My mental model of Maui is that the better restaurants are mostly clustered in the towns closer to the airport like Kihei or Wailea. There are plenty of big resorts in Lahaina, like the Marriott and the Westin and the Hyatt Regency, but that the food offerings were middling at best. And even the better Maui restaurants offered fantastic views but food that wouldn’t be as impressive if you weren’t in a beautiful location on holiday and certainly wouldn’t impress at the price point in other cities.
I discovered Aloha Mixed Plate on a visit to Maui in 2009. Mind you, it isn’t the world greatest food or service though the food is good. What it does offer is reasonably authentic local food, in an open air setting on the water (though somewhat obscured by trees), and at a reasonable price. The food here is better than what you’re likely to get on property at the Westin or the Hyatt, and at a fraction of the price. Plus is just a couple of miles away.
Because it offers a good value it seems to have taken on a bit of a life of its own in the overhype department, there are north of 1000 reviews of the place (mostly good) on Yelp. Make no mistake it isn’t the perfect atmosphere, the trees and the food mean there are quite a few flies at times especially on the edge of the restaurant closest the water.
Interestingly, the very first question you’re asked when you arrive is whether you plan to drink alcohol. Even before “Welcome” or “Aloha.” That’s because they aren’t licensed to serve alcohol in the seating area closest the water, so you need to sit back farther if you want to drink.
While the lunch and dinner menu is pretty good, the mixed plates all come with two scoops of rice and a pasta salad and the meats are good and mostly local in flavor, I think the real winner here is breakfast.
Here’s the breakfast menu:
Here’s their Siamin Deluxe soup, the Kahlua Pig hash and eggs (with fried rice, which was excellent), and the Hawaiian Sweet Bread French Toast.
But either way it’s definitely a place to keep in the arsenal if staying in Lahaina (though I wouldn’t drive from Wailea to eat here).
One place that might just get me to make the drive from one of the other towns on the other side of Maui is Star Noodle.
I admit I started out skeptical, even reluctant to try it — I figured that it would be a tourist trap since it’s the restaurant of someone off of Top Chef. Word was the waits were long, and how long a wait could a Top Chef noodle place be worth? I was surprised and thrilled that I overcame that skepticism.
It’s located at the edge of an industrial park, but in Maui even that’s beautiful.
The waits can be long, it can be better to go during lunch instead of dinner or at the very least if you’re doing to have dinner there you’ll want to call ahead so that you don’t face an hour or two wait.
I didn’t call ahead, and I was told the wait would be 40 minutes when I arrived a little before 1pm. In fact I was at a table in 10 minutes.
It’s not just the wait to be seated, service can be slow, lunch took nearly 2 hours. But the food was absolutely worth it, and while slow the service was friendly and good — in fact, by engaging the waiter and talking about the dishes I think I wound up selecting some of the best choices I possibly could have off the menu.
The Filipino bacon and eggs were really good. Actually, my favorite dish overall, chopped pork belly and fried egg presented on a hot plate.
The Vietnamese crepe was fried and hard rather than soft like I’m used to, the filling almost resembled a chicken salad, but it was quite good
The waiter brought by hot towels to wash off along with the Vietnamese crepes, because they can make a bit of a mess.
This one’s for Lucky…
The scallops were remarkable, largely for the broth, you mix the ginger on top of the scallops into the soup and take a bite of scallop, a drink of soup. The scallops were good but I would have ordered this as a drink sans shell fish.
The pork buns were excellent, not the best I’ve ever had but a really good example of it. There are big slices of pork belly inside the bun with cucumber and hoisin.
The main affair here is noodles and I got to try two noodle dishes (fortunately I wasn’t dining alone, since I get to try more things!). Fortunately as well the fried saimin, garlic noodles, and Lahaina Fried Soup are all offered as half portions, as well – so that’s what we did.
The Lahaina Fried Soup isn’t actually a soup, it’s dry noodles, and probably the best rice noodles I’ve ever had. Supposedly the chef got the recipe from an old woman who still sometimes sets up a stand along the ride and makes this for sale. It was out of this world good. The fried saimin was excellent as well, homemade noodles and very flavorful.
The second noodle dish we ordered was the saimin but they brought garlic noodles instead. When I pointed this out, they thought I said salmon. So they then brought out Miso Salmon. Finally we got things straightened out, and they left the salmon with us anyway. This I would have done without, the sauce really overpowered the fish and I tried only a bite..
I’m much more inclined towards the main dishes, but did try the Malasadas, which is Portuguese and similar to a donut and served with homemade chocolate sauce and butterscotch as well as crushed peanuts for dipping.