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Mar 20, 2013 01:03 PM

Big family trip to Lahaina, Maui

Hi all! So I've been browsing this board for several weeks now, and after absorbing various restaurant names and recommendations, I’m starting to think about setting up an itinerary for our trip. To that end, I’m hoping to solicit a few recommendations more specific to our circumstances.

We’re staying in Lahaina at the Lahaina Shores Beach Resort from April 25th to May 5th (10 nights). We have a fairly large group going: my wife and I, our 10-month-old son, both sets of our parents, and my sister-in-law and her boyfriend (that’s 8 adults and one child).

The only food-related things we’ve nailed down for sure include all of us attending The Feast at Lele luau, probably Kihei Caffe for breakfast or brunch, and at least one trip to Star Noodle (we’re Top Chef fans!). My dad’s also pretty set on going to Cool Cat Café for their apparently-excellent burger.

Here’s where we’re hoping for some advice on:

- Is it likely that Star Noodle would be able to accommodate all 9 of us at once? How about Cool Cat Café? I get the impression that these are slightly smaller and busier establishments.

- Can you recommend a couple of good not-too-expensive (say, less than $50 per person) that would be able to handle all 9 of us? In/near Lahaina would be nice, but we’d consider elsewhere too.

- How late does the Feast at Lele run to? (An important consideration for us considering bedtime for our little guy. Would we even be permitted to bring him with us?)

- In addition to various meals out, we’ll have access to kitchens and barbeques at our condo. We’d like to cook up some fresh local seafood – is it likely we’d be able to get anything “right off the boat” from the nearby harbour, or should we stick to the local markets/stores?

- Great thing about having both sets of our little guy’s grandparents around is that my wife and I still get a few opportunities to bugger off and do our own thing! With that in mind, we want to do at least two really nice meals alone together. Price is no object. We’d like to focus on Hawaiian cuisine as much as possible (love seafood!). Sushi would be okay, but we live in Vancouver BC and have some pretty excellent sushi at home, so it’s not a priority. We enjoy tasting menus, but again not a priority. A few places that have come up as possibilities would be Merriman’s, Pacific’O, I’O, Amasia, or Lahaina Grill. What would you recommend?

- Speaking of sushi, we do love sushi :-) Anywhere in Lahaina you’d recommend?

- My wife and I would also like to do a nice-ish dinner my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. Any recommendations? They’re not particularly adventurous, but might give a few new things a try while on vacation. Something again in the $50/$60 per person range? (This is a similar question as above, but a smaller place would obviously work alright with just the 4 of us instead of all 9.)

Hmm, so that's probably lots for now -- might have more questions later.

Thanks so much!


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  1. Kihei Caffe doesn't have any large tables that I can recall. You'll probably have to split up. You order inside, then seat yourself, and they bring your food to you.

    Go down to Koiso in Kihei for some lovely nigiri if you love sushi. Reservations required, it's a tiny place. There's the sushi chef and about a dozen counter seats, and one table. That's it.

    1. The Lahaina Shores Beach Resort neighbors on the shopping mall where Pacific'O and the Feast at Lele are located. There is actually a lovely path that goes between the two properties so you don't have to use the sidewalk on Front St. You can also see the dancing that is part of the Feast from the beach; maybe that is all a 10-month old child needs to experience before being put to bed under the care of a babysitter.

      2 Replies
      1. re: honu2

        Thanks honu2,

        It does seem really nice how close our resort is to a couple of the places we'd like to visit.

        From what I've seen, Pacific'O and I'O are essentially on the same property. Is it possible to succinctly describe the difference between the two? Is one more of a 'splurge' than the other?

        Regarding the Feast at Lele, we are still discussing whether we'll all attend, or whether one or more of the grandparents will stay behind with our little guy. He's really good when he's out, however, so we wouldn't be too concerned with having him with us -- unless, that is, the show would tend to run past 9:00pm, in which case that's definitely past his bedtime and we don't want to do that.

        1. re: ghague

          It has been some time, since we did Pacific`O, but we found it to be a little bit more casual, than I`O. Both were good, and my wife is torn between the two. If one discounts casual vs up-scale casual, I would be hard pressed to differentiate between the two.


      2. Forgot to mention that the chef at Star Noodle also runs Gerard's Restaurant in Lahaina, which has its own fans.

        3 Replies
        1. re: honu2

          We went to Star Noodle last summer. It was ok, not great. They have mostly 2 or 4 tops, but as I remember, there was a large party at a long table. Don't know if they take reservations or not. We usually go to Cool Cats a couple of times during our week-long Maui trip. They can accomodate a party of your size but you may have to wait. I like their pulled pork sandwich. The onion rings are great too. They have some fresh fish on the menu for those who don't want a burger. They serve great rootbeer floats with Roselani ice cream that you should try, even if you have to share.

          1. re: Mimi

            Thanks Mimi -- yes, definitely have to manage expectations when you're going to an "as seen on TV" kind of restaurant! Regardless, maybe Star Noodle might be more of a when-we've-all-split-up kind of thing. Still, maybe we'll call ahead one day and see if they can reserve a large table for us.

            Good to know about Cool Cat -- thanks.

          2. re: honu2

            <<also runs Gerard's Restaurant in Lahaina, which has its own fans.>>

            I am one of those, though I did not know the tie. Also, several of the local chefs are also fans of Gerard's, at least for special occasions.

            Mahalo for that info,


          3. Aloha..
            IMHO, I wouldn't waste $1k for your party to go to a luau..most have not so great food/drink.
            Shows are great and you can always see on your way back from dinner some where else.
            My fave's..

            Happy hour at Hula Grill, Duke's and Kimo's..chain but great $5 mai tai, feet in the sand on the beach and decent food.
            Breakfast..Gazebo in Napili and Plantation House (best ahi bendict) at Kapalua..

            Sea House
            Bev Gannon's General Store
            Mama's Fish love love this place..pricey..lots of Aloha

            Beach..Maui tacos, Jawz food truck Makena..Lu lu

            Costco is your best friend and you can have beers/mai tai mix along with snacks and cuts down on cost..ask for small fridge if not provided for your rooms.

            Instead of the luau, spend those $$ on a snorkel Molokini tour on CA..breakfast and lunch w/drinks.

            Aloha and have fun.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick


              Oh right 9 people.Wow. No way on earth I'd do that. Food is usually pretty unremarkable, although as far as I know I've never been to a 1K Luau.

              1. re: Beach Chick

                Thanks Beach Chick -- helpful.

                Understood regarding the food at luaus -- however, that's why we decided on the Feast at Lele, rather than our initial choice (the Old Lahaina Luau). Seemed to me that the food at Feast was fairly positively received here... but maybe not so much in your opinion?

                Costco will be our first stop after landing in Maui.

                Mama's Fish House is definitely appealing, but with us staying in Lahaina and having our little guy with us, we've crossed it off our list as too far of a trek. Same goes for the General Store.

                Luckily for us we save and budget well for our vacations, meaning we're definitely going on a Molokini snorkel tour, even if we also attend a luau :-)

                1. re: ghague

                  Aloha g..
                  I would still bag the can see the dancers and fire show from the beach...go and enjoy Pacifico O's and get a to go drinky poo mai tai and bring the baby and enjoy all the monies you saved and still have a great dinner.
                  Surfing Goat would be fun and the winery..
                  Kula Lodge is good for breakfast/lunch if your going for sunrise.

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Agreed re luau. They are much better at a distance.

                2. re: Beach Chick

                  Aloha Beach Chick,

                  One option, with a broader menu, would be to dine at I`O, which is right next door to the Feast of Le`le. Dine on that menu, and listen to the music next door.

                  Still, if one has never done a lu`au, they really should do one, and Maui has two of the better ones. OK, the food and drink are not the ultimate, but one needs to back off there, and just enjoy the "full package."

                  I have been more fortunate, than many, as I have been to a few "custom" lu`aus, and then some smaller local lu`aus, that are greatly different for ANY commercial ones.

                  Otherwise, we are in agreement.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Aloha my bruddha Bill..
                    Yeah, totally agree if you haven't done a luau and you have the $$ to burn.
                    The ones in Tahiti have spoiled me.

                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      A lu`au is an interesting subject. If one has never done one, then, if they pick a good one, it IS worth the $.

                      That said, some are not worth the $. Tough call.

                      I have had some great ones (usually a "special one," or a "local one," and consider myself very fortunate.), but have been to some, that I would never recommend, even to an avowed enemy. While I have enjoyed our VIP events at the Polynesian Cultural Center, their version of a lu`au is horribly lacking. We now do the day of events, then head back to Turtle Bay for dinner, though we paid for that lu`au. That is just us.

                      Now, we have never been to Tahiti, so cannot comment.

                      The one lu`au, that still occupies the #1 spot in my heart, was for an international sales meeting (I was doing an AV show for that event), at Sea Life Park. The performers were from the PCC, and I am not sure who catered the food, but it was excellent, in every way. OTOH, just doing a commercial lu`au, even if it was at Sea Life Park, would likely be very different. That one was just fabulous, and in every regard.

                      To me, it should be a perfect blend of great Island food, a wonderful show, and a look back into history. Hard to pull off for a mass of tourists, who probably have other desires.

                      We had heard good things about the new lu`au at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (their King's Jubilee can be great fun, and also good history - but seating is, well, poor), but had to cancel that entire trip. Maybe in September?

                      I am lenient, when it comes to lu`aus, dinner cruises, etc., but each does need to cover all bases pretty well. I will not grade down, if only one aspect falls below my desired levels. Unfortunately, some fall below those levels on several aspects.



                3. My two cents,

                  Re: the luau. I have been to the Old Lahaina Luau (OLL) several times and the Feast of Lele(FL) once. I thought the show for the OLL was better as it involves more dancers and a larger space but the food at the FL was better. However, I enjoyed the food at OLL for what it was. Either way, I think the multi-generational family you are bringing will enjoy it. My wife and I brought our parents(60s), sibling (40s) and nieces (teens) a few years back and they loved it. Yes, it is expensive but if it is in your budget I would recommend going

                  Some of my favorite experiences (as others have also pointed out),

                  Hula Grill Barefoot bar, reasonable for Maui, feet in the sand, food is not bad for a chain, and around 2-6pm usually there is a musician playing hawaiian/folk songs which adds a nice ambiance

                  Mamas Fish House, probably the most expensive place we eat on the island but we have never had a bad meal. It is 45-55 min from where you are staying but so worth it for the food and the atmosphere

                  I like the food at Roy's quite a bit but haven't visited since they changed locations. It might fit the bill for your smaller dinner

                  For sushi, Koiso is really good but I doubt you could get a reservation for a party of 9 and it is far from Lahaina. I know a lot of people talk down about Sansei in Kappalua and while it is not in the same league as Koiso, they usually have a couple of specials for nigiri each night from local fish and it is fairly close to you.

                  I like Star Noodle but the hype generated by Top Chef may leave you disappointed. If you eat at an off peak time you might get a large party to eat at the communal table but i don't know

                  Also far but worth it for lunch or dinner on the way back from Hana is Flatbread Co. Really good pizzas with organic ingredients and salads when you want a change of pace from island food

                  I really like Lahaina Grill and Amasia but not must do's in my opinion and Amasia is quite far

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: 65roller

                    Thanks 65roller.

                    Slight change of plans regarding the luau -- turns out my in-laws are going to pass on it (having seen more than a few luaus already), and they'll look after our little guy. So, the remaining six of us are still going to attend. As pricey and 'tourist-y' as it might be, we're looking forward to it, and will definitely have a good time. My wife figured it's probably like taking a gondola in Venice -- super expensive and tourist-y, but you gotta do it :-)

                    Koiso Sushi might be edging its way up towards must-visit status... that would be a wife-and-me only kind of thing, so no worries about trying to get nine people in there at once.

                    Hula Grill's Barefoot Bar looks cool -- maybe just the sort of place that all 9 of us would enjoy together?

                    We had originally written-off Mama's as too far away, but playing around with Google Maps I see that it's not much farther (about 50 minutes) than places we had considered in Kihei and Wailea (40-45 minutes).

                    1. re: 65roller

                      As for the lu`aus, I agree. We have done OLL, and "sort of" FL. Both were good, but the food at FL was the better. Still, both were good, in their own ways, and if one has never done a lu`au, I would encourage them to do so. Lahaina is a good place, as both of the main ones are quite good. While I have had better, but those were special events, or local church groups, so do not really count.

                      As for Lahaina Grill, I have been a fan, all the way back to the David Paul days, and other than during an extended Christmas party, have always had great food and service.

                      I have not yet done Amasia, though I am a very big AW fan-boy. We must do it, and I will stay over there (like I did with Mama's Fish House), just to do it.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I've eaten at Amasia a few times and recommend it highly. Inventive tasty food.

                        FWIW the sushi chefs there told me that Sushi Paradise in Keihei is their favorite. Mr Watanabe is the chef-owner and is very old school, they say. They respected the heck out of him. I never got to eat there, being dragged to Sensei against my will.

                        1. re: sal_acid

                          Interesting. We have never gotten to either - yet.