The best places
to go for local
food on Maui
Local food in Hawaii has a long and rich history. The diverse history of this Hawaiian culinary passion comes from all people that came to the islands to live, work, play, and lay their roots down. “Local food,” typically refers to a combination of fare from a variety of cultures that migrated to the Hawaiian Islands.
This includes people of various Polynesian, American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese origins. Taro, the root from which Poi is made, is an indigenous Polynesian root plant, and so is the delicious Pohole Fern. The Tahitians introduced baking Banana, and the Marquesans brought breadfruit. Korean immigrants introduced Kimchi and Barbecued Meats, and Sashimi and Bento came from the Japanese. The Chinese introduced rice, and the Americans later introduced Mac Salad. As more settlers came to Hawaii for various purposes, the Portuguese brought Sweet Bread and Malasadas, the Spanish added Pasteles and Spices, and the Filipinos introduced Adobo-style garlic dishes, peas, and beans. So, with all this food culture history, it’s easy to see how Hawaiian-style local fare has been created, and how it has evolved.
Local Hawaiian food is always enjoyed to the fullest! If you ever hear a local say, “Shoots cuz, this is da grindz..” or, “ Aunty’s Saimin broke da mouth!” or, “That is da ono kine chopped steak!” Stay where you are, get in line, and put in your plate lunch order! The flavors and recipes of Hawaiian-local food really do invoke the history of each culture from which they originated. Local food in Hawaii tells a story about how all people who’ve settled in Hawaii have made their contribution to the local food genre as it is today. When eating local food on Maui, do not forget to ‘geevum a shaka’ and say Mahalo to Aunty!
If you are looking for a local deli-style restaurant with delicious organic food, this is the place for you. We love this small tucked away deli across from The Cove in Kihei. This is the perfect spot to grab lunch to go and head to the beach. Joy’s place is very casual, with counter service and pick up.
Next time you’re on vacation on Maui, do not miss out on a chance to eat some of the best local food on Maui at Sam Sato’s. Located in Wailuku, this little, hidden gem has been owned and operated by the Sato family since 1933. Now run by the 3rd generation, this place is known best by locals, and less frequented by visitors. If you can find Sam Sato’s in Wailuku, make sure you arrive on the earlier side because they are only open for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast menu consists of your usual eggs and breakfast meats, hash browns, omelets, and local favorites. Lunchtime is popular with super ono plate lunches (chicken, beef, or pork with rice and mac salad), a variety of noodle and saimin bowls, sandwiches and burgers.
Since 1916, the Komoda Store & Bakery has always been hands down the best donut store on Maui. Here in the Historic Makawao Town, residents and visitors will always enjoy delicious and timeless Hawaiian-style baked goods. If you’re heading Upcountry to the Haleakala Crater or to the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, do not miss out on this rare Maui local foodie opportunity!
Voted Best Food Truck on Maui for 2 years in a row, Geste Shrimp Truck is for sure the best shrimp truck at Kahului Harbor. Both residents and visitors love Geste, most popular for the Any Flavor Shrimp Plates: Hawaiian Scampi, Hot & Spicy, Spicy Pineapple, or Lemon Pepper.
“Eat In, Take Out, or Cook at Home…” (www.eskimocandy.com, 2019)
Located in Kihei Town, Eskimo Candy Seafood Market & Cafe is one of the best local seafood restaurants on Maui, and they also have delicious plate lunches. The owner, Jeff Hansen, came up with the Eskimo Candy concept after an Alaskan fishing trip he took in 1987. The business began as a wholesale seafood distributor, and since 2003 added to the restaurant. Favorite Maui seafood menu items are the Tempura and Coconut Shrimp, Homemade Crab Cakes; the Local Plate Lunch with Battered Fish; the Captains Platter served with scallops, coconut shrimp, oysters, fresh fish and calamari; and the Poke Bowl which comes with of ahi poke shoyu, spicy tuna, furikake, wasabi, shoyu, served over white rice, and topped with a yummy wasabi aioli.
“Enjoy A Cup From The End Of The Rainbow…” (Alfred J. Franco, Proprietor)
Since 1918, ‘Grandma’ has been roasting and blending organic Maui coffee in her Upcountry locale. Set in Keokea, Grandma’s quickly became one of the only Up Country pit-stops for residents to grab a good ole cuppa-joe and talk story with friends in their community. Four generations later, Grandma’s is still holding strong and family-run. The family still grows and processes the same pesticide-free, organic Arabica coffee strains originally cultivated by their great-grandparents on Maui. Whether you’re just hanging out in Keokea or driving to or from the back road to Hana, definitely try to make a stop at Grandma’s Coffee House. Fill your belly, enjoy some caffeine, and revel in the gorgeous upcountry view from their terrace.
A Saigon Cafe in Wailuku is a consistent winner of the annual Maui Aipono Restaurant Award, and one of Maui’s best-disguised foodie gems. On the outside, it looks something from a late 1970s Hawaiian-style roadhouse, and on the inside, it is like a flavor dynasty of local-style, authentic Vietnamese dishes. At Saigon Cafe, you can expect friendly service with a touch of aloha and an overabundance of flavor-filled dishes.
“We’re becoming a food destination,” says Will Munder Executive Chef of Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill. “Before,” it was ‘there’s the winery,’ or ‘ it’s a nice drive,’ but now people are coming here from the West Side just to have lunch.
They love our food!” (www.ulupalakuaranch.com, 2019)
Tasty Crust “World Famous Pancakes,” has been serving Maui for over 50 years! With a charming old school location, reasonable prices and a staff full of aloha, all will enjoy going to Tasty Crust in Wailuku for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For breakfast, don’t miss out on the Banana Hotcakes, T. Bone Steak, Opakapaka, and Eggs, or the Local Style Omelet (Spam, linguica, cheese, and green onion).
Owned by Top Chef finalist, Chef Sheldon Simeon and his wife Janice, Tinroof is a hot spot on Maui for delicious local grinds. You will find Tin Roof just off Dairy Road in Kahului. It’s a great place to stop right off the plane, or on your way to the airport before departure. Be prepared for a wait at this super tiny, packed restaurant with very little seating. But keep in mind that the food is worth it!
In 2013, Coconut’s Fish Cafe was a part of CNN and Travel & Leisure’s list of “Top 10 Places to Eat Like a Local.” The list wasn’t a top 10 list for Maui or even Hawaii. It was a top 10 list for the whole United States! Founded on Maui by owner Mike Philips, Coconut’s Fish Cafe in Kihei features a simple selection of tasty and reasonably priced seafood menu items.
Ono Kau Kau Mixed Plate is another one of Maui’s exceptional local food and plate lunch spots. Located in Lahaina, this darling little gem is exactly how it should be. Ono local Hawaiian-Chinese style grinds, a modest looking restaurant with only 4 tables, affordable prices, NO MSG, and friendly staff. If you like Spam Musubi, some people say that Ono Kau Kau has the best on the island.
The former head chef at Roy’s, Joey Macadangdang left Roy’s to open up Joey’s Kitchen at the Whalers Village Food Court back in 2015. Boy, are we glad he did! Now visitors can enjoy Joey’s amazing cooking at much more affordable prices. The food is Joey’s take on Filipino-Hawaiian fusion food. It’s laid back and super casual here with counter ordering. The service is amiable and helpful. After you order, find a seat, and they will bring your food out to the table.
Sansei has received numerous culinary awards including “Favorite Asian Restaurant,” and one of “America’s Best Sushi Bars” by Bon Appetit Magazine. Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar isn’t just a traditional Japanese sushi bar; it is also fused with additional Asian-inspired menu items and innovative culinary creations. With two locations on Maui, one in Kihei and one at the Kapalua Resort, Sansei is definitely a popular spot.
The Fish Market in Honokowai is such a wonderful local food spot in West Maui! Sometimes confused as the ‘Honokowai Deli,’ the Fish Market serves local Maui fish menu items for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. They also sell freshly caught Maui seafood and fish fillets, so it’s a great place to grab seafood for dinner or a beach BBQ.
Although Ba-Le restaurants are not exclusive to the Island of Maui, with 14 locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands (4 on Maui), we cannot possibly skip them in our fabulous Maui local food list. Ba-Le has so much good food on their menu, it’s always so hard to choose! The menu is dominated by delicious Vietnamese/Thai/Chinese/Local Style selections, and the best sandwiches ever.
No trip to Maui is complete without a visit to Leoda’s! This is a favorite home-style comfort food spot on Maui. With its warm country chic décor and delectable mini pies, Leoda’s never disappoints. Located just near mile marker 14 at Olowalu Village, Leoda’s is a great pit stop on your way into or out of Lahaina. They offer casual counter ordering near the pie display case. Don’t worry, the line gives you plenty of time to figure out what pie to choose, or maybe just try a few and take some to go.
Kihei Caffe is one of the most popular breakfast places on Maui, voted “Best Breakfast” 6 years in a row by Maui No Ka Oi Magazine, Maui News Readers Poll, and the infamous MauiTime Weekly. With over 40 breakfast options to choose from, all guests will be satisfied.
“Paper plate meets million dollar views…” (New York Times)
Aloha Mixed Plate is located on Front Street in the Historic Lahaina Town, offering fabulous local fare, reasonable prices, and the incredible Pacific Ocean and outer island views. Due to its location, this is a popular spot for visitors but also frequented by locals. The staff here is truly wonderful! (Aloha Mixed Plate management definitely knows how to pick new hires, because every single person who works there is truly friendly and focused on the customer. We love that!)
Da Kitchen was first established on Maui in 1998. Since then, it has grown to two locations on the Valley Isle. Da Kitchen Cafe is located in Kahului, and Da Kitchen Express is located in Kihei.
Kuau Store has been a North Shore Maui institution for many years. Now under new ownership, the store offers Maui’s community and visitors a place to grab breakfast and lunch, snacks for the beach, beer and wine, coffee drinks, kombucha, and more.
Located at the Old Lahaina Center, look for the hungry hordes of happy folks lined up outside from 8:00 am until noon. The atmosphere is kind of a small town café going Hawaiian. Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu is varied and definitely, value priced. For breakfast, they have a full page of American style egg dishes, local food choices, eggs benedicts, loco mocos, griddle cakes, and waffles.
This newly opened Maui hidden gem is located on the bottom level of the Wharf Cinema Center across from Lahaina’s Banyan Tree.
Owners Javier Barberi, David Fincher, and Julian Bonfardin came together from prestigious Maui restaurants and resorts. They definitely know their stuff! Their fish tacos, Louisiana Po’ Boys, and Lobster & Crab Stuffed Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are generating a big buzz in the Maui foodies scene. They have theme nights like Flip Coin and local Maui artist showcases, and a whole list of delicious signature cocktails. They also boast the longest Happy Hour in West Maui!
This Maui hidden gem is located in an industrial area of Kihei. Kenneth and Vanessa Lee have been cooking up breakfast, lunch and early dinners seven days a week since 2006.
Blue Moon is best known for fluffy banana macadamia nut pancakes and a variety of American style meals.
Everyone love Tobi’s Shave Ice! However, don’t let the name limit you. We are here to tell you that this place goes way beyond delicious shave ice. Hand’s down, Tobi’s has one of the best “Poke Bowls” on Maui! With expertly cut tender and super fresh Ahi, how can you go wrong? They offer a variety of flavors from ginger (sweet), wasabi (spicy), and some with a mayo base.
Owners of Bailey’s Café Food Truck, Selena and Durien Bailey, take the classic plate lunch to new heights. They serve up locally sourced, organic ingredients prepared into familiar “plate lunch” dishes with a twist.
Poi By The Pound is located near Dairy Road in Kahului. They serve authentic local Hawaiian-style foods like Kalua Pork, Lau Lau, and Poi, of course!
Poi By The Pound restaurant was created by a family that became Maui famous for its homemade Poi. They soon began to make local-style plate lunches and became increasingly more popular. Their restaurant is genuinely based on community, and their staff is friendly and welcoming.
Located at the end of the Napili Plaza strip mall in West Maui, Alec and Donna Probst have been cooking up the best BBQ dishes on Maui since 1999. If you love fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, moist and tender juicy rotisserie chicken, tasty Portuguese bean soup, hearty chili, wraps, a variety of salads and yummy desserts, you’ll adore this Maui local spot.
Fatt Chicks is a food truck located in Kahului. It’s a yummy burger business that offers an array of creative and tasty red meat and chicken burgers.