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
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
Thanks, chowhounds! My friend and I had a fabulous time, in part because of your recommendations.
On Friday, we flew in and headed straight for Hamura's Saimin. We both had the tempura shrimp saimin. We liked the tempura, but thought the broth and noodles were just alright. I liked them with the hot mustard. We tried their lilikoi chiffon pie and liked it.
Later in the day, we tried Lappert's ice cream. Awesome! I had something I think was called Kauai Pie, which was Kona coffee ice cream with mac nuts, some fudge, and coconut. For dinner, during a HUGE lapse in judgement because we were tired and starving and therefore suckers, we tried the Hanalei Dolphin in Hanalei. We were on our way to the Kailua Fish Market and the natural foods store next door to pick up supplies to make dinner at our rented apartment, but were so hungry that this roadside place caught our attention. The ceviche was the worst I've ever had and made me imagine that it was the kind of thing served at seriously lame beachside restos during the '50s. No flavor. And served with Saltines. But, the salad service was nice and the fresh fish we had -- onaga -- was great. There were also some very weak and unflavorful margaritas (like I said, serious lapse in judgement), but we managed to have a good time and learned that we like onaga very much.
On Saturday, we packed a lunch, but stopped in Hanapepe on our way to Waimea Canyon to try the lilikoi chiffon pie at Wong's. We decided it was marginally better than Hamura's. I liked the crust better and thought the lilikoi flavor was just a tad fresher. Glad to get your input before we did the comparison! Dinner was uneventful. We did a 10 mile hike and ended up leaving the park so late that there weren't a lot of options. Dinner came from Safeway. We had a bottle of red, too, and then crashed.
On Sunday, we tried Bubba's for lunch and liked it very much, actually. Hiking 10 miles the previous day gave us a serious jones for burgers and we were staying n Kapa'a, so... The main event of the weekend was dinner that night at the Plantation Gardens in Poipu, which was amazing. We both had fresh fish dishes and shared an order of roasted duck spring rolls. It was terrific and the perfect end to a beautiful and cleansing weekend on Kaua'i. Thanks all.
We were *thrilled* with Plantation Gardens, for the combination of atmosphere and fresh food. It was so relaxing, the service was excellent, and I was pleased that a lot of what we ate was locally sourced. Thanks for the suggestion for our splurge meal, which we thought was worth it. It was also much needed after the rather lame-o but expensive experience at the Hanalei Dolphin!
I'll keep this helpful thread going a bit longer:
First some Caveats I'm vegetarian so I can't say much about the burger places, etc. My wife eats fish so we can comment a bit on that.
We actually like the restaurants in Kapa'a the best, we also like the "earthy crunchy" feel of the people there (thats a compliment). Blossoming lotus has a new building for their restaurant, but still serve out some unique and interesting dishes, that meat eaters even enjoy. We usually visit there a few times per stay, even if we are on another part of the island.
Also in Kapa'a we like Sukhotai for cheap but tasty lunches. This was recommended by one of the monks up at the Kauai Hindu monastery (Which by the if you check their web site has a great free tour on certain days of their impressive gardens).
We were unimpressed with most North shore dinning, but the princvilles breakfast is great to try once if just for the great view.
We thought Postcards was ok, decent fish, if a bit pricey. No view here though.
Wishing well is the best for shave ice on the north shore in our opinion. The flavors taste less synthetic than some of the shops in Hanele. Jo' jos is great for a treat after hiking up near Kokee
The ice cream place in the princeville shopping center was not so exciting. You are better off with the chain place "cold Stone" in Lihue for good ice cream. But you are Kauai so you should be eating shave ice anyway : )!
Hyatt has some good restaurants with romantic setting (tidepools) but the prices are quite steep for food that ranges from good to just ok. They have a good sushi night on the weekends.
I can't recommend any of the sheraton places do to a bad experience, but maybe it was bad luck.
As far as the Sheraton dining goes, they all are basically one place, with variations on a similar menu. However, one can get dishes from each "location," regardless of their "location." Odd, but it turned out OK. We did their Hawaiian-themed restaurant on the patio, and ordered from the seafood menu. All was good, albeit not great. Other than the breakfasts that were included in the room, we did not dine there again. Were I to go back to that property, I'd probably do their patio dining on our arrival, expecting to enjoy it. Compared to the Hyatt propertie's dining, though, it paled. Of their high-end places, I found Dondero's to be memorable, and Tidepools to be good, but less than great. Wife felt the same, even though her entree at Dondero's was LESS than stellar. Maybe it was because I shared the finest tenderloin that I have ever had, and she remembered that, over her Osso Bucco. I would go back there in a hearbeat, though, as Thomas Wolfe said, "You can never go home again." I doubt that my tenderloin would be half as good as last year's.
Thanks for the report,
Hoping this thread still lives .... We're off to Kauai for a week in mid-June, half of which we'll spend on the north shore. Not many recommendations for this area in the responses so far, which may be a fair statement on its own. Is there a there there? Or are we condemed to resort food for the whole stay?
We ate most of our meals at the house we rented with our family because we all like to cook. The North Shore place I really liked was the Kilauea Fish Market. And if you crave a burger forget Bubba's and go to Duane's Ono Charburger in Anahola. Now there was this pretty nice looking place at the Hanalei Center that I wanted to try but never got there. It's relatively new and the locals seemed to have good things to say about it. It's called BarAcuda (http://restaurantbaracuda.com/).
Has no one been there? Bill Hunt?
I looked at the BarAcuda menu, which looked fantastic. My friend and I decided to look for a less expensive dinner, but (see above) ended up spending way too much anyway at the mediocre Hanalei Dolphin. If I had to do it again, I would have gone to BarAcuda just for it's menu, which is mostly tapas that went from $6-9 (and a little up, but mostly in the $8-9 range). Don't remember if there were entrees. Beautiful bar, lovely surroundings. Hope this helps even if I didn't eat there.
There is also a review that is more recent, say late '06, that covers Postcards, BarAcuda, and others. I tried a CH search, but came up empty. That does not surprise me, as most of my reviews do not show on CH, though Google still has them up?!? Look around this board for North Shore Kaua`i and see if you cannot find the review. It was rather long, and covered everything, except for Mango Mama's, IIRC.
Sorry, this reply is a bit tardy given your timeframe, and a bit lengthy...
Just got back from 5 days in Kauai...very lovely and the weather was great. We tried to cook fresh fish as much as possible (Many thanks to the Hanalei Dolphin Fish Market for some OUTSTANDING ahi, onaga, monchong, ono, mahi mahi, and walu! Also the big bag of tasty croutons for $2.50 went very well on our salads every night.), but did venture out a bit:
Bubba's Burgers: Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to try the oft-touted Duane's Ono-Char-Grilled burgers, but we did eat at the Hanalei branch of Bubba's. Probably not the greatest burgers, but it tasted mighty fine after kayaking 17 miles, so our opinion is a bit clouded. We can firmly recommend avoiding the Taro burgers, though. Good crispy onion rings and fries.
Tropical Taco: Good...a bit pricey, but the fish (the catch was snapper that day) was tasty and the Taco is HUGE. We only sampled the fish taco and fish burrito, the former comes with a large taco shell, iceberg lettuce, refried beans, salsa, and cheese; the latter minus the lettuce in a tortilla. Also in Hanalei.
Banana Joe's. Right off the main highway near Kilauea. Great frostys (frozen pineapple and banana blended together) that we sampled a few times as a supplement to breakfast. Also has nice selection of fruit: mangos, papayas, and apple-bananas.
Lappert's. Super-premium ice-cream with a few locally-inspired flavors, which were almost TOO decadent...a near-nightly tradition for us.
Blossoming Lotus. Vegan restaurant in Kapa'a. Slow service, but otherwise a surprisingly balanced assortment of flavors in largely tempeh/tofu based dishes. Great use of spices and natural flavors in everything from the morning scramble to the ice tea.
Mark's Place. "Local" food diner in Puhi as well as on the main highway in Lawai. Some of the best local Hawaiian food I've had (and I've had a fair share!). To elaborate, probably one of the best beef stews I've had the pleasure of eating...huge, melt-in-your-mouth and fall-apart-under-your-fork chunks of beef, equally succulent blocks of carrots and potatoes, all swimming in a thick and delectable gravy. The chicken katsu and teriyaki beef were both excellent but were nothing compared to the beef stew. Would have eaten here daily except my coronary arteries begged me not to.
Oki Diner. In Lihue. Another local diner, more expensive than Mark's. Excellent loco moco (Which, for those who don't know, is a bed of rice, topped with a hamburger patty or two, an egg (or three), and gravy. Seriously. And it can be delicious. Seriously.).
JoJo's Shave-Ice. In Waimea. Great shave-ice place with something like 50 flavors. You can get regular shave-ice as well as with ice-cream. Probably the best shave-ice in Kauai.
Duke's. In the Marriott in Nawiliwili. Surprisingly well-priced (especially their drinks) for a hotel-based chain. We only stopped here for drinks and appetizers, but all were more than half-decent (fries, veggies, wontons, quesadillas) and our tab even after several drinks was more than reasonable.
Hamura's Saimin. Also seconding many comments above, very tasty saimin with mediocre meat-on-sticks as accompaniments. The noodles are very fresh, cooked al-dente, and the broth is equally delicious.
I think that covers our dining itinerary. As above, it's largely snack-based since we ate in nearly every evening. Have fun...Kauai is gorgeous and the people are wonderful!
Finally have a little time to write up my notes. We spent 9 days in Kauai in January with our 4 year old daughter and our (at the time) 6 month old son. Here are my notes:
This was our first meal out in Kauai. We enjoyed the local flavor of this place. Got to chat with a few nice local families and their kids. However, we didn't think the noodle soup itself was anything special. I'm glad we went, but I wouldn't rush back. Be prepared to wait.
This was an interesting vegan place. I had the vegan "lasagna" which was made with a sort of cheese substitute made from, if I remember correctly, cashew nuts. The presentation was gorgeous, and I liked the dish as well. Jing was not as happy with her Moroccan tofu. It was a bit fancy for the kids, but we sat outside and it was fine.
Lihue Farmer's Market
This is the one near the Sears. We got here when the market opened, which seems to be the thing to do. Seems like many of the merchants and buyers were Filipino. We got some interesting fruit here that we couldn't identify. It has a creamy inside, with a hint of onion flavor. Also got some cold baby coconuts that hit the spot on a warm day and some great green garlic and some super fresh bok choy.
Smith Family Luau
A fun experience, but the food was average at best. There's a long thread on here on Kauai luaus.
Brick House Pizza
Very good pizza and a friendly atmosphere. They bring a ball of dough for the kids to play with. A great choice for the kids.
We went for the free hula show, and we ended up really liking the drinks and appetizers we had while in the lounge.
We liked the food at the Hyatt so much, we decided to come back the next day for dinner at Tidepools. I think this was the best meal of the trip for us. We went on the early side, and it was fine with the kids. The waiter was really good with the kids, and our four year old loved the dish we ordered off the kids menu. The opah fish we had here was fantastic. Highly recommended! If we come back, this will be our "splurge" restaurant.
Wailua Family Restaurant
This was recommended by the B&B we were staying at. Though I'm sure they had the best of intentions when recommending this place, we thought it was a quite awful buffet. I haven't eaten at Sizzler in years, but it's about what I remember Sizzler to be like - maybe a little worse.
Mango Mamas and Banana Joe's. These were worth a stop, but I didn't think worth going out of the way for. Simple sandwiches and smoothies were a nice break. I was a little disappointed with the fruit selection in January.
Savage Shrimp Truck
This is a truck off the road to Poi'pu beach and Lawai Road. Very simple, but very delicious. You have a choice of shrimp one of three ways. We ended up getting one of each. This was definitely our 4 year old's favorite meal of the trip.
Beach Hut Restaurant
This was a nice way to finish up our trip, and the view was lovely. You can read a lot of pros and cons on the Beach Hut on this board, but, though it was good, I don't think the fish came close to Tidepools. The exotic sounding Watermelon Salad ended up being quite average.
re: Martin Strell
Nice post. It is refreshing when posters give a varied review of all establishments visited.
A few posters spend a limited time on the Islands and post as experts and purveyors of 'HIGH END" Restaurants.
Good Job M Strell
We all love to hear of the everyday experience of the islands.
Much is gathered from these posts.
re: Martin Strell
Mahalo for the comments. We, too, enjoyed Tidepools, though less so, than Dondero's. It was good, but seemed to fade into the list of other restaurants.
Nice to see the mix that you presented. So many folk come here for broad spectrum recs., and all I usually have are high-end spots, but that is just us.
People will appreciate, and use, your reviews.
Thanks for this post regarding good eats on Kauai. I regularly post on the Los Angeles board but peruse this board often for Hawaii recs. My wife and I used this and other posts to plan our meals during our three day stay at the Sheraton Poipu.
Arriving Tuesday AM, April 29, we took our rental car looking for Mark's in Lihue. Although it was hard to find, the search was worth it. Very tender beef teriyaki and a good Korean chicken. The girl who took our order told us of a new "Marks" in Kalaheo.
Since we had time before checking in, we drove to Waimea Canyon, making a stop at JoJo's. Being a shave ice fanatic, I am always game. I found the ice really fine and the syrups and ice cream delicious. I think it better than Matsumotos, but not quite as good as say, Waiola or Tropicana.
Upon checking in our hotel and a nice swim at the beach, we headed to the Beach House nearby. This was to be our "splurge" meal, and it was really worth it. We started sharing the terrific crab cakes. Nicely crisp and light. We followed that with sharing the watermelon salad, which was pretty good, but did not wow us. Wife then had the Chinese style duck, and I opted for the famous mahi. The mahi was maybe the best I've ever had. The duck was good as well.
The view that evening was fabulous. 10 foot swells had every surfer on Kauai out there providing us with fantastic entertainment. All told, a fantastic evening.
The next day we drove all the way to Kee Beach, past Hanalei. Based on reviews here, we passed on Hanalei and drove to Wailua to eat at Korean BBQ. Wonderful Kalbi and chicken. Flavorful marinade on the kalbi and both were well grilled. I recommend it highly.
Afternoon dessert consisted of the lilikoi chiffon pie at Hamura Saimin. Absolutely light and delicious.
Because we had eaten so much, we were able to skip dinner that evening.
Lunch the next day was at Lihue BBQ Inn. She had the mahi this time, and I opted for "fresh fish of the day" ono. Her mahi was very good, but my ono was okay. It was the mango and fruit topping which didn't seem to fit the ono.
We finished the afternoon with Lapperts ice cream at the Coconut Plaza? The only disappointment of the trip. although it was good, the scoops were tiny. Lapperts used to serve much larger portions.
It seemed for the most part, your recs were really on the money. I can't wait for a return trip to try other great Kauai spots. Thanks again, chowhounds.
Try Papalani Gelato. They just opened in the Poipu Village Shopping Center and the gelato is amazing. They use local fruits and the mango and papaya is beyond description. They have fair trade and organic chocolates..yummy
Check out Spicy Island Grill, really nice food trailer with a full kitchen inside. They have the best Garlic Shrimp and Jerk Chicken. The Jerk is shipped in from Jamaica so it really tastes like the Jerk you get in Jamaica. Look for this place just at the north end of Kapaa next to a furniture store called Osuka.
La hound checking in
Shaved ice at brennekes on Poipu beach dynamite. Macadamia nut ice cream core for dad.
Late nite osso buco snack at donderos in Hyatt very satisfying. Huge. Three meals worth really.