When it comes to deciding where to eat in Kahului, you won’t lack for choices. Cuisines range from Hawaiian local to Asian to European, and you’ll even find authentic Mexican on offer. Casual dining rules in Kahului, with on-the-go options and generally sizeable portions, but you will find at least one fine dining establishment with an excellent menu.
When it comes to plate lunch Da Kitchen (425 Koloa St., 808/871-7782, 11am-9pm Mon.-Sat., $10-17) has the most ono-kine, broke da mouth grinds anywhere in town. The restaurant is tucked away in a small strip mall off Ka‘ahumanu Avenue; the same mall as HI Tech Surf Sports and Denny’s—look for the huge sign that says “Restaurant.” Despite the obscure location, it’s always packed. Some of the items on the “Moco Madness” are big enough to split between two people (lunch for under $20). For a tasty albeit artery-clogging meal, go all-in with fried spam musubi followed by a Polynesian Paralysis Moco of fish tempura, kalua pork, two eggs, onion, mushrooms, and gravy over fried rice.
For quick and authentic Mexican food, visit Las Piñatas (395 Dairy Rd., 808/877-8707, 8am-8pm Mon.-Sat., 9am-8pm Sun., $7-10), next to Kinko’s off Dairy Road. The “Kitchen Sink” burrito is so big that a growing teenager will have trouble cleaning the plate. Bottled beer and horchata are available to drink. As the name suggests, over a dozen piñatas dangle from the ceiling. It’s a great lunch option if you’re heading to or from the airport.
The finest restaurant in Kahului, Bistro Casanova (33 Lono Ave., 808/873-3850, 11am-9:30pm Mon.-Sat., $14-38) livens up downtown with a fusion of Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. The tapas menu served after 3pm has affordable crostinis, gnocchi, and grilled calamari. A swanky bar attracts the after-work cocktail crowd. The wine list features over 20 selections from various global wine regions. The dinner menu features meat entrées such as lamb chops and New York steak and pasta dishes like ravioli al tartufo and linguini al funghi.
Pizza in Paradise (60 E. Wakea Ave., 808/871-8188, 11am-9pm Mon.-Thurs., 11am-10pm Fri-Sat., $13-26) puts out arguably the best pizza on the island in one of its most unassuming locations. This family-run joint makes its own dough and sauce. Whole pies are available, but the “by the slice” option is nice for lunch on the go. The menu also features subs and pasta, but it’s the pizza that keeps locals walking through the door. It’s best to not be in a rush; the food can take some time. Parking can be a challenge.
If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or just care about what you put in your body, you will love the salad bar and deli inside the Down to Earth (305 Dairy Rd., 808/877-2661, 7am-9pm Mon.-Sat., 8am-8pm Sun.) grocery store. There’s a wide selection of bottled juices, all-natural snack options, and vitamins and supplements.
Japanese, Thai, and Filipino Food
The best Japanese in Kahului is at Ichiban Restaurant (65 W. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., 808/871-6977, 7am-2pm, 5pm-9pm Mon.-Fri., 1:30pm-2pm, 5pm-9pm Sat., $8-12), squirreled away in the Kahului Shopping Center. The building appears to be closed, but once you step inside, the traditional Japanese decor will make you forget you’re in an industrial section of Kahului. Rainbow rolls and heaping bowls of udon punctuate the menu. Cap it all off with a Kirin beer or a cup of sake.
At the Ka‘ahumanu Shopping Center, Ramen-Ya (275 W. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., 808/873-9688, 10:30am-9:30pm Mon.-Sat., 10:30am-8:30pm Sun., $7-9) is a hole-in-the-wall that is always packed. It’s that good. While the decor isn’t quite as authentic as Ichiban, the prices for huge bowls of ramen and udon are tough to beat.
Thailand Cuisine II (70 E. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., 808/873-0225, 10:30am-3:30pm, 5pm-9:30pm daily, $11-16) has been awarded the honor of “Best Ethnic Restaurant on Maui” four separate times. The food is authentic and tasty, but the location at Maui Mall isn’t anything special. Menu items feature a classic selection of Thai curries, pad thai noodles, and tom yum soup.
Considering the island’s sizable Filipino community, you would expect more Filipino restaurants around town, but the only one with any prominence is Bistro Manila (230 Hana Hwy., 808/871-6934, 5pm-8:30pm Mon.-Sat.). The local favorite serves dishes so authentic you would think you were in Manila. The restaurant is near some car dealerships in a warehouse off Hana Highway. While there is no liquor license, you are free to pair your pancit, sisig, or pan-fried bangus with beer or wine that you bring in yourself.
Industrial Kahului is the last place you would expect to find a Bavarian aprés-ski lodge, but Brigit and Bernard’s Garden Café (335 Ho‘ohana, 808/877-6000, 11am-2:30pm Mon., 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-9:30pm Tues.-Fri., 5pm-9:30pm Sat., $16-32) pumps out stick-to-your-bones German fare that could easily be in the Black Forest. The vaulted A-frame ceiling is hung with colorful steins, cross-country skis, and posters of alpine ski resorts. Order a massive plate of bratwurst or schnitzel served with a huge potato rosti and wash it down with a Bitburger brew. The garden area outside makes for a nice biergarten.
For local coffee beans, head to Maui Coffee Roasters (444 Hana Hwy., 808/877-2877, 7am-6pm Mon.-Fri., 8am-5pm Sat., 8am-2:30pm Sun., $9), the best little coffee shop in all of Kahului. In the same shopping complex as Marco’s Grill and Deli, Maui Coffee Roasters has an assortment of brews made from Maui, Kona, Kaua‘i, and Moloka‘i beans. The full breakfast and lunch menu features bagels, breakfast wraps, sandwiches, and salads. There are a number of tables, free Wi-Fi, and a full range of coffee accessories for sale as well.
Plate lunch stands occasionally line the harbor. The one with the greatest staying power is the Geste Shrimp Truck (Kahului Beach Rd., 808/298-7109, 10:45am-5pm Tues.-Sat., $12, cash only) that parks on Kahului Beach Road, a quarter mile past the turnoff for the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. $12 gets you 12 pieces of shrimp served with crab macaroni salad and two scoops of rice. Based on the aroma of shrimp emanating from the white truck, it’s no surprise that it often runs out of food before 5pm.