Gone are the days when airport dining was limited exclusively to Cinnabon and Mickey D’s. From Chicago O’Hare’s Tortas Frontera to LAX’s Petrossian, airports around the globe are turning out restaurants that entice travelers to arrive long before their departures.
And while Maui’s international airport may be on the smaller side (even if it is the second largest airport in Hawaii), it nonetheless has a variety of choices to satisfy your cravings.
Here’s the lowdown on OGG’s eating options—and your ticket to flying home with a satisfied belly:
Sammy Hagar’s Beach Bar and Grill
Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar has made quite a name for himself off the stage, primarily as the founder of a chain of restaurants with an upbeat, tropical ethos. The most popular of his rocker spots is Cabo Wabo Cantina, a heady haven that opened first in Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas in 1990. Since then, The Red Rocker has opened a number of cheery venues to, well, cheer a beer (or, rather, a margarita—Cabo Wabo has its line of tequilas)—in Cleveland, Southland Park, Las Vegas, and, now, Maui.
Nestled in the main gating area (most of OGG’s dining is located in a cluster between the gates), this bright, airy bar and restaurant is often packed with Mauians jetting off and visitors winding down before returning to the mainland. Breakfast starts at 10:30am to the tune of hearty options like Loco Moco (a Kobe-style beef burger smothered in gravy and green onions, and served on top of fried eggs and “two scoop” white rice), Paniolo Steak and Eggs, a SPAM omelet aptly named Oh Bruddah, and Hawaiian French Toast, which, crowned with toasted coconut, banana, and pineapple, basically tastes like a morning at the beach.
Catching a later plane? Their lunch and dinner items are just as substantial, with their Rocking Tacos being a local fave (fillings include ono, grilled chicken, shrimp, and flat iron steak). Burgers—from classic to “island” (the latter is served with pineapple salsa, BBQ sauce, and crispy onions) are also offered alongside “Sammywiches;” try their Grilled Chicken with roasted red peppers and caramelized onions.
But it’s Sammy’s swagger with cocktails that makes this hopping spot the most popular café in the airport. Go with a perfectly-pitched Mai Tai with fresh lime and Sammy’s own Red Head rum, or get nifty with “Sammy’s Wake Up Screaming,” wherein a Bloody Mary is fixed with Beach Bar rum and pineapple chipotle syrup. (What plane?)
To note: A portion of the proceeds from Sammy Hagar’s Beach Bar and Grill are given to the Hagar Family Foundation in support of local children charities.
Stinger Ray’s Tropical Bar & Grill
With locations on the Big Island and Oahu, Maui’s iteration of the HNL institution possesses the same neon lights and list of classic cocktails. Open and breezy, Stinger Ray’s is best known for their ice-cold beers (and is there any better way to conclude a Hawaiian island stay?) Should you plan on fueling up before your flight, options abound in the way of salads (such as Pineapple Sesame Chicken), sandwiches and burgers (check out their teriyaki-infused Aloha Burger with bacon, Swiss cheese, and wasabi aioli), and specialties (their fish and chips is most commonly made with mahi mahi). But it’s their selection of pupu that’ll give you a last chance at having an island experience. Ahi Poke, Kalua Pork Sliders, and Island Hot Wings are just three of their options, and their Nachos with avocado lime crema and margarita chicken feel like a vacation (no matter if you’re heading in the other direction).
To note: While Stinger Ray’s has become a familiar sight at Hawaiian airports, its Maui location consistently receives less-than-stellar reviews from diners. Our advice? If you’re not hungry, come here for the spirits and beers.
California Pizza Kitchen
California Pizza Kitchen is partly responsible for putting hand-tossed pizzas on the country’s culinary map. Known to many as CPK, the gourmet-on-a-budget pizza and pasta spot got its start in Beverly Hills before popping up everywhere from Australia to Malaysia. Its outpost on Maui is small but savory, and sells a number of its most popular dishes, such as their timeless BBQ Chicken Pizza, Classic Caesar Salad, and Tortilla Soup, as well as breakfast staples like scrambled egg burritos and yogurt parfaits.
To note: CPK Maui doesn’t provide table service: rather, order at the counter and find a seat at one of the table and chairs in the food court.
The Old Plantation Store
To note: It may not be the most memorable meal of your island stay, but the food here is perfect for keiki.
Deemed by many as the best stop for grinds within OGG, Frankly Gourmet is as its name suggests—a kiosk that specializes primarily in hot dogs. Slightly less spendy than the other options listed here, Frankly Gourmet provides diners with a variety of toppings, from standards like relish to get-it-while-you-can Maui onions. Go with an all-beef Maui dog, or, for something spicy and special, try the Portuguese sausage on a soft, steamed bun. Saimin is also offered, as well as plate lunches with stick-to-your-ribs sides like macaroni salad and rice.
To note: Can’t find it in the food court? Look for the blue truck next to Sammy’s.
Additional choices include customary airport fare like Burger King, Pinkberry, and Starbucks, as well as a small newsstand that peddles candy, cookies, sodas, and chips. And if nothing here intrigues, get your eat on in Kahului. Otherwise known as “town,” the hub has everything from a laidback brewery (Kahului Ale House) to one of the best Mexican restaurants on Maui (Las Pinatas). AND, of course there’s our favorite option: Tin Roof. Sated, you can kick back at your gate—and steal a few last glimpses of the beguiling isle.