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Old 01-02-2009, 08:05 PM
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Hi everyone, my fiancee and I will be arriving in Maui next Friday night coming from the east coast. We'll be staying in Maui (Front Street in Lahaina) till the following Thursday (getting married on Maui too. . . just the two of us, all arrangements have been made!!!) when we leave for 4 more days in Kauai before heading back home. We were wondering if the locals here can give us some advices on where we should definitely hit up for dining and just as importantly, where to avoid. We're open to any recommendations for quickie bites and sit down lunches and dinners. Hopefully, we can avoid the usual $$$ tourist traps if possible. If I have to say, Asian (i.e. Chinese, Thai, Japanese) cuisines are our favoriate. Oh, we've already booked a reservation for the Old Lahaina Luau! Can't wait!
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Old 01-02-2009, 09:03 PM
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There are only a few places to stay on Front Street, so it sounds like you're either on the south end (near 505 Front Street) or the north end (near Baby Beach)?

These are our favorite downtown spots (in no order):

Thai Chef (a dive and a deal, take your own alcohol -- near Ulalena Theater, just off Front and Papalaua Streets in a strip mall with Foodland grocery store).
Lahaina Grill (formerly David Paul's -- on Lahainaluna about a half block in from Front Street, sort of a pan-Pacific wine bar with excellent food and beverages; consider eating at the bar for a "local" experience, a bit pricey, but dependably good).
Gerard's (just up Lahainaluna -- and on the other side of the street -- from Lahaina Grill; a real French chef who's been successful on Maui for over 25 years and uses the freshest ingredients to make French classics out of Hawaiian foods, on the pricey side, but probably the best service on Maui and unlike any other place's ambience).
Mala Ocean Tavern (farther north on Front Street, "behind" Safeway and on the waterfront -- a true tavern that specializes in using fresh local and organic foods, prices are all over the place but the atmosphere is decidedly casual -- everything from Kobe burgers to wok-fried local snapper, great salads and daily soups, ceviche and pok`e, pommes fritte, flatbreads, and super brunch on the weekends -- good cocktails, too!).
Penne Pasta and Maui Tacos (both dives, but different; both half-sisters of Mala Ocean Tavern; cheap, no-frills semi-fast food venues with a peculiarly Maui flavor).
Pacific `O and I'o (sister restaurants at 505 Front Street, the former specializing in pan-Pacific and the latter a steak-and-martini bar -- supposedly -- but both supported by a great organic farm upcountry).

In the greater West Maui (Lahaina/Kaanapali/Kapalua) area if you're out for a drive or want something specific (like sushi):

Sansei (at Kapalua, a 15-20 minute drive from downtown, but a Maui classic; extensive sushi and Japanese menu, early diner discounts -- and sometimes a line outside -- great Japanese and local specialities, too, in a semi-raucous "local" atmosphere).
Kai Bar (the more rarified version of Sansei at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua -- often with hard-to-find sushi rarities and a quieter, more reserved atmosphere).
Pineapple Grill (at the Bay Course at Kapalua, a mid- to higher-priced lunch and dinner spot that has great views and great resort-type food, much of it local).

Way out of Lahaina if you're exploring the island:

Mama's Fish House (near Paia at Kuau Cove, very expensive, but matches up to many people's ideal of "Hawaian" -- great local foods, some hard-to-find, expertly served at lunch and dinner; great bar, a truly memorable place).
Duo (at the Four Seasons in Wailea -- South -- Maui; a 21st century steakhouse, a la carte).
Hali`imale General Store (upcountry, on the way -- more or less -- to or from Haleakala; a 70s-type bistro with good food, good service, and good intentions -- easily the "best option" if you're out that way and in need of a meal -- good bar, very friendly service).

I noted your "tourist traps" concern. It really depends upon your perceptions. Some people think the Old Lahaina Luau is a "tourist trap," some love it. Some think the line is between the luau and their daytime cafe, Aloha Mixed Plate. Some love Cheeseburger in Paradise, some love Moose McGillycuddy's, some love Hard Rock. This is a very subjective line to draw. I will tell you that I enjoy Old Lahaina Luau for what it is -- a memorable night of entertainment. I don't think it has the best food, but it possibly has the best show. (I think the Kaanapali Hyatt Regency has the "best luau food," but has a very mediocre show -- luau food is not the same as "dinner out" to us, however.)

Some of the things that are sorely missing on Maui are "good pizza" and "good Italian." But it really depends on where you're from and what you expect. I could also add "good Chinese," but there is so much Asian food, that it's hard to distinguish "real" Chinese from the many excellent pan-Asian options that are here. We have many guests from the mainland who "love seafood," but after they're here for a week or so, find that they suffer from (what we call) "fish fatigue," and really crave an Outback or Ruth's Chris steak dinner. Or ribs, etc.

Let me know if you're looking for something specific. We love to eat. We go out a lot, but we cook at home a lot, too.

Good luck and have a wonderful time!
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