The paradise island of Maui caters to the deep craving of nourishment after hours spent trying to catch a wave. During our visit to the Hawaiian island last week we had a chance to roam around and experience the palette of different restaurants. Sometimes our choice of restaurant simply followed the feel of a particular town we were drawn to, such as Paia.
It is quite rare to find “cheap eats” in Hawaii since this archipelago of islands is a major tourist destination for vacation-style travellers looking to spend a hefty amount of money in order to indulge in relaxation before heading back to their real lives. The only real cheap eats we would recommend is either visiting grocery stores, like Mana Foods in Paia where you can get a coffee and a breakfast danish for under $4, or American fast food restaurants. Although affordable, fast food restaurants can be unhealthy.
So, here is a list of our favourite restaurants which are more on the budget-friendly and inexpensive side (not fast food) for under $20 .
1. Café Mambo
Paia, known as the town of hippies, was the first area we stayed in after arriving at the airport. This town is near Kahului where most visitors land. Paia is also near the famous seafood restaurant Mama’s Fish House, an upscale Hawaiian restaurant offering fresh catches of the day. For a cheaper meal, we found Café Mambo for breakfast. The restaurant is a beacon of colourful energy with a bright pink exterior.
I ordered the Huevos Rancheros for $14.95 served on two baked corn tortillas, eggs, beans, cheese, and Chipotle sauce. It was flavourful, fresh, the right amount of spice, and the baked tortillas added a crispy texture. Chris had the Plantation Burrito for $12.95 with eggs, chorizo, rice, guacamole, cheese, and beans. Their breakfast burritos are thick, enormous wraps packed with mouthful bites.
2. Café des Amis
The picturesque Café des Amis is also in Paia and boasts mouthwatering savoury crêpes wrapped in their own unique style – thick heavy squares. The vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurant serves Mediterranean and Indian cuisine such as classic Indian curries, and Mediterranean salads and ingredients. You can even order a gluten-free crêpe made with buckwheat and chia seeds.
We went for the Mediterranean savoury crêpe served with veggies, feta, and pesto, with a side of mixed green salad. As well as, a large classic and filling Greek Salad served with organic greens, tomato, red onion, cucumber, bell pepper, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and balsamic & olive oil vinaigrette. Make sure to visit the restaurant for dinner because every evening they offer local entertainment with live music.
3. Thai Food by Pranee
The drive to Hana along the northeast coast of the island is one of the most scenic drives we’ve ever taken. The area is lush with forests, mountains, and beautiful coastlines. It can take a whole day from Paia to Hana when making multiple stops along the way to capture the beauty. The road to Hana can be treacherous, but we will write more about this drive in a future post.
When we got into the town of Hana we were mighty hungry, having only snacked on some spiced macadamia nuts and almonds. It is a bare bones small town situated in the middle of a rural landscape atop a hill. You will find mostly homes, a few shops and restaurants in this farmland area. While driving around we found a café called Thai Food by Pranee for lunch which serves traditional Thai food. The café was a trailer with an awning overlooking porch seats. Along the side of the field were picnic benches under a tent.
I ordered the Pineapple Fried Rice for $14 served with shrimp, ginger and onions, and Chris had one of their special dishes, Red Curry with pumpkin chicken for $12. They were amazing! The dishes were rich and complex with flavour. Our benchmark for good food is when we can’t stop eating even after we are full, which was the case here. The restaurant serves large portions. It was definitely our favourite meal during our week in Maui.
4. Piko Café
Kihei, situated south of the island right by the coast is a popular destination for travellers. One of the cafes we found to be really tasty and varied in their selection was Piko Café. This informal and casual café provided the right tastes for our morning hunger. Their menu includes traditional western breakfast such as Eggs Benedict, as well as Asian and Hawaiian dishes.
I ordered the Ube Pancakes for $8.99. These are three hand-whipped purple sweet potato (ube) buttermilk pancakes served with a warm ube haupia sauce. Ube is a typical Hawaiian ingredient. The pancakes tasted mildly sweet, nutty, and its texture was thick and wholesome. These were also the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever eaten. A definite must eat if you are at Piko Café. Piko balances sweetness in their dishes really well because their French Toast, (or Hawaiian Toast for $7.99), tasted delicious without the tooth-aching sweetness. For this dish they used taro sweet bread and custard coating. The toast was fluffy and dense, and probably the best French Toast we’ve had.
5. Vidads Local Kine Grindz
Along with all the restaurants you see in Kihei, there is also a small area along Pi’ikea avenue where food trucks gather in a circle around picnic benches. Many choices are available here, including Kraken Coffee, a coffee truck offering wiry and spazzed out caffeinated drinks.
There are also trucks offering traditional but gourmet American burgers, vegan food, drinks including bubble tea, and island style cuisine. We visited the Vidads Local Kine Grindz food truck which offers various Kine bowls, including Poke bowls, mixing Asian and Hawaiian cuisine. I ordered the Salmon Bowl with fried rice, veggies, and pork belly for $14.00. The bowl was a flurry of differing tastes which combined really well together.
6. Cheeseburger Paradise
Lahaina, which is near the ritzy town of Wailea, is a well-known destination for many visitors to the island. On Front Street, along the water, you will find the Forrest Gump theme restaurant, Bubba Gump Shrimp, where the Hollywood-icon-of-the-moment Chris Pratt worked before becoming famous.
We didn’t try the famous Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant since a family friend recommended we try the cheeseburgers at Cheeseburger Paradise instead. Along the quaint allure of Front Street, Cheeseburger Paradise stands over the surfs on the beach. At this beachfront restaurant you can relax and eat while enjoying the ocean view sunset unimpeded from your table.
I ordered the California Cheeseburger for $15.95 with grilled Hawaiian pineapples and avocado slices. Chris ordered the It’s All Good burger for $17 with sauteed mushrooms, three strips of bacon, Swiss cheese, and guacamole. Their beef patties are thick and juicy. This popular haunt is covered in licence plates from all over the world for customers to peer through and look for their beloved city while taking a bite of their burger.
7. The Empanada Lady
The charming town of Wailuku is a quiet town situated west of Kahului. While walking around the neighborhood to take some pictures, we saw a menu outside of a restaurant selling Empanadas. The restaurant looks unassuming from the outside, but once you step inside the decor of this restaurant is mesmerizing, especially their patio. My sudden desire for Empanadas led us into this wonderful restaurant serving onolicious bronzed Latin American pastries stuffed with different ingredients – pork, beef, chickpeas, and chicken. 4 for $5!
Of course, there is also our honorable mention. When you are steaming in the heat of the island, certain you are going to burst into flames, there is only one food item which can cool you down – shaved ice. You can find them pretty much anywhere on the island, and choose from multiple different flavours. They mix and match these flavours so you won’t be able to get enough of the sweet syrupy cold ice. We tried this one at Tobi’s Shave Ice North Shore in Paia.
Which restaurants do you recommend in Maui?
Copyright © Beyond Here 2019
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oh snap, I might have to get on a plane!