360 Papa Pl., Kahului
Former Top Chef contestant and local Sheldon Simeon and his wife, Janice, opened Tin Roof in 2016 in Kahului, which is the closest thing you’ll find to a big city on the island (population: 26,000, give or take). It’s an unassuming noodle shack that serves delicious bowls of saimin (a popular island dish made of fresh noodles in broth, topped with green onion, soft-boiled egg, pork belly, and bean sprouts). It became such a hit that the Simeons plan to open a new spot nearby this year. The menu will pay homage to Sheldon’s Filipino heritage, while using only ingredients indigenous to Hawaii.
The Mill House
1670 Honoapiilani Hwy., Waikapu
A relative newcomer to Maui, the Mill House debuted two years ago in the rural Waikapu Valley. The restaurant sources most ingredients (avocados, carrots, fennel, papaya) from its own sixty-acre plantation or from nearby farms, so expect to be blown away by the vibrant flavors. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with the locally caught mahi-mahi or snapper.
69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr., Waikoloa
Chef Roy Yamaguchi is a Hawaiian legend, with a corresponding empire of restaurants scattered across all the islands (Eating House 1849 in Kauai, etc.). This outpost is one of his classics, and is ideal if you're all-in for a tasting menu or have something to celebrate. It's exactly what one would expect from a fancier version of island food: Macadamia nut encrusted fish, baby back ribs done with Szechuan-style sauce, and a famous chocolate soufflé. It can get loud and noisy, so not always the best choice if you want to have an intimate conversation.
578 Hinano St., Hilo
There are only about 8 seats at Chef Igarashi's sushi bar, and you will have to line up for them (reservations book up months in advance). Igarashi focuses on perfect, incredible fresh sashimi and sushi—that he doesn't dress up with much beyond rice, wasabi, and shoyu—in short, get the omakase.
77-6400 Nalani St., Kailua-Kona
An excellent French restaurant seems unlikely on the Big Island of Hawaii, but La Bourgogne is exactly that: So when you've tired of poke and pork head here. It sits in a very unassuming building on the side of the highway in Kailua-Kona, but the menu is anything but: Very French options like frog legs and escargots are balanced by more accessible options like baked brie, lobster salad, and a really good filet mignon.
Moon & Turtle
51 Kalakaua St., Hilo
Earning rave reviews for its daily changing, farm-to-table, ocean-to-table small plates, this sweet little spot justifies a trip if you're not staying in Hilo (also consider a stop here for dinner on your way back from Volcanos National Park). The plates are truly inventive, blending the best of Hawaiian ingredients with Asian flavors, and they always sell the best of what's available, which translates to only having enough for a few of some plates. (The chef-owner Mark Pomaski got his training from Roy Yamaguchi, so the mastery makes sense.) Make reservations, though you can usually grab seats at the bar.
The Fish and the Hog
64-957 Mamalahoa Hwy., Waimea
While an excellent barbecue joint might seem unlikely in Hawaii, considering the island's natural predilection for pork, as well as Waimea's reputation as a "paniolo" town (i.e. cowboy), The Fish and the Hog makes perfect sense. What's fun is that you can get pulled pork, beef brisket, and all the requisite sides (their Crackseed, Hawaiian-inspired sauce with Chinese plum is not to be missed), you can also get super fresh poke and delicious, chili dusted calamari.
780 Haiku Rd., Haiku
This sister restaurant to Paia Fish Market is more subdued—but no less delicious. While the space is small, the menu is mighty: Sashimi platters, excellent bowls, specialty rolls, and plenty of poke, all sourced from local purveyors wherever possible. Don't miss the Asian French Fries, served with wasabi aioli and furikake, or the Japanese fried chicken.
Paia Inn Café
93 Hana Hwy., Paia
This indoor/outdoor café—which is part of the sweet and sleepy Paia Inn—serves one of the town's best brunches, with a menu that spans from cardamon french toast to a breakfast board that includes both pork belly and lox. They source ingredients from local Maui farmers, and focus on whatever is hyper-fresh, as illustrated by an exhaustive array of fresh juices.
2956 Kress St., Lihue
This old-school ramen shop has been a Kauai stand-by for 70-odd years and counting (they're also known for lilikoi pie). There's typically a long line of locals, and it is completely frill-free, but it's a great post-airport choice after a long ride (or in advance of a red eye back to the states). By Hawaii standards, they're also open quite late.
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