I'm headed to Kauai on Friday for three days and need recommendations for restaurants or markets. (I found an thread on this from some time ago, so it seems it's time for a new query.) We're staying in Kapa'a, but will have a car and are willing to go anywhere on the island. My friend and I are grad students, so we'll probably splurge on one dinner and exercise our chowhound noses the rest of the time. We might even cook in our little cottage, hence the market recommendations.
Also, good coffee anywhere? Ice cream? Fresh seafood? I heard the Sheraton Princeville brunch is to die for...
Oh my god. the Plantation Gardens in Poipu. Besides a really cool restaurant, the food was divine, much better than The Beach House (voted most romantic)
Also right in Kapaa is MEMA - voted one of the best thai restaurants outside of Thailand...very very good. I had wanted to try Blossoming Lotus, which is fusion food, but we ran out of time.
It's BEAUTIFUL there. Have fun!
Interesting. We found just the opposite, between The Beach House and Plantation Gardens. Both were good, but the food at PG was a bit uninspired, though nice. TBH was excellent, plus I really liked their wine list much better. I knew what to expect, wine-wise at PG, as they are kind enough to put it on their site. We made do, but it needs a re-work.
I have seen reviews all over the board (not just this BOARD) for both. Maybe we hit TBH on the peak of an up-cycle, and PG near the bottom of a down-cycle. Or, maybe our very nonchalant waiter influenced our overall experience - bus-person was great though.
If the OP is interested, I did a full review from that trip in Sept. (review in Oct '07). The Kaua`i material is at the head of that post.
[EDIT] Oops, too late. I see at the bottom of the thread that you have already departed.
How Hamura's Saimin won the 2006 Beard Foundation award is a real puzzle to me! The place is a dump and the saimin served is marginal at best, featuring flavorless broth and a piece of grey, rancid tasting roast pork! It certainly diminishes the value of the Beard award in my mind and I really doubt that they actually sent someone to Hamura's to try out the dishes they serve. Omoide's Deli [attached to Wong's Restaurant in Hanapepe], about 20 or so miles west of Lihue, serves a much, much better product and their lilikoi pie is better than Hamura's.. and they sell really fresh, tasty Chinese roast pork and duck.
The James Beard Foundation Awards aren't necessarily recognizing Hamura's Saimin for their excellence in saimin, but for their place in culinary history.
Below are the 2007 award recipients and description of the category of awards for which Hamura's was honored was American Classics.
Each year The James Beard Foundation presents this award to four small, regional restaurants -- casual watering holes, shacks, lunch counters, or eateries -- that have offered good, down-home food and unmatched hospitality for generations. These restaurants offer a very distinct menu and atmosphere and are a slice of American culinary history. The following are this year’s America’s Classics profiles, written by members of The James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards Committee:
To each his own. And you can't argue with the hordes of locals that continually pack the place. Calling it a dump is very uncalled for in my opinion. It is dated but that's part of its charm. It is clean and bright and the service is what one would expect in any diner across the country.
I do agree that Omoide's lilikoi pie is better. Much tastier filling.
Right in the Kapa'a area is Kintaro, often regarded as the Kauai's best sushi, but with excellent Teppan Table fare at the back for those who want something cooked. Very popular --go early or be prepared to wait.
Also in Kapa'a is a branch of Bubba's Burgers, a small local chain that per their name makes very good burgers. There is another branch up a Hanalei near Princeville.
In Lihue, Barbeque Inn is inexpensive and very good for local favorites like a plate lunch. As mentioned by another post, Hamura's in Lihue is a good spot for saimin and has plenty of local character.
If you go to the Poipu area, the Koloa Fish Market in Koloa serves a very good plate lunch, with especially good local grilled fish. As another poster mentioned, the Plantation Garden is a very pretty restaurant at the Kiahuna Plantation in Poipu, but I haven't eaten there for years and I know they have changed the menu considerably from when I was last there. Also in Poipu is Brenecke's, which is just across the road from the State beach and has a terrific view, with pretty good, though sometimes inconsistent food. The place is very informal but nice, and while not cheap -- local grilled fish on a complete dinner will easily be in the $20 to $30 range -- if you choose carefully (they have some sandwiches and burgers below that range) you can enjoy the excellent view and nice surroundings without doing to much damage money-wise. At the very least, a good place for drinks, which are tasty, strong, and by island standards priced reasonably. Also in Poipu at the small mall is a branch of Roy's which offers fairly pricey, but very good asian fusion food in a nice room, as well as Keoki's Paradise, which I've always found to be just okay and a little expensive for what you get, though the setting is nice.
Near Koloa/Poipu, on the main highway that would take you Waimea Canyon, is Kalaheo. If you're heading to the canyon it is a good spot for lunch or dinner. For informal food there is the Camp House Grill, which is truly a roadhouse kind of place, a little ramshackle, but tidy inside. Excellent burgers and fries, and outstanding pies. They make a nice, simple grilled fish sandiwch too, using local fish. Cheap, but very good. There is also a branch in Kappa'a but I don't think it is as good. Also in Kalaheo is Brick Oven Pizza, which is often touted as the best pizza on the island. While I haven't sampled pizza from a lot of places on the island, I can say that I thought that Brick Oven was very good. Good value too. Also in that neighborhood (about a block off the main highway) is Kalaheo Steakhouse. Great old fashioned casual steakhouse, lots of locals and very good, if not fancy food. You may pay in the $20 to $35 range for a complete meal -- salad, potato main -- but the meat is top quality and it is a very good value. Also, it has a surprisingly good wine list with sometimes unbelievably low prices -- I saw several very good wines priced barely above retail. This has become one of our favorite places when we are in the neighborhood.
Also on the way to Waimea Canyon, in the town of Waimea, Jo Jo's Shave Ice is pretty much an institution. Another place considered "the best" for what it serves on the island, and it also makes lists for best shave ice in all of Hawaii. I've found it very good, but I am not a shave ice fanatic, so it doesn't take much to please me.
Forget Bubba's Burgers. Go to Duane's Ono Char Burger in Anahola north of Kapa'a on the way to Princeville. One of the freshest burgers I've ever eaten.
I second the rec for Hamura's. If you go up to Waimea, also stop at Wong's Chinese in Hanapepe. Next door is a bakery (forget the name) but they have THE BEST lilikoi chiffon pie in the world! We did a taste test and it beat Hamura's hands down (not that their pie is a slouch).
Great fresh seafood dishes can be found at the very informal Kilauea Fish Market. It's on the road to the lighthouse in Kilauea, again off of the Kuhio Highway north of Kapa'a before you get to Princeville.
I agree with all three of your suggestions hopkid - now I'm not sure about these other people on this board, but it seems to me like they are "Resort Hounds" making the rounds of the more "touristy" establishments.
I guess everyone is entitiled to like what they like - but my motto is when you are in a new place try local - don't go for the "chain" or upscale places - you can get that at home, right!
Kauai is my second home, and I have tried all the "hole in the wall" haunts - and believe me they are worth it. You can't go wrong with a quick plate lunch, or some fresh poke, or lomi salmon! I have my absolute favorites though, and I always recommend them to my buddies traveling over.
Look off the beaten path people, and don't try to go for 5 star!!! =D