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Favorite Maui Restaurants?

Just wondering what people would say are "don't miss" spots to dine on Maui!

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  1. Mama's Fish House for sure. Don't miss it!!!!!

    18 Replies
    1. re: hungrygirldenver

      NNNOOOOOOO! Mama's Fish House is for foodies who follow recommendations like lemmings; it is not a Chowhound destination. You'll hear "Mama" raves from those on their honeymoons in Maui but they'd likely be wow-ed by the Golden Arches as they gaze into each other's eyes at sunset.

      Please, puuuhlleeeeze, read the CH posts about Maui's answer to an over-priced Disneyland, aka Mama's Fish House. Eeeeccchhh! If you feel that you must drive all the way to Paia, go to the Paia Fish Market and save yourself the aggravation, not to mention some serious dollars, of you-know-where.

      1. re: Sherri

        I had not planned on visiting Maui on my next trip to the Islands, but I have never eaten at Mama's on any of my trips there, and almost feel compelled to see what the fuss is about. I agree that this board is highly polarized on this one spot. I do not mind "resort" prices, or kitsch, but you gotta' have the gold in the kitchen to back it all up, and many seem to feel that Mama's does not.

        I had many divergent reviews on The Beach House, Kaua`i. I saw for myself, and all was great, as per my review last Fall. That does not mean that those, who had a less than favorable review were wrong; only that I had a good experience, that was well worth the $, and that I would return. Heck, one of my favs. in PHX, just got a bad review from a hound, whose integrity is beyond reproach, and whose palate I respect. Does his review make my fav. a bad restaurant? NO. It does mean that I must dine there soon, as I often recommend it, without hesitation, when the criteria warrant.

        Maybe I'll fly over, just to see for myself - no preconceived notions.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          I am sorry to have sparked such a heated debate! I have been to Mama's only once, about 3 years ago, and I had a fabulous, fresh piece of king moi that was perfectly cooked. The prices are high, as they are over most of Maui. The location and view is killer. I had a great time there, but again, it was based on one visit.

          On the other hand, I've also been to the Beach House (about 4 months ago), and my meal was rather forgettable. Of course, the location was beautiful, but our food wasn't that great. So to agree with Bill, I think that I had a good experience at Mama's and a not so good experience at Beach House. As most of us don't have the luxury of living on the islands, our reviews are usually based on a single visit. I think, take it all with a grain of salt.

          1. re: hungrygirldenver

            Actually, the Mama's debate has been going on for some time now. Because we are usually based in Ka`ana`pali, most of our dining has been in Lahiana, or up-country at Bev Gannon's, so I have yet to try Mama's. I will remedy that next trip there. We had planned a trip to Molo`kai and O`ahu next Fall, but maybe we need to include Maui in that Itinerary, just to see what the deal is. I only hope that we hit them on a good night.

            One of my favorite Hawaiian restaurants, La Mer, Waikiki, was really off on our last visit, so it can happen.

            As you state, most of us do not have the opportunity to dine several times at one spot within a short time-frame. If we hit 'em, when they're off, that is the impression that we leave with. Same, if they are on.

            For most of our last trip, I had excellent food, and much of my wife's was pretty bleak. As I stated in that review, it was a "tale of two entrees." However, it did point out how the same restaurant can get reviews at opposite ends of the spectrum. If I was doing reviews, based solely on my wife's meals, most of the places would get panned. If they were based on my meals, they would have gotten a few Michelin stars. Oh well, that is what travel dining is about.

            Thanks for the comments,

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I think we've decided to check out Mama's for ourselves and see what we think...

              1. re: food_for_thought

                If i may jump in and add my 2 cents. You probably know this already: call early and request a table with ocean view, to maximize your enjoyment. They've recently done some renovations - no major overhaul to the decor, just extra seating and more coherent layout, so this shouldn't be hard. One of my favourite items is ahi sashimi salad (wonderful contrast of texture with the ferns, crispy wonton strips, with subtle dressing that really allows you to taste al the things they put in this salad). I usually order the Penang curry dish on the dinner menu - i haven't been in 6 months so the menu may have been updated - because i find everything else (steaks, fish) too bland. :) Husband ALWAYS gets the Pua Me Hana. I don't know why, since he doesn't eat most of it, the pork. I think he just enjoys fiddling the coconut meat out of the shell. Their desserts i find so-so: Roys has an equally good molten chocolate cake, for tropical cheesecake - go to Costco and get the whole pie for that price, it's just as good, and Jacques down the road in Paia has a great tiramisu. But their drinks are awesome: generous sized glasses, not too much ice. I either get a couple of mai tais, or the (non-alcoholic) coconut-lime-mint cooler. I'm addicted to that drink - t's so refreshing.

                1. re: TanQ10

                  Thanks for your 2 cents. We're not big dessert eaters so I appreciate the info - maybe we will put that $$ into other parts of the meal. The ahi sashimi salad sounds right up my alley. I like bold flavors - if you could be more specific about what to avoid if you don't like bland, I'd really appreciate it. Also...thanks for the drink recommendations. We don't always go for the tropical drink thing but if they're big, not too much ice, and good, we may just do that. We'll call it dessert. ;) Thanks.

                  1. re: food_for_thought

                    Ok, but keep in mind Bill Hunt's comments, above, about differing tastes. :)

                    The fish @ mama's is fresh catch, but this is not unique. I go to Valley Isle fisheries in Kahului for my fresh catch, pay way less per pound, or get fresh catch from fishing friends, and toss it on the grill - tastes just as good to me as it does at Mama's. So that's the type of thing i find 'boring'. Having said that, the Lobster stuffed Mahi with Macnut is delicious. The Ono with carmelized onions and rice is ..not thrilling. Neither is the steak - go to Makawao Steak House instead. I have ordered the duck 2x at Mama's (i love duck) but it's always too dry. Too bad Maui doesn't have a Chinatown. I like the Penang curry because they accomodate my request for 'spicy' and i like the sambal - it doesn't overwhelm and contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the wild fish, which retains its moisture because it's slow-cooked in the coconut base. Everything is balanced in the curry dish.

                    1. re: TanQ10

                      Very well pointed out. That is one of the reasons that I shy away from "steakhouses," I can do as well with the dry-aged filet on my grill and my wine list is head n' shoulders better than all but Bern's. If I can do just as well, or better, at home, why dine out?

                      That's why I love so many of the great restaurants in Hawai`i - I cannot come close to Alan Wong, Chef Mavro, et al, back in AZ. The same would go for Mau`i. Go for the unique, not the mainstream.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Those are our top picks for Honolulu! I am sad to say (and this is just *my* taste buds talking) Maui does not have dining options in that calibre. For special occasions we head out to Chez Paul, Gerard's, David & Paul, Nick's Fish Market - i think those places *could* comapre, i know you had a miss at Gerard's. Husband really likes Mama's - again, i still think it's because he can fiddle with the coconut at the dinner table and part of it is nostalgia as he's been going there for ages with friends. And to borrow the other poster's phrase, i really want to like Haliimaile, but it has THE most boring menu. Yes, everything is fresh, very high quality ingredients, but it's nothing i haven't had before in Boston, NYC, LA, San Francisco..etc. I really wish we had a Chinatown. But if I could measure 'favourite on Maui' in terms of how often I actually eat out at a place, it would be Jacques in Paia: reasonable prices, fresh catch (except when they catch cow), great sushi and the best, most unique sush rolls i have had on Maui and a very good dessert menu. They have about 17 items on their app menu which makes this joint an easy choice for hanging out on any given night. I work on the south side, so for lunch the places i most frequent are Cafe O'Lei, Matteos (italian) and if i'm late, Tastings (tapas & wine).

                        1. re: TanQ10

                          Thanks for all this useful advice. I appreciate the tips on what to eat, although I know to each his/her own, I too hate to order anything at a restaurant that we can make in our own kitchen. Also, when we travel to Hawaii, we like to order things that are not par for the course in the NY dining scene, or things that are just better there...so that usually means a lot of seafood and Pacific Rim-type food.
                          I'm curious - we've heard mixed things about Nick's Fish Market. We have a reservation there anyway but were debating changing it... I'd love your opinions. Also, while I'm asking two more questions...what are your thoughts on Sansei? We have heard that it's unbelievably great...and we've also heard it's not "real" sushi and it's a tourist trap. Second question - I heard that a new restaurant called Duo opened at the Four Seasons recently. Any word on whether it's any good? Thanks so much. I appreciate the advice.

                          1. re: food_for_thought

                            My take on Sansei is that you don't go there to order sushi. The prepared dishes are much more interesting and much better. The Asian Rock Shrimp Cake with the ginger lime chili sauce was so good that I bought the cookbook for the sauce recipe (and I've made it several times -- it has a LOT of butter).

                            1. re: food_for_thought

                              Sansei in Kihei should not be on your list of 'must-dos'. I've been told by friends who live on the West Side that the Kapalua one is way better, but I haven't been so cannot comment on that location. We like Nick's Fishmarket - great view, good fish, haven't had a bad experience there yet. The servers (they have a lot, perhaps too many) tend to be over-attentive sometimes. It *is* a tad more expensive than it should be.

                              1. re: food_for_thought

                                I used grew up on Maui, many years ago now residing in las vegas for the last 15, I agree that Sansei is a tourist trap with poor quality sushi. Seriously,
                                In the same shopping certer as Sansei you'll find a better quality sushi at the foodland for loads cheaper.
                                No knock on Foodland Locals are pickey about sushi and fresh fish thier selection at Foodland is one to consider for beach snacks as it is very inexpensive and the quality is out of this world compared to anything in the mainland.
                                When we visit we load up on sushi,musubi's, edename,fresh cinnamonbread,Freash fruits, and other items made fresh daily store it in our fridge. We have teenagers and this cuts down on costs considerable.
                                We save the resturant outings to Makawao for select nights

                                1. re: EricM.

                                  ok Eric.... can you PLEASE move to the NJ/NYC area so I can enjoy this!!!!! haa haaa! :) One love............

            2. re: Sherri

              I'm so confused about Mama's Fish House! People seem to have very strong feelings about it one way or the other!

              1. re: Sherri

                I ate at Mama's a few years ago. Thought the food was okay but way over priced. I remember watching this lady make drinks, Mai Tai's to be exact. She made about 10-12 in 60 seconds. All I could think about was the money made per minute by this one bartender. The drinks averaged $11-12 for a lot of ice.

              2. re: hungrygirldenver

                I went to Mama's fish house every time we go to Maui, long before I heard of chowhound. I think the food can be great or so-so depending on what you order.

                The best dish no questions asked is the seafood stuffed mahi mahi. It's mild, light, ultra fresh and delicious. I had been disappointed with some sort of white fish cooked in soy sauce before. If you see it on the menu, don't order it. My mom liked the seared tuna. But honestly aside from the generally high price in Hawaii, the reason they can charge so much for Mama's and the reason anyone goes there is because of the view and the atmosphere of the place. It's just very relaxing, and if you can get a table overlooking the beach area that's perfect. I like going there for lunch, usually right after our plane arrives in OGG, to kill a few hours before we can check into our timeshare. You can maximize the view in the day light, and they are not as crowded as during dinner hours.

                I've tried David Paul's. We each got a sampler menu. Not impressed with either the food or the atmosphere. This place is extremely loud and you can't even hear yourself talk. Pass.

                I like the flower sushi at Sansei more than the taste of the food in general there. It's not unreasonably priced if you arrive early.

              3. I loved Vino (food and service both fantastic), and the Paia Fish Market. I didn't love Mama's Fish House, and for the extraordinarily high prices, I thought I should have loved it.

                1. On Maui, the best meals that I experienced were: David Paul's (I hear that he is no longer affiliated with the restaurant), Pacific O's and Chez Paul's, all in, or very near Lahaina. I was less impressed by Avalon and Gerard's. The only BAD meal that I have had (excluding Cheeseburger in Paradise) was at the A'nui nui Room at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua. I was also not impressed by the two Roy's on Maui, though, at the time, I really loved his spot in Waikoloa, Big Island. That exec. chef has moved on, and it's now ho-hum, like most of the other Roy's.


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Avalon was sold long ago by Mark and Judy Ellman. However, they now own

                    Here are two links:



                    1. re: Jesdamala

                      My visit goes back to '99, so I do not know the ownership, at the time. I have not heard of Mala!, but will definitely include it on the next trip. It will also be interesting to see what has happened to David Paul's Lahiana Grille, since its sale.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I don't remember the exact year Avalon closed, the Ellman's sold it and it was closed not all that long after. Mark Ellman also is owner/partner in Maui Tacos and a more silent partner in other restaurants in Hawaii. His newest is Mala, where I believe he is hands on...and while I have not been, it gets fabulous reviews. If you liked Avalon, then certainly worth checking into...although it is a different concept.

                    2. Mala in Lahaina is not to be missed.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          I 2nd DA KITCHEN. I'd also throw in PACIFIC O'.

                          1. re: OCAnn

                            We really enjoyed our meal at Pacific'O -- lots of fresh local ingredients (they have their own fishing boats and own upcountry farms). We also enjoyed Sansei up in Kapalua, though the ambience wasn't as nice as Pacific'O.

                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                              thanks - I heard there's a Sansei in Kihei now, which we're definitely going to try out, since we're staying in South Maui. I heard I'O is good too - I was trying to figure out which of I'O or Pacific'O to try...

                        2. I like Nick's, Spago, and Sorrento's. What elese are some good places in the Wailea area?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Angelina

                            Try Matteo's - it's replaced Harry's Lobster Cove, if you were familiar with that place on prior trip, you know the setting overlooks the golf course and has ocean views, al-frescoe dining on the patio. Matteo's is great for families and has really good italian food. I love the lamb pasta sauce, veggie pizza, baby spinach salad with candied walnuts, goat cheese & cranberries. They make an awesome tiramisu and have great espresso. All reasonably priced (well, for the Waila area).

                          2. OK, everyone -- so now another recommendation -- should I make reservations now (will be there next Wednesday) or are same-day tables available? I'm thinking about I'O, Malas, Cassanova's, Pacific'O ... Thanks!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jennlynch

                              For what it's worth, I always make my reservations, about the time that I book the flights. Depending on what might be happening on that Island that night (maybe 20,000 realtors for a convention), one can be disappointed. I do not like to wait, and do not like driving around trying to get into a restaurant. You might want to contact the concierge to see what would be available. Usually, the concierge has more pull, than does the diner.


                            2. We've been going to Maui for years. First we got married there and have been back at least twice a year since with our kids. Most places listed below are kid-friendly, except for Chez Paul. Our kids love the bread and kids meal at Mama's Fish House and Pineapple Grill. We have yet to try David Paul's in Lahaina.

                              Best takeout food EVER, Honokawai Okazuya (the owner is a former executive chef at Mama's and Kea Lani). Long lines, so call and order ahead of time. Try Mahi Mahi with lemon capers and their chocolate mousse cake with toffee center. Hamburger steak awesome for kids. For best sushi rolls, try Kapalua Sansei. Atmosphere loud and crowded, but Butterfry Rolls, Panko crusted Ahi, Foie Gras Sushi, and Dungeness Crab Ramen worth the sacrifice! Best Fish Burrito, try Hookipa from Maui Tacos. Best Carne Asada, Las Pinatas in Kahului. Best Seafood Fried Rice Noodle, A Saigon Cafe. Best Foie Gras, try Chez Paul (call in advance to order). Best casual oceanside dinner. Mala. Best food and view, attention to detail, Mama's Fish House. Lunch same price as dinner, but worth the splurge. Freshest Sashimi and fish possible. Salads and appetizers weak. When available, try Papio/Ulua with chili water on the side. Best dessert is Banana Macadamia Crisp. Halimale General Store is excellent for lunch on weekdays. Pineapple Grill is the best option among three fine dining options in Kapalua. (Other two is Plantation House and Vinos). If you have kids, dine in the patio. Duck Spring Rolls, Opakapaka, and Rack of Lamb very good. For kids meal, order tender Short Ribs. Hula Grill (casual side) at Whalers Village is a nice place to hang out for afternoon drinks and snacks. At night there is free entertainment and lovely sunset. Food is so so but atmosphere is oh so Hawaiian! Best Italian is Longhi's in Lahaina. Best Endive Salad, Fried Calamari, Veal Chop, and Lobster Longhi Pasta with loads of seafood....beware, this dish is HUGE (costs about $100 but feeds at least three adults). Best tourist dining experience....Bubba Shrimp House in Lahaina! Hey the garlic shrimp is actualy good:)

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: xanderjoon

                                Nice report! We also agree with your assessment of the restaurants you have reviewed.
                                We are in Maui several times a year and are here right now for a couple of weeks.
                                Mama's is always excellent and MaLa in Lahaina is great for casual , outstanding Burger. David Paul's isn't as good as it used to be but with so few choices?
                                Too bad about the NO- Corkage policy on the Island? It really dampens the desire to dine out as much as we would normally when were in Maui.

                                1. re: russkar

                                  Thanks for the compliment, Russkar! We are in Kapalua, super windy today. What is your opinion on Pacific O and I'Os? What is good to order in David Paul's? I might bump into you at Honokawai Okazuya during lunch today or tomorrow!

                                  1. re: xanderjoon

                                    Xanderjoon, we were at Mama's today for lunch, simply fantastic!
                                    Probably will go tomorrow also. Every time we go we leave with the thought of where are we going to go to equal this place for quality and flavor?
                                    We are in Puamana (next to Lahaina). Pacific O and I'O are no big deal, just there a couple of nights ago. MaLa is still pretty good but the view is better where we are staying so it's hard to leave. David Paul's isn't great either, can't recommend. Aloha

                                    1. re: russkar

                                      Aloha Russkar, we will be going to Halilimaile General Store for lunch around noon. If you see us, we are the odd Chinese and Persian couple with two kids, Alexander (5) and Danielle (2). Afterwards, we are planning to stop by at Komoda Bakery on Baldwin Ave for supposedly the best cream puffs on the island!
                                      Before Maui, we were on Oahu. We found Alan Wong's to be a shade better than Mama's in terms of food and service, but there's no view. Go for a sublime foodie experience. If on Oahu, must also try Jimbo's. Best curry rice and nabeyaki udon you'll ever taste. Have you tried Waterfront in Maalea? Recommend for tableside caesar salad, oyster rockefeller, and rack of lamb. Not crazy about their fish, but overall still excellent. As much as we love Mama's, it's hard to do two days in a row:) (Who am I to say, I have been a regular at Honokawai Okazuya every other day!) You are most welcomed to email me at juliemoshir@yahoo.com. It would be nice to keep in touch since we have similar tastes.

                                      1. re: xanderjoon

                                        Just made reservations at Mama's for a monday night at 5pm(going in 3 weeks..can't wait..first time in Hawaii) before we fly back to LA.
                                        Any faves that we must order?

                                        Merci and Khodafes!

                                        1. re: coco puff

                                          Hi coco puff, give yourself enough time to linger on the property before dinner or after long leisurely lunch. If possible, try not to schedule on the day of travel. Good spot for picture-taking or just to soak in the sun (wear Maui Jim sunglasses for maximum effect!) If you are a fan of sushi, the sashimi appetizer is about as fresh as you can get. If not, the shrimp wonton appetizer is not bad. I cannot recommend any soup or salad from the menu, though the free soup (tiny cup) and bread they serve is excellent. As for the main dish, their mahi-mahi stuffed with lobster is one of their most expensive dish but also one of the best. I like the papio/ulua done upcountry style...ono is good too, but firmer. Feel free to send back any dish you dislike for another, esp. if they overcooked the fish and sometimes they do. I do not recommend their curry dish, since I'm from Malaysia, the Penang Curry is not authentic! If you like a milder, coconut sauce, then the Pua Me Hana (mahi mahi in traditional style) is appropriate for you. I would add some chili water to that if you like spicy. Love the sides that come with it. As for dessert, only two really stand out, the banana macadamia crisp and the tahitian chocolate pearl.....Nush ee joon!

                                        2. re: xanderjoon


                                          Did you not like the view of King St.? {insert big grin here}.

                                          If only AW had located overlooking the ocean. There are too many poor restaurants, with great views!

                                          If you get this, before Hali`maile Gen., please tell Bev Gannon that her fans in Phoenix, AZ say Hi!


                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            **smiles** The view off to the mountains is not sooo bad! AW's impeccable food & service more than makes up for the lack of view. Unfortunately can't say the same about Haliimaile General Store. So sorry fans:( Must have been an off day but our lunch yesterday was disappointing. Poor service overall. Atmosphere and people not welcoming, from the hostess to the servers. Foodwise, we ordered Sashimi Napoleon, very good, especially the modified wasabi sauce. The babyback ribs were flavorful and fell off the bones. The mahi mahi with coconut crust and thai peanut sauce needed more sea salt for flavor. The Kalua pig enchilada dish....absolutely bland. (Perhaps chef is catering for older clientele with low sodium requirements.) For dessert we ordered lilikoi creme brulee. Very well executed and nice presentation. All in all, prices were reasonable for lunch, entrees were half price of Mama's but appetizers were high. Many of the choices offered for main entrees were South American in flavor, such as mole, tacos, enchiladas, and tostadas. Simply not my cup of tea. Would not make the drive back there.

                                            1. re: xanderjoon

                                              I'm heart-broken. We just did one of Bev Gannon's recipes for some nice ahi steaks, and it was great. Last time that I was there (and unfortunately it was too long ago - I've dined with Ms Gannon twice in AZ, since that last visit), the lunch was fabulous. I wonder if time has taken its toll, along with expansion. I'll definitely have to give them a try on the next visit, along with my first trip to Mama's, just for edification.

                                              Thanks for the report, even though it was not what I was expecting, or wanted to hear.

                                              Hope the rest of the trip is excellent,

                                2. A friend of mine went to Maui last October and ate at a French restaurant that she said was to die for. She swore it had some of the best foie gras she'd ever eaten - and this is a woman who grew up in San Francisco and has spent considerable time in Paris...
                                  Only problem is, she couldn't remember the name of the restaurant.

                                  Based on the reviews above, might she be talking about Chez Paul?
                                  The idea of a classic French restaurant on the islands surprised me (I confess), but I am more than willing (more like chomping at the bit) to try it!

                                  Because based on her review, whatever it is will certainly be on my "don't miss" list when I make it to Maui!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: myrrhine47

                                    Chef Patrick at Chez Paul does prepare his foie gras with flair! He is a perfectionist. If you're set on ordering foie gras, please let them know when you're making the reservation (at least 2 days in advance). It's not always on the menu...I found out the hard way last time we were there. Highly recommend rack of lamb also. Overall a bit expensive, but sometimes they do have a coupon in the Maui Menu Magazine. Bon Appetit!

                                      1. re: russkar

                                        Ate there only once several years ago....did not leave an impression on me. Heard Io's (sister restaurant of Pacific O) have good foie gras too. WM, the ill-fated restaurant near Star Market, also did a great preparation. Too bad they went out of business! Las Vegas decor with 5 star service and food did not fare too well in touristy Honokawai/Kaanapali.

                                        1. re: xanderjoon

                                          Go to Nazo's for their Oxtail!! Theirs is almost as good as Kam Bowl in Hnl.