An Appetite for Adventure
Roadside attractions for the culinary explorer
Whether you are just discovering Maui, or playing tour guide for out-of-town family and friends, all that traveling around the island can work up a hunger. Why not make the meal a highlight of the journey?
Lahaina sits in the middle of one of Hawai‘i’s most historic regions. Over the centuries, it has been the royal seat of an island kingdom, a port of call for the whaling trade, a haven for missionaries bringing a different vision of heaven to this earthly paradise. That history endures in a missionary-home-turned-museum, the first print shop west of the Rockies, Wo Hing Temple, Stuck-in-Irons House, and the Pioneer Mill smokestack that once towered over a thriving sugar plantation.
One of our favorite places to watch the boats sail in and out of Lahaina Harbor is the lānai of the Pioneer Inn. When the inn opened in 1901, house rules included “If you wet or burn you bed you going out.” These days, the inn’s macadamia-nut pancakes rule at breakfast, at dinner the Maui Cattle Company steak. Or try the seared ahi salad for lunch; it’s as good as a harbor-front restaurant’s fresh fish should be. (658 Wharf St., Lahaina • 270-4858 • www.pioneerinn-maui.com/restaurant.html)
South of Lahaina, above the blink-of-an-eye town of Olowalu, still older history is being restored at a cultural reserve that’s home to taro fields and ancient petroglyphs. Near the trailhead is Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop, decorated with furnishings repurposed from an old barge that used to ply the rugged ʻAlenuihāhā Channel. Leoda’s is comfy-cozy as it comes, which makes the pies all the more appealing. Both the savory (Kula-corn hand pie) and sweet (chocolate macadamia chip) could win blue ribbons at the Maui Fair—and how could you not try Leoda’s yummy fried salad? Dine in or get a fresh-baked bread to go, perfect for a wine-and-cheese picnic. (820 Olowalu Village Rd., Olowalu • 662-3600 • www.leodas.com)
At the northern end of West Maui is Honolua Bay, a famed surf spot and marine sanctuary where you’ll find unparalleled snorkeling. What you won’t find in this neck of the woods is a rash of dining options. But right next to D.T. Fleming Beach is the Beach House, operated by Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. This al fresco eatery serves only lunch, but does so generously: from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, under swaying palms. The menu features spa favorites like gazpacho and grilled portobello mushroom, and hearty pub fare such as burgers and kalua pork tostadas. (One Ritz-Carlton Dr., Kapalua • 669-6200 • www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/KapaluaMaui/Dining)
The gateway to the famed road to Hāna, Pāʻia was once Maui’s largest plantation town. Today it’s a vibrant seaside community whose attractions include windsurfing mecca Ho‘okipa Beach Park, Buddhist temples, and two main drags—Hāna Highway and Baldwin Avenue—lined with hip boutiques and galleries, and some great little restaurants.
Café Mambo offers an eclectic menu, including fajitas, Maui Cattle Company burgers, kalua pork burgers, and delicious tia concha chicken with couscous, scented with honey, cinnamon and white wine. If you’re heading to Hāna, order a picnic lunch and pack your cooler with a nutty, satisfying Mediterranean falafel sandwich, or jumbo shrimp sandwich with curry mayo. (30 Baldwin Ave., Pāʻia • 579-8021 • www.cafemambomaui.com)
Just past Pā‘ia, en route to Ho‘okipa, is iconic Mama’s Fish House. Picture a South Sea beach shack open to trade winds, swaying palm, and the susurration of surf on sand, where lunch could be yellowfin ahi grilled in a ti leaf with coconut rice and mango salsa, or mahimahi stuffed with lobster and crab and baked in a macadamia-nut crust. That’s Mama’s. Now picture a romantic fine-dining venue whose menu lists both the freshest fish and the name of the fisherman who caught it that day. That’s also Mama’s. Want to belly up to the bar for a mai tai, or luxuriate in a Polynesian Black Pearl (passion fruit-chocolate mousse in a pastry seashell)? Yep. Mama’s again. (799 Poho Pl., Pāʻia • 579-8488 • www.mamasfishhouse.com)
From downtown Pāʻia, Baldwin Avenue winds uphill past Hui Noʻeau Visual Arts Center, located in a historic 1918 mansion, to the old cowboy town of Makawao. A few remaining hitching posts echo the days when ranch folks would ride into town on horseback. Stand at the main intersection, and you’re steps away from Mexican and Italian restaurants, a family-owned bakery begun three generations ago by Japanese immigrants, and a great sushi bar in the heart of Maui’s Old West.
T. Komoda’s Store & Bakery has been turning out cakes, pies, breads and pastries since 1916. For years, no self-respecting Mauian would depart for another island without stopping first to pick up a white cardboard box filled with Komoda cream puffs or a Chantilly cake. Come early and join the line of local folks waiting to nab puff pastry cream horns, malasadas and glazed donut holes. (3674 Baldwin Ave., Makawao • 572-7261 • www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwqBHSb07T4)
For twenty years, Casanova Restaurant has been treating Mauians to the taste of Italy, with dishes like brodetto di pesce (fresh island fish, shrimp, scallops, calamari, clams and mussels simmered in a saffron broth) and fusilli positano (corkscrew pasta with tomatoes, mozzarella, capers, Greek olives, basil and garlic). There’s live music and dancing three nights a week, and for youngsters, the entertainment of making their own pizzas in the stone oven. (1188 Makawao Ave., Makawao • 572-0220 • www.casanovamaui.com)
Of course, this is cowboy country, so it makes sense that Makawao would have a great steak house, serving local, pasture-fed beef. And that the name would be Makawao Steak House. Since purchasing the restaurant, the Pastula family of Café O’Lei fame have added a few signature dishes, but kept most of the well-loved original menu—thoughtfully curated with feedback from long-time patrons. (3612 Baldwin Ave., Makawao • 572-8711 • www.cafeoleimaui.com/makawao-steak-house)
If you only venture up the mountain to see the crater, you’ll miss the heart of Maui’s agricultural region, from protea farms to cattle ranches. Several places offer tours—and even better, samples!
A trip to Kula Country Farms, opposite Rice Park on Kula Highway (Route 37), makes for a sweet afternoon jaunt. Freshly picked strawberries are available year-round—with the option of picking your own. The farm stand offers a bumper crop of locally grown organic veggies; outside are picnic tables, a children’s garden, rabbits and chickens. By late September, Kula Country Farms will boast the island’s largest pumpkin patch. A new addition is the food trailer parked at Kaʻonoʻulu Ranch, serving the soon-to-be famous Papa Rice burger, ono fish sandwiches, fresh salads, plate lunches, desserts, and drinks. (375 Kōheo Rd., Kula • 878-8381 • www.kulacountryfarmsmaui.com)
Just past the farm stand, Kula Highway intersects with Kekaulike Avenue (Route 377). Hang a left, then a right on Waipoli Road to Ali‘i Kula Lavender, where you can stroll on your own, or take a guided tour that ends with lavender scones and lavender lemonade. Or call to book lunch: your choice of chicken Caesar wrap, turkey Swiss wrap, chicken bacon club, Italian sandwich with pepper jack cheese, garden or Greek salad, plus a decadent, lavender-infused dessert and beverage. (1100 Waipoli Rd., Kula 878-3004 • www.aliikulalavender.com)
Kula Highway continues south, past the little town of Kēōkea and Sun Yat-sen Park, which honors the father of modern China and occasional Maui resident Dr. Sun Yat-sen. (See “Maui’s Chinatown,” MNKO Nov/Dec 2011.) Long before you stop reveling in the panoramic views of the island’s south coast, you’ll reach ‘Ulupalakua Ranch, home of ʻUlupalakua Vineyards. Maui’s only commercial winery crafts half-a-dozen grape varieties; the tasting room and adjacent history room are in a cottage once reserved for visits by Kalakaua, Hawai‘i’s last king. If your visit coincides with growing season—April through June—reserve a spot on an exclusive vineyard tour. (‘Ulupalakua Ranch, Rte. 37, Kula • 878-1266 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.mauiwine.com)
And if all those sips whet your appetite, jog across the road to ʻUlupalakua Ranch Store, in existence for 160 years and still one of Upcountry Maui’s best lunch spots. The store sells logo ranch items and locally crafted gourmet food, perfect for your picnic basket. This is ground zero of the 18,000-acre cattle ranch; try a burger, grilled to perfection, at a picnic table the store’s lānai. (ʻUlupalakua Ranch, Rte. 37, Kula • 878-2561 • www.ulupalakuaranch.com/store.htm)
Two venues practically adjacent to each other are worth the detour down ʻŌmaʻopio Road. The goats at Surfing Goat Dairy don’t surf, but they do provide the essential ingredient for the flavored goat cheese you can sample on a tasting tour. (3651 ʻŌmaʻopio Rd., Kula • 878-2870 • www.surfinggoatdairy.com)
Save some energy to explore Ocean Vodka Organic Farm & Distillery. Tours happen five times a day (except holidays), cost $10 per person (kids eleven and under free), or $25 with lunch. You’ll come away with a new appreciation for agriculture on Maui . . . and maybe a bottle to take home. Cheers! (4051 ʻŌmaʻopio Rd., Kula • 877-0009 • www.oceanvodka.com)