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)
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)