This is Maui’s top restaurant, especially among the crowd that’s been visiting Maui for 10 or more years. Mama’s consistently gets voted No. 1 restaurant on Maui in various reader polls, and even emerges in the top brackets in national ratings. It’s where locals celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and it’s the restaurant many visitors reserve before they get to Maui.
Doris and Floyd Christenson opened Mama’s in 1973, and it’s still owned by them. It’s set in a beachside house that’s grown and grown. The menu identifies the person who caught the fish and pinpoints the spot in the ocean where it was taken. Mama’s was local before locavore entered the language.
The mahi mahi, ahi, opa and sometimes opakpaka are typically sautéed, maybe nut crusted and finished with Asian or Polynesian seasonings and accompaniments. Moloka‘i sweet potatoes, Hamakua mushrooms and even fresh poi are typical sides. The Polynesian influences on the menu are a carry-over from the Christenson’s days of living on a sailboat in the South Seas.
Much of Mama’s appeal is the beautiful location on a palm-fringed beach. At dusk when the tiki torches flame red and yellow white spindrift tops the waves, the setting is the Hawai‘i of daydreams.
But be forewarned: fifty plus dollar entrees are not unusual, but you will dine very well in a tropical fantasy setting. Another caution: Mama’s Fish House is just 1.5 miles beyond Pa‘ia on the Hana Highway. Using a GPS will direct you to a service entrance, which you come to first. The road bends deeply here, and the entrance to the parking lot is at the fishing boat, perched at the edge of the road. If you pass it, you’ve gone to far.