Fave Five Maui Hole-in-the-Walls

Hawaii editor Marty Wentzel digs up her favorite hideaways in Maui

By: By Marty Wentzel

Whenever I travel around Maui, I make sure to scout out places where locals like to eat. It’s even better when those places are easy on the wallet. Over the years, thanks to input from Valley Isle friends, I’ve developed my own list of low-priced, high-quality eateries. Mind you, these places aren’t dives. Instead, they serve creative, inexpensive food in unpretentious settings that your clients might overlook. Here, then, are my five favorite Maui hole-in-the-walls — for now, anyway.

Ba-Le French Sandwich and Vietnamese Food

Ba Le Logo // (c) 2009


Don’t let its funny name and food court location turn you off. This cafe excels at mouth-watering meals. Living up to its cross-cultural name, Ba-Le prepares a delectable lemongrass chicken sandwich served on a fresh-baked French roll. The vegetarian tofu rolls are wrapped in soft rice paper and served with a peanut dipping sauce. This is also a great place to try pho, the Vietnamese soup with a clear broth enhanced by your choice of ingredients. With its wide selection, Ba-Le provides an inexpensive and healthy alternative to fast food. Food court, Lahaina Cannery Mall, 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy., Lahaina. 808-661-5566

Cafe des Amis

Crepes at Cafe Des Amis // (c) 2009

Crepes at Cafe des Amis

This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bistro may be tiny, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality and value, three meals a day. While the name is French, the menu has decidedly Mediterranean and Indian overtones. My favorites here are the crepes, whether for breakfast with bananas and chocolate, or lunch (try the spinach crepe with feta cheese). The curry wrap is a winner, as are the fresh fruit smoothies. At dinner, I recommend one of the scrumptious Indian curries with rice and chutney. Cafe des Amis is a perfect stop for clients exploring the Hana Highway. Look for it across the street from Mana Foods. 42 Baldwin Road, Paia. 808-579-6323

Ichiban Okazuya

Tempura at Ichiban Okazuya // (c) 2009

Tempura at Ichiban Okazuya

Of Hawaii’s many okazuya — casual Japanese delis serving ethnic carryout foods — this one corners the market. The owner is a former hotel restaurant chef. He opened this hole-in-the-wall 27 years ago and it’s still one of Maui’s best bets for made-to-order plates of classic Japanese-meets-Hawaii fare. Highlights include chicken katsu (Japanese-style fried chicken), ahi, miso butterfish, mahimahi, teriyaki, sauteed salmon and tempura. One specialty is hijiki seaweed made with shiitake mushrooms and carrots. There’s no seating, but the orders are ready within five minutes to keep the line moving. 2133 Kaohu St., Wailuku. 808-244-7276

Grandma’s Coffee House

Grandma's Coffee House // (c) 2009

Grandma's Coffee House

Clients heading to Upcountry Maui won’t want to miss this rural restaurant, located on the way to Tedeschi Vineyards. The name doesn’t do this place justice. It’s not just for coffee, and the meals are super. Breakfast brings such bounty as scrambled eggs, Portuguese sausage, French toast and Belgian waffles, with servings big enough to share. Lunch specials might include teriyaki chicken, paniolo pork chops, fresh fish or meatloaf. When it’s time for that cuppa Joe, Grandma’s pours a tasty brew of proprietary blend grown on the slopes of Haleakala volcano. The deck has spectacular mountain and ocean views. 9232 Kula Hwy., Keokea. 800-375-7853

Saeng’s Thai Cuisine

Saeng's Thai Cuisine // (c) 2009

Saeng's Thai Cuisine 

Located in central Maui, this hole-in-the-wall is a huge hit with the locals. An unassuming enterprise, it serves an incomparable crispy fish with sweet Thai chili sauce. Also terrific are the chicken wings stuffed with carrots and bean-thread noodles, spicy seafood soup, chicken cooked in coconut sauce with Thai herbs, red-curry shrimp and pad Thai. Don’t eat in the dining room; instead, head for the outdoor deck, notable for its garden setting. The six-page menu makes it hard to choose what to eat, so clients may just have to go back for a second meal. 2119 W. Vineyard St., Wailuku. 808-244-1567