[Kauai] Super Cheap & Moderate Eats List
Just returned home from an amazing vacation in Kauai, full of fantastic hiking and surfing. It really is a wonderful place to go if you love the outdoors. But we did notice that food on the island can be very expensive. (The worst was when it was both expensive and bad!) I've noticed a few folks asking for cheap eats recommendations, so I thought it might be helpful to start a list for future visitors, which I hope others will add to.
Here's what we found by way of super cheap eats ($8 or less), mostly in the island's northern areas, since that's where we stayed.
-- Tamale stand across from the Shell gasoline station on Saturday mornings. (We visited at 10 a.m.) Mexican-style, chicken, beef and pork tamales wrapped in dried corn husks available for only $2. We tried the chicken and pork. Both REALLY good. We saw, but did not try a similar tamale stand in either Kealia or Kapaa, between 56 and the beach.
-- Kilauea Shell station and most gas stations around the island carry manapua (like Chinese da bao) filled with gingery chicken, kalua pork, etc...; Spam or chicken musubi (delicious! don't knock it till you've tried it!); and small pieces of Asian style fried chicken; and sushi hand rolls for $2.50 or less. We found these made for great, portable meals while hiking.
-- Whaler's General Store, right next to Duane's Ono Char Burgers, had pork adobo over rice in the case to the right of the door when you walk in, when we went. The pork adobo was less than $6 and one of the most delicious things we ate on the island. No joke. It is GOOD. It's filling and, since it uses fatty pork, pretty heavy.
-- Duane's Ono Char Burgers. Most burgers were less than $7 or $6 IIRC. The bun and meat patty are nothing special. (They taste like Sysco, preformed, frozen patties.) But the toppings are interesting and my husband loved them. Good fries. Seems to be well liked on the island.
-- Waipa Farmer's Market (aka Sunshine Market) at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Not everything is inexpensive (i.e. the delicious $6 container of salsa and spendy honey and custard apples we bought), but there's a lot of high quality fruit, often for a great price. We bought a lot of inexpensive avocados ($1 each, usually) and starfruit (3 or 4 / $1), passionfruit, bananas, tomatoes, lettuce, longan. (This was in October.) The avocados made lovely, filling, nutritious shakes when blended with milk and a little bit of sugar or honey.
Moderate ($8 to $15) meals we found:
-- Neide's Salsa and Samba had some fairly priced, fairly decent Brazilian dishes, including chicken ensopado with rice and beans for about $13. The plate was huge and should last moderate eaters 1.5 to 2 meals. There are also Mexican offerings, but we didn't try those.
-- Hanalei Dolphin Fish Market sells largeish sushi rolls for takeout (a thick roll made out of a whole sheet of nori), for $9 to $10. The rice isn't good, but the fish is actually pretty fair.
-- Foodtown has a lot of prepared foods of varying degrees of quality. A whole huli huli chicken -- the one we bought was a bit dry -- was about $10. We had the chicken as part of meals (in sandwiches, musubi, chilaquiles, tacos) for several days. Foodtown also sells one pound containers of poke for under $9, spam and chicken musubi, wakame salad, baked goods, etc...
-- The Kilauea fish market had good fish tacos for about $14.
Please add to this list if you can!
Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant
5 5016 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI
I'm pretty sad I didn't get to try any shrimp trucks at all on the island. I love food trucks and I love shrimp, so it'd seem to be a good fit for me.
There seem to be a few well liked shrimp trucks, especially in the south, including Savage Shrimp. Were you able to try any others, other than Shrimp Station?
9652 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea, HI 96796
A few other places i just remembered: (Didn't, unfortunately, take good notes this trip; too much else to do, outside!)
-- Garden Island Barbecue and Chinese: We came here because we'd read in a different thread that the vegetables dishes were great. "Great" is an exaggeration, but the "unchoi" (aka water spinach or kong1 xin1 cai4 in Mandarin) was good and it hit the spot after my week of not eating much by way of leafy greens. $7.50 for a large plate with two scoops of rice and either mac salad or kimchi. I chose the kimchi, which was actually pretty good. My husband's kung pao chicken ($7.50) was... well, Americanized, with lots of celery. It wasn't my cup of tea, but he enjoyed it. I'd heard good reports about the char siu, but didn't feel like meat that meal.
Menu here: http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/menu/960477
-- Sukhothai had one rave on this board and somehow made its way onto my map of places to try. It was also just ok IMHO. I didn't order well, admittedly: I succumbed to my desire for pho even though it's not Thai, obviously. The pho (about $10 for a small bowl) was terrible and filled with the very non-pho ingredients of cabbage, carrots and broccoli, mushy noodles, thickly sliced, overcooked beef, and broth that wasn't even close to resembling pho broth. My husband's basil chicken (about $13) -- also nothing like any basil chicken we've tried or made, before -- was made with lots and lots of bamboo shoots in a brownish gravy and he enjoyed it. Papaya salad was fair, without heat, though I think they would've added it, if I'd asked. Mostly green papaya, a few tomatoes, a wee sprinkle of peanuts. Not too much pungency from fish sauce. I read, afterwards, that their strength is in their vegetarian dishes and we didn't try any of those.
-- Living Foods Market almost doesn't fall under the moderate eats category, since many dishes exceed the $15 mark I've arbitrarily set and all seemed pricey for what they were. They did use good lettuce in the salad (about $10), but margarita pizza was "bland" according to my husband, with an undercooked crust. Fish tacos (about $14) were made with non-fresh (probably previously frozen) mahi mahi on flour tortillas, served with stale tortilla strips. I didn't think this meal was worth the price, but the cafe was very pleasant and the people were nice, too.
I regretted not trying the Koloa Fish Market, instead, which was close by; we'd just happened to be in the market to buy beer.
4-1105 Kuhio Hwy Ste 4, Kapaa, HI 96746
Koloa Fish Market
5482 Koloa Rd, Koloa, HI 96756
It's probably partly luck of the draw re: who's there prepping your food. I was kind of impressed to see that the cook/chef makes each pizza to order, stretching the dough, shaping it to the pan, topping it and baking it in the wood(?) fired oven, in front of you. On our particular visit, my husband thought the crust was underdone and overly thick and doughy. I can't speak for the pizza at all, since I didn't try it.
I will say that the fish taco plate I had was abominable. The cabbage slaw and salsa on the taco were fair, but that was about it. The fish was strongly fishy, which is never the case for fresh fish. The tortilla strips on the plate were so stale they were rubbery.
It's good to know good food can be had there, though. Some of the menu options looked wonderful: lobster pot pie, local garden tartlette, mushroom and ricotta crepe, etc... Perhaps I had bad luck with my taco.
Cheap & Moderate Eats on Kauai:
Sueoka Store Snack Shop, Koloa Fish Market, Joe's On the Green, Kalapaki Joe's, Keoki's Paradise (for Happy Hour and early specials), Savage Shrimp, Puka Dog, Bubba's. Puka isn't a typical place I'd mention on Chow, the dogs are average at best, but the sauces make it.
Bobbies Plate Lunch and Da Imu Hut Cafe.
Ishihara Market for food to go, Yumi's Restaurant and Shrimp Station.
Hamura Saimin, Tip Top Cafe, Mark's Place, Dani's Cafe and Duke's Barefoot Bar for lunch, Happy Hour and early specials.
1610 Haleukana St Ste A, Lihue, HI 96766
Joe's On the Green
2545 Kiahuna Plantation Dr, Koloa, HI 96756
9652 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea, HI 96796
9691 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea, HI 96796
Poipu Shopping Vlg, Koloa, HI 96756
3501 Rice St Ste 208, Lihue, HI 96766
Koloa Fish Market
5482 Koloa Rd, Koloa, HI 96756
Da Imu Hut Cafe
1-3959 Kaumualii Highway Ste Ste A, Hanapepe, HI 96716
Nice list! Bubba's burgers were kind of like how you describe Puka's hot dogs: patties were average at best, but sauces (and other toppings) make it. Bubba's did also offer chili rice served with a slice of American cheese(food?) and chopped, raw onions. I'm not sure whether hunger was clouding my better judgment or not, but the chili rice actually tasted pretty good after a long hike. As did the spam musubis sold at gas stations.