Address: 1792 Main St., Wailuku, HI 96793 Phone: (808) 243-9560 Word of mouth counts for a lot in the Maui restaurant community. Just ask regular customers of A Saigon Café. Located in sleepy Wailuku—under a bridge—it has still managed to be on the Best of Maui list multiple times. It probably has a lot to do with dishes like their ever-popular burritos. No beans or cheese here—these are Vietnamese-style, rice papers wrapped around sprouts, mint, basil, veggies and tofu, beef or chicken. There’s pho, the Vietnamese version of beef noodle soup and clay pots with either chicken or shrimp and so much more. One of my personal favorites? Sweet Thai iced tea, heavy on the sweetened condensed milk. Great with anything you order. Don’t let their out-the-way location fool you. This place is worth finding.
Address: 1913 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI 96753 Phone: 808-874-0788 The fish and chips competition on Maui is stiff, and once again Alexander’s has come out on top. Their crinkle-cut fries are my favorite style, and the fish portions are ample and delicious. Choose from three options—ahi, ono or mahi—and pair with ample sauces and sides.
BEST PLATE LUNCH, Winner Aloha Mixed Plate Address: 1285 Front Street, Lahaina, HI 96761 Phone: 808-661-3322 Website: http://www.alohamixedplate.com Aloha Mixed Plate celebrates the diversity of our ethnic backgrounds and brings local favorites to a gourmet level thanks to Executive Chef Craig Masuda of Old Lahaina Luau. The dining room is casual and outdoor, but overlooking the ocean in Mala, a surprisingly beautiful spot to consume your plate lunch. The Hawaiian plate is epic; Chef Masuda oversees this preparation of pork, served here as kalua pig and cabbage, with lomi lomi salmon, poi, macaroni salad and haupia, and it’s under $10—unless you upsize it to Bamboocha and add a laulau. If you aren’t in the mood for Polynesian paralysis, try their shoyu chicken, which you can get in large or mini portion.
BEST BAR, Winner Ambrosia Address: 1913 S. Kihei Road, Kihei, HI 96753 Contact: Candice Seti Phone: (808) 891-1011 Email: email@example.com Website: www.ambrosiamaui.com The art of mixology is not one to scoff at—it takes delicately balanced chemistry to imbue you with that buzz—and Ambrosia is on the cutting edge of this sweet science. Whether you’re after the latest trendy concoction or an old, favored standby, you’ll find it here, with good vibes and company to boot.
Address: 333 Dairy Rd., Kahului, HI 96732 Phone: 808-872-9525 MauiTime readers know that bigger is not always better when it comes to their favorite eateries. Case in point: Amigo’s. While they have multiple locations, in Kahului, Kihei and Lahaina, the restaurants themselves are rather diminutive. Don’t be deceived, though. Their menus are anything but. They prepare their steak, shrimp, fish, chicken and pork in a dizzying array of choices. Not to be outdone, the bar menu offers somewhere around 15 different kinds of tequilas, beer—imported and domestic—and the traditional island drinks. So you can pair your chile verde with a Mexican beer, your shrimp taco (one of my favorites) with Patrone tequila or your enchilada al pastor with a mai tai. This is Mexican food at its most authentic and reasonably priced.
Address: 42 Baldwin Ave., Paia, HI 96779 Phone: 808-579-6323 Cafe Des Amis personifies casual. And at casual restaurants, sometimes the tendency is for the service to get casual too. Not so in this case. Amy, like her cohorts, is professional, friendly and efficient, effortlessly tending to your needs as you enjoy the delicious crepes and wraps that have made this joint a North Shore mainstay. We’re not saying that winning Best of honors should automatically earn Amy higher tips, but we’re not not saying it either.
Address: 300 Maalaea Rd. # 1M, Wailuku, HI 96793 Phone: (808) 243-2286 If you’re an aficionado of barbeque you’ll know that wet vs. dry—a kind of Coke vs. Pepsi thing—is the difference between slathered in sauce, an all-over-your-face experience, or dry, which gets its flavor from slow cooking or smoking. Beach Bums Bar and Grill at Maalaea Harbor aims to provide both. They cook their ribs, brisket, etc. for as long as 12 hours in a monster smoker. So if you want your meat to bask in its own smoky splendor, as I do, you have that option. But if you want to walk on the wet side you can still slop it up, slathering to your heart’s content with the housemade sauces available at your table. Either way, delicious.
Address: 2439 S. Kihei Rd. # 201A, Kihei, HI 96753 Phone: 808-891-1368 Cafe O’Lei’s lunch menu offers the right portions at the right price, the two essential ingredients in a good business lunch. They have multiple locations islandwide, and the menu changes a little bit with each one, so no matter where you plan to meet you’ll likely have a Cafe O’Lei option. Their crab club is a wonderful sandwich of crab salad and bacon on foccacia, and their mahi is consistently great, served with rice and Caesar salad. I can’t come in without ordering the French onion soup, topped with puff pastry baked to order. Whatever you order, it’s a great way to seal the deal.
BEST ITALIAN FOOD, Winner Casanova Italian Restaurant Address: 1188 Makawao Ave., Makawao, HI 96768 Contact: Steven Capelli Phone: 572-0220 Fax: 808-572-4978 Website: http://www.casanovamaui.com For more than two decades, Casanova has offered the whole package: fresh ingredients, authentic recipes and amazing entertainment. In Italy, pasta is eaten primi piatti, as the first course before your main dish and that option’s available here, including their homemade linguine, available at lunch and dinner. Their pizza is made in a wood-burning oven, their mozzarella is made in-house. Quite simply, you can’t get any closer to Italy on Maui.
I know chow fun is not considered a gourmet dish; in fact it may even be regarded as simple. But, at the risk of hyperbole, I would argue that the chow fun created by the Wailuku Hongwanji and brought to the Maui County Fair each year is one of the best foods in the universe. It’s perfectly balanced, from starchy, flat white noodle to green onion to limp but not stringy bean sprout to ground beef. But you don’t have to take my word for it—just take one look at the line that lasts all night.
BEST BURGER, Winner Cool Cat Cafe Address: 658 Front St. #160, Lahaina, HI 96761 Contact: Sean Corpuel Phone: (808) 667-0908 Fax: 808-667-0963 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.coolcatcafe.com Which of Cool Cat’s 13 scrumptiously unique burgers are you loving up at the moment? Me and the Duke used to be an item: onion ring, barbecue sauce and bacon. But then I had a thing for Don Ho: bacon, Jack cheese, pineapple and teriyaki glaze. Now I’m kinda into the Leader of the Pack, a simple lettuce/tomato/onion combo. This is one case where having been around the block is a very good, very delicious thing.
BEST LOCAL FOOD, Winner Da Kitchen Address: 425 Koloa St., # 104, Kahului, HI 96732 Contact: Mariah Brown Phone: 808-871-7782 Fax: 808-871-7784 Website: http://www.da-kitchen.com Ask my brother (and most men), and he’ll say this writeup needs only word: waitresses. True, Da Kitchen is staffed with bronzed Barbie dolls who are as much pleasant people as their countenance is cute. But there’s more to it than that. Their Kolaa Street location has bookended many a trip to the OGG, and their BYOB policy makes green bottle imbibing much easier than ordering. Hawaiian plate? Chicken katsu? Burger? Chinese chicken salad? Deep fried spam musubi? Dessert? Luckily, the choices are hard because everything is good. So no mattah what, your pick is a good one. Harder still is finishing your meal; portions are notoriously massive, and if you don’t share, you’re sure to have leftovers for lataz.
Address: 3 Baldwin Ave, Paia, HI 96779 Phone: (808) 579-8755 Dave is well-known for his margarita skills, but you may not know he’s our resident tequila expert with over 40 different varities at his bar. His other talents include a sixth sense for when you need another drink, or anything at all for that matter. You’ll find him in starting at 3pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Have a glass of Centennario Silver for me.
Address: 137 Hana Hwy., Paia, HI 96779 Phone: 808-579-9130 Dean Wong is the ultimate host; his astonishing energy radiates throughout Green Banana Cafe (which he owns). And his espressos are perfect. Also, have you been by for the hula show? Te Tiare Patitifa performs every other Thursday at 6pm, offering the perfect blend of Tahitian dancing and coffee. But the proof is in the pudding; no really, Dean and Green Banana make the best damn banana pudding ever.
Address: 1913 S. Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753 Phone: (808)875-9669 Calm down, I’m talking about beer head—as in, the tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide at the top of your draught. Too much ruins the glass, not enough and you feel shorted. At Dog & Duck your head is just right, aesthetically pleasing, releasing the aromas of the quality draught beers they offer. But don’t stop with just the head; the food is awesome too. Chef Simon Jones hits it outta the park with whatever he’s working: grilled salmon, peas, potatoes, corned beef, fish and chips. Their late night pupus are the perfect head pairing, and with their happy hour specials you can buy two appetizers and get one free. Beers on tap include Stella, Guinness, Harp, Bud, Bud Light and more.
Address: 70 E. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., Kahului, HI 96732 Phone: 808-893-1628 No mean feat, topping a Best of Maui category three years in a row. But that’s exactly what Dragon Dragon has done. How do they do it? Friends of mine swear by it for large family gatherings, birthday celebrations, etc. They also offer dinner packages for two, four or six. And their regular menu is a tome, featuring a whopping 116 items! Oh, and did I mention they serve dim sum (my personal favorite)? These wonderful little bamboo baskets full of buns, dumplings, etc. are available at lunch. Hmm, given that they’re a three-time winner, maybe they should be called Dragon Dragon Dragon.
Address: 115 Baldwin Ave., Paia, HI 96779 Phone: 808-579-9144 Fresh Mint Restaurant in Paia makes kick-butt vegetarian food, including vegan offerings. But the dishes, like the golden soy chicken curry, are so artfully prepared that they not only appeal to vegetarians and vegans (their target audience, obviously) but to meat eaters as well. There’s not many places that tempt such diverse palates. Guess that’s why they’re Best of Maui material again this year.
Address: 3636 Lower Honoapi‘ilani Rd., Honokowai, HI 96761 Phone: 808-669-7004 The view at this market has to be a factor in the voting. Directly across from the Honokowai Beach Park, it offers spectacular views of both Molokai and Lanai. They’re not the biggest market on the island. In fact they’re one of the smaller ones. But there seems to be a lot of market per square inch, packing in an abundance of local fruit, veggies and mouthwatering displays of sauces, dips, pestos, breads and other goodies. The staff is helpful, friendly and just this side of perky and available to assist you with your shopping needs Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7am to 11am.
BEST SMOOTHIE, Winner Jamba Juice Address: 275 W. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., Kahului, HI 96732 Phone: 808-873-2003 Website: http://www.jambajuice.com Were it not for Jamba Juice, I might be dead. Or at least missing a finger. Seriously. In the throes of chemo (with a nasty case of MRSA, aiming to rid me of my right index), a power-size anything—plus a free immunity boost—was all the food I could stand to stomach. If it stuck around long enough, it was likely my sole sustenance for days on end. Based on the votes, it would seem Jamba Juice has saved many MauiTime readers’ lives, too. Though it may not be the garden-fresh, roadside variety, there’s something to be said about Jamba’s consistency/cost/convenience. With cancer gone and my infection healed, I have renewed love for all things—one being fingers...the better to grip my power-size cup!
Address: 1945 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI 96753 Phone: 808-879-2230 People-watching on South Kihei Road is awesome; the parade of pink-skinned tourists, scantily-clad beachgoers and colorful local characters provides an endless source of amusement. And the outdoor, sidewalk-hugging seating at Kihei Caffe offers the perfect vantage point. But I digress. The category isn’t Best Place to Oogle Strangers, it’s Best Breakfast, and on that count the Caffe delivers (maybe it’s the extra “f”?). Whether you’re hankerin’ for a fluffy stack of banana mac nut flapjacks or a worchestershire-slathered Benedict, they’ve got it, served with aloha (and, if you want, a side of bacon). Space can sometimes be tight during the morning rush, but if you have to wait a few minutes for a table, there’s that people-watching to keep you occupied.