Kauai--farmer's markets, luau and regional food
Coming to Kauai for about a week in late April. We've got a condo in Poipu, so a good grocery, and farmers markets are our big thing. Restaurant suggestions appreciated, too. Is Roy's any good? I know it can be hokey, but we'll probably want to go to a luau. The food is foremost for us in a luau.
Thanks to all of you for your detailed advice. Now I feel confident we won't waste a lot of time and eating opportunities trying to find the best. We only had Maui figured out as we were leaving! If you are coming to San Diego, check out the Chowhound California - Other board. That's my hometown.
My husband and I travel to Kauai every chance we get, and it is usually every other year, and we always stay in Poipu. We have found what we believe is the BEST italian restaurant down the road in Kalaheo. It's a little place called Pomodoro, and it's upstairs in a little shopping plaza. It doesn't look like much at all from the outside, but the food is fantastic. You MUST call ahead for reservations because they only have about 10 tables, and they're busy.
We always eat at Roys, and have rarely had a bad experience. The complaints that I've been reading about waits and ambiance are not valid in my opinion. The fresh fish is absolutely the best.
Keoki's next door to Roys is not nearly as good. The food is priced only slightly less, and the service stinks. We have had three very poor experiences in a row, and have vowed never to return.
The Beach House is always very good. You need to call ahead to make a reservation, especially if you want to see the sun set. We often wait until after sunset to go, because the crowd starts to thin out after that.
In Kapaa, there's another great place called A Pacific Cafe. Again, it's located in a shopping center, so there is no view, but the food makes up for it.
We also like to eat at a little place called Paradise Seafood which is on the road out of Lihue toward Poipu. It sits near the community college, and next door to a motorcycle dealership. It looks like a bar (which it is), but also has GREAT seafood and CHEAP island prices. And if you're looking for cheap, Bubba's in Kapaa or Hanalei is always a good bet.
We don't like the restaurants on the North side of the island nearly as much; perhaps because we're not quite "crunchy" enough.
As far as grocery shopping goes, we always hit Foodland in Kapaa right away. The place in the Kukiu Grove is OK, but Foodland is much better. Then we use the little grocery store either in Koloa or Poipu to stock up on those daily little things you need.
Now for the best part! On the road from Koloa to Poipu, on the left is a little farm stand that sells fresh produce on a daily basis. My husband and I refer to the very elderly proprieter as the "papaya lady" because she has the best sunrise papayas on Kauai. She also ALWAYs is admonishing everyone not to squeeze her papayas. She looks like she's about 85, but she's spunky! Go early in the day, or you get stuck with the big non-sunrise papayas, which aren't nearly as good. The rest of their produce is also quite good. I find this stand much more satisfactory than trying the sunshine markets around the island.
Ate at Roy's this week -- severely disappointed. Had the Spring Roll appetizer and main course of Ahi served two ways. In each case, the sauce was harsh and overpowering and obscured the taste of the main ingredient. The Roy's house white wine was fine, and the dessert (sorbet assortment)refreshing -- although partly because it counteracted the taste of the entree. The fish at Dukes Canoe Club in Lihue was infinitely superior. Can also recommend Banana Joe's, a fruit market/smoothie stand on the road to Hanalei.
There is a great farmers market, if you search google for Kauai farmer's market, you should be able to find it... I think it runs a couple of days during the week.
Restaurants: Roys is semi ok... but Keoki's next door ROCKS! It is great - reasonable prices too. The french fries are amazing... I would cook fresh fish from the seafood store (on the outside bbq as the sun set) and send my husband across the street to get fresh fries from Keoki's to eat with our dinner... yum!
We never made it, but The Beach House restaurant has recieved many great reviews (see link) and I once saw it on Food Network... another great place to go is the terrace at the Hyatt, fantastic place to enjoy appetizers, cocktails, island tunes, soothing ocean and the wonderfulness that is Kauai... sigh :)
Good luck and have a wonderful time!
My husband and I actually had a fabulous meal in Roy's, despite a couple of things: (1) the ridiculous line they make you stand in when you get there... even when you have a reservation. They are just incapable of seating people even though they have tables open in any manner that is at all expeditious. I also think they overbook tables and (2) the fact that we had somebody come change a flat tire while we were eating. The ambience is particularly bad at this Roy's location, but we had a wonderful meal, and I didn't feel that it was as overpriced as many of the other places on the Hawaiian islands.
I ordered the short ribs and my husband had a special fish combo (probably ahi and mahi-mahi) they had on the menu that day. Our server was also great about letting us sample the wines that they serve by the glass before we were forced to select a glass, which is really fun because all of the wines are by major producers of wines made just for the Roy's chain.
Roy's was the only meal that we ate down in Poipu. We had also heard many recommendations for the Beach House, but after a bad meal at their sister restaurant on Maui, we decided it wasn't worth the hour long drive from where we were staying.
We always stay on Poipu, but the shopping is better in Lihue, probably the Star market in the Kokui Nut center. Across the highway, Gaylords is a pretty good place to eat. Roy's is OK...lots of hype and a bit overpriced. As is Brenneckes. The golf course place has dinner one night a week (I think Thurs), and is pretty good. The best farmers market is the Friday one at the stadium grounds in Lihue. Starts at 2:30 PM SHARP. Get there early to check out the stands. You can probably put your choices in a bag and have the vendor keep it aside until the whistle blows. Ask a local how you do it. The good stuff goes FAST. You will be competing with locals to get the best stuff. It is almost a weekly ritual on the island.