I ate at Down the Hatch, the top-rated Hawaiian spot on Yelp’s 2022 Top 100 US Restaurants list.
I spent $64 on a mai tai, ahi poke, grilled cheese and spiked shave ice – all worth it.
The food line can be long and the dishes are heavy, so I’ll probably just go for the drinks next time.
Down the Hatch, a seafood restaurant in my hometown of Lahaina, Maui, has received local and national awards.
After hearing so many raves about the seafood restaurant, I decided to try Down the Hatch in Lahaina, Maui.
This year, Yelp ranked it 28th on its list of the Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S., based on Yelpers’ favorite places to eat. Of the four Hawaii-based restaurants on the list, Down the Hatch has the highest rating.
This eatery also received multiple awards at the 2022 ʻAipono Awards, which honor Maui’s best restaurants as voted on by residents and visitors.
Down the Hatch won first place for best restaurant poke, best bar and best late-night food. It also won second place for best happy hour and honorable mention for best craft cocktails.
The establishment has also been featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” hosted by Guy Fieri. How is the food here?
I arrived early to wait in a long line and dined during happy hour.
Hatch is right down the street from my house in lower Maui, so I drive by it often. It doesn’t take reservations, and I usually find the line to order food stretches far beyond the entrance.
This is the main reason I usually eat elsewhere and go straight to the bar.
Given the potential wait, I opted for an early dinner and arrived during the restaurant’s happy hour, which runs daily from 2pm to 5pm.
It didn’t hurt that I could also take advantage of discounted food and drinks during happy hour—like 15% off select appetizers, $6 draft beers, $6 well cocktails, and $7 Hawaiian cocktails, including mai tais and lava flows.
Surprisingly, when I went to order my food, there was only one party in front of me.
Guests order food at the counter, take a number and then seat themselves.
When guests arrive at the front of the line, they order their food and drinks at the counter. An employee then gives them a number and directs them to find a seat in the outdoor dining area.
If they arrive after 5:00 PM when there is more foot traffic, they may need to be seated by a staff member.
If diners want more drinks, they can order them directly from the bar. There is also a self-service station with extra plates, utensils, napkins and condiments.
Being there during happy hour, I took advantage of discounted food and drinks.
When I got to the counter, I ordered a mai tai made with passion-orange-guava juice (POG). It cost $7.
For my meal, I wanted to try the special of the month, the $18 ahi poke, because Down the Hatch won the 2022 ʻAipono Award for best restaurant poke.
I also got the grilled cheese stuffed with lobster and crab — a dish featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — for $24.49.
Total was $53.14 including tax and tip.
The interior has a tropical atmosphere with water features, koi fish, potted plants and water decor.
I have always loved the koi river that flows through the restaurant. I remember visiting Down the Hatch as a kid long before it opened in 2015 to feed the fish.
My favorite decoration is the tiger shark sculpture that hangs above the bar. Athena Medina, the local artist behind the piece, made it using recycled materials. At night, the shark is illuminated by an aqua-colored light.
A rock wall with a waterfall is tucked away at the back of the bar, which also usually has a thick layer of foliage, but this was absent when I visited. Perhaps they were in the process of replacing it with fresh leaves.
There were potted plants scattered around the dining room which added some greenery.
My entire order was on the table five minutes after leaving the counter.
A few minutes after being seated at a table, the mai tai I ordered arrived. I took a few pictures of the cocktail and before I had taken my first sip a server delivered my food.
I checked the receipt and saw that the order closed at 16:28 and just five minutes later at 16:33 I had my entire order in front of me.
I intended to have the ahi poke as an appetizer and the grilled cheese as my main course, but I didn’t mind that the dishes arrived at the same time.
The mai tai and ahi poke went well together.
When I finally tried the mai tai, I realized the cashier wasn’t kidding when she said it was strong. It was also quite sweet and the POG gave it a fruity freshness.
The ahi poke tasted fresh—not surprising, since the restaurant’s fish supply comes from Lahaina Harbor across the street—and delicious.
This month’s special featured Asia and the Pacific Islands. Ingredients – like kimchi mayo; wakame or seaweed; ‘inamona, or a relish made from roasted kukui nuts; furikake or Japanese rice seasoning; and house-made poke sauce—it was on a bed of garlic rice.
This Hawaiian-style treasured food and drink goes well together, offering a delicious light bite.
Crab and crab stuffed grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort food.
This sandwich, which appeared on the Food Network, features a Hawaiian sweetbread topped with lobster, lump crab, cheese, tomato, cabbage, creamy butter sauce and the eatery’s signature spicy lava-lava sauce.
It also came with a side of spicy fries.
While I expected the crab and lobster to be the main focus of the sandwich, the sweetness of the bread and the spiciness of the sauce dominated my first bites. Seafood added more flavor.
It was still tasty, but a little heavy, so I noted that I should only order it if I’m looking for comfort food. I took more than half of my food home.
For dessert, I got the “grown-up” shave ice, mixed with alcohol.
Down the Hatch doesn’t have a dessert menu, but diners will enjoy its sister property, Breakwall Shave Ice Co., under the same ownership and roof. they can order sweet food from the restaurant.
Those 21 and older can choose from adult shave ice mixed with alcohol. This is a unique offering as I have not found another place in Hawaii that serves anything similar.
I inquired about the most popular flavors, and the server said they were the strawberry-guava daiquiri and the piña colada, the latter of which was featured in Diners, Drives and Dives.
Pina colada was more appealing to me. Underneath was haupia, also known as coconut pudding, and on top was a creamy frosting with coconut flakes and a drizzle of condensed milk.
Watching them do it in front of me was part of the fun.
I got 15% off at Breakwall Shave Ice Co for ordering food from Down the Hatch. For the small spiked shave ice, it was only $10.74 including tax and tip.
I could get a bigger discount next time if I went back during happy hour when dessert was only $6.
Down the Hatch also serves as a venue for live music and other events.
Thanks to a rotation of local performers, Down the Hatch features live music daily during brunch and happy hour. The restaurant also hosts trivia nights, karaoke, silent discos, dances and special events.
On the day I dined, American Idol season 18 contestant Amber Fiedler was singing to the guests.
The $64 I spent for three courses and a cocktail was worth it, but I’ll probably go back for drinks next time.
After happy hour deals, the kamaʻāina (Hawaii resident) discount and 15% off the adult shave ice price, it was just $63.88 including tax and tip.
This price point is pretty standard for Maui, and I knew I was paying for the location, atmosphere, live entertainment, and locally sourced fish.
Also, since the portions were large, I was able to extend my order to two additional meals. I had ahi poke as a late night snack and saved the grilled cheese for lunch the next day.
I will definitely return to Down the Hatch, although it will be more at night as it is a popular watering hole for the locals.
That said, I haven’t tried the breakfast menu yet. $12 mimosas and bloody marys are calling my name, alongside dishes like fried ahi benedict and mango bread pudding French toast.
It’s hard to say if Down the Hatch is the best restaurant in Hawaii, because “best” is pretty subjective.
But if you’re looking for a casual environment with good food and drinks at relatively reasonable prices, Down the Hatch definitely delivers—as long as you’re willing to wait in line.
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