(UPDATED JUNE, 2019)
Generally speaking, a plate lunch consists of two scoops of rice, mac (macaroni) salad and an entree. Historians believe plate lunches started when pineapple and sugar cane plantation workers would bring bento boxes, made up of rice and a main course, to work for lunch. In the 1930s, food carts visited the fields serving up similar lunches on plates, thus crowning the name “plate lunch.” Today, plate lunches can be found in grocery stores, drive-ins, restaurants and food trucks. Here are our five favorite plate lunch places on Maui.
1.) Aloha Mixed Plate (Lahaina)
Located on the water, across from the Lahaina Cannery Mall, Aloha Mixed Plate offers stunning views and killer plate lunches. A little on the pricey side for plate lunches, most plates come in around $12, the quality of the food makes the cost worth it. Our favorite order is the Beachside Mixed Plate, which includes shoyu (soy sauce) chicken, grilled kalbi ribs and teriyaki beef. Aloha Mixed Plate is equally popular amongst locals and visitors, and is sure to appease even the heartiest of appetites. (Aloha Mixed Plate)
2.) Da Kitchen (Kahului and Kihei)
Being about five minutes from the airport, Da Kitchen is often the first or last place visitors will eat when arriving or departing Maui. Da Kitchen is known for its massive portions of tasty local food. They serve some of the best kalua pork on Maui. If you’re really hungry and want to fill up, or if you want leftovers for a long flight, go with the Hawaiian Plate, which includes pork lau lau, kalua pork, chicken long rice and lomi salmon. Besides the sit-down Kahului location, there’s a smaller, take-out spot in Kihei. (Da Kitchen)
3.) Piko Cafe (Kihei)
Tucked away in a quiet corner of a strip mall, with its light wood tables and clean atmosphere, Piko Cafe kind of resembles an Apple Store. The food they serve is cheap and fast. Oh, it’s also really good. We recommend the chicken katsu, which is wonderfully crisp and served with a house-made katsu sauce. While it’s not a plate lunch, the three pancake breakfast for $4.99 is one of the best breakfast deals on Maui. Piko Cafe is relatively new, having opened in 2017, but it’s already becoming a fixture for both locals and visitors.(Piko Cafe)
4.) Sam Sato’s (Wailuku)
Hidden deep in the industrial section of Wailuku, if you can find Sam Sato’s, you’ll enjoy yummy plate lunches at one of Maui’s oldest restaurants. Sam Sato’s has been slinging breakfast and lunch (closed for dinner) since 1933. The plate lunches include old standbys like teriyaki, hamburger steak and stew. But if you go to Sam Sato’s, make you order the dry noodles. It’s a specialty of the house and widely considered the best noodle dish on Maui. (Sam Sato’s)
5.) L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (all over)
Since opening its first drive-in in 1976, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue now has close to 200 locations in the United States, Guam and Japan. Since that first day, L&L has been a purveyor of the plate lunch. With a deep menu, L&L upholds the plate lunch tradition of large portions, served fast and cheap. We recommend the garlic shrimp and/or the garlic chicken. They aren’t fancy, but they hit the spot. If you order this, remember a breath mint because you’ll be tasting the garlic the rest of the day. (L&L Hawaiian Barbecue)
Do you have a favorite plate lunch spot? Tell us where you like to go in the comments below or by hitting us up on Twitter: @HIOceanProject and Instagram: @hawaiioceanproject.
By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.