Lahaina Cafe opened on Wainee Street, offering inexpensive and delicious dumplings and the best Vietnamese BBQ chicken and vermicelli noodles on-island. Even better, they now boast a fully equipped bar.
Captain Jack’s on Front Street is a family-friendly, pirate-themed open-air spot, and serves a great Philly cheesesteak, fish and chips and cute chicks in Pirates of the Caribbean outfits. Just down the street, Banyan Tree Deli bakes fresh bread and sweets, and offers fresh-made gourmet sandwiches.
In South Maui, existing restaurants saw an opportunity to expand. Chef Bev Gannon launched the luxurious and beautiful Gannon’s With the Red Bar in Wailea. The 808 Deli folks opened 808 Bistro, a BYOB hot spot for comfort food. Also in the comfort food arena, the owners of Fat Daddy’s opened the takeout gourmet burger joint, Fat Boy Burgers. Their incredible burgers are served on fresh-baked buns, with homemade dressings and hand-made beef patties, and the sweet potato fries are to die for.
The Arabatzis family, known for the casual Pita Paradise in Kihei Kalama Village, opened an elegant Wailea version. The full bar, air-conditioned dining room and delectable authentic Mediterranean fare is off the hook, and the family catches its own fish, too.
Two other Kihei joints opened at the new Lipoa Center: the rockin’ Kiwi Roadhouse, featuring live entertainment and New Zealand cuisine like savory meat pies, and the family-oriented fun zone Sharkey’s where the keiki can play on a pirate ship while Mom and Dad grind pizza and beer.