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Apr 12, 2010 11:50 PM

Where do I eat in Lanai??

I'll be in Lanai for 3 days, 2 nights at the end of April, staying at the Four Seasons at the Lodge at Koele. Am I pretty much stuck with whatever (overpriced) offerings they have at the hotel? Any tips on local eats, preferably on the non-super-fancy side, would be much appreciated!

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  1. It depends on what you like. Yes, places to eat here on Lanai are limited. I would strongly recommend Pele's Other Garden in town. They have a deli during the day (the best sandwiches) and it's an Italian bistro at night (suggested reservations). They have 1/2 price pupu's (wings , etc) and drink specials in the back room at night. Their dinner menu is excellent. Many people go there for lunch and return for dinner or go for dinner and come back again. We call it the "Cheers of Lanai".
    They have live music the third wed. of the month.
    Blue Ginger for local food, it has great food for breakfast.
    Some people recommend eating dinner at The Lanai city Grill at Hotel Lanai in town, I'm mixed about it. (it's pricy).
    The clubhouse down at Manele is excellent for lunch and the view is outstanding.

    Blue Ginger Cafe
    409 7th, Lanai City, HI 96763

    2 Replies
    1. re: kaila

      Thank you so much! This is perfect. We won't be there for very long, so these suggestions should be enough. We weren't planning on renting a car while on Lanai -- will it be possible to get around from the hotel to these places? I think the Four Seasons has some kind of shuttle that costs $50/person, and we may end up doing that to make sure we have a way to get back and forth from the dock to the hotel. But I doubt they would be our personal chauffeur for picking up sandwiches and breakfast! :)

      1. re: gtchow

        The last time we were there, in 2001, we stayed at the Lodge. A regular shuttle between it and the Manele Bay Hotel was complimentary. They would also drop you off at the Hotel Koele, which had a decent, reasonably (comparatively) priced restaurant. The food in the main dining room at Koele was excellent and the food at both restos at Manele were good.

    2. I can't comment on where to eat breakfast, as I save my dining for lunches and dinners. The best lunches are at the golf clubs (Koele up in the mountains and Manele down below). The fish and chips at Manele are the best you'll get anywhere. For dinner, don't waste your money and appetite on Grill at Hotel Lanai. I have eaten there a couple of times and the food just isn't worth the cost. The best dinners are at the Lodge, IMO. The setting is nice and the food, while expensive, is the best on the island. Second best is probably the Italian place at Manele.

      1. Aloha Chowhound ohana!

        Scroll down if you want the list. Here's a little general info:

        Although the links down at Manele are dubbed "The Challenge," for lots of hounds the real challenge during your visit to Lana'i is finding good grinds. Finding this thread a bit weak on facts, I'll add to it with a complete rundown on every single place to eat on the island. A caveat for people unfamiliar with the issues facing the island: Lana'i is in fact quite isolated from general trends in Hawaii and on the mainland in many respects- you'll often find yourself paying a lot more than you'd expect for below-average food unless you have access to a kitchen, which is not usually the case with vacationers. Lana'i is primarily in private hands, and the owner, David Murdock, has tried his hardest to shape the island with post-pineapple economic plans that don't always click with the local population. The current plan is to build a windfarm in the north-west part of the island to ship power to Oahu- very controversial on a 140 square mile island with a population that hovers around 2,800 (actually lost population between the 2000 and 2010 censuses). Back to food: everything comes by weekly barge, and the barge is occasionally delayed for a week by bad weather. Young Brothers shipping, who have served Lana'i at a loss for many years have recently lost their contract, and the new barge service is not as sure a thing as in the past. Higher-end items come in by air. Local restaurants are often provisioned by trips to the Maui Costco- a daytrip by ferry, coolers in tow. You can imagine what happens to food prices given these constraints. That said, the abundance of animal protein if you know locals who hunt deer and fish for everything else is remarkable. The Four Seasons company (currently running the two big hotels on island) often buy their seafood from locals for their excellent restaurants- that lobster on your plate can be VERY local and VERY delicious. The local, primarily Filipino population, has taken to opening under-the-radar restaurants in their garages and carports since most other dining options are above the financial reach of most locally employed folks. So in general, the total food experience on Lana'i can be very hard to pin down. Here's a rundown:

        Restaurants in alphabetical order:

        Blue Ginger Cafe- a bit of a greasy spoon, with egg and spam breakfasts, a passable bowl of saimin, veggie stir-frys, loco moco and good egg/tuna/chicken salad sandwiches on homemade bread.

        Cafe 565- pizza and calzones, but Filipino plate lunch specials are pretty good: pork adobo, chicken tonkatsu with Kagome sauce, rice and macaroni salad etc.

        Canoes Lana'i- formerly the Tanigawa store, another greasy spoon with pretty good burgers. They make a good if greasy box lunch of fried chicken and shrimp with umeboshi onigiri (preserved plum rice balls- a Japanese snack and really good if you're never had one)- order in advance and take this to the beach.

        Coffeeworks Lana'i- good coffee and espresso, acai bowls and Costco muffins. North of Dole park.

        Lana'i City Grille- formerly Henry Clay's Rotisserie (the chef that Murdock brought in to run the place- improved it a lot, but is no longer there) in the Hotel Lana'i. Pricy but generally decent food- local fish, ribs, wedge salads drowning in bleu cheese dressings, garlic mashed potatoes, strong drinks and occasionally a very loud band. The bar is frequented by the local mainlanders.

        Lana'i Ohana Poke Market- newest of the lot. Poke (delicious raw fish salads that are a common fast-food in Hawaii)

        Pele's Other Garden- Heavily Costco'ed italian. Popular with visitors but not favored by the locals due to an unpleasant owner who will, of course, be very nice to you to capture your itinerant patronage.

        The Four Seasons Hotels (Manele and Koele):
        Dining Room
        Hulopo'e Court
        Ocean Grill
        The Challenge at Manele Clubhouse
        Ocean Hale

        All are quite pricy ($20 omelettes, $7 fresh squeezed oj, etcetera), but all are very good with excellent service. I'll leave the commentary alone here. Happy hours from 4-5 at the Ocean Grill (half-off drinks, which is a serious discount). Breakfast at the Lodge is a real treat.

        The Sweetest Days- ice cream on Dole Park

        "Super" markets:

        Richard's- good on pre-packaged, frozen and basic stuff, a bit weak on produce but with occasional locally grown stuff, sometimes decent meat in the butcher section, sometimes not. Note- Richard's now has a "gourmet" section with a decent wine selection and a fridge with Boar's Head salumi and cheeses and other fancy things.

        Pine Isle Market- same as above, with better meat. No "gourmet section."

        Sergio's- Filipino market- fish sauces, dried noodles, no alcohol, rice, frozen lumpia

        the gas station- The only place for gas in town (also can rent jeeps from Dollar in the back). Good place to buy beer and they do have breakfast bentos (some without spam!).

        Take note that many of these establishments keep "interesting hours," and with the exception of the hotels, there are generally no options in town (Lana'i city) on major holidays or after 9pm. Phone numbers can be found online, and your cellphones do work on the island now. The shuttle that runs between the Four Seasons Manele and the Lodge at Koele with a stop at the Hotel Lana'i (in Lana'i City proper) is free and your only way around the island unless you've rented a jeep.

        PomaikaŹ»i and Cheers!

        p.s. Make sure to visit the Lana'i Culture and Heritage Center above the east end of Dole Park- a small but beautifully curated museum about the Hawaiian and Modern eras on Lana'i.

        7 Replies
        1. re: SaltyRaisins

          thanks for the comprehensive review.

          1. re: SaltyRaisins

            Mahalo for bringing me up to speed. It has been so long, since we spent a wonderful week on Lanai, but much has changed. Hotels have changed hands several times, and new owners have taken over a few "local" spots.

            I have nothing to add, because of all the years, and all the changes, but I read carefully, and with fond memories.

            Hope to get back soon.


            PS - back then, the restaurant at the Lana`i Hotel was run by two brothers from around New Orleans. One was the chef, and the other the FOH. When they found out that my wife was a NOLA native, the chef asked her to come back into the kitchen to help him work on his pralines. I did not see her for an hour, but then we got to taste wonderful, Lana`i pralines!

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Glad I could contribute in some way to Hawaii chow knowledge. I think the kitchen at the Hotel Lana'i could use another visit from your wife.

              Yes, a lot has changed (we've been going there for over twelve years now, and have our own address), but fortunately, the things that matter most there haven't changed at all: the beaches are still hard to get to and you're often alone on them, Kaumalapa'u harbor still remains my favorite dive spot with cars and tractors that have fallen off the barge during rough weather unloading on the inside and very cool reef topography on the outside of the seawall, lack of crowds, and the general "apartness" that requires a bit of effort to comprehend, but is part of the unique charm.

              Hope you make it out there again.


              1. re: SaltyRaisins

                As do we! That was a wonderful 9 days and nights. Many friends told us that we were crazy to spend more than 3 days on Lanai. We never had a moment of real "down time," unless we wanted it to be. We enjoyed everything about Lanai, and then, there was enough food to get us by. Even at the lesser Manile Bay resort restaurant, things were good. Koele, and the main dining at Manile were both very good to great, and the Lanai Hotel dining was very good, with some "down home fun" thrown in.

                We do hope to return, and I'd do a week plus, just 'cause it's so nice and quite. Now, when we were there, we were heading into town from Manile, and my wife stopped. A business associate was jogging past us! So much for hiding out. [Grin] Poor wife cannot go anywhere on Earth, that she does not see folk, who know her. I kinda' know how Hollywood types must feel - "where do I have to go, that no one knows me?"

                Loved the Island, but then we do with all Islands and all sides of all Islands. Aloha IS alive and well, and if one cannot find it, they are not opening their minds.



                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  You "get it" about Lana'i, then. You always have the option to do nothing, which makes actual activity truly relaxing. And the folk are really nice, too.

                  Hope to run into you there sometime.


                  1. re: SaltyRaisins

                    Well, when we do, we will both be wearing Groucho Marx glasses and noses... [grin]

                    We DO want to get back. We did not play two of the courses (the Challenge and the city course), nor did we play the little "pitch-n-putt" course.

                    Much has changed on a culinary note, and while the upper-end was great, there was a bit of a divide. The lower-end was great too. That has probably changed over the years. Just hope that the "good guys" have found a way to make it.

                    Lovely island, and though it has different history, than the others, aloha is everywhere, or at least it was. Great folk, doing a fabulous job of making the visitors fell very welcome.

                    One oddity, and I spoke to some of the folk, who worked there, about it. We were staying in the lap of luxury, and it was not cheap. We were very, very happy, but the vast majority of the tourists were anything but. I have never been anywhere, that all guests grumbled about everything. We began making sure to wish every guest, that we encountered, a good morning, or evening. Every one of them just grumbled, and blew us off. Now, the workers - well that was another matter. We'd stop and talk to a painter, and he'd tell us all about the Island, in great detail. Many were multi-generational, and would tell us about their grandfather's time in the pineapple fields, the shipping areas, etc.. All shared great tips on food, especially the local restaurants.

                    We spoke with the young tennis pro, and several golf pros, and workers. They could not believe that we'd noticed the same things, that they had. The guests, almost to the person, was always having a horrible day. Bogus! This was paradise, with some great food, and wonderful people. How could you be having a horrible time. With each day, we started avoiding the tourists, and hangin' with the locals. Found some great food, and totally off the beaten path - little cafes and diners, where the locals ate. Now, this does not diminish the high-end food on the Island, but were recs. that none of our research had uncovered, and not one of the books even mentioned.

                    I'd go back instantly, and so would my wife. Little golf, little tennis, some hiking, and then dining full-spectrum. Back then, the meal at the Lodge at Koele was everything that it was cracked up to be, and the wine list was excellent.

                    Hope to meet you there, and we'll enjoy our time, unlike so many others - just do not understand their mind sets.



            2. re: SaltyRaisins

              A bit more from an informant (my mother, folks):
              Coffee Works has good lox and bagels (Costco)- a really nice place for locals who may want a more mainland experience. The Filipino market on Ilima St off Dole Park is open when others are not, and has good stuff including fabulous local bananas. Dole Park features a small market run primarily by "aunties" (the true heart of the island) early Saturday mornings with BBQ fish, lumpia, and fresh home grown veggies, etc. Also Filipino pork dishes featuring cooked blood.

              Those interested in a more "local" experience should stay at the Hotel Lanai across from Dole Park- it used to be the Dole Company guest house with only 9 rooms, recently upgraded.