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Mar 23, 2014 08:06 PM

Kauai Trip

Hello Hawaii Chowhounders!

I am headed to Kauai in a few days for work, and also for a trip with my parents and sister for a week. We are excited to have a few days together as a family which are much too far and few between these days....

We are hoping to get around the island a bit, but will probably want to stay closer to the Grand Hyatt in Poipu most of the time, and especially for meals.

So far, we have our first dinner planned at Josselin's for a celebratory meal to congratulate my sister on a recent piece of good news! After that, we have a list of possibilities for dinner on other days. My sister will only be with us for two more evenings. We are considering (on the higher end) Red Salt, Merriman's, and Roy's. Maybe Donderos, but it seems silly to have Italian in Hawaii when we have so much good Italian in New York city, where my sister and I live. We are also considering Tortilla Republic, which I've heard quite a few things about. I've heard so many mixed things on Red Salt, Merriman's, and Roy's that I have a hard time knowing which one would be the best. Thoughts? On the more casual end for dinner, we were thinking of doing drinks and appetizers at the Beach House and then heading to dinner someplace more casual. Ideas? We were also considering doing happy hour drinks and happy hour small plates dinner at Keoki's. Can anyone tell me what that might be like? Is there a better place for this kind of casual meal? Any other thoughts on casual dinners? Something one couldn't find easily outside of Kauai would be welcome, but not necessary.

As for lunches, we have Koloa Fish Market, Puka Dog, Savage Shrimp, maybe Hamura's Saimin (do they use MSG? We are very allergic....), etc. Any other ideas for casual lunches or recommendations on what to get at these places would be great!

As for breakfasts, we are staying at the Grand Hyatt. Every breakfast option there looks expensive and/or boring. We were considering Red Salt for a slightly more reasonable and more interesting breakfast. What is the breakfast at Living Waters like? Any good pastries nearby?

Which restaurants or eateries, other than the Beach House, have the best views? We are in Hawaii after all. It would be a shame to miss something with a great view. If we can get great food while we are at it, that sounds just about perfect.

Is it necessary to rent a car or should we give the bus system a shot? How do people get around without renting a car?

Thank you so much for your help! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the many Kauai reports on this board and I will report back!

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  1. Here's my recent trip report:

    We went to Savage Shrimp, Tortilla Republic, Puka Dog, Josselin's, Koloa Fish Market, Red Salt for breakfast, Living Foods for breakfast, Merriman's downstairs.

    Josselin's and Tortilla Republic were great. LOVED Puka Dog & Koloa Fish Market (esp for good poke and plate lunch).

    Didn't get a chance to try the new Dolphin Fish Market in Poipu (same people as the Hanalei one).

    I think the general CH consensus is that the other Merriman's locations are better than the Kauai one.

    Didn't find a lot of bakeries in Poipu. Maybe you'll enjoy the Right Slice at the Wednesday gourmet market at the Shops at Kukuiula.

    Or lilikoi chiffon pie at Wong's/Omoide's. And you make a pit stop at Kauai Kookie company.

    Definitely rent a car--there is much to see and do from Waimea Canyon, Hanapepe Fri night Art Night, Spouting Horn, the Koloa Tree Tunnel, old Koloa Town, helicopter rides, the North shore...

    For lunches I wouldn't always plan to be near Poipu. You might be closer to Waimea or Kapaa or Lihue dependent upon what you're up to that day.

    1. Now to attach some phone photos I forgot I had!

      9 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Breakfast at Living Foods

              1. re: kathryn

                Thanks so much, kathryn! You're always so helpful on the Manhattan board. Nice to see you here!

                The pictures are very helpful. Did you personally enjoy breakfast at Red Salt or Living Waters better? Which was a better experience overall?

                My parents aren't super active. If I had to choose two or three things to do/see, do you have a top three?

                Do Savage Shrimp, Koloa, and Puka Dog have indoor or outdoor seating or is it all take-out to eat wherever you can find a place outdoors?

                Tortilla Republic sounds fun. Did you do the taqueria or the grill?

                Thanks so much again!

                1. re: j.jessica.lee

                  I liked Living Foods slightly more because you order at the counter, and they call your order when it's ready, then you can take it outside, either in front of the store or in back. And you can peruse the store while waiting. It's not table service, so hard to compare vs Red Salt. We also found the portion sizes at Living Foods to be generous so you could split dishes if you wanted to.

                  Red Salt was good but the souffle pancakes do take a while, like 30 minutes. They give you a complimentary muffin basket, which is tasty. The set up is all indoors, which is understandable given that it's a restaurant in a hotel, next to the lobby. Feels more like a big city boutique hotel. I also found the service at Red Salt to be a little odd/slow.

                  My #1 activity with a star would be a helicopter ride of Kauai. Insanely gorgeous. Worth the cash. I believe every helicopter company does a whole tour of the entire island We did an afternoon one and got really great views of Kipu Kai, Na Pali Coast, Sleeping Giant, Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay, and more. May be the only way to see the Na Pali in the winter when the waves are too rough for a boat tour.

                  My #2 would be a drive around the North Shore on a nice day, stopping to look at some pretty beaches and poke around Hanalei town. Nothing really strenuous for either in terms of physical activity, just need to pay attention while driving due to the one lane bridges (follow the local etiquette of yielding in batches and you'll be fine).

                  Waimea Canyon & a stroll through Hanapepe aren't super active. There are some easy lookouts on the drive from Poipu -- you just need to make sure you get going in the AM before the top gets clouded in, which it can on some days. No hiking required unless you want to.

                  Spouting Horn is easy from Poipu -- it can be a 20 minute detour, with some shops to poke around in after you're done looking at the blow hole. You park and walk right up to the viewing area for Spouting Horn.

                  Savage Shrimp has some indoor seating, some outdoor. Make sure you don't accidentally sit at the shave ice place, for the outdoor seating, they are sensitive about that. You order at the counter, and they bring your food out to your table. It's not a huge place.

                  Koloa has no seating whatsoever. It is mainly takeout. Located on the main "drag" near old Koloa Town. There just enough space inside for patrons to order and stand in line.

                  Puka Dog has some indoor seating, maybe only 3-4 tables, that's it. It can get crowded when there's a line. Luckily Puka Dogs are portable and the shopping center it is located in has benches and tables scattered around the grassy area. Many people get it to go and walk to eating closer to the center of the shopping center.

                  We did the upstairs grill at Tortilla Republic. The cocktails are surprisingly good for Kauai. Their carnitas dish was amazing.

              2. re: kathryn

                Lilikoi chiffon pie from Wong's

                1. re: kathryn

                  Speaking of Wong’s, we’ve gone there the last two Memorial Days and have had out-of-this-world Chinese roasted pork belly (along with very good liliko’i pie, as kathryn says). It may be because they were open for special lunch on Memorial Day (they’re normally closed on Mondays) and that we arrived just before noon (so pork belly was relatively fresh from the oven), but it was addictive. Both times, slightly salty seasoning with nice overtones of 5 spice, crispy, crackly skin, succulently tender and flavorful meat, and just enough fat to give it a velvety unctuousness. Hands down better than the pork belly we've had at Josselin's. We’re going to go back to get it again this year, even though it won’t be Memorial Day (we’re on Kaua’i right now).

                  1. re: beantowntitletown

                    Good to know! Thanks so much for your information! Chinese roasted pork belly is a favorite of mine.

              3. Roy's was very good, but not much of a view as it's in a strip mall. Keoki's Paradise was tasty, with a constructed environment, no beach view. Brennecke's Beach Broiler/restaurant was my favorite. Casual, beachy, with great food. Good views depending on where you are seated. Could be a great lunch spot for you. My in-laws go every time they are on Kauai.

                We have enjoyed Bubba's Burgers, especially after doing the first leg of the Napali coast trail. We were at the Marriott timeshare in Poipu, so we did our own breakfasts and lunches most of the time. I would definitely rent a car. It frees you up and the buses don't run through some of Kauai's more scenic areas that I recall. Check out Kauai Coffee Co's plantation in Kalaheo if you like coffee

                2 Replies
                1. re: autumm

                  Thanks so much! Was the environment at Roy's negative/ugly or was it just a non-beach setting?

                  Thanks also for the recommendation to rent a car. That's a good call.

                  1. re: j.jessica.lee

                    it was great food in a strip mall. Nothing wrong with it, but it was in a strip mall. Really good food, but the atmosphere didn't really work for us.

                    Car equals freedom! Kauai seems to me to be a more casual food place, where a car gets you out into the food world.

                2. Hello everyone! I am finally back from my trip and thank you for your help. I will report over the course of a few posts.

                  Our first meal was at JOSSELIN'S. Wonderful first meal! My parents and sister each had one of the three sangrias from the sangria cart - lychee, classic, and pomegranate. The lychee was the most liked around the table, although the classic was also very good. We ordered the deconstructed ahi roll (cute, nice presentation over dry ice; not the best dish of the night, but still very good), salt and pepper crispy octopus (nice, crispy, but could have stood to be a little crispier; great octopus though!), rock shrimp tempura (same presentation as ahi roll; delicious crispy rock shrimp over rice and avocado with a mayo sauce in between; wish it had been bigger!), hoisin braised short rib (not quite as tender as it should have been, a little stringy, but nice flavor), slow-cooked butterfish (delicious fish, impeccably cooked, beautiful and luscious and buttery texture, umami-rich miso glaze on the outside, lovely!), 36-hour braised pork belly (rich, unctuous, falling apart, lovely texture; loved the pear kimchi!), another dish I can't remember, and then we split the profiteroles for dessert. We had nice service and just thoroughly enjoyed our dinner, even with a few small missteps with a couple of the dishes.

                  The next morning, we went to RED SALT for breakfast. We LOVED breakfast here, and ended up going three times over the course of our seven days there. We had a fantastic server, Aejin, who took amazing care of us. All of the servers at Red Salt were great. Friendly, professional, made us feel at home! The first day, we ordered two benedicts (amazing, amazing! Perfectly poached eggs, great chive hollandaise!), wonderful three egg omelet with the works, and my macadamia nut waffle with nutmeg spiced chantilly, maple syrup, and coconut syrup. The waffle was fantastic, one of the better waffles I have had. Coffee was good and the complimentary basket of mini muffins with spiced butter were way too addictive. The setting is bright, relaxed, and beautiful, with a nice view of the Koa Kea Resort pool and a hint of the beach a few more steps away. Highly recommend this. The next few times, I ordered the mac nut waffles and also the mac nut chocolate pancakes. The pancakes were good, but not as great as the waffles. We also tried the steak and eggs, but it was not worth the three dollar mark up from the rest of the breakfast dishes. The food on Kauai is expensive, but this was one of the better values and some of the best quality food (we also returned for dinner, report to come).

                  More to come!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: j.jessica.lee

                    Glad you had a great time in one of my fave places in the world.

                    Grand Hyatt is stunning and Red Salt is so good..
                    I stay next door at the Marriott Waihaio but Koa Kea resort is a lovely place too.

                    The beach is one of my all time favorites in Kauai.

                    Can't wait to hear more!