Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Gluttonous Vegan's Guide to Pa`ia, Maui, Hawai`i

Pa`ia is an old sugar plantation town on Maui's North Shore, about 8 miles east of Kahului (site of the island's main airport). It's now regarded as a haven for windsurfers, artists, guitarists, peace activists, and other free spirits - and tourists looking for a good meal before or after venturing to Hana.

Pa`ia is also a vegan's delight, offering an array of great food choices. It's also a real town, - a walkable town - an increasingly rare and wonderful thing in Hawai`i and the rest of America.

Parking is a problem. I recommend not even trying to find parking on the street or in a store parking lot. Rather, I recommend using the free municipal parking lot on Hana Highway at the entrance to the town (coming from Kahului). Or, you could just take the Maui Bus.

Walking from the parking lot toward Baldwin Avenue, the first place I recommend visiting is Anthony's Coffee. My regular meal at Anthony's is a combination of brown rice, salsa, and avocado. Simple goodness! And the highly efficient kitchen staff often has it ready for me even before I've finished paying.

But, as the name suggests, it's the coffee that makes Anthony's famous. I almost always have the ultra-strong organic French roast. It's pricey ($2+). But refills are offered at a discount. And, if you can handle strong coffee, you'll want a refill. The soy lattes are terrific too.

Anthony's amenities including a flat-screen TV and free wi-fi (although there are no electrical outlets). There are a lot of cool little gifts available.

World-class athletes Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton and their two impossibly cute (and presumably future Olympian) kids are Anthony's regulars when they're on the island.

Proceeding down Hana Highway, you can take a right and walk up Baldwin Avenue to Cafe Mambo. This Mediterranean-themed hotspot features free movies on Thursday nights at 9 and a plentiful selection of vegan appetizers, entrees, and side dishes. There's a wide price range. Combine some of the inexpensive side orders, and you can end up with a full meal that's much more affordable than some of the entrees.

Friendly service from an international staff, hearty stews, and lots of couscous are among Cafe Mambo's guarantees.

Cafe Des Amis - Mambo's sister restaurant - is just a little farther up the avenue. Cafe Des Amis also has a largely Mediterranean orientation, but Indian cuisine is also represented. I recommend the vegetable curry with mango chutney on the side. The coffee is also strong and tasty and will be refilled frequently, without charge. The service can be a little languid, but the wait staff is friendly and doesn't mind gentle reminders.

There's a crosswalk between Des Amis and Mambo that you can use to get to the other side of Baldwin Avenue and visit Pa`ia's unofficial vegan headquarters, Mana Foods.

Although Mana's isn't completely vegetarian, it offers Maui's best selection of vegan food. The prices are reasonable, and the quantity and quality of items are impressive.

Immediately after entering the store, you'll find a plentiful supply of vegan chocolate bars on your left. Proceed up that first aisle a few feet, and you'll find a big collection of pasta sauces on the left and healthy candy bars on the right.

At the first aisle intersection in the store, you can go left into Mana's specialty section for vitamins, supplements, ointments, beauty supplies, and a few clothing items.

Emerging from the specialty section, hang a left to find yourself in Maui's deli. On the right is a diverse salad bar. On the left, you can get pre-made or made-to-order sandwiches, entrees, or desert items. I recommend the sesame seed sandwich, baked tofu, and vegan chocolate cake.

Continuing past the deli area, you'll find yourself in the store's spice, grain, nut, and coffee section. Dozens of bins contain healthy snack items, cereals, and cooking tools. I recommend stepping into this section just for the rich, pleasant aromas, if nothing else.

Leaving that area, go left to check out Mana's refrigerated juices, sodas, and waters at the back of the store.

Take a right down the second aisle. On your left, you'll find hundreds of teas. On your right are dozens of bags of chips, popcorn, and other snacks.

Continue past the next aisle intersection toward the front of the store to find more snacks (on your right) and an array of boxed cereals (left). General Mills and Kellogg's brands and cereals with high fructose corn syrup won't be found. Whole-grain cereals, however, are plentiful.

Make a left turn around the end of the case (pausing to view the bread and pastries there) to proceed up the third aisle and view small containers of soups and other items that, with the addition of hot water, will provide quick, nutritious snacks.

Continue up the third aisle for Mana's modest collection of paper goods and other household supplies.

Wrap around the end of the case and make a right to see huge collections of bottled juices (your right) and frozen desserts (left). I recommend the espresso ice cream (Soy Delicious) and the Kula strawberry sorbet (Ono Gelato).

Proceed past the aisle intersection. On the left are more frozen goods - breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees. On the right are bottled water, bread, and a mishmash of a few other items.

Curl around the end of the case, and go left to enter the refrigerated section. You'll discover, on the right, soy yogurt, soy milk, soy cheese, and a massive variety of tofu, seitan, and other meat substitutes, while on on your left are tortillas, wraps, and the like.

Past the aisle intersection are shelves filled with cartons of soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and hemp milk. Proceed around the end of the aisle and turn to the right to enter Mana's produce section - a locavore's nirvana displaying countlegss fresh fruits and vegetables from throughout Maui.

At checkout, get a five-cent credit for using your own bag(s).

After exiting Mana's, go left and walk up Baldwin Avenue until you find yourself at Fresh Mint restaurant, across from the Patsy Takemoto Mink Post Office.

Fresh Mint is Maui's best Vietnamese restaurant and only all-vegan restaurant (it's at the site of a similar prior restaurant called The Vegan).

Fresh Mint's appetizers, soups, entrees, and desserts are all affordably priced and delicious. It's a wonderful place to bring someone who's not yet a vegan because several entrees are mock meat dishes.

Head back down Baldwin Avenue and cross Hana Highway to reach Ono Gelato, home to several excellent sorbets featuring local, organic fruits and vegetables. I love them all.

After enjoying a sorbet, walk toward Hana a few hundred feet to find the Green Banana Cafe, an ecologically friendly coffeehouse and Internet cafe. Green Banana has several vegan smoothies (all recommended).

Proceed a bit farther toward Hana to enjoy healthy Mexican food by trying the bean burrito at Fiesta Time.

Across the street is Charley's, a Pa`ia landmark known for big breakfasts in the morning and live rock 'n roll at night. Willie Nelson is a regular. There aren't always a large number of vegan menu items. But Charley's is happy to whip up some roasted potatoes, salsa, and avocado.

Next door is Jacques North Shore Bistro, a trendy spot for the younger generation, which usually features a couple of vegan entrees on its dinner menu.

Cross the street again and go back down Hana Highway toward Kahului, past Paia Inn (a cozy little hotel), to visit the final entry among this list of recommended Pa`ia eateries: Flatbread Company. It's refreshing to see vegan pizzas listed on the menu; no special requests are needed! And the wood-fired pizzas at Flatbread are excellent (as are the salads). I recommend going on a Tuesday night, when profits are partly allocated to a local charitable organization.

I love Pa`ia. I think you will too!

Aloha and mahalo.


  1. WOW! a very comprehensive post. I will tweet this for sure.

    I don't get to go to Paia that much but with list of places to eat and try vegan food, I might go this weekend :)

    A Maui Blog

  2. This is very useful! I will save this link for future reference when sending info to people who are moving here.