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Yummy local eats on Kauai

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Hi Chowhounders!
I've been reading through the boards here in preparation for an upcoming trip to Kauai later this month, but feel like I could still use some help. I would love the opinions of some locals or Kauai frequenters on low key, cheaper eats to try. I'm sure there must been some great off the beaten path options! Found lots of info for some nicer dinner recs, but still looking for more on local dines.
We will be spending 5 days each in Poipu and Hanalei, so not as interested in the Kapaa/Lihui areas. Any input would be welcome, including specific dish recommendations if you have a favorite. Also, we will have the option to cook where we are staying and will probably do that several times since it is something we love to do, so recs on shopping are also a plus!

Here are some things already on my radar to avoid repetition:
Hamura Saimin
Koloa fish and farmers markets
Joes
Sueokas
Jojos
Island Taco
Shrimp station
Duanes Ono Char Burger
Bubbas
Bar Acuda
Tahiti Nui
Kiluea Fish market
Red Hot Mamas

Thanks in advance for any recommendations!

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  1. Hey Duckpuddle!

    We're leaving for Kauai next week and have a similar schedule: 4 nights in Hanalei and 4 nights in Poipu. The only places to add to your list that I've found from trolling this list

    Dolphin Fish Market
    Pat's Taqueria
    Kauai One 560 Food Truck
    Hanalei Pizza
    Keoki's Paradise for happy hour

    Red Salt in Poipu is going to be our big night out for more upscale dining.

    I'm also looking for good spots for coffee in Hanalei. We're traveling with keiki so we're sure to see the sun rise for the first few days until they adjust to the time change, and I'll need the caffiene!

    1 Reply
    1. re: melee

      Great, thanks! I'll add those to the list. I've read very mixed reviews on Dolphins, but all the rest are new to me. Make sure to report back after your trip! Sound like you're going right before us :)

    2. I live on Kauai...

      The best restaurant on the island is Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill in Poipu hands down.

      5 Replies
      1. re: wabi

        Nice! Good to know. This is exactly what I'm looking for!

        1. re: duckpuddle

          Duckpuddle...I live in Kapaa, and work in Lihue, so I am not as familiar with places to eat on the north shore, at the resorts, and even Poipu. I do have to qualify my comment above by saying that I have known Jean Marie Josselin for 22 years, and he is a friend. That said, he own's the restaurant, and it is Jean Marie behind the stove every night. Jean Marie along with Sam Choy, Roy Yamaguchi, Peter Merriman and Alan Wong were the fathers of the New Hawaiian Cuisine movement. Jean Marie has been a Kauai stalwart on Kauai for over 20 years, and is a stickler for details. His food and restaurant are done well.

          Kauai is NOT a culinary destination, but we have our gems. Hamura's for saimin, Tip Top for it's banana pancakes. Brick Oven makes a decent pizza. Monico's in Kapaa for mexican food. Ara's take out place in Hanamaulu for Poke.

          When I am in NYC I go to Le Bernadin and to Peter Lugers. In Paris to L'ami Louis and Tallievent. On Kauai I go to Josselins, Hamura's, Ara's, and Brick Oven.

          There are gems wherever you go.....

          1. re: wabi

            Great advice by Wabi. Hearing about Jean Marie makes me wistful for the early days of the Pacific Cafe.
            On the North Shore you may want to consider The Tavern by Roy, its located at the Prince Clubhouse near Princeville. Beautiful view.

            Tip Top Cafe in Lihue also makes a good Ox Tail soup , menu changes at night to Japanese with sushi available

            1. re: Smoothiemeister

              Thanks guys. I realize Kauai isn't really a foodie destination, but figure there must be a few gems like you mentioned. I'm not looking to have a dinner that will rival Le Bernadin while I'm there, just some decent local chow...LOL.
              Thanks for the history as well. I have been to a Roys here, but wasn't sure if the island version might be a little different? Maybe we'll check out the Tavern as suggested...

            2. re: wabi

              I just finished my first meal a Josselin's and I will return. Holy cow. This is the kind of place that doesn't take very long to say "Keeper". Loved it. One thing I always fear about Hawaii vacations is Where Do We Eat? Issue is now settled when we vacate on Kauai. We were not that hungry when we went, so just had pork bao, grilled Japanese eggplant, and corn brulee (that's right) and lychee sangia. There's a nimbleness, light ouch, and assuredness from the kitchen that becomes lovely food. And...not pricey. Woohoo. We've got another 6 nites on the island...we'll be back.,

        2. Not sure if your accommodations include a Kitchen?
          Fish express in Lihue (across Walmart) has some good take-away options as well as fresh fish to grill etc.
          We always pick-up a whole Lilikoi Pie at Hamura's especially if we are invited over to dine at a friend's home. They freeze well and are extremely scrumptious... I will never forget that contingent of Honolulu business folks each carrying 2 pies back onto the flight from LIH-HNL. They had flown over for Lunch to Hamura's from Honolulu.

          2 Replies
          1. re: easily amused

            Yes, we have a kitchen and grill, etc so thats perfect. Thanks!
            Funny story about the pie. I have read A LOT of threads about this infamous lilikoi pie at hamuras, so will have to try. Also several have mentioned a place in Hanapepe that may rival it so we'll do a taste test.
            I'll admit I have no idea what a lilikoi is...haha. Guess I should look it up. Or maybe let it be a surprise :)

            1. re: duckpuddle

              You also should put the Pono Market in Kapaa on your list. It's take out only.
              They serve plates of local food like Lau Lau, Macaroni Salad, Spam Musubi, Lomi Lomi Salmon etc.
              They also have really good Poke.
              Closed Sundays

          2. It doesn't really get mentioned very often, but Lappert's Ice Cream is from Kauai. I'm not that much of an ice cream lover, but when I'm there, I find it hard to resist their coconut-macadamia nut-carmel crunch in a waffle cone. There is one in Kukuiula shopping center and there is the original one in Hanapepe. They are also in Kapaa and Princeville.

            Living Foods in Kukuiula is a nice gourmet market in Kukuiula, too. They have some local produce and seafood in there. Its not that cheap, though.

            Also you might consider Kalaheo Coffee Company. They are known mostly for breakfast and coffee/pastries, but they do lunch and dinner, too. I haven't eaten there for lunch or dinner, so I don't know how well they are doing that.

            1. Aloha, duckpuddle:

              With respect, read all the reviews (mine included), and EXPLORE. Be spontaneous. Be watchful--where there are lines or no seats, usually 'ono grinds. Don't get sucked into the Po'ipu "fancy food" game. Make something or someplace your *own* discovery, even if 10,000 on Yelp or here have opined... Kaua'i nei is about *people*--if you make friends, the best food and the best times are in local homes. Buy the freshest, strangest-sounding fish, and cook it on the beach.

              You may find that your tastes are your own.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              3 Replies
              1. re: kaleokahu

                Kaleokahu....exactly.
                The best food on Kauai is the local food. Find what is fresh, find what the locals like...and then you can come to know why some of the best food is not what is popularized..but what is consumed by so many.

                Home grilled Kalbi ribs, poke with some beer eaten at the beach or the back of a truck. Plate lunch consumed anywhere....this is what makes local food awesome.

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  You are exactly right! This is just what we are after... The local grind. Were staying at a place where we can cook, so hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of some amazing local ingredients.
                  We are not into the 'fancy' food for this trip, so much as we are just getting a good taste of what is local and seasonal. Would love to try some new flavors, which is exactly what I was hoping people would recommend on this post. Any personal favorites we should make a point of trying? ( fish to bring home or dishes to watch for when eating out?). This is my first time on the islands, so I'm excited to try it all!

                  1. re: duckpuddle

                    I really, really enjoyed the Saturday morning farmers market on the Kauai Community College campus. The range of produce was amazing--lots of local produce used in Filipino cooking (think long beans and okra) as well as the usual bananas, papayas, avocados, jack fruit, etc. I also was impressed with the wide selection of prepared foods being sold there: soups, breads, pies, pasta and pasta sauce, candies, cookies, jams and jellies. Starts at 9:30 and you need to bring your own shopping bag.

                2. Ishihara's in Waimea for local food/poke
                  Tip Top for Oxtail soup
                  Pau Hana Bar for Fish and Chips

                  I'd say skip Hanalei Dolphin- you can get MUCH better fish/poke at other places for cheaper prices. Kilauea Fish Market is worth a try but it is a bit more healthy/organic focused than standard poke/plate lunch offerings.

                  1. Hi duckpuddle,

                    We just returned from a fantastic trip to Kauai and I'm already trying to figure out when we can return. Our weather was perfect, the water warm and the people all friendly and welcoming. We spent our first half of the trip in Hanalei and ended up cooking in more than expected. Foodland in Princeville had everything we needed to eat well at home, and was also a good place to stock up on Kona coffee, Kauai honey, and other local goodies.We tried the wasabi poke from the deli counter and it was fresh & tasty. They feature several varieties so sample the ones that look good before you buy.

                    Other places we tried in Hanalei:
                    Hanalei Pizza - We liked the Wild Pig pizza. Pizza had good sauce and interesting crust, Cheese pizza for our kids wasn't that exciting.
                    Dolphin - Great service and nice location but the food wasn't anything outstanding,Sushi was fresh so next time I'd skip the restaurant and try the market for take out sushi rolls.
                    Hanalei Wake Up Cafe - The only place we visited on the island where the service was pretty unfriendly. Eggs were overcooked and Macadamia Nut cinnamon roll was just sort of oily and flavorless.
                    Pat's Taqueria - Food truck at Hanalei Pier was a HUGE hit with my family. We tried the fish, carne asada and pork tacos, along with a bean & rice burrito. We're from San Diego so we eat a lot of great Mexican food, and this was as good - if not better - than most of the tacos we eat at home. They lightly fry their shells and each taco was seasoned perfectly. If we had gone there earlier in the trip we probably would have eaten lunch there every day.

                    In Poipu:
                    Bubba's - OK. My kids liked it and the fries were good. Not sure I'd make it a destination but certainly passable if you're hungry and there's one nearby.
                    Keoki's Paradise - Not the most innovative menu but fresh & tasty fish - not overcooked or overseasoned. And who can resist sharing that Hula Pie?
                    Hamura Saimin - A gem. Not necessarily easy to find but worth the effort of getting there. Fabulous noodles, unbelievably light dumplings and the most delicious broth. I think it was about 90 degrees the day we visited and probably even hotter inside but we couldn't slurp up those noodles fast enough. The Lilikoi pie was really nice and a refreshing treat after lunch. Delicious!

                    Hope you have a fabulous time. Please report back so I can update my list for our next trip - which I'm hoping will be sooner than later!