Here Are Maui's Must-Have Cheap Eats
Excerpt from my food and travel article from Gothamist:
If you're heading to Hawaii, chances are that Maui will be one of your stops. Given the island's picturesque sights and romantic honeymoon credentials, taking the time to find good local Hawaiian food may not be top priority. It's hard to plan out what to eat when you're in paradise. Which is why we've come up with a list of Maui's must-have 'cheap eats' to help you simplify your trip and make sure you don't break the bank.
POI BY THE POUND: Poi by the Pound may only have a few items on their menu, but that’s more than enough when it’s done right. The all-star dish is squid luau, a hearty, traditional Hawaiian salty and sweet stew typically served at luau's comprised of cooked squid stewed in taro leaves and coconut milk. For those that want to try a bit of everything, they offer a sampler plate with kalua pig, macaroni salad, lau lau (salted pork wrapped in taro and steamed), chicken long rice, pokē, Lomi-lomi salmon, and poi (grayish-purple mash made from the taro root.) Poi by the Pound’s loco moco consists of white rice, topped with three hamburger patties, a fried egg, and thick brown gravy. For dessert, the taro sundae is served in a tall sundae glass, with vanilla ice cream sandwiched with taro ice cream in the middle, topped off with another layer of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and even more whipped cream for good measure. Poi by the Pound is located at 385 Hoohana St #5c, Kahului, HI 96732, (808) 283-9381.
MAUI FRESH STREATERY: Maui Fresh Streatery is the hippest food truck in Hawaii. Don’t let the truck fool you, Chef Kyle Kawakami serves up some of the most gourmet, forward-thinking cuisine with his innovative farm-to-table approach. Kawakami’s menu is all about sustainability and sourcing locally. You’ll never eat the same thing twice as he rotates through different international, local, and State-side cuisines constantly. Maui Fresh Streatery has 16+ different menus that change according to the season and what the freshest ingredients are the chef can get his hands on.
A recent menu included: Short rib poutine, pesto seared salmon with beets, beans, and kale salad (all sourced from a local farm), a Panini Italiano, made with organic eggplant caponata with uncured salami, provolone cheese, toasted torta bun (baked from a local bakery) and field green salad with vinaigrette also from a local farm. For dessert, a Japanese unbaked lychee cheesecake hit high notes as did the sparkling fresh fruit gelee made with mandarin oranges, blueberries, strawberries in a sparkling geelee. You can find the latest menu on their facebook page. One hundred percent of Maui Fresh Streatery’s tip jar goes to local nonprofits on the island. You can find the bright red truck at the Shell Station on Ka’ahumanu Avenue across from Maui Beach Hotel. Maui Fresh Streatery is located at 137 E Kaahumanu Ave. Kahului, HI 96732.
DA KITCHEN CAFE: Talk about super size. Da Kitchen Café is the answer to Hawaiian comfort food conveniently located just a few minutes from the airport. Every dish is humongous and made for sharing. Not only do they have the typical Hawaiian dishes like loco moco, spam musubi, etc, but they also take those basics and kick it up 10 notches. Da Kitchen takes their loco moco and adds spam and bacon fried rice tops it with tempura, kalua pork, and two eggs over easy just for good measure. The most unique dish that you can’t find elsewhere is Da Kitchen’s famous deep-fried spam musubi. Served piping hot straight out of the fryer, the fried musubi has a crunchy exterior with a moist rice inside that will make a regular spam musubi seem boring. Da Kitchen Café is located at 425 Koloa St., Suite 104 Kahului, HI 96732, 808-871-7782.
ULULANI'S HAWAIIAN SHAVE ICE: Not all shave ice is created equal. If you think shave ice is just about sweet artificial syrup drench over some ice, you haven’t been to Ululani’s. The ice masters first pour some freshly ground shave ice into a cup, pack it in, add on another mountain of ice, and shape it into a ball. Then the pros take a wooden skewer and stab little holes throughout the ice to ensure that the syrups are evenly distributed throughout. All of Ululani’s syrups are made in-house from real fruit. They have all the typical flavors like strawberry, guava, and even more unique Hawaiian flavors such as passionfruit, pickled mango, wet lemon peel, as well as special seasonal flavors that pop up frequently. Don’t forget to add ice cream on the bottom of your shave ice. Go with a traditional vanilla or a macadamia nut ice cream or give the Haupia (a traditional Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk) ice cream a try. If ice cream isn’t for you, you can also add homemade azuki beans, mochi, shredded toasted coconut, or Li Hing Mui (dried salty sweet plum) powder. Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice is located at 61 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753, (360) 606-2745 and at 819 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761, (360) 606-2745.
TAMURA'S FINE WINE & LIQUOR: The store may be called Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquor, but foodies visit for their huge selection of tasty poke (poh-keh) - or fresh, raw, cubed fish, seasoned with either soy sauce, Hawaiian salt, or other seasonings. Poke from Tamura’s is strictly takeout only. What sets Tamura's apart from other poke places is their variety. They have over 10 combinations with lots of available add-ons as well. The ahi fish is prepared same day and made to order. There’s wasabi poke, pipikaula poke, Hamachi poke, sweet and spicy poke, among a whole list of permutations. In addition to poke, there’s also an assortment of fresh seafood like abalone as well as tasty munchies like pickled garlic. Tamura’s also doubles as a mini supermarket that has Hawaiian snacks, cigars, and a large assortment of alcohol. Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquor is located at 199 Dairy Rd, Kahului, HI, (808) 873-8000 and at 226 Kupuohi St, Lahaina, HI 96761, (808) 667-9000.
T. KOMODA STORE AND BAKERY: The T. Komoda Store and Bakery is located in the beautiful Upcountry area of Maui in the town of Makawao. This unassuming bakery has been a local legend in the area for decades. Their donuts and pastries are so good that long lines form well before the store opens at 7a.m. and continue throughout the day. The cream puffs are light and airy with a thick custardy inside. The guava malasadas taste like you're eating a fresh guava. The donuts on a stick are fried to a beautiful dark brown color and then topped with a heavy glaze and skewered together on a stick. Other delicious options include: Cocoa Long John, coconut turnover, butter roll, coconut pie, macadamia short bread, among others. Whatever you decide to get, make sure to get there early. Most pastries are all sold out within hours. Komoda Store and Bakery is located at 3674 Baldwin Ave, Makawao, HI 96768, (808) 572-7261.
LEODA's KITCHEN AND PIE SHOP: Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop is home to some of the tastiest homemade mini pies, breakfast, and lunch on the island. While Maui is full of farm-to-table eateries, Leoda's is the best place to take advantage of that on a budget. Their bread is baked fresh each day, the bananas in their famous banana cream pie and banana pancakes are harvested from their restaurant's own farm, and the eggs and other ingredients are sourced locally. Although the pies are the namesake of the restaurant, the seared ahi benedict, coconut French toast, and Kobe roast beef sandwiches also should not be missed. Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop is located at 820 Olowalu Village Rd Honoapi'ilani Hwy Lahaina, Hawaii 96761, (808) 662-3600.
SUGAR BEACH BAKE SHOP: If you have a sweet tooth, Sugar Beach Bake Shop is a must visit while on Maui. They use freshly picked lilikoi (passion fruit), Dole bananas and pineapples, and whatever ingredients are in season for their pastries. There’s multi-colored chiffon cakes with layers of passion fruit, guava and coconut, pineapple bread pudding, sticky bun and guava cream cheese turnovers, coconut macadamia nut cream pies, and banana bread with streusel topping just to name a few. Besides from their array of sweets, Sugar Beach also makes incredible spam musubi (spicy jalapeno and Portuguese sausage options also available) that sell out within a few hours of opening. Sugar Beach Bake Shop is located at 61 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753, (808) 757-8285.
MAUI'S CHEF's TABLE: The Maui Chef’s Table is the ultimate foodie experience for anyone who’s ever wanted to feel like they’re on Iron Chef. Tucked behind a nondescript strip of shops, Maui Executive Catering Company is transformed into the island's answer to a speakeasy twice a week for Maui Chef’s Table dinners. Owner and executive Chef Scheer and his team prepare and serve 7 farm-to-table courses using only locally grown and organic Maui products from nearby farms. Scheer changes his menu at each Chef’s Table so you’ll never eat the same thing twice. From the prep, to the cooking, and subsequent dish-washing and the general raw, frantic nature of being in a real kitchen, guests get a one of a kind experience. Diners are encouraged to get out of their seats to see the action up close, mingle with the chefs, and chat up fellow diners.
The Chef's Table regularly features other collaborations from notable chefs to mix things up. The 7 courses dinner runs $100 and is BYOB. The Maui Chef’s Table is only available Fridays and Saturdays for dinner and seats 24 patrons. Spaces fill up quickly and must be reserved online. It’s not everyday that diners get to get in on the action in the state-of-the-art open kitchen and end the night with an equally intense game of Jenga. Follow the hashtag #mauicheftable to get a taste of this “upscale hipster” addition to Maui. Maui Executive Catering is located at 810 Kokomo Road Haiku, HI 96708, (808) 575-9002.
I love sharing my travel and food pics with you so make sure to let me know which places you've tried and what you think! Click here to check out the Gothamist article to see all my picks!