Mahalo Maui

Katie and I recently returned from a four day trip from Maui. For the past couple of years, Katie has been doing direct sales with Norwex and earned Maui as an incentive trip. I’ve wanted to visit Hawaii for some time but always felt it out financially out of reach, so it was incredibly nice to have a subsidize vacation thanks to Katie’s hard work!

Before going my general thought was that, while I was excited to go, I’ve done a handful of beach vacations and I wasn’t quite sure how Hawaii would be different. “The ocean is the ocean.” After visiting, I can emphatically say that I completely get why people call in love with Hawaii so easily. The culture in Hawaii is special. It’s slow. Laid back. Quiet. Respectful of its natural beauty. And it’s local flavor is tasty.

I had been following a fairly strict diet since the holidays in efforts to prepare my body for the destruction I had planned for it in Maui. So for this post we’re going to mostly talk all things food. Yes, that’s right, I earned both the food and the right to dedicate a full post to it.

As I mentioned, Katie earned her way and attended the conference side of the trip. Most of the conference was during meal times which meant I was on my own to explore the food culture. Thanks to my trusty advisor Yelp, I visited a handful of more-than-decent eateries. For those visiting, keep in mind that we were in Lahaina, on the west side of the island, which is a bit resort land. Nevertheless, there are a handful of places within just a couple miles that are more than worth checking out. Below are a collection of my favorites.

Star Noodle

I went to Star Noodle on my first night on the island. We got into Maui in the late afternoon and had a roughly hour long shuttle to the hotel. I started my research and this one quickly floated to the top. Katie had a dinner, so I was solo on this one. No reservations were still available that evening, but I figured it was just early enough that I might be able to slide in. When I arrived I luckily scored the last seat at the bar.

The bartender told me most of the menu was a very “share friendly” style menu but he could do single orders one a handful of the plates. I sampled the steamed pork buns, got a scallop shot, and did the ginger noodles for my entree. I also drank my first local brew: a Talk Story Pale Ale, which comes from a microbrewery in Kahaina called Kohola Brewery. Pork buns were fantastic. Could’ve done without the scallop shot. I got sold on the ginger noodles on Yelp and would pass on this next time.

But. Very cool spot. Great atmosphere and cool people. Would do this any night of the week back home.

Down the Hatch

This is the only restaurant I went to twice. Down the Hatch is located in a cool boardwalk area of Lahaina and is surrounded by a bunch of local souvenir shops. I would describe the entire menu as pure food porn. The first time we went, Katie and I split the appetizer sampler and the fish and chips. The sampler included a quesadilla, calamari, and lava lava shrimp. This was hands down my favorite meal of the trip. All of it was incredibly including the shoestring fries.

After we went, I found out Down the Hatch had recently been on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, which totally makes sense. I read that on the episode Guy ate a Lobster and Crab Grilled Cheese, so when we went back I had to try it. Dang, it loved good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t amazing but I can’t complain too much.

The Bakery

One of the things I kept seeing pop up on Yelp was a local dessert called malasadas, which is a small cake sort of in-between a donut hole and a sopapilla. I’m all for finding local baked goods and this looked intriguing. It was only open during the week from 5:30 to 11:30am, and, from what I read, was known to sell out of most of their top sellers before 10am.

Being that I my biological clock was still tuned to CST, I decided I would wake up and beat the crowd. I arrived at 5:45am at a little building in an industrial complex. I wasn’t even quite sure I was entering the correct door, as there was a toolbox sitting right by the door. My initial thought was it was the kitchen. I was wrong.

There was a small display case, and they informed that the malasadas had literally just came out of the oven. Winner, winner. Again, my eyes couldn’t handle all of the goodness in front me. Trying to play it cool, I asked them what they would suggest if I was just to buy a dozen random baked goods to share (knowing good and well that I was going to keep as much as I could to myself and stow it away from breakfast for the next three days). They loaded me up and I headed out grasping to the box as if I just stolen the crown jewels from the vault.

Highlights: malasadas, chocolate croissant, and chocolate glazed donut. I know, basic donuts should not make the highlights but the bread was sweet Hawaiian bread. Super tasty. The only bummer was that the beignets were slightly under baked (which is hard for me to type without thinking of the Great British Bake Off).

Up in Smoke Tacos

This is the one spot on the list that is outside of Lahaina. We found Up in Smoke while making our way on the Road to Hana, a famous drive up the coast north central Maui. A buddy had recommended a GPS-based app that guided you from Gypsy. Let me just say that was an excellent recommendation and I would like to pass it along. Well worth the $5.99. It’s narrated by a man who tells you where you can and can’t stop and make personal recommendations. About halfway to Hana, he started raving about the barbecue coming up at the Nahiku Market Place, and, as it were we were starving. So we bought in hook, line, and sinker.

There were a handful of little food stand options for us to choose from. I opted for the fish taco from Up in Smoke Tacos and it was downright incredible. Katie got the coconut shrimp at Island Chef which is made-to-order.

I don’t even really care for coconut shrimp and I thought it was good. Man, food tastes so much better when you are hungry. I also picked up a mini loaf of chocolate chip macadamia nut banana bread, which probably will get its own blog post later.

Monkeypod Kitchen

On our last day in Maui, we ate at Monkeypod. It’s in an area called Whalers Village which is the Maui equivalent of a tourist mall. The food we had there earlier in the week was pretty average, so we weren’t expecting too much. We were pleasantly surprised with what we ordered. We went simple, ordering just a pizza and some wings. Like with the coconut shrimp, I’m not a big wing fan, but these were probably the tastiest wings I’ve ever had. Lots of flavor and didn’t need a lot of extra sauce like the buffalo wings I get back home.

Lahaina Ice Cream Parlour

Last on the list is Lahaina Ice Cream Parlour. Here they serve authentic Dole Whip. I’ve had Dole Whip a couple times at Disney World but nothing this fresh. This Dole Whip was definitely much, much sweeter. Good stuff. The real reason we went here is because Katie had spent some time in Hawaii as a kid and this was a big memory of hers. What makes traveling fun is of course the people with which you get to share it.

So there’s some of my tips for the Lahaina, Maui area. Thanks for indulging me with all the food pics.