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 the people who travelled to the islands to live, work, play, and put down roots. “Local food,” typically refers to a combination of fare from various cultures that migrated to the Hawaiian Islands.
People from various cultures have moved to Hawaii, including 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 bananas, and the Marquesans brought breadfruit. Korean immigrants introduced kimchi and barbecued meats. Sashimi and bento came from the Japanese. The Chinese introduced rice, and the Americans later introduced Mac Salad.
Over time, more settlers came to Hawaii, bringing with them even more culinary offerings; the Portuguese brought sweet bread and malasadas, the Spanish added pasteles and exotic spices, and Filipino people introduced adobo-style garlic dishes, peas, and beans. With all of 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!” then stay where you are, get in line, and put in your plate lunch order!
The flavors and recipes of Hawaii’s local food invoke the history of each culture from which they originated. Hawaiian food tells a story about itself through its flavors, how all of the people who have settled in Hawaii have contributed, making it what it is today. When eating local food on Maui, do not forget to ‘geevum a shaka‘ and say Mahalo to Aunty!
At Nalu’s South Shore Grill in Kihei, the motto is “Eat Pono, Live Pono,” and that’s exactly what guests receive. Big respect goes to this South Maui local food eatery with its positive vibes, healthy portions, and fresh options.
Next time you’re on vacation in Maui, do not miss out on the chance to eat some of the best Maui local food 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, but it should not be missed.
Make sure to arrive at Sam Sato’s earlier 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. Everyone can find something to enjoy with items like 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 the best donut shop in Maui, hands down. Residents and visitors in Historic Makawao Town come here to enjoy delicious and timeless Hawaiian-style baked goods. If you’re heading Upcountry to the Haleakala Crater or the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, do not miss out on this rare Maui local foodie opportunity!
Geste Shrimp Truck is one of the best shrimp trucks in all of Hawaii, for sure. Yes, they even rival the best-of-the-best shrimp spots on the North Shore of Oahu. Both residents and visitors alike love Geste for its delicious shrimp, sweet aloha vibes, and contagious smiles.
Upon arriving at Geste, guests begin their order by choosing a flavor: Hawaiian Scampi, Hot & Spicy, Spicy Pineapple, Pineapple, or Lemon Pepper. All shrimp plates are served with 12 pieces of shrimp, two scoops of rice, and a crab mac salad. So ono!
“Eat-In, Take Out, or Cook at Home.” Those are your options when visiting Eskimo Candy in South Maui.
Located in Kihei Town, Eskimo Candy Seafood Market & Cafe is one of Maui’s best local seafood cafes. They have delicious plate lunches, and they’re a great place to check out to purchase fresh seafood items for dinner, a party, or even a beach BBQ.
“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 Upcountry 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 family-run and holding strong.
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 like something from a late 1970s Hawaiian-style roadhouse, and on the inside, it is like a flavor dynasty of local-style, authentic Vietnamese 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)
The Ulupalakua Ranch has deep roots in Maui’s agricultural history, having been operated by multiple families since 1856. Since 1963, the Erdman family has owned and operated Ulupalakua Ranch (approx. 18,000 acres), including the historic ranch store. We encourage you to take a drive Upcountry to see breathtaking views of outer islands, Mt. Haleakala, and the rolling hills and pastures of Kula, Keokea, and Ulupalakua.
Tasty Crust’s “World Famous Pancakes” have been serving Maui for over 50 years! With a charming old-school location, reasonable prices, and a staff full of aloha, Tasty Crust has something for everyone in Wailuku to enjoy 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, Tin Roof 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 to wait at this super tiny, packed restaurant, but keep in mind that the food is worth it!
In 2013, Coconut’s Fish Cafe was featured on 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, and they are still just as popular today!
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. Although that was over 9 years ago, Coconut’s is still holding strong as one of Maui’s best local food spots. Now they have three locations on Maui!
Located on Front Street in Lahaina, Papa’aina is one of Maui’s newest restaurants and local food establishments. Here, you’ll find a menu that’s full of locally sourced ingredients, daily specials, lovely barista drinks, and a fantastic cocktail menu. Although Papa’aina is currently only open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, coconut wireless says they’ll be opening for dinner service very soon.
The proprietor of Papa’aina is Chef Lee Anne Wong. Her name should sound familiar because she’s also the owner of Oahu’s famous Koko Head Cafe, plus she was featured on Bravo’s Flagship Series, Top Chef. In fact, she was also the Supervising Culinary Producer for six seasons!
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 menu is Joey’s take on Filipino-Hawaiian fusion food. It’s laid back and super casual here with counter ordering, and the service is amicable 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. The menu also features Asian-inspired items and innovative culinary creations. With two locations on Maui, one in Kihei and one at the Kapalua Resort, Sansei is a Maui hotspot for local food.
The Fish Market in Honokowai is a wonderful local food spot in West Maui! Sometimes confused with the Honokowai Deli (found later in this list), the Fish Market serves local Maui fish menu items for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. They also sell fresh-caught Maui seafood and fish filets, 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 (three on Maui), we could not possibly skip them in this Maui local food list.
Ba-Le has so much good food on their menu; it’s always so hard to choose. This menu is dominated by delicious Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and local style selections. It’s impressive, and they have the best sandwiches ever!
No trip to Maui is complete without a visit to Leoda’s! It’s 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 in or out of Lahaina. You can order to-go or dine in at their pie counter. Don’t worry; the line goes quickly but gives you just enough time to figure out which pie to choose—or maybe you should just try a few and take them to go!
Kihei Caffe is one of the most popular breakfast places in Maui. They’ve been voted “Best Breakfast” for over six years in a row by Maui No Ka Oi Magazine, Maui News‘ Readers Poll, and the acclaimed MauiTimes. With over 40 breakfast options from which to choose, each and every guest will leave Kihei Caffe satisfied.
Southshore Grindz is one of Maui’s newest and finest local food restaurants. It’s in the heart of Kihei, just across the road from Kamaole Beach.
One of the unique qualities of this South Maui local eatery is that their goal is to support local Maui vendors and suppliers as much as possible through their menu offerings. We love that!
The menu at Southshore Grindz consists of appetizers, salads, paninis and burgers, local plates, and noodles categories. They also have a Keiki (kids) menu and an assortment of cakes and desserts in the cooler near the register.
Kalei’s Lunch Box is one of Maui’s best flavor centers for local food fare. That’s why it’s known as “Da Big Kahuna of Island Grinds!”
Due to its popularity, Kalei’s Lunch Box now has three locations: a food truck in Kahului, a restaurant at Maui Lani, and a restaurant in Pukalani.
Kuau Store has been a North Shore Maui institution for many years. Under new ownership for the past 5+ years, 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.
Look for the hungry hordes of happy folks lined up outside the Old Lahaina Center from 8:00 am until noon.
Here, you’ll find that the atmosphere is kind of a small-town café gone Hawaiian. It’s a fantastic spot to enjoy local food on Maui. Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu is varied and definitely value-priced.
They have a whole page of American-style egg dishes, local food choices, loco moco’s, griddle cakes, and waffles for breakfast. They also have an eggs benedict that is amazing!
Down The Hatch is located on the bottom level of the Wharf Cinema Center across from Lahaina’s Banyan Tree.
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 a big buzz in the Maui foodie scene, and for this alone, you just must check them out!
Located in Wailuku, Tiffany’s Bar & Grill is a Maui institution. Here’s a place where you can enjoy tasty and generous local food plates, sing karaoke, watch a game, or enjoy a beer with your buddy at noon. This place is laid-back with its low-key vibes and unquestionable Wailuku-flare.
Everyone loves Tobi’s Shave Ice! Don’t let the name limit you—this place goes way beyond delicious shaved ice. Tobi’s also has one of the best Poke Bowls on Maui, hands down!
How can you go wrong with expertly cut tender and super fresh Ahi? They offer a variety of flavors, from ginger (sweet) to wasabi (spicy), and some with a mayo base.
Located in West Maui, Honokowai Okazuya & Deli is perfect for delicious local food on Maui. The menu is extensive, the portions are generous, and the food is always fresh and flavorful. We love Hawaii’s mom-and-pop restaurants, and this one is fantastic.
Honokowai Okazuya & Deli is legendary with Maui locals. The menu offers local cuisine that mixes traditional Hawaiian and Asian foods. If you want to grab-and-go on the way to the beach, they have a selection of quick bites. They also have a gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly section on their menu.
Although L&L Hawaiian BBQ is not unique to Maui, we have to include it on this list. It’s perhaps one of the most recognizable names for local food spots in the Hawaiian Islands and the world.
Due to their popularity, they now have 200 franchised locations in Hawaii, California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Texas, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Japan. L&L Hawaiian BBQ has literally helped put Hawaii’s local food on the map.
At L&L, guests can find all of their favorite Hawaii comfort food. It feels a bit like a Hawaiian fast-food chain upon entering the restaurants, but you’ll still find those generous portions and island flavors.
Located at the end of the Napili Plaza strip mall in West Maui, owners Alec and Donna Probst have been cooking up the best BBQ dishes in West Maui since 1999.
Suppose 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. In that case, you’ll adore this Maui local spot.