One of the BarFlys is switching jobs so we did a quick trip to Maui. Sure, we spent some time exploring the resort restaurants (like Morimoto), but it is possible to have some great and reasonably priced Hawaiian food, even as a tourist in paradise. This post summarizes our experiences at Coconut’s Fish Cafe, Paia Fish Market and both locations of Da Kitchen.
Da Kitchen, Hawaiian slang for “The Kitchen,” has a long history; the original Kihei location opened in 1998, specializing in plate lunches in takeaway containers. The expanded, full service Kahului location followed in 2000 with more dishes, representing all of the ethnic cultures of Hawaii such as Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and of course local island style.
Da Kitchen in Kahului should be everyone’s first (or last) stop for a bite in Maui since it’s really close to the airport. Be forewarned that they serve no alcohol or beer, so plan ahead and BYOB if you want a cold brew to go with your meal (also note that their strip mall location does not have any convenience marts).
The menu is quite extensive, offering a significant number of specials on the chalkboard with every permutation of a Japanese bento box one could think of. We decided to stick with the specials and ordered a Roast Pork Katsu Curry Moco, a perfectly fried breaded pork chop topped with a fried egg and set over a Japanese curry with onions and roast pork. For $14.50, it was a generous amount of porktastic that we couldn’t even finish:
We also selected Bento #4 from the board, which contained everything we wanted to try served over rice: Korean Chicken (Crispy Fried Teriyaki-sauced Chicken), Shrimp Tempura and Fried Mahi Mahi. It was packaged in a box ready to go, which we noted would be great to bring on an airplane:
We also went to the original Kihei location, Da Kitchen Express, which is close to the Wailea beach resorts. It’s more casual than it’s younger sister restaurant where everything is packed in to go containers, and only plastic utensils are available. There are plenty of tables for eating in, and like it’s sister, it is also BYOB.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it provides a nice alternative to resort food. It was around brunch time, so we decided to get the Da Kitchen Omelet made with Portuguese sausage, green onions, mushrooms, onions, tomato and cheese. The omelet was fairly large, and we were not able to finish the two scoops of rice that came with it:
We also ordered their famous Loco Moco, a grilled homemade 98% lean ground beef burger topped with 2 eggs, onions, mushrooms and brown gravy. Yes, the burger was overcooked for our liking, but the gravy really made the tasty dish:
Our other favorite stop for casual eats in Maui is Coconut’s Fish Cafe, famous for their Fish Burgers and Tacos, highly rated on most review sites and included in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s Best Seafood Restaurants Around the World It’s easy to see why since their fish is very fresh and the food is very tasty.
We started off with the Coconut Shrimp, a half dozen of the crunchy and meaty shellfish accompanied by a tangy and sweet chili pineapple sauce:
They also offer a Local Any Style Fish item: your choice of the fresh fish currently available (e.g. ahi, opakapaka, maui maui, ono, etc.) cooked in one of six different ways. Since we were in the mood for Ahi tuna, we selected the grilled-with-Wasabi style that is available only with the Ahi. The accompanying slaw topped with tomato was as equally fresh tasting as the fish:
On a return visit we had their famous Fish Tacos made with 17 different ingredients, including fish, corn tortilla, tomato, cheese, coleslaw and mango salsa (note that the last two items definitely count for more than one ingredient). They served the tacos on two plates since they knew we were sharing. Be prepared to get messy with these great tacos:
They know their way around a fryer, so we ordered a side order of fries:
We also can’t resist great onion rings, especially made with the sweet Maui allium, and these most certainly did not disappoint:
Like Da Kitchen, Coconut’s is BYOB. Luckily they are located in a strip mall that has a gas station with a convenience store, stocked with large Longboard Lagers to accompany a great meal.
Our last stop on our budget eats tour of Maui is located in Paia, the town that centers the North Shore of Maui. Our planned hike had been rained out, so we decided to have lunch in the cool little Plantation-style town that serves as a hangout for locals and surfers. Also nearby is Mama’s Fish House, but the Paia Fish Market better suited the rainy day.
Open since 1989, this tiny restaurant is perennially cramped with hungry crowds. All food is ordered at the counter where they hand you drinks and a number to take with you to the communal picnic tables:
It is not BYOB here — they offer a fairly decent selection of beer and wine. We knew that the Riesling they had on offer would be great to pair with our seafood-centric meal. The glasses may not be the most delicate, but they came generously filled:
Chicken and fish tacos can be ordered as a single or double plate. We’re in paradise, so it only makes sense to go with their fresh fish of the day. Two excellent overly filled and messy to eat tacos came with french fries and slaw:
They offer chicken, beef and fish burgers, but the choice for us was clear. We ordered the Ono Fish Burger which came char-broiled on a sesame bun with coleslaw, tarter sauce and tomato and cheese. All we can say was it was very tasty: