Maui’s Best Places to Eat – Paia

Paia’s Best Bites

One of the benefits of owning a home in Spreckelsville is its close proximity to charming Paia, while also only being about 30 minutes away from Wailea and 45 minutes to West Maui.  Sometimes only thought of as the last pit stop before Hana, the historic plantation village of Paia is really much more than that.  A wide array of boutiques, restaurants, and galleries -while also being dubbed the “windsurfing capital of  the world“- makes this is a very unique destination.

Entrance to Paia

The variety of Maui’s dining options is a reflection of the diverse cultures inhabiting this island.  I think of myself as a “foodie,” and consider an amazing meal with great company one of life’s true pleasures.  Therefore, this post will be the first of many that will highlight my favorite places to dine on Maui.  Spreckelsville, one of the few neighborhoods on Maui’s North Shore, is where I call home.  It’s adjacent to Baldwin beach park and is about a minute’s drive to quaint Paia.  For such a tiny town, Paia boasts some amazing culinary options.  Since there are no national chains, each eatery offers something truly unique, and they all have their highlights.  I wanted to provide a comprehensive list of the best qualities that some of my favorite establishments have to offer.  At the end, I’ll explain my choice for Paia’s best overall restaurant, which is also a candidate for the tops on island.

Best of Paia:

Pizza – Flatbread Pizza Company – Price $$

Flatbread is quickly becoming one of Maui’s go-to dinner destinations, in large part to their scrumptious, unique pies and lively atmosphere.  A few recommendations, call ahead to put your party’s name on the wait list.  As mentioned previously, their popularity has increased significantly this past year and normal wait times exceed 30 minutes.  Once inside, I suggest a tasty pint of Deschutes Brewing Co. Organic Ale, the fresh greens with goat cheese, and a Mopsy’s Kalua Pork.  The latter is an unbelievable combination of roasted, pulled pork shoulder, fresh Maui goat cheese, mozarella, red onions, pineapple, on top of a delicious mango-BBQ sauce.  Most everyone I’ve talked to feels this is one of the tastiest pizzas around, and I whole-heartedly agree!  Located at 89 Hana Hwy, (808)579-8989.

Fish Burger – Paia Fish Market – Price $

The Fish Market is another extremely popular eatery nestled right on the corner of Hana Hwy. and Baldwin Ave.  While not technically a restaurant (there’s no host that greets you, or servers to bring your meal), this place focuses on its food first and foremost.  Fish is obviously the specialty, and they offer about 6 fresh varieties daily (until they run out), prepared in many ways.  My personal favorites include, the blackened Ahi sashimi to start and the Cajun-style Opah burger with wasabi butter and cheese fries for an entree.  All this washed down with an ice cold Bikini Blonde Lager from Maui Brewing Co. and you’ll realize why the line regularly backs out the door during dinner hours.  Located at 2 Baldwin Ave., (808)579-8030

Fajitas – Cafe Mambo – Price $$$

This little restaurant has a huge Mediterranean flair.  They serve up amazing tapas, paella, and tagines (a Morrocan stew), but most I know frequent Cafe Mambo for their tantalizing fajitas.  Simply put, the orange, honey, and soy glazed kalua duck fajitas are some of the best I’ve ever had.  Other great fillings include fresh fish, pan fried in garlic and ancho chili, and Maui Cattle Co. Steak marinated in balsamic vinegar and chimayo chili.   They also offer a great selection of burgers, salads, beer, and wine.  So if you’re in the mood for something unique, try this Mediterranean/Maui mixture!  Located at 30 Baldwin Ave., (808)579-8021.

Margarita – Milagro’s – Price $

Happy hour at Milagro’s is a great time to grab a drink and a bite to eat with some friends.  This restaurant/bar offers up fresh Mex with a Hawaiian accent.  The island influence is clear when you order up the $3 house margarita with li hing mui powder on the rim.  This salty-sweet powder is a perfect addition to the citrus flavors, and creates a unique tropical cocktail.  I usually stick with the free chips and salsa to accompany my drink, but my favorite dish on the menu, and possibly one of my favorite appetizers of all time, is the blackened Ahi taquitos, served in blue corn shells with a fresh mango salsa.  An amazing Mexican/Maui mixture, the creamy and cool Ahi blends perfectly with the warm and crunchy taquitos.  Located directly across the street from Paia Fish Market at 3 Baldwin Ave., (808)579-8755.

Crepe – Cafe Des Amis – Price $

Crepes, crepes, and some more crepes.  This charming cafe offers the complete spectrum when it comes to this French concoction.  My favorite savory crepes (this is the more filling, lunch/dinner option) are the chicken, avocado, and mozarella as well as the spinach and feta cheese.  For breakfast or dessert, any of the sweet crepes are absolutely stellar, but my choices would be strawberries and cream or honey and toasted almond.  They also offer dining al fresco, where you can observe all the happenings around the streets of Paia.  Located at 42 Baldwin Ave., (808)579-6323.

Breakfast – Charley’s – Price $

While I’m partial to the enormous blueberry pancakes topped with coconut syrup, their most popular breakfast item is the Cajun Ono Eggs Benedict.  Some other great early morning choices are the massive breakfast burrito, veggie scramble, Paniolo steak and eggs, or the 3 item omelet.  All pair perfectly with an endless pot of coffee, or my favorite, fresh guava juice.  Their lunch and dinner aren’t quite as lauded, but they cook up good grub all day long.  Located at 142 Hana Hwy., (808)579-9453.

Thai – Moana Cafe – Price $$$

A little removed from most businesses in Paia, rests Moana Cafe and Bakery.  While one wouldn’t normally associate a superb bakery with a sensational Pacific-rim restaurant, this is Maui, where many food frontiers have been conquered.  Even though the menu is full of exotic flavors (like Indian, Japanese, Pacific fusion, and Italian), I can’t help but stick to a few options that reflects the head chef’s culinary training in Thailand.  The lemongrass grilled prawns with green papaya salad is unbelievable – spicy, savory, crunchy, salty, and buttery, it doesn’t get much better than this.  The chili-seared Ahi or spicy Thai red noodles with shrimp are also outstanding.  The variety of food here will have you wondering why most places stick to only one region of the planet.  Located at 71 Baldwin Ave., (808)579-9999. Moana Cafe has since closed down with the few restaurants that replaced it experiencing similar results, it’s location seems to be a revolving door of restaurants. Fresh content on the newest restaurant coming soon.

Overall – Mama’s Fish House – Price $$$$

Ahh Mama’s, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  First off, the ambiance is one of a kind.  Nestled in its own private coconut grove, along soft, white sand, looking out at the glorious Pacific, the setting is what most first-timers to the restaurant remember.  Following the gecko walkway leads you to the front of the restaurant and the bar, where they serve up famous tropical cocktails.  Once seated, the menu will have you tongue wagging like a dog, there are just too many good dishes to choose from.  Literally, I could close my eyes, pick a couple of appetizers and an entree, and love every bite.  However, there are a few favorites that I tend to get more than others.  For appetizers, the fresh Ono or Opakapaka marinated in coconut milk and lime, Tahitian style.  It is served in a half coconut and is very similar to Tahitian poisson cru.  The shrimp wontons and Ahi poke are also winners.  For an entree, if they have Opah, get it prepared Upcountry style, pan seared with carmelized Maui onions, avocado, Kula veggies, and jasmine rice.  The wok-fried whole Moi (the fish of royalty in ancient Hawaii) in a lychee-black bean sauce is equally outstanding.  One caveat, this is the most famous restaurant on island, so be prepared to spend accordingly.  Located at 799 Poho Pl., (808)579-9248.

Any tasty omissions??  Let us know some of your favorite things to eat in Paia…

Bon Appétit!

Pricing Key (per person):

$ – Under $15

$$ – From $10-$25

$$$ – From $20-35

$$$$ – More than $40