Hawaii is one of the furthest away places you can visit while still remaining in the United States. As a result it has a language, philosophy and food culture all its own. No matter what your budget, it's easy to explore Hawaii's unique culinary offerings on Maui. From haute cuisine seafood to enormous and cheap plate lunches, here is what you need to know:
For such a small island, Maui is a pretty great provider. While the cost of importing goods from the mainland jacks up prices, Maui's agricultural centers provides restaurants with everything from asparagus to coconuts to goat cheese. The most popular must-try exports are Maui onions - sweet and juicy onions that grow in the volcanic soil of Mount Haleakala - and Maui Gold Pineapples, which are naturally sweet and low in acidity.
Some of the best restaurants that spotlight local produce are Flatbread Company in Paia (try their local goat cheese salad), Paia Coffee Company and the Banyan Tree at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua.
Hawaiian Food is a historical mix of outside influences and traditional ingredients. You will definitely want to dive into this cuisine which includes delicacies like spam musubi (spam sushi) and loco moco (hamburger and rice). Some of the best places to try traditional Hawaiian food in Maui include Da Kitchen (a favorite of the Travel Channel and President Obama) in Kahalui, Lynne's Cafe in Haiku and Coconut's Fish Cafe in Kihei.
After your meal be sure to sample one of Hawaii's greatest delicacies: shaved ice. Ice cream is topped with an enormous pile of shaved ice then topped with any variety of flavors. Try Ululani's, which has multiple locations around the island.
You cannot go to Hawaii without trying the regional novelty that is the Hawaiian plate lunch. Plate lunches incorporate Asian influences, Hawaiian produce and a lot of carbs and protein. They are delicious, cheap and extremely filling, and they can be found all over the island. The typical plate lunch consists of two scoops of white rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and an entree like chicken katsu, kalua pork or beef teriyaki.
Some of the best places to try a plate lunch in Maui are the Honolua General Store in Kapalua, Local Food in Lahaina and Eskimo Candy in Kihei.
Hawaii has long been a destination for Japanese, Korean and South East Asian immigrants, but it also has a large Mexican population as well as strong Portuguese, Italian and other influences. Maui is a great place to try some really great ethnic food, usually with its own unique island twist.
For Mexican, Horhita's Taqueria in Kihei is a great budget option, while Roasted Chiles is a slightly more upscale establishment. For excellent sushi with a Hawaiian twist, make a reservation at Sensei or Koiso Sushi Bar. For Vietnamese A Saigon Cafe is a good bet.
If you're willing to spend a little more, Maui has some excellent fine dining options, particularly inside the nicer resorts. Morimoto Maui is a Japanese seafood and steak restaurant opened by celebrity Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Nick's Fishmarket in the Fairmont Wailea has masterful seafood and well-crafted cocktails. Then there is the aforementioned Banyan Tree Restaurant inside the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, which serves up local produce with a haute cuisine twist.
What are your favorite Hawaiian foods?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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