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Jul 16, 2008 09:10 AM

North Shore Kauai Report

I just returned from a week's stay in Hanalei on the north shore of Kauai. It was a fabulous week and would recommend to anyone spending some time in this area of Hawaii. It was a long flight from the East Coast, but worth every second of flying time. The area is amazingly beautiful. The food was good and certainly got the job done. Service was mostly good. The waitstaff was usually what I would call indifferent. Not terrible, not great, just indifferent. It was Hawaii time. One thing that we learned was that restaurants in Kauai are not air conditioned. Many have outdoor seating or are open air style. Since it was the heat of the summer, dining at 6:00 was just too early. It's just not a lot of fun to eat when you're too hot. By 7:00, just as the sun was going down, it was a lot more pleasant.

Here's my take on the places where I ate.

Postcards - We arrived at 6:00 and it was a really hot night. Indoors, it was ghastly hot, and outdoors seemed even hotter. We requested a table under a celing fan, but were informed that the owner would be dining at that table. I think being so hot changed the experience for us. We just wanted to eat and get the heck out of there. I had the machong (fish) with honey dijon sauce. It was excellent fish and I loved the sauce. The potatoes on the side were well seasoned. I can't say enough about the food. Excellent quality. Unfortunately, we were so hot, I don't have good memories of the meal.

Hanalei Dolphin - We enjoyed our meal so much here that we came back for a second one. Dining on their outdoor patio was very nice. This is one restaurant that the pictures on line make it look less nice than it really is. Though not a bargain, $31 gets you a piece of fresh fish, all you can eat salad with homemade dressing, bread, and a side dish. One night I had the Ono and another night the Ahi. Their signature terryaki sauce was excellent. We also liked their mai tais very much.

Hanalei Gourmet - We managed to score a table on the outside deck, but then when we tried to order alcohol, we were informed that to drink we had to move inside. Inside was very crowded and hot, so we just had water. No big deal. The food was a mixed bag. Some was very good and some was awful. My grilled veggie salad with grilled ahi was excellent. They grilled every veggie I could think of and it was really great. My friend ordered crabcakes which came in a huge portion. Also very good, but were served with the worst potatoes you could imagine. If they weren't instant, it was someone trying to imitate instant. Another friend had an ahi sandwich that looked and according to him was tastless. An unseasoned overdone piece of fish. I would go back and stick to appetizers and salads. Skip the entrees.

Bar Acuda - This was my favorite meal of the week. They have a nice variety of tapas to pick from and a really well chosen wine list. We ordered 7 different things to share. The highlights included an ahi caponata, endive salad, and a sea scallop over really good mashed potatoes. The only dish that didn't work for me was the whole roasted tomato bruschetta. The highlight of the meal for me, as good as everything else was, was the dessert! The coconut layer cake with burnt chocolate ice cream was to die for! The cake was so fluffy and the frosting was a cross between marshmallow and meringue. The service here was also excellent - the best on the island. They were not on Hawaii time and constantly were around filling water glasses and making sure our every need was taken care of.

Cafe Hanalei - Everyone knows this is the place to go for a meal with a great view. And a great view it does have. We went for breakfast on my mother's birthday. We opted to order off of the menu, although there were also two options for the buffet. All of our food, except for the egg's benedict was excellent. My macadamia nut french toast was the best of the bunch. The service was slow, but good. Should it take two hours to eat breakfast? Probably not. But we had the view to keep us company. Our waiter was a gem. He even brought out a delicious chocolate mousse pastry for my mother decorated with "Happy Birthday." I thought that was very thoughtful. We certainly weren't expecting anything like that at breakfast. It is expensive. $100 for breakfast for 4 people. But we enjoyed ourselves.

Kilauea Bakery - After a trip to the Kilauea Lighthouse, we stopped in for a quick lunch. The pastries and the pizza were excellent. I could have eaten an entire pizza myself. Unfortunatley, the service was horrible. There were at least 4 people working behind the counter, and they all went out of their way to be as unhelpful as possible. It almost seemed like a joke. I have never seen such unfriendly people. Maybe they should reconsider working in the service industry.

Brennecke's (Poipu) - We spent one day driving to Waimea Canyon and stopped at Poipu on our way back to the North Shore. Brennecke's was a great place for lunch. My friend had the ono fish and chips and they were awesome. I had a plate lunch with mahi mahi, kalua pork, rice, and potato salad. The service here was also excellent.

Foodland - The grocery store located in Princeville was pretty nice. Make sure you pick up a discount card at the service desk to avoid sticker shock. It made the high prices, though still high, more tolerable. We found some good deals on wine. Paying even less than what our neighborhood liquor store charges. We also liked the premade sadwiches from the deli case. For $5, you got nice sized sandwiches packed nicely to take to the beach.

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  1. I am glad you had a nice trip to the Garden Isle! I usually don't venture to the North I can't really comment on your meals...However, I have eaten at Cafe Hanalei many times and while it is expensive, I truly believe that the view and ambiance makes it all worth the cost. But 2 hours?!!?!? That is intense! I know that the hotel is a bit short staffed as quite a few people have left in anticipation of the hotel's closure. In fact, the head chef left in late April and they have an interim chef.

    I am not the biggest fan of Brennecke's but I have never been there for lunch. I find the dinner options grossly over priced and the food only so-so. I would go to Keoki's over Brennecke's any day.

    Also, in case you are looking to have it again, the fish you enjoyed is spelled monchong and is ono!!!! My favorite!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mag454

      I loved Postcards and the Dolphin myself when we were there last year.

      And I agree with Mag about Brennecke's when I was on the south side a few years ago. I couldn't believe what the attraction was about that place. I had a much more memorable meal at Puka Dog for lunch that same day.

      1. re: Honeyman

        I'll be honest, I hadn't done my research for Poipu and we just stopped in at Brennecke's because it was the first one we came to. For what we ordered, I didn't think is was anymore overpriced than what we had at other restaurants in Kauai. I really wanted to have a chance to eat at Roy's or the Beach House, but it never worked out. Maybe next time . . .

    2. we too just got back and had same reaction at postcards. i had been so looking forward to it but i couldn't believe how hot it was inside the place!! we sat on the porch where it was only slightly better but geckos crawling along the screen next to me gave me the willies! meal was very good but i don't even remember what i had we were in such a hurry to get out of there!!

      5 Replies
      1. re: toncasmo

        Other than Mango Mama's and some lunches in Hanalei, we've not really dined on the North Shore of Kaua`i.

        However, one of my favorite memories of the North Shore of O`ahu was dining at Jamison's by the Sea and having geckos on the railing. Maybe it was the wonderful calamari, but I didn't mind a lizard, or two, or three.... also, we have these little guys in AZ, and I have to usher them outside about twice per week.


        1. re: toncasmo

          You can't really do anything about geckos and they are more or less harmless. Personally, I hate them but I have SO many of them crawling around my house that I just kind of look the other way...

          1. re: Mag454

            i really shouldn't have complained about the geckos! trust me they were much better than the heat if we would have had to eat indoors!!

            1. re: toncasmo

              That's too bad about the heat. We had such a memorable meal at Postcards, due to the food and the beautiful location we were in.

              You would wonder if an air conditioner that would cool off a small room such as that would be so price prohibitive for the owners to consider. It's a shame to read about people who couldn't wait to end thier meal at such a fine restaurant.

              1. re: Honeyman

                i agree, our meal was excellent (even my husband thought so and he's a meat eater) and we had such a hard time making a reservation that we were so looking forward to it....

        2. Total agreement on Bar Acuda. During our week stay in April, we had dinner there 3 nights. Fantastic each time.

          Also agree on Hanalei Gourmet. Food merely okay. We'd always sit at the bar, drinking a few beers. We'd just order something to graze on.....salad or sandwich or such.

          The views at Cafe Hanalei definitely make it worthwhile. We ate there on a previous trip about 3 years ago and the food and service were outstanding. This time, not so much. But the views......

          Kilauea Bakery, excellent food........and you are right on about the service. It's so over-the-top bad it's comical!

          1 Reply
          1. re: BayouTeche

            Thanks for the comments, as the North Shore, Kaua`i does not get much coverage, and is asked about very often.