As a complement to the Kauai Cheap Eats report I posted below, here are the other restaurants I went to on my recent trip to Kauai (March 2004).
Kapa'a: King and I, in the Waipouli Plaza. (It's a little hard to find, since there are also the Waipouli Town Center and the Waipouli Complex to confuse you.) This place was terrifyingly empty when we arrived just before 9 PM, but we figured we'd give it a shot anyway. As it turned out, the food was pretty good, although not write-home quality. Things started out weak with a lackluster green papaya salad, but improved with the green curry chicken, which was quite tasty. Shrimp with basil was passable, but not fabulous, while the best thing on the table was a dish of garlic stir-fried vegetables. This was not on the menu: we just asked for a side of vegetables. They had sticky rice, which I love, and jasmine rice also (I think both had to be ordered separately).
Kapa'a: Smith's Tropical Paradise luau. Oh boy. The food here was hardly chow-worthy, but it deserves a mention. There was a lot of stuff on the buffet but I tried hard to stick to the Hawaiian options (e.g. not the three-bean salad). Kalua pig was tasty, as was the teriyaki beef. Not much else stood out except for the rice pudding. The whole thing was managed with the efficiency of a military operation, which I have to admire. The show was unbelievably hokey, more than I thought possible in this day and age. I don't think I need to do any more luaus.
Poipu: Roy's was our "fine dining" choice on Kauai. We had no problems calling around 4 PM on Saturday to get an 8:30 reservation for that night (I got the impression that 8:30 was considered insanely late, so we had no competition for the table). The food here was very good, and the portions very generous--too much so, in my opinion, since I'm a small person and like to be able to taste as many dishes as possible! We started with a Maui onion and tomato salad, which was really superb, with the onions caramelized. My friend and I ordered combination entrees, which give a slightly smaller portion of two different dishes for a few dollars more than a regular entree. (Even so, we ended up completely stuffed.) I had pork loin, which was tasty but a little overcooked, and snapper with a seaweed/sesame crust--this was perfectly cooked and very delicious. My friend had scallops poached in a thin sauce, which were stupendous, and a basil-and-mint-coated fish. Although I had eaten too much already, I could not resist ordering the mango/apple/blueberry crumble tart with vanilla ice cream. While I was perfectly happy to eat this dessert, it wasn't skillfully made: quite of few of the fruit pieces were undercooked and hard.
The service at Roy's was very friendly and beyond efficient. We had a little incident during our first course, when after getting 9/10 of the way through the salad, we noticed a tiny inchworm cruising through the dressing left on the plate. Upon pointing this out to our waitress, we got profuse apologies, the salad taken off the bill, and a prompt visit from the manager, who offered to give us both free desserts. We took him up on one dessert since we couldn't fit in two, and tipped massively. They really went above and beyond the call of duty here. Big points for customer service.
Hanapepe: Green Garden restaurant was our second choice after we discovered that the Wrangler steakhouse in Waimea was closed on Mondays. Green Garden has been around since 1948, and it shows. While some people might be nostalgic for macaroni salad on the salad bar, squishy white-bread rolls, and crinkly fries straight from the Sysco freezer bag, I have to say that I'm not one of them. We both ordered grilled fish from the daily specials list, and both entrees were good although the fish somewhat overcooked. Having been urged by the guidebook and the waitress to try the lilikoi (passionfruit) chiffon pie for dessert, I did. It was pretty bizarre, with a texture that can be described as an egg-white omelet crossed with shaving cream. I think the crust came out of a package. It was edible, but I can't imagine who is going back for seconds of this thing.
Overall, I found the cheap eats a lot better bet on Kauai. Still, I did think that Kauai's food offerings had definitely improved vastly since my first trip to the island in 1991. If you aim fairly low, you can do pretty well. Just don't try to get anything to eat after 9 PM!