Ready to know more about San Diego?


Brunching Like Locals in West Maui

The island's Papa’aina does internationally-inspired breakfast classics with local ingredients
Anna Kim
Lahaina brunch

Lahaina brunch

Anna Kim

The existential brunch dilemma of “sweet or savory?” need not apply at Papa’aina on Maui. Chef Lee Ann Wong’s playful menu at the restaurant, which sits along Lahaina’s Front Street, is a mouthwatering, multicultural take on breakfast staples. Wong takes inspiration from her travels through Japan but sources most ingredients locally.

Highlights include furikake-infused cheddar biscuits slathered with a knob of silky miso coffee butter; a breakfast ramen dressed in cubed ham and bacon bits in shoyu dashi broth; macadamia nut-studded pancakes sweetened with liliko’i (passionfruit) cream; and the savory okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) topped with a fried egg.

Yet, for all the inventiveness, the statement piece is the local tropical fruit plate. It’s simply fruit, but it’s also a sense of exotic place. Wong’s comment on the irony that, despite its fertile growing conditions, Hawai’i imports more than 80 percent of its food supply: “I was eating breakfast somewhere on Oahu with a piece of unripe honeydew melon, unripe cantaloupe, and an orange wheel on the plate,” she recalls of her first visit to Hawai’i in 2006. “[It was] really uninspiring, definitely not local.”

Instead, Papa’aina’s plate flaunts peak Maui mango, guava, and lychee, plus lesser-known fruits like tart and tiny Surinam cherry, purple star apple, and longan, lychee’s cousin.

Looking ahead, Papa’aina will introduce a grab-and-go counter serving coffee, hot and cold items, and fresh baked pastries. In 2020, Front Street also added a new waterfront and reservation-only location of Star Noodle and their famous garlic noodles. Pacific’o, a beachfront restaurant with a front row for sunsets, introduced a new executive chef, Maui local Isaac Bancaco.

Like the picturesque block, which became treasured for its old Hawai’i architecture set against a tropical wonderscape, Bancaco puts local twists on old-school classics with dishes like mahi mahi Wellington.

By Ligaya Malones

Ligaya Malones grew up in Kaua’i, Hawai’i and is a San Diego-based writer covering the intersection of food, travel, and culture. Her work has appeared in publications including Food52, Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, and Salt & Wind Travel.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA