HOME > Chowhound > Hawaii >


Our week in Kauai

We are wrapping up a week in Kauai. It was our first trip to Hawaii, and I used this board to research restaurants prior to our trip. Thanks to everyone's suggestions, overall our dining was a success. Some of the highs (and one very low low):
In the South:
Josselin's: This one gets a lot of positive reviews on this site, and the food was outstanding. My complaint is that the food came out WAY too fast. When we ordered, we asked our server if we should order all at once or as we went along. She said we should order all at once, but to let them know how quickly we would like the food. We specified SLOWLY, but 3 of our 6 dishes came out together within about 5 minutes of our ordering. Unfortunately these were not brought out by the server, and it was difficult to find her to let them know to slow things down. We could have been out of there in half an hour if we hadn't ordered dessert. The table next to us seemed to have the same issue. Very rushed pace, and the restaurant wasn't full, so I don't think they needed the table. So, if I were to go again, I would insist on ordering as we went or at the very least ask to bring dishes out one at a time.
Red Salt: We had a fantastic meal here. Very delicious food and drinks and great service. It has a more traditional fine dining feel, but great for a special occasion.
Beach House: Maybe my expectations were low, as it seemed like a touristy spot, but the food was better than expected and it is a beautiful location. Service was good too. Incidentally, the weather didn't cooperate with a good sunset, and I was still happy with our meal.
Puka Dog: This hit the spot after a long morning hike.
Ishihara Market: We picked up poke and ate outside at the picnic tables. Yum.
In the North:
Mediterranean Gourmet: An interesting mix of Arabic and Hawaiian. Very good food and service. Pretty ocean views.
Dolphin fish market in Hanalei. We got sushi and poke carry out. Not a bargain, but very good, and less expensive than going out to eat.
We tried both Pat's taqueria at the pier and Red Hot Mama's for burritos. We preferred Red Hot Mama's. Took burritos to the beach.
Tahiti Nui was by far the WORST food we had anywhere on the island. The ono I ordered was way overcooked and dry. Sauce was terrible. It's a shame a fish died to prepare this meal. STAY AWAY!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I was always under the impression that Tahiti Nui was more about the Mai Tais and atmosphere.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Tahiti Nui is awesome! Good Pizza and decent food. It is what it is. Its fun Don't get too serious or don't go. Have a Mai Tai enjoy the music and relax. The food is better than Applebees or many places on Kauai. Its not haute cuisine if thats what your looking for go to Paris or many many other food centric cities.

        1. re: mick

          Applebees is a pretty low bar as a comparison. Furthermore, there's a lot of room between Applebee's and haute cuisine. If you notice our list, there were a lot of casual places. I don't demand fancy, but do expect the food to taste good. The ono was inedible. My son had pizza, which was mediocre. Yep, the Mai Tai was good (though not even the best drink I had on the island). Just eat elsewhere.

      1. We are going to be on Kauai next month for a week to attend a wedding. I spent this afternoon researching restaurants. Your post came at just the right time. Thank you. You ate at severaI places I was looking at.

        I read that one of the problems with Josselin's was it was very loud. What did you think?

        Red salt or Beach House, if I can only eat at one?

        Tahiti Nui's website made me strike it from my list. A restaurant that features their cocktails rather than its food should just go ahead and call itself a bar.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ddavis

          I did not find Josselin's to be too loud, though it wasn't full when we were there. I wouldn't let that keep me away. The food was excellent. My only complaint, as I said above, was the food coming out too fast (maybe because they weren't busy?). I would be very explicit about pacing of the food when you order.
          Between the Beach House and Red Salt: The food was definitely better at Red Salt. You can always go hang out on the Beach House lawn/beach if you want the views at sunset. If you are picking based on food, Red Salt.
          I included my experience with the food at Tahiti Nui because there have been positive reviews of the food here on Chow. By all means, go for the drinks and atmosphere. But I would not eat there, and I wish someone had told me before we wasted our money.

        2. Tahiti Nui serves the best Mai Tai I've ever had. I'd go there for the cocktails.

          1. Thanks Mountaincachers. We are headed to Kauai on Saturday, so I appreciate the report.

            Question for the board: would you try Tahiti Nui for a pre-dinner Mai Tai with two, well-behaved kids (ages 10 & 8)? We're staying in Hanalei and I do love Mai Tais - was thinking we could maybe stop in for a drink on our way to dinner at Bar Acuda one night. Thoughts?

            5 Replies
            1. re: melee

              Aloha melee. .
              Tahiti Nui is a classic place for drinks and was featured in the George Clooney film, The Descendants..
              Mai tai's are great.

              Make sure you hit up the St. Regis for drinks and apps.
              Hopefully, Tiki Iniki will be open.

              Make sure you dine at Hamura Saimin for ramen and the best lilikoi pie evah.


              1. re: Beach Chick

                Aloha Beach Chick!

                We definitely have St. Regis on the radar and I've been monitoring the status of Tiki Iniki. Fingers crossed it will be open. . .

                I think my 8 year old would cry if she didn't get some of that delicious lilikoi pie. Aw, who am I kidding? I'm the one who would pitch a fit if we didn't have some noodles and pie.

                Are you going to Grand Hyatt?

                1. re: melee

                  Aloha melee!
                  Bar Acuda and a place I haven't tried, Med Gourmet..oceanfront in North Shore.
                  Dolphins is a local fave.

                  Have fun and report back..4 weeks to get back to one my fave place on the planet!


                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Just saw that Med Gourmet has Hawaiian music & hula on Sundays. Sounds like fun. Mahalo nui loa for the great ideas. I'll be sure to report back! Kauai is one of my favorite places too.

                2. re: Beach Chick

                  Tiki Iniki wasn't open when we were there. We drove by the site to make sure.

              2. Mahalo for the detailed reviews.

                We have not dined with Chef Josselin, since A Pacific Cafe, and then, service was perfect, as was the pacing. Pacing is important to us, so we greatly appreciate your observations.

                Beach House does not get much love here, BUT we have had several great meals there - regardless of the weather. For us, the food, the service, and then the wines (and their service), have been great. I have reviewed this location, regardless of the feelings of so many. I know what I like. I demand the best, and have gotten it, or very, very close.

                I greatly appreciate some of the reviews, for places that we have not had the opportunity to try yet. Thanks to you, we hope to do so, on the next trip.

                Mahalo, and aloha,


                1. Great report. I miss the days when the Nui was simply a dive bar that served up some excellent fish and chips and local characters and entertainment. How they managed to go from a respectable dive bar to a bad hollywood version of a dive bar is beyond me.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Bellachefa

                    E, Bellachefa, Aloha: "How they managed to go... is beyond me."

                    It's spelled M-O-N-E-Y. Filming that movie there was the kiss of death.


                  2. Last time I was at Josselin's, I thought the service was too slow. It must have been because it was less busy because it is usually very loud as well! Glad you went to Ishihara's...they have my fav raw crab poke.

                    I don't think Beach House is terrible but I would go,to Josselin's or Red Salt over it, despite the lack of views.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Mag454

                      Beach House has the great views but Red Salt kicks serious ass over all them..

                      1. re: Beach Chick

                        Heading out next week...hiking Waimea, anyone been to the Lodge near Barking Sands?

                    2. After brunch, I'm gonna check out the status of Tiki Iniki..

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Beach Chick

                        Just asked on Twitter and they said:
                        "we won't put a date on it until we have our health and fire inspections, but we're thinking late September."

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Aloha for the update..
                          I'll check it out next week.

                      2. Aloha,
                        Just got back from Kauai a few days ago. We were on the North shore and never ventured too far.
                        Here are my additional comments:
                        Hanalei Taro & Juice - Great smoothies
                        Pat's - We loved their tacos on our last visit and tried tacos and burritos this time. Tacos are definitely the better option. We tried all of them & liked carne asada the best.
                        Kilauea Fish House - Fish tacos bland with thick, flavorless tortilla. Stick with plate lunch or wrap. Our girls had the terryaki and it was delicious.
                        Garden Café at Common Ground - Beautiful setting, nice concept. Had the frittata with Kalua Pork. Good, but not outstanding. The special smoothie was a big hit. Didn't make it to the dam but heard it's a lot of fun with a tree swing into the water. We will definitely try that next time we visit.
                        Bar at St. Regis - Beautiful sunset view, great cocktails. Didn't like when server asked if we needed place settings for our two daughters ages 8 & 10 when we ordered sushi (why wouldn't they?). Sushi itself was pretty average.
                        Bar Acuda - Our best meal in Kauai. Really fresh ingredients lovingly prepared, professional service, perfect pacing. Will definitely return.

                        Will definitely try Tiki Iniki on our next trip as well as Med Gourmet. Our neighbors ate there a few times and really enjoyed it.

                        Hope the report helps anyone planning a trip. We love it so much there and have already booked for next year!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: melee

                          Aloha melee..
                          Glad you had fun.
                          Med Gourmet is on the list.
                          Can't wait!!

                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            I live on Kauai...but have not been to the Mediterranean Gourmet yet..but one of my fisherman buddies sells fish to the owner..so I am sure it's fresh!

                            The same friend eats there regularly, and says the food is excellent.

                            I'd be interested in hearing more about it from those of you who have been there.

                          2. re: melee

                            The old Princeville Livingroom/Bar had the best sushi. Things have certainly changed.

                            1. re: melee

                              It was a simple question the server asked. I don't understand why you would feel offended. It's great your daughters are adventurous enough to eat basic sushi.
                              That same server has probably been scolded by customers for bringing place settings for children without asking. I don't think most children the age if your daughters eat sushi. I could hear a customer saying "please take the place serving away he/she is not going to eat sushi" Servers usually aren't mind readers and don't know if there customers have food allergies or whatever. It's tough to please everyone. Just my opinion.

                              1. re: mick

                                Aloha Mick. I guess it was the combination of the question and the server's tone when she asked. Her attitude in general was pretty unfriendly. I can certainly see your point, but would suggest that a server should probably err on the side of providing place settings for each guest to make everyone feel welcome. What's the harm in needing to remove a few place settings? My girls had already (politely) placed their drink orders before my husband ordered sushi for our table. So, at the very least they needed napkins to put on their laps to catch any drips from their glasses. My comment about the server's question was really more about her general attitude. I probably should have been more specific.

                                1. re: melee

                                  Melee...Understood, point taken and I didn't mean it as a personal attackThanks for clarification. Guess we've all been on both sides of the coin

                                  1. re: mick

                                    No worries, Mick. I didn't see it as a personal attack :-) Just wanted to clarify and guess that in the process the mama bear in me didn't want to let that server off the hook. Aloha!

                            2. Just spent a week in Poipu and my beloved Kauai did not disappoint..
                              Red Salt was fantastic..
                              St. Regis for drinks was good..5* resort is showing its wear.
                              Keoki's was great and bruddha DJ and the band were fantastic.
                              We were house hunting and decided that Poipu for the gorgeous beaches to the excellent food choices.
                              So much Aloha on Kauai..

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                Forgot to add the beachfront outside grill at the Marriott Waiohai had some of the best fresh grilled Ono fish tacos with a mai tai at sunset was da bomb!


                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  Wow BC, years ago I found the Regis to be a big letdown to the previous owners. We stayed next door and planned a few sunset meals/drinks and it just didn't happen. After all that shutdown and change we did not like the new place at all. Unbelievable that it is already looking tired considering how many people were put out of work for an extended reno such a short time ago.

                                  I love a visit to Keoki's bar for pupus and entertainment!!!

                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                    I miss the old classic Princeville resort...not impressed with anything they've done for the amount of time and $$.
                                    We like staying at other St.Regis properties but major fail, imho.
                                    We had drinks at a pool cabana and they didn't hose off the patio from the previous nights luau..no 5* resort I know doesn't do this where guests are dining.
                                    The cottages next door are darling contiguous to the resort.
                                    Wood handles on the deck chairs were so weathered they were splintering..a quick coat of varnish to spruce them up..we're not talking the patio at Tahiti Nui..
                                    Still, Kauai is da best island out of the bunch with the most Aloha and who doesn't love those chickens!


                                2. re: Beach Chick

                                  Aloha Beach Chick! Great report, but I hope the house hunting was for a vacation home. We'd miss you in San Diego!

                                  1. re: melee

                                    Awwww...too kind melee.
                                    Vacation home.
                                    Native SD..we live in our own little paradise.

                                    Aloha and Mahalo Nui

                                3. Even when the founding woman was in charge I never heard anyone suggest we eat there. Mrs. O and her brother and I just liked it for drinks on the porch and watching tourists for an hour or two.

                                  We haven't been back in about four years (family's place is near Poipu), and I don't recognize any of the places, so I'm glad to see your observations. We do want to get back there sometime.

                                  1. Wow; what a great review. My husband and I are going the end of this month, and we will definitely try some of the places on your list. I'm surprised not to see Merrimans on the list.... has anyone heard anything? I know they are excellent in Maui, and I think also on the Big Island, but I heard they are now in Poipu

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: lindalou1026

                                      Going back to Kauai late October. Anybody know if Tiki Iniki is ever going to open or is it just an expensive concept

                                      1. re: mick

                                        "Aloha! Tiki Iniki Lounge and Restaurant Opening October 2013 North Shore Kauai"

                                        "Just in from coconut wireless: Tiki Iniki bar training starts 9/30! Service staff training on 10/7! #tikiiniki #softopening #areyouready?!"


                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          Very cool! Hope it happens. Perfect timing. Thanks