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California Hound in Maui

I'm visiting Maui in March and looking for some good places to eat. There is a 95% chance I will be staying at the Westin Ka'anapali Resort Villas which appear to be on the very western end of the island near Honokowai. I haven't ever been to Maui before, so I don't know much about the geography or how hard/easy it is to get around. However, I am willing to travel for good chow! More specifically, here is what I am looking for:
1 - The best meal that can be had anywhere on Maui without regard to cost or convenience.
2 - Some good examples of the local cuisine that are within reasonable traveling distance of where I am staying, both on the fine dining and cheap eats ends of the spectrum.
3 - A better understanding of the general geography of Maui from a chow perspective. Where are the dining "hot spots" as it were.

Thanks in advance!

TD

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  1. It’s been too long, since we were last on Maui, to make recommendations, especially as how some of my “sacred cows” have recently been gored by recent reviews. However, I’ll be glad to comment on the general dining scene on the island.

    First, it’s rather shaped like a kidney, lying on its side. There are two main “lobes” and the dining is centered around the areas with the higher populations. Starting where you are staying, the West Maui area, you have some great dining from Kapalua (Ritz Carlton), just north of Ka`anpali and working down to immediately below Lahaina. As you come down that smaller lobe, there is not much, until you get Kihei, where you will find all sorts of dining on down to Wailea, on the downward side of the bigger lobe (Hale`akala lobe). Between the lobes, you have the highway up to Wailuku (main airport) and plenty of restaurants, pretty much culminating at Mama’s Fish House in Paia. Bev Gannon’s Hali`imaile General Store, down Hwy 37.371 is up country. The western lobe’s northern shores does not have much, except great views. The road basically becomes light-4x4 (rental cars urge you to NOT drive this area), as does the southeastern section of the eastern lobe. The “road to Hana” is worth the drive, but I have yet to find really worthwhile food, even in, and slightly past, Hana. This is a trip for the geology, the botanical diversity and the views, not the cuisine. About the same for the shoulder route, around Hale`akala, once you get past Hali`imale. Lovely parks and botanical gardens (Hosmer Cloud Forest and Koli`koli are not to be missed), but no real dining, that I can recall.

    Back in your neck of the woods, I used to recommend Pacific’O’s, David Paul’s and Chez Paul’s (watch out for traffic, when you pull out of the parking lot), just out of Lahaina town. The older restaurants at the Ritz Carlton left me wondering why, but I hear good things about the places that replaced them. Breakfast at the Gazebo in Kapalua still seems to be good. There have been some fairly recent posts on dining on Maui, and I’d go with them, rather than what I remember from eight years ago.

    Please do a report, when you return to the Mainland, especially as we will be back on Maui several months after your trip and have not been in too many years.

    Hunt

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    Pacific'o
    505 Front St, Lahaina, HI

    Lahaina Grill
    127 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina Maui, HI 96761

    Haliimaile General Store
    900 Haliimaile Rd, Makawao, HI 96768

    Gazebo Restaurant
    5315 Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Lahaina, HI 96761

    Chez Paul French Restaurant
    820 Olowalu Village Rd, B Lahaina, HI

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Forgot the link to Mama's Fish House - sorry.

      Hunt

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      Mama's Fish House
      799 Poho Place, Paia, HI 96779

    2. There is a new restaurant in the Westin Villas, it's only been open a few weeks. It has gotten wonderful reviews from everyone I know who has checked it out. It's on my list of things to do. The prices are noted to be fairly low by island standards, and good quality presentation. We will see how long that lasts.

      I can second the rec. for Mama's Fish House in Paia. You will want to have your camera along to take pictures of the food and presentation. By far the best meal on the island.
      Another second for Haille Maille General Store. Lovely menu, upcountry location makes it a bit more off the beaten path, but worth the trip.
      In Lahaina town, I recommend I'o over Pacifico...owned by the same group and overseen by the same chef, James McDonald. The difference is in the sous chef, Sean at I'o is really very talented and everything there is perfect, everything!
      Then I would suggest Lahaina Grill and Gerard's, both in Lahaina.
      In Kapalua, the Ritz Carlton is returning to life after 8 months of renovations, so we are cutting it a little slack till summer. I can heartily recommend The Pineapple Grill and The Plantation House, both in Kapalua. Ryan at Pineapple Grill really has fun with local flavors....wonderful specials and great wines. Chef Alex at the Plantation House gets it right every time...it's perfect for breakfast/lunch/brunch.

      Roy's in Kahana is good, but not always on the money. Besides, you can even go to a Roy's in Sarasota....why take up your Maui time with a chain?

      For breakfast, I like The Seahouse at Napili Kai Resort over the Gazebo. It's a bit more comfortable...more space between the tables, and the food is better. I love the kalua pork breakfast. The Gazebo in Napili is good, but very, very casual and you could be asked to sit 6 inches from someone else's small children tossing pieces of mac nut pancake, ICK!

      So this is a small list of my favorites, I look forward to reading your report after your visit!

      Sara in Maui

      2 Replies
      1. re: anotherday

        Sara,

        Thanks for the recs. It seems that some new spots have opened, since I was last on Maui. I appreciate the I`o rec., and will check it out. We loved Pacific'O's on the previous two visits, but some recent CH reports have been less than flattering.

        Since I have never dined at Mama's, I have it flagged. During the "Mama's Wars," some months back, I promised myself, that I had to go, just to see what the good, or otherwise, was all about.

        Not familiar with the Seahouse, but will look into it, as well. We've always had great breakfasts at The Gazebo, but it CAN get crowded, unless there is a rain shower.

        Mahalo. As I said, I was taking notes for the next visit.

        Hunt

        1. re: anotherday

          I'd be interested in hearing more about therestaurant at the Westin Villas. We will be there in a couple of weeks.

          When they first started selling the place they indicated that they wanted to make it a first class destination restaurant but we had yet to see that dream come to fruition. Didn't know if they gave up on the idea.

        2. Some friends of ours just returned from Maui, we are leaving Friday ourselves for Maui.
          They recommended that we try Mala's for lunch - said the food was very good and the wine list reasonable for Maui.

          We already have reservations for the Lahaina Grill, we have been there once before and enjoyed it a great deal, and so are looking forward to it.

          Spago in Wailea was very good when we were there in June 2007.

          We also heard about a new butcher/meat market - I think it's called Prime in the Cannery Mall (?). We're going to be in a condo and are planning to take advantage of the kitchen at least 2 nights.

          Maui is beautiful - enjoy!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cookiefiend

            We went to Spago twice in December. Both trips were a little dissapointing. Only went back the second time because we were staying at the FS and dining with another couple. Very over priced IMO and completly inconsistant. Three of us ordered steaks the same and when they arrived one was burnt and another covered with black grill crud. Really bad. I saw a lot of people sending food back. Service was actually pretty good. But the food......Oiye. I understand they are having some management/staffing issues at least that was the excuse in December '07.
            The Lahaina Grill was incredible. Easilly the best meal we had in Maui.

          2. I review restaurants locally. My favorite Maui restaurant is www.malaoceantavern.com in Lahaina. Chef-owner Mark Ellman made his money with Maui Tacos and returned to a "real" restaurant scene with Mala. Sit on the deck at sunset, and you can see sea turtles swimming below. Locals jam the place, where they're elbow-to-elbow at the bar snacking on Kobe beef cheeseburgers and sipping mojitos. Ellman gives a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern twist to dishes such as sweet and spicy chicken wings, tangy in a pomegranate sauce that takes its cue from Persian fesanjan. For the fish special, he makes an addictive cilantro mojo sauce. They just opened a branch at the Wailea Beach Marriott. The original opened in I think 2003, and not much worth noting has opened since.
            Local arty types gather at www.cafemarcaurel.com in Wailuku to drink from a nice wine list and graze on cheese plates, sandwiches, panzanella.
            Also, it's worth trying the food of chef Ivan Pahk at Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Kapalua. www.sanseihawaii.com/menu.html

            1 Reply
            1. re: HIeats

              I agree with your recs. I do want to add that I miss Avalon - Mark's first restaurant. It's always fun to chat with him at the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival.

            2. Stop at Maui Mall in Kahului for some GuriGuri before heading to your hotel from the airport. Tasaka's GuriGuri is the only place in the world to get this soft creamy sherbet. They make strawberry and pineapple. Although they sell it in quarts to take home, it's not the same as the scoops they sell at the shop.

              1 Reply
              1. re: KalihiSnob

                Agree, nothing tastes better on a hot day in Maui than Tasaka guriguri. Too bad it doesn't come with azuki beans on top anymore. They stopped serving it when the grandmother passed away.

              2. Hi, I am leaving for Maui next Saturday! We stay at the Westin Resort......we eat out a lot but the best place for take out to go back to your condo is Honokawai Okazuya...

                try it.

                1. Thanks to everyone for the responses! Good stuff...

                  TD