The Best Restaurants on Maui

Enjoy Maui like a local with these recommendations for the best seafood, shave ice, plate lunch and more.

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Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Photo By: Chelsea Heller Photography

Monkeypod

Named for a tree that grows on the Hawaiian islands and nourishes the plants that grow around it, Monkeypod serves reinvented takes on local fare, in a rollicking setting that often features live music. Run by revered local chef Peter Merriman, Monkeypod aims to please. Shareable starters include shrimp-mushroom potstickers and poke tacos. Corn chowder is bolstered with local coconut milk and lemongrass; wood-fired pizzas include a reinvented take on the Hawaiian pizza, with Kalua pork, roasted pineapple, macadamia nut pesto and jalapeno. Grilled day-boat ahi is topped with a soy-sesame-Maui onion sauce, but Merriman's Nightly Upcountry Special is often the dish to beat, and can feature homey fare, like pork chops or noodles. Pair it all with a Monkeypod Mai Tai, which updates the classic with house macadamia orgeat syrup and an airy puff of honey-lilikoi foam on top.

Sam Sato’s

There’s nearly always a wait at Sam Sato’s, a tiny diner in Wailuku. Open only for breakfast and lunch, the restaurant turns out impressively hearty island staples, including loco moco, banana hot cakes and noodle dishes, including saimin, chow fun and dry mein. The latter is a Chinese-Hawaiian hybrid of pork-topped lo mein noodles with a side of broth to dip them into or pour over the top. If you have the choice, opt for a spot at the counter, where the banter between servers and regulars is as homey as the food.

Go to: Sam Sato’s

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice

One of the best ways to cool off, Hawaiian shave ice is practically ubiquitous around Maui. Of all the places to try it, Ululani’s might be the best. Sure, the ice is fluffy enough to taste more like frozen cloud puffs than mere ice. But the vividly colored homemade syrups are what set it apart, in flavors like guava, salty plum, lilikoi, pickled mango and sour lemon, as well as kid favorites like pink bubble gum and root beer. There are six locations around Maui, with one in Kailua-Kona, but the main one is in Lahaina, on Front Street, right by the ocean. Sneak a peek at what is in store by watching our Facebook video of the mesmerizing action, which has generated 27 million fans and counting.

Ululani’s

Leoda’s

South of Lahaina on a stretch of highway not far from the beach, Leoda’s bakes some of the best pies, not just on Maui, but in the world. Park in the dusty lot, where chickens might strut by, and join the queue inside for a sandwich and one of the superlative pies. There are plenty of flavor options — berry pies, apple pies — but the best feature local ingredients — lilikoi cheese, guava chiffon, banana cream, coconut cream, chocolate macadamia nut and Olowalu Key lime (made with fruit plucked from the owner’s trees).

Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop

Humuhumu

Arriving at Humuhumu means weaving through the Grand Wailea’s maze of pathways, past tropical plants, pools and the occasional parrot. But the restaurant, named for the Hawaiian state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, is worth the stroll. In a thatched pavilion atop a lagoon, chef Alvin Savella showcases local ingredients in reinvented local preparations, like squid ink bao buns with octopus and ginger-lime aioli, lobster ramen with a red miso-coconut broth, and seared scallops with yuzu and truffle vinaigrette. The restaurant is special, with a giant circular bar, prime water views, and servers who go above and beyond to connect with patrons. But Table 70 is probably the most-spectacular dining experience on the island, an al fresco torch-lit pier off the main restaurant, tucked away from other diners and over the lagoon, making the perfect island recipe for romance.

Merriman's

One of the 12 named founding chefs of Hawaiian cuisine, Peter Merriman is a champion of local flavors, sourcing from area farms and fisherman for dishes that nod to Hawaiian traditions. At Merriman's in Kapalua, taste the fusion of classic and creative in dishes like kalua pig and sweet onion quesadillas or the enchilada with Kona-caught lobster and butter-poached local corn.

Merriman’s

Flatbread Company

The sole Hawaiian outpost of a Massachusetts-based chainlet, Flatbread Company in Paia has adapted seamlessly to the tropics. The menu uses local ingredients whenever possible, including farm-sourced produce for toppings. Start with the house salad, topped with local papaya, Hawaiian goat cheese and Maui pineapple vinaigrette. The pies are extra-popular as post-surfing fortification for locals, who love the Mopsy’s Kalua Pork flatbread, a most-flavorful reinvention of a Hawaiian pizza, with smoked free-range shoulder, mango barbecue sauce, red onions, local pineapple and garlic oil.

Coconut Glen's

On the road to Hana? Stop to chill at this cheerful little spot on the Hana Hwy. Coconut Glen’s specializes in vegan ice cream made from — and served in — island coconuts. Rich and creamy, the frozen desserts — in flavors like banana-rum raisin, pineapple curry, chocolate-chile, salted caramel and, of course, classic coconut — don’t taste vegan, so they’ll please even the most devoted dairy fans.

Maui Brewing Co.

Tucked in the hills above Kihei, Maui Brewing Co. offers tours, tastings and a full-on restaurant that’s ideal for sampling flights of craft beers — including seasonal and small-scale beers made with local fruits, like a tart lilikoi saison, and non-alcoholic options like house-brewed root beer. Dishes are great for sharing, and pairing with beer, including pizzas made with ale-bolstered dough; the Brewmaster is topped with spicy sausage, pepperoni, roasted peppers and olives. Beer even makes its way into a few dishes, including a hearty loco moco slathered in gravy made with the brewery's Big Swell IPA.

Komoda

If you plan to catch the sunrise at Haleakalā, reward yourself on the drive back with a stop in Makawao, at historic Komoda (3674 Baldwin Ave.). Open since 1916, the tiny bakery specializes in cream puffs, malasadas (beignet-like doughnuts) and stick doughnuts, which are skewered fritters. The tiny no-frills spot — there isn't even a website — opens at 7 a.m., often selling out of the best stuff within a few hours. They're closed on Sundays and Wednesdays, so plan accordingly.

Star Noodle

As the name might imply, noodles are the thing to try at Star Noodle, but it’s not hard to fill up on appealing shared small bites — which borrow from Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines — before a single noodle arrives. Start with a seafood-studded Vietnamese crepe, Chinese broccoli, vegetable Rangoon, pork buns or taro dumplings before transitioning to mains like dashi-spiked saimin with Spam, punchy garlic noodles and curry-infused Singapore noodles. Those who manage to save room can dive into mango pudding or puffy beignet-like malasadas.

Star Noodle

The Hali’imaile General Store

Upcountry, tucked among Maui's pineapple fields, Hali’imaile General Store occupies a 1920s-ear former general store for plantation workers. Run by legendary chef Bev Gannon, the General Store is renowned for Bev's creative updates to classic flavors, including a sashimi Napoleon with layers of ahi, smoked salmon and wontons under a punchy wasabi vinaigrette, her famous crab-topped pizza, and baby back ribs with citrus barbecue sauce.

The Pint & Cork

Tucked inside The Shops at Wailea, this low-key tavern is the ideal spot to catch a break from the sun — or watch games on several TVs. The menu is also a nice balance to the seafood-centric options at nearby resort restaurants. Sure, you'll find a light poke bowl studded with local big eye tuna, but the go-to dishes are the sandwiches, like a gooey crab melt, a short rib grilled cheese and the Bib Burger, a messy, juicy bacon-Cheddar burger bolstered with charred onion, arugla, a fried egg and whiskey-based sauce, all on a brioche bun. (Note that since Hawaii is up to six hours behind the East Coast, games start pretty early, so doors open at 7 a.m. on Sundays.)

Da Kitchen

Hawaiian food is a beautiful composite of cultural influences over the decades, inspired by tropical produce, locally available meats, and the flavors and ingredients beloved by immigrants who arrived to work on pineapple plantations and in sugar cane fields. One enduring tradition is the plate lunch, a hulking assortment of rice, with pasta salad and protein, like teriyaki chicken or Kalua pork. Try some at Da Kitchen, in Kahului, along with spam musubi, a sushi-inspired combo of nori-wrapped spam and rice. At Da Kitchen, it's deep-fried for crunch.

Jaws

On the road to Hana, past Paia, Jaws Country Store sells coffees, smoothies and breakfast sandwiches for those who get an early start. For ramblers, it’s a favorite lunch stop. Try a banh mi with local brisket or tempeh, or go for a poke bowl, like the Poisson Cru, a Tahitian-inspired take, with ahi in coconut milk with cucumbers, local tomatoes, Maui onion and mint. Come dinner, they fire up the pizza oven and turn out creative pies topped with spicy chicken, guava-barbecue pork and cheeseburger fixings.

Paia Fish Market

In the heart of surfer-hub Pa'ia, near some of the island’s best waves, the Pa'ia Fish Market lets locally caught seafood shine. Opt for a burger with your choice of fish or simply grilled mahi mahi, ono or opah, with cole slaw and fries, and a Maui Brewing Co. beer. Though the original location is worth a stop, there are locations in Lahaina and Kihei, as well as Waikiki, on Oahu.

Mama’s Fish House

Truthfully, Mama’s Fish House could steal most any category — icon, romantic restaurant, fish, Mai Tais and more. Its setting, right on the sand, with stellar sunset views, makes it so the food doesn’t even need to be great. But the iconic family-owned destination does indeed serve fantastic food, including local fish caught by fishermen who bring their hauls directly to the chefs. Read the menu, and you’ll see each fish on the menu showcases not just its preparation, but the fisherman who caught it. "Ahi caught near our deep ocean buoys by Matt Smith" might be grilled in a ti leaf and served with local banana and papaya. "Papio caught by Layne Nakagawa in deep reefs off Keanae" is steamed with island-grown ginger, Asian vegetables and sizzling macadamia nut oil. The macadamia nut-crusted lobster- and crab-stuffed fish has been a fan favorite since the restaurant opened in 1973.Try it with the signature Mai Tai Roa Ae and relish that few things in life are better than Mama’s.

Mill House Maui

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