Jet lag is a curious thing. Your brain tells you one thing, the clock tells you another.. and neither tend to be correct. That’s why, when I travel, I rely on my stomach to tell me what time of day it is. Just three or four steps off of the plane in Maui, and it was clear I had missed a meal of some kind. I had no idea what time it was, but in Hawaii it doesn’t matter anyway. They should make it a rule that everyone is required to flush their watches down the toilet before stepping foot on Hawaiian soil.
Ok, where to eat, where to eat… As you would expect, the airport is jam packed with tourism brochures doing their very best to pry the money from the wallets of unsuspecting mainlanders. I have no desire whatsoever to visit “Big Mike’s Tourist Tilapia and Surf Lessons” or “Aloha Mahalo Hawaiian Hula Hamburger Hut”. No thank you. When you want local food you should ask a local (duh), and after receiving some advice from a rental car employee we happened upon Da Kitchen a couple miles down the road.
The interior of Da Kitchen is somewhat industrial and the ceilings are – no kidding – at least 25 feet high. Indeed the whole mini-mall complex appears to be a repurposed blimp hangar, but facts such as these matter little when one’s stomach is loudly demanding food. Da Kitchen’s menu is filled to the brim with local Hawaiian favorites, and the specials board alone was over twenty options deep. Quite a few offerings caught my eye, namely the macadamia crusted ahi sandwich with pesto, but in the end I settled on a classic hamburger steak plate lunch. My wife interviewed our waitress to discover what her favorite thing on the menu was, which turned out to be fish and chips.
Speaking of the wait staff (who are quite friendly by the way), all the people who work at Da Kitchen are about 90 pounds soaking wet combined, so I’m pretty sure they don’t actually eat there. If they do, they must have exercise routines that involve burning 4,000+ calories a day. I’ve never been served by a team of olympic triathletes before.
Our food arrived and it was magnificent. My hamburger steak was cooked perfectly, heaped with grilled onions and mushrooms, and swimming in lovely brown gravy. The “vegetable” on my plate, the potato mac salad, was excellent as well. The fish and chips across the table from me looked superb, and I knew immediately that I needed to get in on the action. I used the tried-and-true “Hey look a volcano!” trick and swiped one of the crispy golden fillets while my wife scrambled to find her camera. The batter was perfect, the mahi was so fresh it was still swimming and, critically, it wasn’t oily or greasy at all. Deeeeelish.
Overall I rate Da Kitchen 4 out of 5 sunburned tourists, making it totally worth looking up if you find yourself on Maui.
Da Kitchen Cafe
425 Koloa Street
Kahului, HI 96732