Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Paia Fish Market

Restaurant Insider

May 14, 2023

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: WHERE HAWAII EATS

ANNE LEE speaks with Paia Fish Market managing partner EDUARDO “DUDA” DAUNTAS

Paia Fish Market was established in 1989 when Paia was a sleepy fishing town on Maui, mostly known to surfers, windsurfers, local fishermen and sugar mill workers. In 1993, Moonstar Greene took over the popular restaurant from her childhood friend’s brother-in-law.

Cajun Ahi Fish Tacos ($15 dinner)

Greene was busy working as a film editor in Los Angeles, and over the years, formed some great partnerships that helped her grow the brand and expanded to Kihei and Lahaina on Maui, then Waikiki and, most recently, Kailua. One of those great partnerships is with Eduardo “Duda” Dauntas, who is a managing partner on Oahu.

I spoke with Dauntas to learn more about Paia Fish Market and tried some of its delicious dishes,including The Big Obama Burger, named after former President Barack Obama.

Cajun Ahi Burger ($15)

AL: What are Greene’s favorite dishes?

ED: Do you mean what are the dishes that she isn’t tired of after 30 years? It’s our Cajun Ahi Taco ($6 a la carte; $12 lunch and $15 dinner). A lunch plate comes with one taco, coleslaw, tomato, cheese and housemade tartar sauce, and the dinner portion has two tacos. She likes it without cheese.

I also like to have the Cajun Ahi Burger ($15) — all of our charbroiled burgers come with coleslaw, homemade tartar sauce and a choice of Cajun rice or home potatoes (or french fries for an additional $2.50). Another favorite is one of our salads, Garden or Caesar, with a piece of salmon over it for $19.

Paia Fish Market offers salad with fresh seafood (call for price)

AL: What is The Big Obama Burger and what is the story behind it?

ED: Moonstar created this burger in 2008 for then-President Barack Obama when things were looking a little bit dismal and everybody was a little down and looking for some new fresh energy. For her, Obama signified hope, promise and fresh energy. She named it The Big Obama Burger and dedicated six-to-eight months of sales from this menu item to his campaign.

It’s a hidden secret menu favorite: A large Cajun ono, which is a white fish that is a little bit firmer. It’s grilled with a dollop of wasabi butter on top and is served on a bun with coleslaw, tartar sauce, tomato, cheese and a side of fries.

The Big Obama Burger ($13)

AL: How did you become a part of Paia Fish Market?

ED: Moonstar and her business partner, Yuri, had been looking for a long time to open on Oahu and found this location in Waikiki. Through mutual friends, I was introduced to them and helped build it and get it all together. Along with chef Magno Passos, I oversee Oahu and also am a part owner of the Kailua location.

Each location has the same menu, same ingredients, same recipes and same price points. You can order The Big Obama Burger at any of our five locations.

AL: Has Obama tried The Big Obama Burger?

ED: Not yet. We would love for the former president to come and try it. We’ve been serving it since 2008. Although it’s not listed on the menu, you can order it by name and all of our staff know what it is and how to make it.

Especially when he comes out here for the holidays, we want to make sure that Obama knows that it’s here on the menu. We will close the restaurant for him and his beautiful wife and kids.

AL: Anything else you want to share?

ED: Paia Fish Market is a unique place. It’s become like a cult following. Moonstar shared with me that her lawyer was in Paris six months ago, eating at this random hotel, and sitting across from him was a person wearing a Paia Fish Market T-shirt. How crazy is that?

We have so many people that have supported us and our fans, and we’re so grateful to everybody that has given us so much love and support over the years. This is one of the freshest and healthiest places to dine. We try to get the most local fish and ingredients. It’s not always easy, but we do the best we can. The Kailua community has been so welcoming, and we are grateful to have many local customers.

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best