My eventual goal is to travel all over the US to discover and uncover the best culinary hidden gems of each state. I truly believe that each state has its own personality and flavor (so to speak) and I’m determined to identify what makes each state special.
But, first,… what better way to start off my first blog post than with my own home state? I love being from Hawaii! It really is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities and the variety of the food here is definitely proof of that. From healthy acai bowls, to monster loco moco bowls, this state has a very unique personality. From my many travels to the island, the below are my “must-try” places in Maui.
Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop
Best Pie in Maui
Now I’m not the “Tiny Asian Pastry Girl” for nothing, you know! If it’s pie you want, Leoda’s is definitely the place to go! But beware, they are tucked away along the coastline on the scenic drive to Lahaina so looking at the beautiful beaches might make you miss the shop altogether!
Although Leoda’s specializes in dessert pies (banana cream, chocolate cream, mixed berry, strawberry cream, lemon tart – depending on the season…) they also have delicious savory pies (corn pie, hamakua mushroom pie, chicken pot pie, etc.) and a variety of delicious sandwiches as well.
I’ve tried the several of the pies including the banana cream, chocolate cream, lemon tart, and mixed berry, but I have to say my favorite is the strawberry cream (pictured below). It was delicious and the semi-tartness of the strawberries were a wonderful complement to the sweetness of the cream – it was just sweet enough. The mixed berry (also pictured below) is delicious as well – I was all about that crust and the loads of coarse sugar baked into it – YUM!
Best Local Food
For the best taste of local food (and for the biggest portions!) Da Kitchen is the place to go! Although the wait might be a little long, it is definitely worth it once you are seated. The atmosphere inside is very high energy and busy and the walls are filled with interesting momentoes and awards they have won. There’s a flat screen TV that projects images of their various menu items as well as photos of famous celebrities who have eaten there.
Da Kitchen is known for their adventurous take on local favorites – like their deep fried spam musubi (pictured below) – it was SO tasty and I loved the crunchiness of the panko deep fried crust! It’s definitely one of my favorite dishes. Also, quite by mistake, I ordered the Notorious B.I.G. loco moco – which was hamburger steak, chili, cheese, spam, Portuguese sausage, two fried eggs, bacon, and mushrooms all over fried rice! Who knew it was the “massive food challenge” item on the menu? I sure didn’t… and I was shocked when the waitress informed me that I would get a free T-shirt if I was able to eat it all in one sitting. Whew! I couldn’t even eat a third of it! I had leftovers for DAYS! Still one of the best meals I ate in Maui.
Cinnamon Roll Place
Best Cinnamon Buns in Maui
First off, how could a place called Cinnamon Roll Place have anything less than stellar cinnamon buns? Well, the name of this place did not disappoint! Not only were the rolls larger than you’d expect, but they were so drenched in butter and cinnamon-sugary goodness that it was hard to finish in one sitting!
You could have your choice of toppings, and I chose macadamia nuts and a side of cream cheese frosting. SO delicious and decadent, I couldn’t even speak after I ate it, and I might’ve even shed a little tear… just a little one…. it was that good.
Julia’s Best Banana Bread
Best Banana Bread in Maui
Along a VERY treacherous and windy one lane road to Nakalele, there is a tiny stand on the side of the road that sells THE BEST banana bread in Maui – and possibly in all of Hawaii. Julia’s also sells liliko’i butter, taro chips, exotic fruits, and lemonade, but she is really known for her banana bread.
The texture of the bread is so soft and moist and just spongy enough not to damage in your luggage if you are disciplined enough not to eat it all before you leave Maui! I have eaten a lot of banana bread in my time, and this was by far the best for taste and texture! It was totally worth the harrowing ride up there!
Best Dry Noodles in Maui
Don’t know what dry noodles are? I didn’t either before I went to Sam Sato’s for the first time – but trust me,… after tasting them, I will never be able to look at regular saimin (wet noodles) the same way again.
Sam Sato’s is a family-owned restaurant that has been in business since 1933. The restaurant itself is very casual, with a quaint, local feel to it. The window near the entrance sells their famous manju (which is a flaky pastry with filling, usually sweet bean, apple, or pineapple). People come from all over just to buy their famous white bean manju to take home as gifts.
As mentioned above, they are also known for their dry noodles (pictured below), which comes garnished with char siu pork, bean sprouts, and green onions and with a cup of dashi (soup stock) broth on the side for dipping. It is truly one of the best things they sell. The noodles on their own are so tasty, it almost doesn’t need the broth at all. The dry noodles comes in several sizes, but I ordered the regular (which I quickly regretted – I should’ve ordered the larger size, it was gone much too quickly… oh well… next time!)
Mo ‘Ono Hawaii
Best Acai Bowl in Maui
Although it’s a little hard to find, Mo ‘Ono Hawaii is probably one of the best places on the island to get an acai bowl. Located in a gravel lot, across the street from Costco in Kahului, Maui, Mo ‘Ono is a brightly colored food truck that usually has a long line of anxious customers. Their acai bowls come with strawberries, banana, pineapple, almonds, coconut, granola, and honey. And for an extra cost, you can get a bit more exotic with fresh papaya or mango and add toppings like peanut butter or liliko’i butter.
There are shaded benches nearby that allow you to sit and eat your acai bowl with other local families (and a few brazen chicken and chicks that walk up to you, looking for you to drop a piece of granola…)
I ordered the medium acai bowl with strawberries, bananas, almonds, granola, honey, and peanut butter for an extra dollar. I was really unsure about putting peanut butter in my acai, but the girl taking my order assured me it was delicious and told me that it was just like eating pb&j, and she was right, it was delicious!! (YAY for being adventurous!) The peanut butter was such a great complement to the tartness of the acai and gave the whole bowl a richer, heartier flavor. I haven’t tried the liliko’i butter yet, one adventure was enough for one day, maybe next time. 🙂
Best Sherbet in Maui
Guri-guri (which is a type of local ice dessert that’s a mix between ice cream and sherbet) is the specialty of Tasaka Guri-Guri. Although they sell other things (like Maui potato chips), this is what customers from all over come for! They sell their guri-guri in two flavors, strawberry and pineapple.
Whenever I’m in Maui, I like to stop by Tasaka’s on the way to and from the airport, just for a small scoop of their original (Strawberry) guri-guri. It’s light, refreshing – much lighter than traditional ice cream, but much creamier than just sherbet. It’s definitely a “must-try” while in Maui.
So there you have it,… the “must-go” places in Maui for food. I know there are so many other places that I’m failing to mention. If you have a favorite, please mention it in the comments. As much as I love relaying the great food experiences I’ve had, I also love hearing about and discovering new places from others.
All photos by: Sheri (aka Tiny Asian Pastry Girl)