This is probably the least useful of my three reports, because our dining is not something you'd want to imitate. I had all kinds of plans based on the reviews and menus I'd been scanning online, but when we were there, we found we were jet lagged and that we'd brought our kids. Both cut in to our ability to really take advantage of all Maui has to offer.
--Find of the week: Leoda's Pie Kitchen. Our trip got off to an incredibly lucky start: right after we dried off from the magical turtle snorkeling I mentioned in my last report, we decided to have lunch at Leoda's. The kids were all happy with their burgers, I had a cucumber-avocado sandwich that made my husband very jealous, and he had a fish sandwich he loved. I know, this sounds like pretty ordinary stuff, but they are really fresh fantastic versions of your old familiar sandwiches. People liked their pies too, but I am a fruit pie girl and Leoda's only works with fresh ingredients, so I went pieless and can't directly comment. Their bread is so good, we bought a loaf for the condo, and had to buy another mid-week (and while we were there, we had to get some sandwiches to go of course). We even stopped at Leoda's on the way to the airport, for one last round of towering, delicious cucumber-avocado sandwiches.
-- Leilani's food is not amazing, but it's good enough, and if you combine that with the kid appeal of the pub-type menu, the beachside setting and the location vs. our condo, you get another place we went more than once. The nut-crusted fish sandwich was my favorite item; the hula pie looked really good but due to jet lag issues, my kids usually fell asleep before dessert (yes I read tripadvisor religiously but am still disorganized enough to go to dinner after the witching hour for people still operating on EST). A word of advice for other parents who may plan as badly as us: if you go out to dinner your first few nights, and don't get it together to arrive before everyone starts yawning, try to steer your kids away from fruit smoothies. On multiple nights, my husband and I sat surrounded by passed-out kids whose heads were laying next to their empty fancy smoothie glasses with little paper umbrellas hanging on the side. We got a LOT of comments about not over-serving the kids, and must admit the scene looked incriminating!
-- We tried Hula Grille but had a rotten meal there. Loooong wait to be seated, so again we had the tiny drunks visual at the end of the meal, terrible service (very slow, indifferent, multiple errors in the orders), and very bad food (including one dish that we thought might be bad in the literal "spoiled" ingredients sense....even before you tried it, you smelled it). I was really surprised because the reviews were stronger overall than Leilani's but they were leagues apart, and worse, in our experience.
-- We had lunch on our Makawao day at Haliimaile General Store. The restaurant is really pleasant -- bright and cheerful and breezy. Both the service and the food was good. My only negative here was the location. As long as you know you're not in the cute town area, that's fine, but I was surprised. I think we might have liked Makawao better if we'd parked once, had lunch at one of the several interesting-looking restaurants in the heart of the strolling zone, and then started our browse. Instead we ate lunch wondering if there was a there there in Makawao, wondering where that there was, etc.
-- We had brunch at Java Jazz & Soup Nutz, very near the Honua Kai. We'd gone to that strip mall to pick up gear we were renting from Snorkel Bob's, and while I was talking shoe sizes and kid face shapes with the lady there, my hungry and not especially observant husband walked down the strip. He poked in Java Jazz, liked its vibe, and came back to talk us into brunch. So we got seated, and almost immediately my 8 year old turned beet red and announced he had to switch sides. I looked where he was looking, and his seat faced a painting of a naked woman, and not one of those discreet, one-leg-draped-forward-as-an-alternative-fig-leaf kind of naked lady paintings. So he popped up, choose a new seat, and realized he was again looking at a naked lady. Nothing terribly graphic mind you -- things like a bird cage with several naked Barbies inside, posed as if they were climbing the walls, impressionist type paintings, etc. And to be clear there was a lot of other odd stuff; it wasn't a naked lady emporium, it was eccentric, kitschy décor of all types. So you could have looked at model planes and football helmets and flying elves, but my kids, being boys of a certain age, could not stop giggling. Adding to the glee was the fact that my husband had sold it based on being "his kind of place." We ended up having a great time -- it's an excellent place to play I Spy (choosing only G-rated items), and the food was very good. The enormous pancakes were a big hit.
-- We had dinner at Kimo's in Lahaina, and it was fine but not fab. Good service, good enough food. We were seated inside though, and there's a huge difference between tables on the deck and tables inside. On the deck, I bet even just "pretty good" food makes for a great night as you look out on the beauty that is Maui and watch the sunset and eat by the flickering torches. At an inside table, you're in a casual dining place that maybe reminds you a little of a Ponderosa you ate at once as a kid. Nothing awful, just indoors, with some dusty old traditional décor and a lot of noise.
-- We had sandwiches on our last day at Relish, Westin's poolside burger place. We hadn't even noticed it all week, assuming Leilani's was a better bet for a casual lunch than any hotel food would be. But we were wrong -- their burgers were better.
We cancelled reservations I had really wanted to keep at Merriman's and Mala's, so I guess I'll have to go back to Maui, darn it!