Visitors Rate Maui Restaurants
By Susan Halas
In the old days it was the locals and the travel writers who knew all the good places to eat. Their recommendations could make or break a restaurant with visitors.
With the advent of Yelp and Trip Advisor and a wide range of other reader review websites, the hungry traveler is never more than a click away from timely first person reviews. Now it’s the savvy visitor who is often knows more about what’s good in the kitchen than locals. Trip Advisor has reviews on 571 Maui restaurants. Yelp listed 249. On both sites eateries can be sorted by price, location, type of food and date.
Maui Now browsed those two sites to see which local establishments were getting high marks on the web. What we found was a wide range of prices , locations and popularity and at a few places that our Mauil readers might want to consider.
Ululani’s, Lahaina #1
Predictably the ever popular (and costly) Mama’s Fish House in Paia was in the visitors’ top five, but who would have thought that Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice Stand in Lahaina would be ranked the island’s #1 food destination?
But sure enough, it drew more than 500 comments and was ranked excellent by a whopping 99%.
Here’s what one family wrote earlier about their experience earlier this week:
“We’ve tried shaved ice on Oahu and Kauai, and Ululani’s Shaved Ice on Maui is easily the best we’ve had. The staff is super friendly, the line can get long, but it moves fairly fast …. We went there twice and loved all of the flavors that we tried. The ‘small’ is actually pretty large in size, so my husband and I shared a cone each time.
We also got the scoop of macadamia nut ice cream at the bottom both times, which was a nice added touch to top off the whole amazing…. We will be back when we are back in Maui!”
Ululani’s Shave Ice, 819 Front St, Lahaina (360) 606-2745
Local Foods Tasty at Walk Up Stand
Similarly a low tech Lahaina food stand appropriately named Local Food had 61 reviews on Yelp and almost all of them were four or five stars. Diners said they found the home-style Filipino-Hawaiian menu delicious and prices very affordable. The pork came in for many compliments. Wrote one customer who ate there last month:
“Now that’s a tasty BBQ pork sandwich. Some of the best pork I’ve had this side of the Mississippi (har har) and wins the award for the tastiest AND the cheapest meal I had on the island, ringing in at a whopping $4 for a sandwich, chips and drink. Only open at lunch, so [don’t] show up around 7 p.m. hoping for some grub. Cuz you won’t get any.”
Local Foods, 222 Papalaua St, Lahaina 667-2882
Special Occasions at Lahaina Grill
Not all the venues favored by Maui visitors were in the economy class. Among the more upscale dining rooms the Lahaina Grill was highly rated and overwhelmingly received five and four star reviews as a place to go for a special occasion. Here’s what a Denver couple who ate there this the weekend had to say:
“We visited for my birthday dinner ….. Every single thing was excellent. The shrimp cake, part of one appetizer, was sublime. My husband’s tomato-and-mozzarella stacked salad was just right (good tomatoes in April are one of the advantages in Hawaii).
My ahi was buttery soft and wonderfully complemented by the sesame crust and sauce. They offer several veggie side dishes and the broiled tomatoes with balsamic and capers were perfect. The fallen chocolate cake was just excellent – not too sweet, just moist enough, and so on. [We] couldn’t have asked for a better meal.”
Lahaina Grill, 127 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina 667-5117
Craving Sushi? Koiso in Kihei Recommended
Looking for something smaller and more intimate? Craving sushi? Yelpers go for Koiso Sushi Bar in Kihei. The reviewers stressed that reservations are a must for this tiny establishment. Practically all of the nearly 200 reviews ranked it excellent or very good. But it’s not exactly an economy night out.
This is what one Washington state diner who ate there in March had to say.
“If you go to Maui and love sushi, then you have to make reservations to this place. Luckily, I checked Yelp for restaurant ideas prior to my trip, and I am glad I did: no way I would find this place otherwise.
Reservations are a must: it seats less than 20 people, and the entire place is staffed by the owner (the sushi chef) and a waitress.
We had the broiled fish collar, king crab, and other assorted sushi. This is a traditional sushi place (forget about crazy rolls), and getting taken care of by the sushi chef/owner was great. The little dessert that they give you at the end of the meal was the perfect ending (around $100 for food for two before tip).
Even though I am from Seattle and my girlfriend is from Vancouver, Koiso was definitely one of the best sushi places that we have been to.”
Koiso Sushi Bar, 2395 S. Kihei Rd – Ste 113, Kihei 875-8258
Good Eats in Makawao, Ulupalakua, Haiku
Heading Upcountry? In Makawo Yelpers liked the Market Fresh Bistro. This eating spot on Baldwin Avenue had 60 reviews and was ranked 4.5 stars overall. A diner who ate there April 16 wrote:
“The best piece of fish I had on my recent visit to Maui. [It was] simply grilled ono which I added to a farm fresh salad. All the produce is local – so fresh beautiful. We were treated very kindly and just had a wonderful experience. If you like fresh ingredients, quaint atmospheres and hospitality… then check this place out! And order the pan seared catch of the day – they know how fish is supposed to be prepared.”
Market Fresh Bistro3620 Baldwin Ave, Makawao 572-487
Going even farther up there were kind words for the Ulupalakua Ranch Store and Grill.
Travelers universally praised the burgers (including Elk burger) here. One visitor who ate there earlier this month gave it five stars. She wrote:
“Extremely well worth the drive. This place is off the beaten path and takes awhile to get to from Kaanapali beach. We’ve gone here twice just for the food. The first time we went to the winery and got hungry so we stopped here. The second year we were going to the Botanical Gardens and drove here for lunch. Both years we were here my husband has gotten the steak chili. Steak, beans, rice, simple yet incredible. I got the BBQ Kalua Pork Sandwich both times we were here. Also very simple but done so well.”
Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill 878-2561
In Haiku both Yelp and Trip Advisor reviewers liked Colleen’s at the Cannery where Eggs Benedict seems to be the choice of the traveling public. There were 38 reviews for this out of the way bakery onYelp and 47 on Trip Advisor. And all but a few gave it top marks. A customer in February put it this way:
“Fantastic breakfast, atmosphere, and service! Eggs Benedict were great and all of the other meals looked delicious too!”
While another who ate there just a few days ago wrote:
“I am still longing for the coffee at Colleen’s, great service, reasonable prices and wonderful food. You will not be disappointed!”
Colleen’s at the Cannery, 810 Haiku Rd, Haiku 575-9211