Hawaii has a lot to offer food lovers, and Maui in particular is undergoing a culinary renaissance. Now more than ever, there are farms, festivals, food trucks, and fine dining that will delight foodies of all stripes.
You’ll be hungry when you fly into Kahului, and luckily, less than ten minutes from the airport is Poi by the Pound (385 Hoohana St.; 808-283-9381), which opened last year and serves legitimate local food. The Hawaiian mix plate can easily serve two people: It comes with kalua pork, laulau, chicken long rice, lomi lomi salmon, poke, poi, and scoops of rice and macaroni salad. There are also specials like squid lau or ahi belly.
If you don’t mind eating picnic-style on the grass, head to the Maui Fresh Streatery truck on E. Kaahumanu Avenue, where local chef Kyle Kawakami, who previously worked in resort kitchens, now serves gourmet farm-to-truck cuisine. The food rotates among twelve themes, from Korean to Southern. The truck operates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 am to 1 pm, and tips benefit local charities.
One of the stars of Lahaina is Star Noodle, where Sheldon Simeon, a Maui Culinary Academy graduate and fan-favorite on Top Chef first made his mark. The menu offers shareable plates that show a wide range of Asian influences and plenty of local ingredients. Try the pohole salad with Hana fiddlehead fern, Maui onion, ebi, and kombu.
Upcountry offers a lot of farm tours, but Ocean Vodka has the most unusual one. Here you’ll see the distillery where vodka and the newly launched Deep Island Hawaiian Rum, as well as the native varieties of sugarcane grown for the spirits, are made. All products are made with local and imported organic sugarcane and desalinated ocean water.
The Upcountry Farmers' Market is considered the best in Maui and has produce, nuts, coffee, and flowers, along with some prepared food. Arrive early for the best selection.
Newly opened Joe’s Nuevo Latino in Wailea features enticing Mexican, Peruvian, and Venezuelan dishes made with local ingredients. While the menu is still a work in progress, dishes like anticuchos made with beef tongue and Pescado con Coco, a coconut milk-marinated white fish with Fresno chiles, mango, crispy plantains, and lilikoi, are already hits.
Foodies in Training
If you’re traveling with kids, a great first stop after picking up your rental car is Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. Hearty sandwiches, like the reuben or seared ahi and avocado served on homemade bread, and individual tropical pies will keep everyone happy.
Some of the resort restaurants in Wailea place an emphasis on fun and interactivity, a great way to introduce kids to local flavors. At Sheldon Simeon’s current restaurant Migrant, at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, kids will dig the Braddah Carrots with burrata, roasted heirloom carrots, honey, candied walnuts, and carrot top pesto. Fairmont Kea Lani’s Ko has kids’ dishes inspired by local family recipes, and kids five and under eat for free. Meanwhile, older kids can try their hand at cooking tableside with Ahi on the Rock You Sear It.
There’s plenty for budding epicures in Makawao. Head to Komoda Store and Bakery (3674 Baldwin Ave.; 808-572-7261) and stand in line with the locals to indulge in stick donuts, a fun and kid-size twist on a classic.
You might not associate goat cheese with Hawaii, but you should. At Surfing Goat Dairy, broken surfboards are recycled and turned into farm fences. Tours offer a chance to see the adorable goats and sample some of the award-winning cheese.
Kula Country Farms sells all Maui-grown produce and has a “fairy garden” area for kids. Then take a stroll through nature at the Enchanting Floral Gardens. There’s an easy stroller-friendly walk through the gardens and a cafe for drinks and treats. The walking tour is free for kids five and younger.
Ka’ana Kitchen offers foodies the unique experience of dining in an open kitchen. You’ll have a cozy spot for two that feels intimate and exclusive, while the chefs are easily accessible. Maui-born executive chef Isaac Bancaco was named Maui Magazine’s 2014 Chef of the Year, and his exquisite modern Hawaiian food is served family-style or in a tasting menu format. A top dish is the grilled octopus served with local goat cheese, watercress, and asparagus.
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a at the Grand Wailea is set on a lagoon with spectacular views. The vibrant food, like spicy sesame beef with tropical fruit escabeche, Thai basil, and pickled cucumber, uses ingredients directly from local farms. The restaurant also offers monthly Ka Malama five-course dinners, with ingredients foraged, fished, and gathered by the chef and cultural ambassador, based on an ancient Hawaiian moon calendar.
There are several food festivals in Maui, but the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival is the longest-running wine and food event in the United States. The evening affairs offer a fantastic way for foodies to taste what the island has to offer. Local chefs pull out all the stops, serving dishes to tantalize. Top picks from 2015 included lamb belly kakuni with unagi, grilled white peach chutney, kabocha, and shiso from Roy’s Ka’anapali and chorizo-cured pork belly laulau served with sweet pea and sambal puree with pickled Kula vegetables from newcomer Cane & Canoe.