We took a trip to Maui in June of 2019. The Hawaiian Islands have the reputation of being a foodie’s paradise, and Maui did not disappoint! We stayed in the Wailea area of the island. It’s an upscale and relatively quiet location with various luxury resorts.
The thing about Hawaii, unlike many of its Caribbean counterparts, is that the beaches are all public. We not only enjoyed the beaches at Wailea, but ventured to beaches all over the island. For example, the wind and surf gets pretty rough around the Wailea beaches in the afternoon; so if you want to swim all day, you can simply go to Wailea in the morning and a different part of the island in the afternoon. That’s not to mention the ability to visit a couple of rainforests or a mountainous volcano. All this variety is what makes Hawaii different than other tropical and island destinations. All that before even mentioning the food!
Jeff and I got some recommendations from James, the fabulous bartender at Hotel Wailea, for local favorite Maui restaurants. We love to explore non-touristy options while traveling. One of the recommendations was Kihei Caffe, a local breakfast and brunch spot. It is cash only and you do have to wait in a line to order.
We arrived, struggled to find a place to park, and then went and got in line. We got to check out a menu while waiting in line and the options were a little overwhelming. We finally got to the counter to order and I got the famous Loco Moco. It is a traditional Hawaiian breakfast of two eggs any style on a local beef patty over a bowl of rice (or fried rice). It’s topped off with brown gravy and you can also add Kalua Pork.
Jeff ordered the Pineapple and Coconut French Toast, but when he ordered it the owner or man working behind the counter said “the Banana-mac is better. Coconut comes from a can.” Jeff stuck with his initial order. He enjoyed his Pineapple and Coconut French toast, and I was in absolute heaven with my Loco Moco with fried rice. This of course would not be our last visit to Kihei Caffe.
The next time, Jeff had to try something with the Banana Macadamia Nuts and he tried the pancakes. They were delicious. Also, Kihei Caffe had the most amazing coconut syrup. Now I know when one hears coconut syrup they might not get too excited, but it is life changing, be sure to put it on everything. When Jeff and I travel, we generally try not to repeat restaurants as to experience as many different places as possible. Kihei Caffe was an exception to the rule. We went five or six times during our ten day stay on Maui. We even got up extra early to eat there one more time before heading to the airport to fly home.
We only had breakfast and poolside lunch at Hotel Wailea. Hotel Wailea is a stunning Relais & Chateaux, but definitely a splurge; therefore we did not dine at the hotel often. Our first morning after our revival we had breakfast at Hotel Wailea poolside. We ordered the Kalua Pig Breakfast Burrito and Tutu’s Pancakes. Our breakfast was delayed so they gave us a complimentary fruit plate as well, score!
The breakfast burrito had eggs, potato, pinto beans, cheddar, avocado ranch, and salsa. Let me tell you the burrito was fabulous and the avocado ranch was to die for. The Tutu’s Pancakes were Roasted Hali’imaile pineapple, and coconut whipped cream. They were delicious. Jeff had coffee and I had a latte, both were great. So, we definitely recommend breakfast at Hotel Wailea at least once.
Jeff and I would usually go on some sort of adventure or to the beach in the morning. Then we’d come back and hang out by the Hotel Wailea pool. The poolside bar at Hotel Wailea is fabulous. The bartenders and waitresses take great care of you. James is the lead bartender, and besides his fabulous bartending skills, he is a wealth of information. James is also from Fort Worth, Texas, and that is always a win in our books.
They have a great drink menu, but will also make you anything you want. I love a great French 75, and James made fabulous one for me. They will also tailor any drink on their menu to fit your needs or preferences. For instance, I hate to drink bananas and they had one drink on the menu that I wanted; they happily made it for me without the banana thank goodness. They make everything fresh for you, no pre-made pina colada mix here. It’s a fresh pina colada that they blend up for you when you order, with a rum floater for good measure.
On Saturday mornings, James hosts a cocktail making class at the poolside bar, which we definitely recommend attending. You learn how to make a delicious Champagne Cocktail and a Mai Tai. The poolside lunch and snacks were delicious. We ordered a poke bowl, chips and guacamole, and a cheeseburger; all were fabulous. We can’t recommend Hotel Wailea enough; oh, and did we mention it’s adults only!
Matteo’s Osteria was recommended to us by our favorite bartender, James, and I am so glad we went. We actually loved it so much we went twice. For my cocktail I had the Sicilian Rose. It had Ketel One Vodka, prosecco, white peach nectar, a few of my favorite things. One night we had the meatballs with flatbread as our appetizer. Most beef dishes we had in Maui were made with Maui Cattle Company Beef, and it is divine. Jeff and I decided all the cows in Maui must be very happy because the beef tastes extra good.
Now onto the pasta. The first night I had the Fettuccine Frutti di Mare. It was black ink pasta, crab, clam, shrimp, fresh tomatoea + white wine sauce. Needless to say, I devoured it. The second night I had the Bolognese. It’s white tagliatelle, Maui Cattle Co Beef and Italian sausage, house tomato sauce and parmigiano, which I also devoured. Jeff chose the Lasagna the first night. House made lasagna pasta, bechamel sauce, mozzarella, parmigiano, maui cattle co beef, Italian sausage, tomato ragu, and the Gnocchi Crema Rosa the second night, Potato dumplings fresh tomatoes zucchini, basil, creamy vodka and tomato sauce; he loved both. Of course we had to have some Tiramisu for dessert.
Monkey Pod Kitchen
I know, I know, everyone goes to Monkeypod while on Maui, which made me hesitant to go, but if everyone goes I guess I’ll try it.It’s more of a touristy establishment, but that’s okay.My biggest piece of advice is make a reservation.I know a lot of people make reservations for their vacations months in advance, but that’s not how Jeff and I roll.We made our reservation for Monkeypod a couple of days in advance.As James, the bartender, will tell you… “Don’t to show up to Monkeypod on a Saturday night without a reservation unless you want an 18 year old hostess to laugh at you.”
Even with a reservation, you will still probably have to wait for 10-20 minutes, we did. Once seated we decided on fish and chips and the fish tacos.Both were good, but Jeff and I both voted that the fish and chips was the best we had ever had, and would go back to have it again.
The Mill House
We heard about The Mill House from Cassidie and Dean while shooting their anniversary session at Hotel Wailea. We decided to try it out for lunch one day, and it was a treat. The restaurant is in the middle of a plantation, there are chickens roaming the grounds and you can see cows out in the fields while you are eating lunch. Jeff and I both got the burger, as much as it kills me for us both to get the same thing, it hit the spot. The burger had a soft potato bun, two beef + bacon patties, sliced bacon, american cheese, onion, tangy house sauce. We also got the purple sweet onion potato chips to share.
If this had been closer to our hotel I’m sure we would have gone back for dinner. They also have a shop where you can pick up local produce and things like honey and jam. The Mill House is worth a visit to be sure.
Jeff and I are obsessed with Top Chef, like seriously the obsession is real. Any time we get the chance to eat at a Top Chef restaurant we do. That is how we ended up at Lineage, which is one of Chef Sheldon Simeon’s restaurants on Maui. I’m going to be honest I have no idea what we actually ordered. Most of the things on the menu we had no idea what they were.
I think we ended up going with a multi-course special where you got to choose a few different things for each course. It was all delicious and unique, and unlike anything we have ever eaten before. The staff was beyond helpful with recommendations, and it was a great experience. So even though I can’t tell you what we ate, we would definitely go back.
Huli Huli Chicken
The Road to Hana has lots of little places you can pull over and eat or get banana bread, smoothies, or whatever. Since you start on the Road to Hana journey so early you will probably stop at a couple of different places. So we stopped somewhere for breakfast things, but then we stumbled on Huli Huli Chichken for lunch. As Anthony Bourdain will teach you in all his shows, it’s often the most random hole in the wall places that are the best. So when we saw two ladies serving food under a tent offering Huli Huli Chicken and ribs, we knew we had to stop.
Jeff and I walked up and ordered a combo plate of Huli Huli chicken and ribs. It also came with white rice and a little side salad. It was delicious, and we recommend anyone to stop there. Months after we returned home, we were watching Gordon Ramsey’s new show on Nat Geo called, Uncharted. The episode we happened to catch, he was exploring Maui’s Hana coast. And where might you ask did Gordon Ramsey go, he ended up at that little white tent enjoying some Huli Huli Chicken.
To see more photos from our time in Maui, check out Jeff’s photos on medium format film here.