Top Tastes on Maui


Part of what I love best about my job as executive editor of Marin Magazine, is the people I get to meet on my trips to Hawaii, especially when it results in tips on where to eat! Here I introduce you to one of my favorite foodies (follow her on instagram @charlenekauhane) who live on Maui and know where to get the best meals, snacks and of course malasadas! Charlene Kauahane who has lived on Maui for nearly twenty years and is actively involved with the island's tourism, hospitality and agriculture history. She is a native Hawaiian with a touch of Chinese, Portuguese, Scottish and German. Born and raised in Kaneohe, Oahu, in a large but close-knit family, she says her fondest memories center around parties with tables full of food prepared at home and by family and friends, important celebrations at the top restaurants in Waikiki or Chinatown, and weekends spent driving around the island in search of the yummiest food from neighborhood diners, roadside vendors or bakeries.  Here are her Maui picks ...

Best Authentic Hawaii Experience “Maui’s weekly Friday Night Town Parties in Wailuku, Makawao, Lahaina and Kihei, and annual events like the Grand Taste at the Maui County Agricultural Festival, where you’ll find food booths run by Maui nonprofits and youth organizations cooking family recipes of smoked meat, chow fun, lau lau, kalua pig and poke and acai bowls. Grand Taste is definitely an authentic Hawaii experience, set on the luau grounds at Maui Tropical Plantations in Wailuku. For a stand-alone restaurant with the best authentic Hawaii experience, I would pick Mama’s Fish House in Kuau.”

Favorite Hotel Dining “There are so many top restaurants at Maui’s hotels and resorts, and many of them are run by Maui’s next-generation chefs, like Sheldon Simeon at Migrant at the Wailea Marriott Resort, Michael Lofaro at Humuhumunukunukuapua’a at the Grand Wailea, Brian Etheredge and Chris Kulis at Capische at Hotel Wailea and Gevin Utrillo at Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. Currently, my favorite hotel dining is Ka'ana Kitchen (kaana means to share) at the Andaz Maui at Wailea. Having grown up in Hawaii, I’m naturally drawn to menus with dishes served family style and restaurants that focus on local, fresh ingredients. Ka'ana Kitchen organizes its menu with options under several categories: fish, classics, upcountry and butcher’s block. Another reason I enjoy Kaana Kitchen is because I can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner there, and the chefs are committed to food quality at every meal. I especially love the breakfast menu with its made-to-order eggs, pancakes and waffles, breakfast meats, gluten-free baked goods, fruits cut to order, and smoothies and green drinks.”

Malasadas Go-To Home Maid Bakery, opened in 1960 under the guidance and tutelage of Joseph and Monica Kozuki, is known as the ‘Home of the Crispy Manju.’ The malasadas are sold piping hot, made daily from 5 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 10 p.m. Traditional malasadas are unfilled donuts without a hole, fried in hot oil and rolled in granulated sugar. Home Maid also offers cream-filled malasadas that are lightly dusted in powdered sugar.”

Sushi “Easy: Nuka in Haiku. Everything at Nuka is fresh, especially the sushi. I love the neighborhood setting and reasonable price point.”

Luau or Event Dining “If I had to choose one I’d make a reservation at Old Lahaina Luau, the original luau on Maui, which has set the standard and continues to excel in all areas of hookipa (hospitality), entertainment, food and ambience. Everything is rooted in excellence with a firm commitment to Hawaiian culture.”

Lunch Spot Between the Airport and Wailea “Maui’s only gourmet food truck, run by chef Kyle Kawakami, is Maui Fresh Streatery; it’s open three days a week and parked in the Shell gas station on Kaahumanu Avenue. A former instructor at the Maui Culinary Academy at the University of Hawaii Maui campus, Kyle is committed to showcasing local ingredients and the island’s multiethnic flavors. For example, his Maui Cattle Company Beef Heart Vietnamese Salad is both tasty and tender. Following a trip to Los Angeles and a late-night stop at In-N-Out Burger, Kyle immediately featured his own version of Animal Fries. He also features Spicy Gumbo Fries, Maui Cattle Company Braised Brisket Poutine and Italian Stallion Fries with crispy crinkle-cut potatoes, marinara, mozzarella, pepperoni crisps, Kumu Farms Italian parsley and a dust of parmesan. Other popular dishes include Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan, Pork Belly Bi Bim Bap and the Truffled Bacon Mac ’n’ Cheese Melt made of homemade truffled four-cheese macaroni and crisp bacon, toasted in an S&J Bakery torta.”

Lunch Spot Between the Airport and Kaanapali “I love the handheld pies, Reuben sandwich and garlic french fries at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop in Olowalu.”

Lunch Spot in Hana “I never miss a chance to go to Hana Fresh, because the prepared food is made from ingredients grown in Hana on their organic farm. The protein is healthy, mostly fish. They do made-to-order smoothies, green drinks, salads, sandwiches and bentos.”

Favorite Mom-and-Pop Spot “Born and raised in Hawaii, I have a special place in my heart for okazuya. Going on elementary school field trips, we would always stop at an okazuya to buy lunch. I have vivid memories of ordering chow fun, shrimp tempura, cone sushi, hash and fried chicken or a hot dog or hamburger patty. On Maui, my favorite spot is Ichiban Okazuya, located at 2133 Kaohu Street near the county and state office buildings in Wailuku. In the era of the plantations, okazuyas popped up to serve bachelor immigrants who needed to-go lunches to take to work in the fields. By far, Ichiban’s most popular dish is chicken katsu — it is perfectly crunchy on the outside and moist inside. Other made-to-order dishes usually take five to 10 minutes to cook and include vegetable or shrimp tempura, mahimahi and salmon. Ichiban also has a variety of food ready to order once you walk in, like chow fun, beef broccoli, fish cake, hot dogs, shoyu chicken and more.”

It’s a Chain That’s Actually Really Good  “Roy’s Kaanapali is my favorite for consistency, quality and taste. While it has favorite dishes from the early years it also adds a lot of dinner specials. The staff at Roy’s goes the extra mile to make special occasions fun for couples or families.”

Sunset Meal “I enjoy dining at Hula Grill Kaanapali’s beach bar area with live music and in the dining room. The menu has everything for every craving. There’s fish tacos, burgers, crab wontons, fresh catch, localicious salads and pizzas. A Peter Merriman/TS Restaurants partnership, it has a menu that reflects Merriman’s use of local, sustainable fish, beef from Maui and Hawaii island, and produce from all islands. The sunsets at Kaanapali Beach Resort and Puu Kekaa are spectacular.”

Up-and-Coming Chefs “There are quite a few: Sheldon Simeon at Migrant, Isaac Banaco at Andaz Maui at Wailea, Jeff Scheer at the Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation, Michael Lofaro at Humuhumunukunukuapuaa’s at Grand Wailea, Chris Kulis and Brian Ethredge at Capische at Hotel Wailea, Ryan Luckey at Leilani’s on the Beach, Jojo Vasquez at The Plantation House in Kapalua, Kyle Kawakami at Maui Fresh Streatery, and Gevin Utrillo at Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.”

Favorite IslandIngredient “Taro from Noohana Farm or Hoaloha Farm, breadfruit from Kahanu Gardens, SimpliFresh or ONO organic farm, Maui Gold Pineapple, grass-fed ground beef from Maui Cattle Company, Yee’s Orchard Golden Glow mangoes, papayas and apple bananas. The one ingredient I cannot live without is Hawaiian salt.