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Mar 20, 2011 12:56 AM

The best restaurant on Maui is: Nick's Fish Market


I assume that the title of this post might become controversial so I thought it warranted its own topic.

Many of the topics on the Hawaii section of this Chowhound tab have different ways of phrasing the question "what is the “best” restaurant on Maui?" Having just concluded my eigth trip and 12th week in Maui over a ten year period, I have to conclusively let people know that the best FOOD on Maui will be found a Nick’s Fish Market restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel in Wailea. Full stop.

I know many people want the right answer to be one of the locally owned places like Mama’s Fish House or Hali'imaile General Store instead of a corporate resort run shop like Nick’s. So do I, please believe me. This is a website for people focused on FOOD quality, however, and we have to acknowledge the facts as they are, not as we wish they were.

Mama's Fish House probably has the most authentically Hawaiian atmosphere of all fine dining options on the island of Maui. However, the food, while very good, is not THE best on the island and does not warrant being the highest priced on the island in my mind (and on my palate).

Best Hawaiian Atmosphere? Yes, the best (as long as you don't have a problem with dense, fun, sea-faring decor and a 100 dining tables or more producing a rush-hour-like, train station effect).
Best FOOD on the Island at Mama’s? No.

Conversely, Nick’s Fish Market is on a corporate resort property and therefore does not quite have as “true” an authentic Hawaiian feel as Mama’s does. In fact is may have the third best ambiance overall of these top-three spots. However, if you are searching this board because you are looking for the best, Pacific-themed, world-quality FOOD experience available on Maui, that will absolutely be found a Nick’s Fish Market at the Fairmont Hotel in Wailea. This is not even a close call for world travellers who are being honest with themselves about food quality.

Rounding out this reviewer’s top three picks on the island is Hali'imaile General Store. For the Honeymooners, the General Store might actually have the only calm, romantic air about it of all three of these top choices and could be the best place to many people for that reason alone.

If you are in fact looking to find the best prepared food on the island of Maui and are less focused on authentic island ownership or feel of the place, there is absolutely NO question that Nick’s is you place. All three of these are quite good though and worthy of a visit if you are so fortunate.

Please write back and add your opinion if you do…

Bon Appetit!

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  1. Have you dined at the Honolulu Nick's?

    As per the "honeymooner" thread, that is the only reference that I have, and have NOT dined at the Maui location, so cannot comment on it.

    As for the location being in a resort, since we moved to Phoenix, AZ, we have come to view "resort restaurants" in a different light. Also, the best filet that I have ever had was at Dondero's at the Hyatt in Poipu, Kaua`i.

    Predicated on your review, we must work Nick's Maui into the mix.


    5 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      I do not visit Honolulu that often, and I've never been to the Nick's there. I can't comment on that location one way or another...

      If/when you do get to try the Nick's location in Maui, I'd be interested to hear your comparison of the Maui and Honolulu versions.

      1. re: Bill Hunt

        It appears that Nick's on Maui is not affiliated with Nick's in Honolulu. The TriStar restaurant group runs Nick's Fishmarket, Sarento's (Maui), Sarento's at the Top of the I (Oahu) and Son'z Maui at Swan Court. At least according to their website. I've been to Sarento's once and thought it was fine but not great. Nick's Fishmarket is excellent and consistently good.

        Nick's Fishmarket
        2070 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

        1777 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96815

        1. re: Juji


          I knew they had the Nick's FIshmarket in Chicago, but was not aware of the one in Honolulu.

          Thanks for the info.

          1. re: HungryandAway

            The Nick's on Oahu closed at least a year ago.

            1. re: manomin

              I hope that my review did not cause that... !

              We had received glowing recs., and I left questioning those folks' tastes.

              Thanks for that update.


              PS - after my last meal at Sarento's at the Top if the I, I worry a bit. Once, that was a very good, though predictable restaurant, but last trip... well the gilt was well off the rose. Maybe they have made a major and positive change?

              Still, next trip to Maui, we will do Nick's, as I also need to do some other restaurants in that area of the island.

              1777 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96815

      2. I have not eaten at any of the three places you mentioned as best in Maui, so I can't comment on your picks, but I was curious as to where you would put Merriman's in your rankings. It has a beautiful setting by the ocean, the ambience is very nice and refined in a modern way, its not a corporate chain but is run by a local chef using locally sourced products and I thought the food was fantastic when I ate there last year. Seems like it rates high in all the characteristics you brought up. Have you eaten there?

        4 Replies
        1. re: mwest9

          I have been there but not recently.

          I found it good as well, but the menu was not quite as appealing to me personally as the others.

          1. re: mwest9

            I haven't been to either Nick's or Mama's, but I thought that Merriman's was hands down the best restaurant when we visited Maui. I found it leagues better than H. General Store. In fact, H. General Store was probably the most disappointing place we ate. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed it, but we definitely preferred the food at several other places.

            1. re: Nicole

              On our last trip, Hali`imaile G. S. was not on their best form, but still very good.

              Not sure that I'd give them extra "romance points," but then a great meal gets several of those, just on the basis of the food.


            2. re: mwest9

              We have had very good to excellent experiences at Merriman's Kapalua, and when they were not at their best, they were still very good.

              I can also give them "romance points," and do not hesitate to do so.

              I would also rate Banyan Tree (Ritz-Carlton Kapalua) up there too, but they had a major renovation last year, so I both missed them on the last trip, and now have not dined there in well over a year. Still, when we did, they got things right.


              Banyan Tree
              1 Ritz Carlton Dr, Lahaina, HI

              Merriman's Kapalua
              , Lahaina, HI 96761