Maui is Hawaii's dining epicenter, with a restaurant for every taste. Maui has attracted enthusiastic chefs who make national headlines using fresh local produce from Upcountry farmers. From lavish hotel dining rooms to lunch counters serving plate lunches, Maui's eateries are pleasing and diverse.
Going out to dinner demands tough choices. Restaurants on Maui consume more than 40 pages in the phone book, and Maui's chefs are world-renowned for their culinary creativity. What type of restaurant? Seafood or sushi? Pasta or poi? Chinese or Japanese? Caribbean or Thai? Mexican, Italian or Vietnamese? The pride of the island, Hawaii Regional Cuisine, is served at many award-winning restaurants. Where should you eat? South shore or west? Central Maui or Upcountry?
West and South Maui have restaurants that range from informal seaside fish houses to swank, candle-lit dining rooms with swans gliding by in a lagoon. Oceanfront dining is a Maui signature. In Wailea, innovative cuisine showcasing freshly caught seafood is graciously served by attentive staff in an open-air dining room perfumed by sea air and flowering trees, while somewhere nearby, live violin music accompanies excellent Italian fare in a romantic al fresco oceanfront setting. In Pa'ia, on a cove where an outrigger canoe at sunset evokes thoughts of Gauguin, excellent seafood from the hooks of local fishermen comes in exotic and savory preparations.
In central Maui and Kihei, time-honored mom-and-pop restaurants and some of the best ethnic eateries in Hawaii offer top values for family-style dining. If upscale aloha shirt is the dress norm in Wailea, in Central Maui, it's Formica-style casual. Noodle shops, Vietnamese pho, Mexican, Chinese, and American diner fare are among the Central Maui offerings. One Maui hotspot in Kahului draws diners from all over the island for its Latin fare and live entertainment and the best li hing mui margaritas in the world, while another serves up wiener schnitzels and super-sized salads in a cozy beer garden.
Much of the movement called Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Hawaii's culinary sensation, originated on Maui. While some of the founding members of HRC are Maui chefs, today the leaders include a broader group of Maui's finest practitioners in the culinary arts. Hawaii Regional Cuisine is a marriage of the culinary techniques of East and West, wok and whisk. The use of fresh island vegetables, fruit and seafood in multicultural techniques results in award-winning dishes that have attracted nationwide attention. Fish pried off the hook that day can appear on a plate with a mango beurre blanc. Freshly picked passion fruit morphs into a zesty lilikoi chiffon pie. Maui basil and tender baby sprouts elevate the simplest dishes to gourmet fare.
Related Features About Dining on Maui
Read our review of James and Molly Jacobson's excellent guide to dining on Maui entitled Top Maui Restaurants 2010