Tried and True: 6 Favorite Stops for Good Eats

January 3, 2012, 3:01 PM HST · Updated January 3, 3:03 PM
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By Susan Halas

Some of Maui’s favorite places to eat have lasted for generations. Most of them are not fancy, not really advertised, and year after year they still the offer the flavors that residents favor. These eateries are best known by word-of-mouth, so in some ways they’re hiding in plain sight.

The poke is tasty at Takamiya Market in Happy Valley. Courtesy photo.

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 TAKAMIYA MARKET

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What: Local groceries of all kinds, fish, meat & bentos

Where: Happy Valley, end of Market Street in Wailuku

Long live Takamiya Market: the little giant of Happy Valley. This neighborhood grocery is the first place a lot of people go when they get off the plane and want a taste of home. It’s good. Heck, it’s very good.

The fish is fresh and the sashimi and poke are excellent. The meat counter still has butchers. The bentos hot and cold are delicious and they are steeply discounted after 3:30 p.m. Want boiled peanuts, pickled mango, macaroni salad or small quantities like three stalks of celery and/or two carrots? This is the place. There are discounts for seniors too.

Takamiya is highly regarded for its food and also well-known for it’s generosity to the community. Selling tickets for items that can be picked up at Takamiya has funded many a ball team or band trip.

Though the parking is awful and can be hazardous too (use your mirrors watch for pedestrians), once you’re inside it’s a quick in-and-out.

In a fast-changing world Takamiya stays reassuringly the same. It’s as good today as it was yesterday.

Though the neighborhood is not Maui’s fanciest and some of the customers may look a little intimidating, it’s actually safe, it’s friendly and it’s good.

Takamiya also has a catering arm called Dani’s, so if you’re feeding, their platters are good value.

Takamiya Market, 359 Market St., Wailuku, 244-3404

www.takamiyamarket.com

Open Mon-Sat 5:15 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Try the Dry Mein or Saimin Special at Sam Sato's. Courtesy photo.

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 Sam Sato’s

What: Noodles, plate lunches, manju

Where: In the Millyard, Wailuku

Sam Sato’s is one of Maui’s oldest restaurants. It’s been around at many locations since plantation days. Originally located in Sprecks, it later moved to Puunene, then Happy Valley and now it’s in modern quarters at  the Millyard in Wailuku. This place is POPULAR with a capital P.

This local eatery is open for breakfast and it gets very very busy for lunch, so expect to wait if you come at the peak of the lunch crowd.  It is best known for noodles and plate lunch specials like Tomato Beef. But they are truly famous for manju, a Japanese style pastry  (by the piece or by the box). Take some home with you.

Prices are reasonable, service is good. The best time to get a table (or better yet a booth) is just before closing; about 1:45 p.m. There is also a packed counter. It’s a good idea to bring a sweater because sometimes the AC is very frosty.

The Saimin Special is very good. Their dip for French fries is a wasabi mustard and mayor mix, and gives the spuds a new twist. Lots of people like the teri sticks. The menu never changes. It’s almost always reliably delicious and it’s still not expensive.

Sam Sato’s Inc, 1750 Wili Pa Loop, Wailuku, in the Millyard, 244-7124

Mon-Sat 7-2 manju counter open a little longer. Breakfast & lunch

Tokyo Tei has good local style Japanese food. It's on the lower level at Puuone Towers. Courtesy photo.

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 Tokyo Tei

What: Japanese- Maui Style

Where: On the Lower Level Puuone Towers, Lower Main St, Wailuku

This local restaurant was founded in 1934 and has been going strong ever since. It’s a family friendly favorite among local residents. The menu which is Japanese food Maui-ized. It’s  Hawaiian-Japanese, not Japanese Japanese.

Visitors often don’t know about Tokyo Tel, because it’s hidden underneath Puuone Towers at the Kahului end. The parking here truly dreadful and the stalls are often crowded by patrons of the bars on the same level.

It’s worth taking the time to find it and park. The sashimi is delicious, their teishoku is very good. The nabayaki udon is tasty and comforting especially if the weather is cold and damp. All the tempura is fluffy crispy and comes hot to the table. Saki is available by the bottle.

The furniture and familiar décor have not changed in 30 years. It’s common to see some local bigwig hanging out in the back room. Governor Ariyoshi was there the first time we ate there a long time ago, and it’s still like that.

Tokyo Tei 1063 Lower Main the first unit at the Kahului end of the bottom level. Wailuku 278-4050 244-9630

Lunch Mon-Sat 10-1:30 Dinner Mon-Sat 5:30 to 8:30 www.tokyotei.com

Always crowded - always good - Pinatas. Courtesy photo.

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Pinata’s

What: Mexican Food – Inexpensive and Friendly

Where: Dairy Road, Kahului

Ask any windsurfer, kite surfer, board surfer, or ocean sports enthusiast for a favorite local spot and they’ll name Pinata’s. This long established Mexican eatery is in Kahului not far from NASCA. Pinata’s does your basic Mexican menu in a tasty and filling style. As a result there’s seldom a day that it isn’t busy. Their “Kitchen Sink” burrito is a mouthful and their nachos plate is more than a snack, it’s a meal.

On the side they offer a variety salsa red and green, mild and hot, plus chopped cilantro.

Beverages are beer by the bottle and soda. It’s a casual, crowded, noisy family friendly joint. There are often lots of kids. The parking’s not great here either, but patience is usually rewarded. This is good food close to the airport. Take it out or eat it there. Reliably good.

Pinata’s, 395 Dairy Road, Kahului 877-8707

Mon-Sat 8-8, Sun 9-8, Find them on Facebook

Tasaka Guri Guri is famous for its frozen local style dessert with a creamy texture. Courtesy photo.

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 Tasaka Guri Guri

What: Local Style Ice Cream

Where: Maui Mall at the Long’s end, next to the Pet Store

Tasaka Guri Guri  has been at the Maui Mall since 1973. Its Wikipedia entry says the family-run business has been in Hawaii for more than 100 years. While many visitors haven’t tried guri guri, most residents have been fans since small kid times.

Guri Guri is hybrid cold dessert somewhere between ice cream and sherbert. The main ingredients include juice and condensed milk which gives the frozen mixture a creamier lighter texture than other ices. Tasaka serves its guri guri in small paper cups, one scoop or two. It comes in a variety of flavors. It’s also available to take out in larger portions. The long running shop has earned a wide and loyal following serving an inexpensive frozen dessert with an excellent reputation.

Tasaka Guri Guri:

Maui Mall, behind Longs, Kahului 871-4513

M-Th 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; F 10 a.m-9 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun 10 a.m.-4 p.m.



A popular place for lunch or dinner in Wailuku. Courtesy photo.

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A Saigon Cafe

(aka Jennifer’s, aka Naokee’s)

What: Vietnamese specialties

Where: Under the Bridge in Wailuku

This is a landmark restaurant in Wailuku. Before it was A Saigon Café it was Naokee’s, another old time favorite. For years it had no sign and still it was always full. From the get-go it got great word-of-mouth from local residents.

Current opinion seems to be divided on whether it’s good value or a rip off. Some of the recent online reviews object to scanty portions and high prices. Others are not so keen on the service. Either you find the waiters jolly and friendly or rate them overbearing, obnoxious and haphazard.

Over the years the Fresh Spring Rolls, the calamari appetizer, the different Vietnamese soups, Naokee’s steak, Garden Party Shrimp and Lemon Grass Chicken have all been favorites. They have a big menu and almost all of it can be good.  It’s been an after work place to drink and talk story for many years; and also known as a good place to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. Read the recent reviews, give it a try and see what you think.

 A Saigon Café, 1792 Main St, Wailuku. It’s not the easiest place to find, Google the address and follow the directions. Usually there’s ample parking. 243-9560. Daily 10 am to 9:30 p.m.

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