When we set sail for Hawaii the itinerary most importantly called for native cuisine. A general rule of thumb is that if you are going to the right places there is nothing fancy, gimmicky, or pretentious about it, just honest food and hardworking folk. Once this belief becomes part of your “eating ethics” you will realize that food culture is the best out in Hawaii.
There are highly touted eateries on the island, primarily in the resort areas like Wailea, with award-winning chefs from “The Mainland” creating their pricey takes on local dishes but that is not what we were after on this adventure. That is not what you should be after either if you are reading this and frequent our website. Sure “Maui’s Best” Italian Restaurant, Tommy Bahamas, or Outback Steakhouse might be a great occasional option for an actual Maui inhabitant (ok, well maybe not the latter) but none should be a suggestion for a hungry guest of the island. Quickly this trip could take a turn for the worse, closely resembling ostentatious Las Vegas white-cloth dining that resorts are trying to force-feed tourists. This is not Hawaii and if something you read or someone tells you differently, take a few steps back and proceed to run away. No cost of a meal can buy authenticity, always keep that in mind.
Wailea is primarily a luxury resort community which is great for the beach, hotel, golf, and other various amenities but when it comes to food you are going to have to leave the confines that keep out the local eateries & businesses.
Stella Blues Cafe - Kihei, HI)
A short 5 minute drive out of Wailea on South Kihei Road leads to the Stella Blues Cafe, a great first spot for breakfast. "Stella Blue" sound familiar? ‘The Dead’ inspired the name of this cafe as well as some of the interior’s decor, down to the tie dye shirts worn by the wait staff. The 'Deadhead’ family originally opened the first bagel shop on Maui but no one knew what a bagel was. They moved on and opened “Stella Blues Cafe” to fill the gap between low and high end dining.
A full stack of Buttermilk Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes are the best way to get warmed up for the Hawaiian flavors to come in a week-long excursion. These light, fluffy cakes the size of your skull are full of fresh banana slices, chock full of macadamia nuts, and come with two servings of the smooth, sweet coconut syrup.
Stella Blues also has vegetarian options on their menu such as the Tofu Scramble. When you order they have to warn you that there are no eggs, presumably because some who have ordered were disappointed to find the scrambled sans the eggs. The half-inch tofu cubes have replaced the egg with its similar yet near-perfect consistency in this sautéed mix also including green onions, broccoli and mushrooms. The Tahini Sauce and Monterey Jack cheese becomes the flavorful glue that binds this scramble together.
Sunrise Cafe (Lahaina, HI)
Breakfast appetizers do exist at the Sunrise Cafe, a small joint sitting just between a surfer beach and Front Street in West Maui. When you first walk the vibe is like walking into a family’s home kitchen. In fact, there is even an old, white double door refrigerator you will pass when finding your own seat/table in the back room. Do your parents have an credit card machine in their kitchen? No. So make sure you bring cash.
It’s highly suggested that you start with the giant, warm homemade cinnamon roll. It is covered in icing, maple syrup, and macadamia nuts. Balance that out with a healthy and fresh half papaya with cottage cheese & granola filling and you now have most of the food pyramid covered. Now that you have laid a nice base and expanded your stomach, be brave and take on the giant breakfast burrito. Eggs, rice, cheese, papaya, and salsa are somehow contained in a tortilla and are prepared to become your breakfast and lunch.
Sunrise Cafe and most cafes offer the fresh half papaya. It can be served with cottage cheese or yogurt filling sprinkled with granola or just plain with wedges of lime. The squeeze of lime on the papaya really brings out a terrific sweet-tart tropical flavor. It is so simple that it’s stupid.
Kihei Caffe (Kihei, HI)
Eating outside is liberating, especially when you are on a sidewalk in a sunny paradise fronting the beach and eating the “Best Breakfast 6 Years in a Row” according to various Maui publications. The Kihei Caffe serves breakfast all day including these thick slices of bread that went swimming amongst egg & milk then came out on the other side as “Heaven on a Plate” or simply Pineapple & Coconut French Toast and Banana Macadamia Nut French Toast.
When you are so used to mainland diners and their diluted, “muddy” water, poor excuse for coffee (I could go on) they serve, the coffee at Kihei Caffe is going to rock you down to your caffeine yearning core. Rather than serving a Folger’s (or whatever looks passable as brown in a coffee mug), Kihei Caffe treats its guests with a local Maui Oma blend made specifically for the establishment.