Maui: Where to Eat and Drink (or not!)

We recently got a great deal on flights to Maui including a hotel. We mostly played it by ear when it came to food, but I did decide to book one restaurant early. So if you’re heading to Maui and looking for suggestions, here’s a list of what we did! They are mostly centered around the Lahaina/Kaanapali area (given that is where we stayed), but we did venture away from the area a little bit.

Lahaina Grill:

This was the only place I booked in advance. Knowing we were staying nearby I scoured the internet for what was supposed to be the “best” food in the area, and Lahaina Grill kept coming up as one of the top places. The food isn’t cheap though (not like anywhere in Hawaii really is), but it was pretty spectacular. We ended up going with the wagyu beef ravioli and the seared ahi with foie gras as starters. Both were brilliant. We both ended up with the same main course: Veal chop with truffle risotto. Also a stellar offering. Finally, we split the lime pie for dessert. The food here is really delicious, and it had one of the better wine lists on the Island. If you’re willing to spend the extra money, it’s well worth it, even if it doesn’t seem traditionally Hawaiian.

Duke’s Beach House:

We found Duke’s on our first night after checking out a ton of restaurants in the nearby hotels. The menu here sounded better than most of the others so we decided to give it a go. We sat outside (even though it was raining off and on). They also had a pretty good wine list with a few interesting ones on a special list. We decided to split some ribs, and I had seared ahi for a main, while my husband ordered a seafood risotto. The ribs were really some of the best I’ve eaten in a long time. The ahi was also amazing and probably one of the best dishes we had the entire trip. In fact, we had a lot of ahi, and each of the other dishes was no where near as good. The portions were huge, so we forgo eating dessert. However, Duke’s is part of a restaurant group, and the other restaurants in the group we ate at (Hula Grill and Leilani’s) were also pretty good, so I think any of the restaurants in the group are a good bet, but Duke’s was definitely the best of them. We even had drinks at Kimo’s (but they weren’t great, so I can’t recommend the cocktails there).

Mama’s Fish House:

Mama’s is fairly well known it turns out, and I highly recommend making a booking before going (we didn’t, but we went for lunch the day we flew home and they had seating at the bar). I also recommend giving yourself a lot of time, as they aren’t really in much of a hurry. We ordered some sashimi to start, and it was pretty spectacular. However, my Traditional Hawaiian main wasn’t really that great, as most of the food wasn’t that interesting with the exception of the octopus luau. It’s also as expensive as Lahaina Grill (but not as good). It’s also a bit of a pain to get to (unless you’re staying in Paia). I know it’s a staple, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it unless you were really gung-ho as it seemed a bit touristy for the prices you’re paying.

Maui Wine:

Given how often we travel to wine country in California, we couldn’t go to Maui without a trip to their only winery. They are well known for their pineapple wine, but they make traditional wine from grapes as well. It’s definitely a trek, and luckily there is a shop/restaurant across the street where you can grab some lunch if you decide to go. If you do go to Maui Wine, booking the Old Jail Tasting (for $25) really is a must, as the wine we tried in the tasting room was pretty terrible. The higher quality wine in the Old Jail Tasting wasn’t that great either, but it was far superior to what we had in the main area. Honestly, given how far out it is, I wouldn’t really recommend going, but I definitely can see the draw if you are as curious as we were.

Mala/Honu/Frida’s

Another restaurant group, these three restaurants are next door to each other in North Lahaina. We stopped in at Honu for some oysters and a bottle of wine right around sunset. (Plus we needed some sustenance after walking down from Kaanapali.) They also gave us some crispy chickpeas to nibble on. It’s a great location to watch the sunset, and the oysters were really quite good (but a tad expensive). We moved to Mala next and had some drinks at the bar. The cocktails were really good, and they gave us some complimentary chips with a spicy dip. The dip was fantastic (although I can’t remember exactly what it was…some sort of bean puree with a spicy salsa). We moved on to Frida’s which is the Mexican restaurant. Here we enjoyed quite a few drinks including some sipping Mezcal with house made chasers of verdita, sangrita and hibiscus. These were probably the best drinks we had on Maui. They gave us some chips and salsa, but they were not quite as exciting as the other two restaurants. Finally we ended up eating at Mala, but the food was not quite as good as the drinks, so I would definitely recommend these three for drinks at the bar, but perhaps move on some place else to eat afterwards.

Pulehu Italian Grill:

We almost tried this place instead of Duke’s on our first night, but they were closed on Wednesday evenings. We ended up coming back here on Saturday night, and I’m glad we did. It was definitely one of the better meals we had. It’s a bit odd to be eating Italian in Hawaii, but the fried gnocchi we had as a starter were really fantastic. I had some risotto encrusted fish for dinner, and it was a fantastic way to make it as it kept in the moisture, and the risotto gave an amazingly crispy exterior to the fish. It’s something I’m going to have to try to reproduce at home! My husband said the shrimp were some of the best he had ever eaten. The desserts sounded great, but I was craving chocolate, so we had the chocolate cake with cherry, and it was a really great way to end the meal. This doesn’t show up on “Best of” lists very often, but it should, as there is some amazingly fantastic food.

Drinks along Kaanapali beach:

There are tons of bars along the beach, and we stopped in at many (ok, most) of them to try them out. There weren’t too many stand out places. Our favorite Mai Tai (and cheapest) was at Castaway Cafe. Very boozy. The Kaanapali Grille and Taproom had the most interesting selection of cocktails, and the first time we went, they were really tasty. The second time, they weren’t quite as good, so they can be hit or miss. The best blended drink I had by far was at the Tiki Bar & Grill. The Chi Chi I had was heavenly. Just be aware that a lot of places get quite busy around sunset, so it could be hard to find some seating around then.

I think that’s all I can say about Maui. I would say definitely skip grabbing a quick hot dog at Hank’s Haute Dog as it was probably the worst thing we ate in a long time. Otherwise, if you find yourself on Maui, I hope this may help you out when deciding on places to go. Enjoy!

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