Engaging with a “Hawaiian mixed plate” could be called “eating until you’re sore,” and it’s practically a sport in the Islands. A major distinguishing feature of good local food is that you get a great deal of it. Your paper plate or styrofoam to-go box should bend. Generally, it’s served in casual, to-go joints. Local food is not to be confused with Hawaiian food. Hawaiian foods are traditional to these islands and include items like lau lau (butterfish, squid, or pork cooked in a ti leaf), lomi lomi (salt-cured salmon) and poi (taro root pounded into a nutritious paste). Local food, on the other hand, is the best or favorite dishes from each of the cultures that make up the local population. Over the centuries, that has included Hawaiians, of course, but also Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Koreans, and Portuguese.
The favorite foods from each culture make their way into what we call Local Food. Just like visitors to New York should make a point to try the bagels, visitors to Hawaii should try Local Food. It is not fine dining, but skipping it is like skipping a lobster shack on the Maine Coast or a pig palace in Georgia. We recommend Da Kitchen for your particular adventure.
The restaurants are clean, the food is good, and the portions are Hawaiian-sized so you can split them and still have leftovers. Every order comes packaged for takeout, but if you want to sit and eat in the restaurant, there are plenty of chairs. You’ll get your napkins and utensils with your order (the exception is the new Lahaina location, which is a sit-down restaurant with table service). The combination plates are a good place to start. The kalua pork is good, as is the beef and chicken teriyaki. These dishes are often overly salty, but they are also meant to be eaten with the accompanying “two scoops rice” and one scoop of macaroni salad, which makes the seasoning more reasonable. Chicken katsu — breaded cutlets — is often too much bread and not enough chicken.
We prefer the chow fun to the crispy noodles, and the ribs are pretty good when they are available. The tempura mahi is delicious and like everything else, big enough to split. The heftier fish basket with its abundance of fried fish, shrimp, and French fries could probably sink our battleship. There is no special charm to either the ambience or the service, but if you’re looking for a good meal at great prices and want to know “where da locals eat” Da Kitchen is da place.
Address: 425 Koloa St, Kahului, Central Maui
Location: Near K-Mart and the Airport
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Hours: M-F 11am-8:30pm; Sa 11am-4pm
Address: 2439 S. Kihei Rd, Kihei, South Maui
Location: In the Rainbow Mall
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Hours: Daily 9am-9pm