Maui’s food scene is as much about native ingredients as it is about fusion, creating a sumptuous coming-together of Asian, European and island flavors.
In the 1800s, sugar and pineapple plantations delivered laborers here from the East and West. These newcomers shared their culinary traditions, helping to inspire the "Hawaii Regional Cuisine” of the 20th century. You aren’t likely to hear the style called by that name today, as its trademark of elevating island-fresh produce and seafood using multicultural techniques has become synonymous with Maui dining.
Where Should You Eat on Maui?
As a general guideline, restaurants in the island’s western and southern regions specialize in oceanfront views and fresh-caught seafood, though the venues range from casual fish houses to candle-lit dining rooms. In central Maui and the coastal town of Kihei, mom-and-pop diners, ethnic eateries and an ultra-casual vibe rule.
On Maui, restaurant chalkboards such as this one detail which farms and fishermen chefs are working with to procure fresh, local ingredients.
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The island’s most talked-about chefs emphasize local seafood and the bounty of upcountry Maui, where farms cascade down the slopes of Haleakala. Taste what the buzz is about at restaurants like Ka‘ana Kitchen, where family-style fare might feature ‘ōpakapaka (pink snapper) or liliko‘i (passion fruit). Chef Isaac Bancaco, a Maui native, sources 85 percent of ingredients — crisp Asian pears, velvety Wagyu beef, fresh abalone and more — from island growers, ranchers and fishers.
Taste what the buzz is about at restaurants including Ka‘ana Kitchen, where 85 percent of ingredients are sourced from island growers, ranchers and fishers.
Maui’s Food Trucks
Maui’s food trucks take a different approach to fusion and native flavors. Track these down via social media or just follow the crowds for an irresistible taste. Order pan-seared ‘ahi Nicoise salad from the Maui Fresh Streatery truck. At Like Poke, enjoy crisped ‘ahi belly topped with chunky tomato and onion. Go for fried saimin or tempura shrimp tacos at Ula Ula, followed by guava cream malasadas at Donut Dynamite. (These Portuguese-style donuts are filled with a reduction of sweet guava fruit harvested on Maui.)
Track down Maui food trucks for irresistible tastes of local favorites, including malasadas.
If you’re in the mood for dinner and a show, nab a seat at “Knife Fight.” Held monthly at CowPigBun, a laid-back, local favorite burger joint, these events surprise two chefs with a common ingredient, then challenge them to outdo each other by creating three courses in short order. Sip a Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter, made with hand-toasted coconut, as you watch the chefs “battle” before the panel of judges.
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