"Mischievous, marvelous, magical Maui," sings Israel Kamakawiwoole in “Maui Hawaiian Sup’pa Man,” his ode to the demigod. The island is all those things and more, and its restaurants try to keep up with the sophisticated palates and discriminating tastes of locals and visitors. For a place the size of Maui, there’s a lot going on when it comes to the dining scene, from ethnic holes-in-the-wall to stunningly appointed hotel dining rooms, and from seafood trucks to oceanfront fish houses with panoramic views. Much of the food is excellent, but some of it is overpriced and touristy. If you’re coming from a "food destination" city, you may have to adjust your expectations.
Follow the locavore trend, and at casual and fine-dining restaurants choose menu items made with products that are abundant on the island, including local fish, onions, avocados, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, hydroponic tomatoes, myriad herbs, salad greens, kalo (taro), bananas, papaya, guava, lilikoi (passion fruit), coconut, mangoes, strawberries, and Maui pineapple. You can also look for treats grown on neighboring islands, such as mushrooms, purple sweet potatoes, and watermelon.
"Local food," a specific and official cuisine designated as such in the 1920s, is an amalgam of foods brought by the ethnic groups that have come here since the mid-1800s and also blended with the foods native Hawaiians have enjoyed for centuries. Dishes to try include lomilomi salmon, laulau, poi, Portuguese bean soup, kalbi ribs, chicken katsu, chow fun, hamburger steak, and macaroni salad. For a food adventure, take a drive into Central Maui and have lunch or dinner at one of the "local" spots recommended here. Or get even more adventurous and take a drive around Wailuku or Kahului and find your own hidden gem. There are plenty out there.