Food and Maui go together like poke and rice. With a strong agricultural sector, Maui has many farm-to-table — or line-to-table — options to provide guests with fresh, tropical-inspired fare that’s hard to beat. 
Whenever I go to Maui from my home base on Oahu, there are certain spots that I make time to visit, no matter what my itinerary is, because they’re that good. As a local, I also prefer to support local businesses, especially ones that have been around for generations.
The pandemic forced many local eateries in Hawaii to close (RIP Like Like Inn, which was a Honolulu staple for over 70 years). So whenever possible, support local businesses, as these are the places that best embody Hawaii’s culture and spirit. 
The following includes my favorite family-run businesses that serve delicacies distinct to Maui (dry mein, I’m looking at you), as well as newer, trendier establishments that specialize in island flavors to give visitors a taste of old and new Maui.
After becoming a finalist in “Top Chef: Seattle,” Hawaiian chef Sheldon Simeon and his wife opened a lunch spot on Maui in 2016 called Tin Roof. The name comes from the sound of rain hitting his tin roof garage back home in Hilo, Hawaii, which sets the tone for the whole menu: homestyle, casual local favorites like rice and noodle bowls with various proteins. 
The pork belly is ridiculously tender and the garlic shrimp is so rich, you may need a nap after lunch. The restaurant is popular and currently takeout only, so consider ordering ahead online and driving down Hana Highway to picnic at the nearby Ho’aloha Park, a small beach park with grassy areas.
Like the name suggests, SouthShore Grindz is a spot in Kihei just blocks from the water on Maui’s southwest coast. Here, you can get mouthwatering local-inspired food like sesame-crusted seared ahi and mochiko chicken with macaroni salad.
The owners strive to support local growers and suppliers, and you can taste the freshness in the food. The vibe is casual and BYOB, and Aloha Discount Liquor is a few steps away and has friendly staff ready to find the best brews to pair with your meal.
The family-run Sam Sato’s is a quintessential local pit stop on Maui that’s been around since 1933. Open for breakfast and lunch, Sam Sato’s serves all kinds of classic plates, but for something unique to Maui, I recommend the dry mein, which are al dente noodles served with a side of dashi for dipping.
Finish with a handmade manju, a traditional Japanese pastry with a sweet-bean paste (that’s not as sweet as traditional American desserts). They still use the original recipe created by Sam Sato’s wife. 
Ranching is a big part of Maui’s heritage, and this tradition is highlighted at the 150-year-old Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill. Besides being a restaurant, Ulupalakua is also a working cattle, sheep, deer, and elk ranch and has a small winery. 
At the grill, choose between beef, lamb, venison, or elk for your burger — all of the meat either comes directly from the ranch or elsewhere on Maui. Veggies and sides are all locally-sourced as well. If you’re really hungry, try the super savory hamburger steak with Kona gravy and garlic aioli.
After a long surf session or sweaty hike, there’s nothing more refreshing than an ice-cold juicy popsicle, preferably from Shaka Pops, a popular local frozen treat that started on Maui.
Shaka Pops are thoughtfully made in small batches with local ingredients like Kula strawberries and Maui pineapples to make creative flavors like pineapple cream, lava flow (piña colada with strawberry puree), matcha mochi, and more.
Shaka Pops doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location but can be found at many local businesses, such as Foodland in Lahaina, the Four Seasons Resort Wailea, Napili Market, and Whole Foods in Kahului. 
An iconic Wailuku diner that opened in the 1940s, Tasty Crust is where locals go for comfort food. Not much has changed since the 1950s, including the decor and menu. Grab my order: a steaming bowl of saimin — a noodle soup that’s also honored as the national dish of Hawaii — or a stack of its famous fluffy pancakes. 
Originally serving sandwiches on homemade bread to paniolos (cowboys) and plantation workers, Komoda’s is a century-old bakery beloved by locals and tourists alike. My friend’s grandma always recounts stories about how she would snack on its famous stick donuts when she was a kid. Get there early since the popular pastries sell out fast. 
The mom-and-pop shop Pukalani Superette is an upcountry staple. Locals call it “Puk Sup,” pronounced “Pook Soop.” I highly recommend its extensive bento menu for a filling, affordable Hawaiian meal. My favorites are flavorful Korean chicken or lau lau, a traditional Hawaiian dish of meat wrapped in taro and ti leaves and steamed until it falls apart.
South Maui Fish Company serves some of Maui’s freshest fish in a no-frills environment — it’s literally a food truck parked behind a gas station. 
From fresh poke bowls to grilled tacos, the items change daily but always feature sustainable seafood caught daily by local fishers. The menu is limited; there are only two flavors of poke available, spicy and traditional (shoyu, aka soy sauce).
I always go for spicy ahi. This isn’t mainland poke either, this is real local poke made with hunks of firm but juicy ahi and a creamy spicy mayonnaise topped with salty furikake, a Japanese seasoning made of seaweed and sesame seeds.  
There’s perhaps no better place on all of Maui for a date night or girls’ night out than Monkeypod Kitchen. There are two locations in Lahaina and Wailea (I’m a fan of the Lahaina location as it’s right on the water) and each serves farm-to-table cuisine with tropical flair.
Not only is the food delicious — the menu changes seasonally and aims to support locals — the aesthetic is on point with string lights and breezy lanais, and the bill won’t break the bank.
Start with a mai tai — and not just because we’re in Hawaii — as Monkeypod’s modern take on the tropical classic comes topped with a whipped lilikoi (passion fruit) that awakens the taste buds. It might just be my favorite mai tai in the entire state.
Be sure to save room for dessert. A towering slice of their cream pie is magically decadent yet light.
Hawaii has a growing beer scene but one of my favorite breweries is Maui Brewing Company, with locations in Kihei and Lahaina. Its kitchen serves pub fare with a local twist, but the real star is the drinks section, specifically its limited-release beers. 
If you’re not a brew snob, you can also try the tropical-inspired hard seltzers. I like the POG — aka passion-orange-guava, a beloved juice from everyone’s childhood — seltzer. The company doesn’t sell its seltzer on the US mainland, so drink up while you can. 
Shave ice is a must on any trip to Hawaii, and Maui has quite a few good options. But when I’m on Maui, there is no doubt that I’m choosing the award-winning Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, now located in Lahaina.
The company makes its own syrups with real fruit juice or purees, and you can taste the difference. I’m a firm believer that you should always order a scoop of vanilla ice cream to go under your shave ice so that it melts into creamy deliciousness. Pro tip: It’s called shave ice, not shaved ice.
Since 1973, the beachfront Mama’s Fish House has been serving seafood in a casual but upscale setting — well, as upscale as it gets in Hawaii. If you’re celebrating an anniversary, birthday, or another special occasion, this is the place to be. It’s also expensive, so budget for that splurge meal. 
The menu is so fresh that it’s updated daily with the name of the fisher and where the fish was caught. Due to COVID, the restaurant is taking reservations up to six months in advance.
If it’s your first time in Hawaii, I would be remiss to not recommend a traditional luau. That being said, not all luaus share authentic Hawaiian culture with guests, and some can skew on the cheesy side.
One of my good friends was a hula dancer in college and always spoke highly of the oceanfront, award-winning Old Lahaina Luau as the top choice for people visiting Maui. 
The Old Lahaina Luau celebrates Hawaiian culture through traditional dishes, storytelling, hula, and chanting performances that aren’t made for the Hollywood eye. Opt for the Hawaiian mat seating for the most immersive experience. 
View Insider’s comprehensive guide to visiting Maui.
Keep reading


Shop Sephari