Follow the crowds to the best local grindz
By Joan Namkoong
Advertiser Food Editor
Places for plate lunches and local-style favorite foods are easy to find on Maui, and they're good. When you're hankering for a loco moco, hamburger steak, saimin, shoyu chicken and, of course, two scoops rice and salad (macaroni, naturally), try one of these places.
1750 Wili Pa Loop
7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Everyone in Central Maui knows about Sam Sato's, home of dry mein and lima bean manju. Sam Sato's has been in business since 1933; it started in Sprecklesville, moved to Pu'unÇnÇ in 1963 and eventually to its present location in Wailuku in 1993. Lynne and Charles Toma, both retired school teachers, run the business today; she's the daughter of the late Sam Sato.
Dry mein started here: well-seasoned noodles tossed with fresh bean sprouts and slivers of char siu accompanied by a pork and beef broth (small orders are quite ample for two, I think). The other specialty is the ball-shaped lima bean manju, which has a crumbly, fine-textured crust surrounding the just-sweet lima bean.
But there's more to the menu: fried rice, stew, chop steak, spare ribs, yakitori, saimin, won ton, chow fun and a host of local-style breakfast items and sandwiches.
1770 Mill St., Wailuku
Sunday-Thursday 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.
People from Hana drive to Tasty Crust weekly just to have the hotcakes served at this half-century-old Maui institution. The à-inch-thick, dinner-plate-size hotcakes are a dark golden brown with a soft interior: a good combination of textures achieved by the Takaoka family's recipe. "The secret has to do with the ingredients," said manager Liz Cravalho, whose sister Naomi and brother-in-law Curtis Takaoka carry on the family business.
Lots of local Maui folk hang out here, no doubt enjoying the '50s atmosphere, local fare and sizzling T-bone platters served all day.
Triangle Square, Kahului
Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., closed Sunday.
Purporting to serve "good food, not fast food," this local-style eatery serves up big, tasty portions. The Hawaiian plate for $8.75 was more than generous with the requisite kalua pig, lomi salmon (a small serving but with noticeable chunks of salt salmon), gingery long rice, pork laulau, mac salad and two scoops rice. An inspection of other plates being served indicated quantity and value.
Mike Kitagawa Chevron
109 Ka'ahumanu Ave., Kahului
Service stations are not my usual preference for dining. But if you're on the run and hankering for a musubi, this is the place to go.
This place boasts 14 different kinds of musubi, topped with char siu and egg, Korean BBQ steak, tuna, chicken, smoked pork and the usual Spam and hot dogs. Some are made with fried rice; each is $1.89. The couple I tried were pretty tasty.
But there's much more: musubi bentos, breakfast bentos, fried noodle and chow fun bentos, sandwiches, salads and "beeg bento" for $5.50. All ready to eat as you head out on a day of sightseeing.
Kitada's Kau Kau Korner
Monday-Saturday 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m. closed Sunday.
More than 50 years ago, Suteko Kitada opened this tiny restaurant in Makawao, and it remains the same as it was then. Kitada died in January, leaving the restaurant in the capable hands of her daughter Ethel Hotema and son Wilfred Kitada. People come here for their beef hekka and rice and a host of other local specialties. Dry mein here was very tasty, laced with pork slices and accompanied by an excellent saimin dashi on the side.
"This place is a part of Upcountry life," said Maui entertainer Jerry Caires, who was settling in for his fix of large hamburger steak, extra salad. "I've been coming here since I was a baby. The food tastes the same as when I was a kid."
Lower Kula Road
6 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
Across the street from Morihara Store is Cafe 808, where plate lunches are served up to go or to eat on the spot. On the day we were there, a long line of construction workers discouraged our getting a plate since we had more territory to cover, but perhaps the line was testament to their food.
The menu features a variety of local-style favorites for breakfast, including pancakes, Belgian waffles, green eggs and smoked salmon, loco moco, corned-beef hash, fried rice, omelets and eggs Benedict served on Saturday and Sunday. For lunch, there are sandwiches, burgers and salads and, of course, hefty plate lunches. Prices top out at $8.95.
Aloha Mixed Plate
1285 Front St., Lahaina
Lahaina might not be foremost on your mind for local food, but at the far end of town (towards Ka'anapali) is Aloha Mixed Plate, an open-air beachside local food hangout. Plastic chairs and tables and umbrellas are the decor; there's a bar along with a little tableside service.
The food is 'ono: shoyu chicken is tender and moist, nicely caramelized with significant five spice flavor. The macaroni salad was excellent: the local style with all the requisite flavors of onion, pepper and Best Foods. The portions are hefty, as you would expect from a local plate-lunch place, and the prices are right, from $2.95 to mini plates to $8.95 for jumbo plates. The line of construction workers might be a hint that this place is pretty good.