spent a week in kauai as part of my honeymoon and found some great chow while we were here. most of the recommendations came from an awesome guidebook called "The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed". i highly recommend buying this book, not only for the food recommendations, but also for the activities and snippets of historical information. i'm usually not one to use a touristy guidebook, but this one is very good and has steered us in the right direction so far.
ok, now for the reviews. mostly local spots that were either cheap or a good value, and of course delicious. we ate mostly on the east shore. in no particular order....
at the Marriott in Lihue (where we stayed):
Duke's - downstairs is very casual, oceanfront bar/restaurant. probably the most fun place at the resort for cocktails with ok food. the upstairs is the main restaurant portion, supposed to be more formal than downstairs, but still pretty laid back. we only ate downstairs. for appetizers: ono ceviche, which was very good. perfect amount of lime and spice, generous portion; ahi tuna sashimi. excellent quality, beautiful color, tender and fresh; crab filled fried wontons, these were just ok. my husband liked them a lot. i'm never impressed with fried wontons and these weren't any different. for an entree we split the ribs and chicken. the chicken was described as "huli huli chicken" from what i understand is supposed to be slow roasted whole chicken on a spit and basted with a fruit juice based marinade resulting in crispy skin. this seemed to be just a marinated grilled boneless breast. still tasty, but not what i was hoping. the ribs were excellent though. with a mai tai and a couple of bud lights the bill came to around $65.00 before tip.
Kukui's - poolside restaurant and bar. buffets seem to be their thing, though they also offer an a la carte menu. we ate there twice, once for their champagne sunday brunch buffet and the other on our last night for their prime rib and king crab leg buffet. the brunch was excellent. carved prime rib, poached eggs over ham & chorizo, waffles, omelette station, eggs benedict, a large seafood selection including king crab legs, shrimp cocktail, seaweed salad, mahi mahi, desserts, breads, etc. etc. a very impressive brunch including unlimited champagne for $35pp. the dinner buffet was similiar in size, but more dinner type foods instead of eggs and waffles and such. however it was a little more expensive at $39pp and no champagne included. the brunch was a better value IMO. if you happen to stay at this hotel and you are lounging by the pool, you're better off going to the bar at kukui's for drinks and bringing them back to your lounge chairs rather than ordering from the waitresses. the drinks are cheaper at kukui's, and they have happy hour from 2-5pm. or even better, you can stock up your mini fridge with your booze of choice and bring them to the pool as there is no rule against BYOB.
Korean Bar-B-Q: 4-356 Kuhio Hwy
for some reason i liked that the cuisine served was also the name of the restaurant. diner-like atmosphere, not a korean bbq joint with the grill in the center of the table. they do all the cooking for you. chose from the combo plate section. i had short ribs with grilled beef and DH had short ribs with fried mahi mahi. the ribs and beef were unbelievably tender, excellent marinades for both. the fried mahi was crispy and very fresh. the kimchee wasn't quite as spicy or tangy as i like it, but it was still pretty good. oddly enough, both entrees came with macaroni salad, which was a common accompaniment at most of the local spots we ate at. entrees with two 20 oz. cans of arizona iced teas (no alcohol served here) came to $28 before tip. this was one of our favorite meals of the week.
Kintaro Restaurant: 4-370 Kuhio Hwy.
2 doors down from the korean bbq place. they serve sushi and have teppan yaki tables as well. they take reservations for any sized party for the teppan yaki, but for a regular table they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more. ate there twice, once for sushi on a monday night and the place was hopping. had a 35 minute wait for a table, which was fine because they had a full bar where we could have some drinks while we waited. the hosts, bartender and our server weren't the most personable or outwardly friendly. they weren't rude either and we were served in a timely manner. i think they were just so slammed that they were in no nonsense mode. engorged ourselves with sushi that night. they are known for their hanalei roll, where the main ingredient was smoked salmon. i can't remember what else was in there, maybe avocado and carrot? all rolled in nori then tempura friend and sliced. it was good, but i'm usually not in to complicated maki rolls. their fish was incredibly fresh and delicious. they had fried hamachi cheeks as an app on the menu, but they were sold out by the time we sat down. the quality of the fish was excellent, and we were stuffed at the end. sushi, maki rolls, beef teriyaki (which was just ok), and a bottle of cold sake came to around $85 before tip. the second time we went we made reservations for the teppan yaki area. our waiter this time was much more personable and friendly, though they were much less busy that night. i order the lobster and filet combo, but subbed the filet for ny sirloin. DH had the filet mignon. surprisingly the lobster came from brazil and was not local. we asked the chef why they didn't use local lobster and he said that while hawaii has excellent lobster, there is no market for it. so if you want local lobster you would have to dive for it yourself. very large portions, excellent quality of ingredients. teppan yaki tends to make everything taste the same, but this was quite good and the chef wasn't too heavy on the soy sauce which is usually my main complaint with teppan yaki. two entrees, a beer and a bottle of cold sake came to around $105 before tip (my meal was $47, DH entree was $24). Closed on Sundays.
Duane's Ono Char Burger: 4-4350 Kuhio Hwy.
small burger shack in a small plaza that also has a convenient store and a post office. a mix of tourists and locals. a long list of burgers with various toppings, as well as sandwiches. split a cheddar burger with avocado. all burgers come with lettuce, tomato and mayo. piled high with toppings, but i felt the amount of meat was pretty weak. a thin burger patty almost lost in the amount of topppings. kind of pricey considering what it was, a little more than $7 for one burger with 2 toppings.
Tip Top Cafe: 3173 Akahi St.
another local favorite for breakfast and lunch. we also ate here twice, but only ate breakfast, which is what i think they are more well-known for anyway. very casual, seat yourself, diner atmosphere. i had the pancakes with pineapple (other choices were macadamia nuts and bananas). super light and fluffy pancakes and the pineapple kept them moist. DH had the loco moco, a.k.a. breakfast heart attack. cooked hamburger patty over white rice, topped with fried eggs and gravy. if you like savory breakfasts, this is the way to go. it was soooo good! it was also a perfect meal to have before a long day of hiking. also ordered a side of smoked bacon, of which i'm pretty sure they cooked by deep frying. made the bacon very crispy and taste similar to pork rinds (which is a great thing for us!). two meals, side of bacon and two coffees came to about $19 before tip.
Garden Island Barbeque: 4252 Rice St.
despite the name, this is actually a chinese restaurant. not particularly memorable. americanized chinese food, but not overly greasy. ordered sea bass with ginger and green onion sauce. light, flavorful, vegetables were crisp. pork fried rice was good. no alcohol, just sodas (of which they serve to you in paper to-go cups) and tea. passable chinese restaurant, but not a place i would seek out. bass, fried rice, tea and soda came to around $22 before tip.
Mark's Place: 1610 Kaleukana St.
Probably our favorite find of the week. a local spot, they only serve lunch and close at 2 pm. oddly situated in an industrial park and is a take-out only spot. they also do a lot of catering, particularly for luau's. ate here twice. first time ordered the "mark's mixed plate" which was chicken katsu, beef teriyaki and beef stew with rice and, of course, macaroni salad. the second time ordered korean chicken, also served with rice and macaroni salad. DH and i split each plate, and at around $7 per plate was a delicious bargain.
Lihue Barbeque Inn: 2982 Kress St.
open for lunch and dinner, but we only ate dinner here. another local spot, diner environment, menu was a mix of cheap local favorites and pricier entrees. the cool thing was that all entrees came with a choice of miso soup, salad, or fruit and a choice of one of their many flavors of cream pies for dessert. DH had the kalua pork with cabbage. we weren't exactly sure what to expect, just that it was listed as a local favorite, and it had pork and cabbage. this was awesome, roasted pork that was then braised with cabbage until falling apart tender ($10.95). i ordered the seared ono and grilled shrimp ($21) served over garlic mashed potatoes (sigh), sauteed green beans and carrots. this dish surprisingly came out very artfully presented. i wish i took a picture of it. this was delicious, the ono had a beautiful sear on it giving it a gorgeous golden thin crust. aesthetically it was the kind of dish you would see in a high end restaurant, which seemed out of place considering the ambiance. DH had the chocolate cream pie and i had the hawaiian delight cream pie (banana, pineapple, and coconut). they looked like typical diner cream pies, but the crusts were made from crushed macadamia nuts which was a real treat. two entrees with the included starters and desserts came to around $ 35. if we were going to be here longer we would definitely have stopped here again. it would be worth it for the pork and cabbage alone. just a note, they close pretty early (8:30 pm).
heading off to the big island tomorrow and staying on the kona side so i will report back on our chow adventures in another week or so!
UKG is a great resource and for the most part I tend to agree with the author's opinions.
I absolutely LOVE Barbecue Inn- I think its one of my favorite places on the island. Unfortunately, many of the main entrees are a bit overpriced (in my book) but the food is always delicious and the people there are SO nice.
I also really like Garden Isle and I know it is really popular with my coworkers as well. I guess though when you are on vacation you aren't really looking for standard chinese food that you could get at home?
Also, I would agree that Tip Top deep fries their bacon- I know a lot of my friends do that!
Anyway, glad you had a nice trip! Hopefully next time you can try Kintaro's hamachi...So good!
Wasn't Mark's incredible? My brother recently got married on the island. His wife is from Kauai and his favorite restaurant quickly became Mark's. For their rehersal dinner we got Mark's to cater. At first my parents were a little skeptical since they hadn't tried any of the dishes and didn't know what 1/2 of them were but it was probably one of the best meals we had the entire trip. I had a least 3 plates full of the delicious food.
It also was the most authentic in terms of being true Hawaiian island food and not Pan-Asian or Pacific Rim. I highly, highly recommend it.
even better, you can stock up your mini fridge with your booze of choice and bring them to the pool as there is no rule against BYOB.
This could not happen on Maui, they have some strange liquor laws over there. Thanks for the great and lengthy report while on your trip! Looking forward to hearing about your Big Island adventures. I haven't been to Kauai for years and years but this provides inspiration should I be on that side anytime next year! Enjoy yourself and MeleKalikimaka!