We just spent a month on Kauai and returned home 2 days ago so thought I'd give an update. If you don't know Kauai, let me warn you that it is NOT a foodies paradise. So I'll first start out by telling you about some good places. Unfortunately, the majority of places we went to were disappointing. Our place is in Kapaa so you'll see mostly places from the east side of the island, although we ventured north and south a few times....
Eastside Restaurant (Kapaa) - this was our absolute favorite place. It's new (about 7 months old) and the first week we were there they had just gotten their liquor license and had a limited bar and wine menu. When we went back last week, they had additional wines (although still limited) and new things on the menu. Our waiter said they are experimenting with new things all the time. This is a nice restaurant with good service and nightly music at 7pm. The appetizers and dinners are great, I'd skip the desserts. I would call them a seafood place with asian influence, although they also had chicken, steak, ribs and vegetarian dishes on the menu. I won't go in to everything we tried here, but I must say the mahi-mahi wrapped in a thin-crusted potato wrapper with curry pesto was SO yummy!! I only hope they will still be in business next March when we go back but I think they are feeling the economy big time in Kauai.
Verde (Kapaa) - great fish tacos! This is in a place that kind of reminded me of a Taco Time (walk up counter with menu on overhead reader-board), however, the food was MUCH better, more expensive and they also serve margaritas (which were very weak and not good). They have take-out as well, which you may want to do since the place is small and packed. I'll go here again next year but probably for lunch and not dinner. Great fish-tacos!
Carrie Da Way (Kapaa) - this is a little food truck parked in a parking lot that has an outside dining room. It was kind of amazing all the different items on their menu, but we only had fish tacos for lunch one day and they were great.
Kintaro (Kapaa) - We've been going to Kintaro's for sushi for years and are never disappointed - until this time. Actually, we went twice and had our usual wonderful sushi but on our third visit it was only so-so. We had a tempura shrimp roll and the tempura was soggy and not cooked through. My guess is just a new chef in the back where they do the tempura and we'll definitely continue going to Kintaro. The trick is get there before they open at 5:30 or else plan on waiting for a table or to sit at the sushi bar. Our favorites are the Kilahuea Roll and the Soft Shelled crab with avacado (hand roll). Yummy!
Beachhouse (Poipu) - Another place we always go when on Kauai and we still love it. If you haven't been before, you must go, if nothing else just because of it's stunning location. If you can't get reservations for sunset then go sit in the bar. Chances are a table will open up and you can eat dinner in the bar watching the surfers and the sunset.
Plantation Gardens (Poipu) - Hadn't been before but checked it out after reading the reviews here on Chowhound. I had a pear/arugula/gorganzola salad that was very good. Unfortunately, my seared ahi selection came on a huge bowl of arugula also (it was a special and I must not have heard the waiter say that). So although it was very good, I was arugula-ed out!! My husband had mahi-mahi and he said it was good, but nothing wonderful.
Wahooo Seafood Restaurant (Kapaa) - First time there and I had a good piece of walu with macadamia nut mashed potatoes. Good, but nothing to write home about.
Brewpub @ Waimea Plantation Gardens (Waimea) - We use to like the food there but this time found out they are just weeks away from being taken over by new owners so it didn't seem like they were trying very hard. Food was just so-so and service was slow.
Lemongrass (Kapaa) - Forget it!!
Marriott (Lihue) - went to the bar for their Taco Tuesdays (fish taco's for $2.50). Use to be good but not this time.
Bullshed (Kapaa) - Hit & miss. They have a 10 oz. lobster tail for $29 (with salad bar) and it was really good. Rack of lamb is also very good at a good price. But another night we were there I had scallops (yuck) and my husband had a steak (also not good).
Banana Joes (on the way to Princeville)- previous posts talked about how great their frosties were. The day we were there they were out of banana's (Banana Joes out of bananas???) and the only frosties were pure pineapple. We didn't care for them.
Tropical Taco (Hanalei) - previous posts said they were good fish taco's - we found them lacking in any flavor at all (we had the fresh fish, not fried)
Brick Oven Pizza (Kapaa) - previous posts said it was the best pizza on the island. We're wondering if that means they are the only pizza on the island?? It tasted like frozen pizza to us. And who uses canned mushrooms on their pizza? Ick! And it's one thing to charge $8 for a glass of wine, but at least serve it in glass and not plastic!
Shrimp Station (Waimea) - previous posters liked it but we didn't.