A Saigon Cafe (tel. 808/243-9560)
Jennifer Nguyen's unmarked dining room in an odd corner of Wailuku is always packed, a tribute to her clean, crisp Vietnamese cuisine -- and the Maui grapevine. Grab a round of rice paper and wrap your own Vietnamese "burrito" of tofu, noodles, and vegetables.
A.K.'s Café (tel. 808/244-8774; www.akscafe.com)
Chef Elaine Rothermel has a winner with this tiny cafe in the industrial district of Wailuku. It may be slightly off the tourist path, and the decor isn't much to look at, but it is well worth the effort to find this delicious eatery, with creative cuisine coming out of the kitchen -- most of it healthy. Prices are so eye-poppingly cheap, you might find yourself wandering back here again during your vacation.
David Paul's Island Grill (tel. 808/662-3000; www.davidpaulsislandgrill.com)
One of Hawaii's top chefs, David Paul, opened a restaurant in Lahaina, introducing a combination of American and island-style cuisine that draws heavily on local products. He dubbed this "new island cooking."
Gerard's (tel. 808/661-8939; www.gerardsmaui.com)
Proving that French is fabulous, particularly in the land of sushi and sashimi, Gerard Reversade is the Gallic gastronome who delivers ecstasy with every bite. From the rack of lamb to the spinach salad and oyster mushrooms in puff pastry, every meal is memorable. The fairy lights on the veranda in the balmy outdoor Lahaina setting are the icing on the gâteau.
Mala Ocean Tavern (tel. 808/667-9394; www.malaoceantavern.com)
Perched right on the ocean, this tiny "tavern" is the brainchild of Mark and Judy Ellman, owners of Maui Tacos and Penne Pasta Café. They use healthy, organically grown food and fresh fish to make intriguing dishes. The atmosphere could not be more enticing, with just a handful of tables out on the oceanfront lanai and several more tables in the warmly decorated interior. The staff is helpful and efficient, and the food is outstanding.
Son'z Maui at Swan Court (tel. 808/667-4506; www.tristarrestaurants.com)
For 30 years, the Swan Court was the dining experience at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort, and under Tri-Star Restaurant Group, it's even better. The restaurant already had perhaps the most romantic location in Maui, overlooking a man-made lagoon with white and black swans swimming by and the rolling surf of the Pacific in the distance. The culinary team's creative dishes, coupled with fresh local ingredients, have made it a must for every Maui visitor.
Roy's Kahana Bar & Grill (tel. 808/669-6999; www.roysrestaurant.com)
This restaurant bustles with young, hip servers impeccably trained to deliver blackened ahi or perfectly seared lemon grass shutome (broadbill swordfish) hot to your table, in rooms that sizzle with cross-cultural tastings.
Pineapple Grill (tel. 808/669-9600; www.pineapplekapalua.com)
If you only had a single night to eat on the island, I'd send you here. In fact, if you eat here at the beginning of your Maui trip, you might end up coming back! Chef Ryan Luckey is a genius at turning fresh local ingredients into culinary masterpieces, such as the Maui-style seafood paella with Portuguese sausage and Kula herbs.
Plantation House Restaurant (tel. 808/669-6299; www.theplantationhouse.com)
Plantation House features teak tables, a fireplace, open sides, mountain and ocean views, and Chef Alex Stanislaw's love for Mediterranean flavors and preparations. It's a friendly, comfortable restaurant with great food, including sublime eggs Mediterranean at breakfast and polenta, crab cakes, fish, pork tenderloin, filet mignon, and other delights at dinner. The ambience is superb.
Ko (tel. 808/875-4100; www.fairmont.com/kealani/GuestServices/Restaurants/Ko.htm)
The concept behind this successful restaurant in the Fairmont Kea Lani is pure genius -- taking the various ethnic cuisine from Maui's old plantation days (Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, Puerto Rican, and European) and cooking them up in a gourmet fashion. There are some wonderful taste treats you are going to find only here, so don't miss them: ahi (which is tuna) "on the rocks," where the server brings you chunks of fresh ahi and you cook them on hot ishiyaki stone to the desired doneness (from barely seared on the outside to fully cooked). Or Filipino lumpia (a sort of spring roll with green papaya, shrimp, and pork [or chicken and mushroom] that you dip into a spicy sauce).
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (tel. 808/669-6286 in Kapalua, 879-0004 in Kihei; www.sanseihawaii.com)
Relentlessly popular, Sansei serves sushi and then some: hand rolls warm and cold, udon and ramen, and the signature Asian rock-shrimp cake with the oh-so-complex lime-chili butter and cilantro pesto. This place is flavor central -- simplicity is not its strong suit, so be prepared for some busy tasting.
Gannon's (tel. 808/875-8080; www.gannonsrestaurant.com)
Another fabulous restaurant by award-winning-chef Bev Gannon, who has taken over the former Sea Watch restaurant, perched high on a hill, overlooking the Wailea Golf Course and the spectacular ocean view with Molokini in the distance, and produces meals with magic.
Joe's (tel. 808/875-7767; www.bevgannonrestaurants.com)
The impressive view here spans the Wailea golf course, tennis courts, ocean, and Haleakala -- a worthy setting for Beverly Gannon's style of American home cooking with a regional twist. The hearty staples include excellent mashed potatoes, lobster, fresh fish, and filet mignon, but the meatloaf (a whole loaf, like Mom used to make) upstages them all.
Haliimaile General Store (tel. 808/572-2666; www.bevgannonrestaurants.com/haliimaile)
Bev Gannon, one of the 12 original Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs, is still going strong at her foodie haven in the pineapple fields. You'll dine at tables set on old wood floors under high ceilings. The food, a blend of eclectic American with ethnic touches, bridges Hawaii and Gannon's Texas roots to put an innovative spin on Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Examples include sashimi napoleon and the house salad -- island greens with mandarin oranges, onions, toasted walnuts, and blue-cheese crumble.
Moana Bakery & Cafe (tel. 808/579-9999; www.moanacafe.com)
In the unlikely location of Paia, the Moana gets high marks for its stylish concrete floors, high ceilings, booths and cafe tables, and fabulous food. Don Ritchey, formerly a chef at Haliimaile General Store, has created the perfect Paia eatery, a casual bakery/cafe that highlights his stellar skills. It may not look like much from the outside, but don't be fooled. This innovative eatery serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers live entertainment at night.
Colleen's at the Cannery (tel. 808/575-9211; www.colleensinhaiku.com)
Way, way, way off the beaten path lies this chic, fabulous find in the rural Haiku Cannery Marketplace. It's worth the drive to enjoy Colleen's fabulous culinary creations, such as wild-mushroom ravioli with sautéed Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs, and a roasted-pepper coulis.
Market Fresh Bistro (tel. 808/572-4877)
Attention foodies: Plan to eat dinner here at least once during your stay on Maui. Yes, it is a long drive from a resort area, and yes, parking is on the street and you may have to walk a block or two, but Chef Justin Pardo (formerly of the Union Square Café, New York City and the Wailea Grand on Maui) is a culinary genius and he uses 90% local products and is having fun creating menus at this off-the-beaten-path restaurant, hidden in a minimall complex, behind the Makawao Steak House.
Old Lahaina Luau (tel. 800/248-5828 or 808/667-1998; www.oldlahainaluau.com)
It's not exactly a restaurant, but it's certainly an unforgettable dining experience. Maui's best luau serves top-quality food that's as much Pacific Rim as authentically Hawaiian, served from an open-air thatched structure. It's one-third entertainment, one-third good food, and one-third ambience.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.