After five hours aboard a stuffy 767 and a couple more spent rounding up my rental car and dropping my suitcase at my new Wailuku digs, I was ready for a quick-yet-hearty meal. And I found one at this wonderful little taco stand. Their menu is simple—tacos filled with fish, pork, chicken, beef and other fixins and hot dogs—but you can’t go wrong; everything is tasty and cooked up fast. Plus, they’ve got comfortable shady seating and it’s easy on your wallet, which is a good thing whether you’ve been here 45 minutes or 45 years. N. Market St., Wailuku.
I admit I’m being a bit Wailuku-centric here (we’ll expand our focus in a moment, I promise) but that’s where I wound up when I first hit the island, and so that’s where I ate. My first priorities were things that, as I said, were easy, fast and relatively inexpensive but that tasted good and filled me up. And while a gas station may not be the first place that comes to mind when you mull those criteria over, their food is actually quite good. They’ve got a variety of hot items to choose from, plus a cold case featuring a very decent turkey wrap, sushi, salads and pre-made sandwiches. Plus, there’s a nice big fridge full of beer, which can be a great panacea for the time change blues. 2085 Main St., Wailuku, 244-0869.
We’ve left Wailuku, but we’ve taken our desire for big satisfying portions that don’t break the bank with us. And on both counts, Da Kitchen serves it up. My wife ordered the regular chicken katsu plate for herself and the child portion for our 1-year-old son. What arrived was enough delicious breaded chicken strips to feed a small army. That meal alone got us through to lunch and a snack the next day. But more importantly it was good, just like everything else on the menu. 2439 S Kihei Rd #107A, Kihei, 875-7782; 425 Koloa St. #104, Kahului, 871-7782.
After hitting Baldwin Beach to establish a little base tan, we headed into Paia in search of some grub. It’s a town chock full of fine eating establishment, as Maui Time’s Best Of winners list will attest. We were drawn to Milagros because of the covered outdoor seating area and the promise of pancakes. The shade was nice; the pancakes were even nicer. Big, fluffy, stuffed with bananas and macadamia nuts, slathered in maple syrup—the mere memory has my stomach rumbling. We also ordered a delicious breakfast burrito, providing the savory offset to our shared sweet dish. Yum. 3 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8755.
During my first venture to Maui’s incarnation of the wholesale mega-warehouse, I was surprised how many people looked like tourists. Later, I asked someone and they told me that visitors flock to Costco because of its proximity to the airport and the fact that they can stock their condos with pop tarts and Mai Tai mix at bargain prices. But the Big C didn’t make my list for its inexpensive bulk wares (though I’ve got plenty of those filling up my cupboard and fridge), but for the food that comes in tiny portions. I’m talking free samples. Where else can you wander giant isles of consumer goods while munching on gratis sausage bites, bits of fudge brownies, a few chips garnished with chunky medium salsa and wash the while mini meal down with a swig of pineapple-mango juice from a tiny paper cup? 540 Haleakala Hwy., Kahului, 871-8693. MTW