We’re back and had a wonderful time. What a wonderful place – we are so fortunate to be able to visit!
So, I don’t have a report on terribly many restaurants because we tried to keep things cheap. We ate breakfast in the hotel room for the most part. Two exceptions were the first day, before we had shopped, at Ono Family Restaurant at Kapaa, and then when we stopped at Kauai Bakery in the Macy’s mall at Lihue on the way to the canyon.
Ono Family is fine. It’s a greasy spoon diner with a big selection. You can find everything you might want to eat for breakfast there – American and Hawaiian cuisine. We could tell they used nice ingredients, but they were certainly heavy handed with the oil. The best thing we had – a lovely introduction to the vacation – was a fresh fruit bowl with banana, papaya, pineapple, and I’m sure locally grown strawberries :).
The bakery is Portuguese, I believe. Lots of to go pastries, donuts, yeast buns filled with sweet or savory ingredients. I personally love savory, so I had the ham and cheese buns (like a slumming but tasty ham and swiss croissant, with none of the artistry but all of the satisfaction). My family was not complaining about their malasadas and cinnamon rolls, so I guess the sweets were acceptable too.
Lunches: we did a lot hiking and at least some of those lunches were wheat thins, smoked marlin, and edamame from Foodland – they have a hundred different kinds of pokes too, and they looked beautiful.
As for actual restaurants, we had a lunch at the pizza place at Hanalei in the Ching Young Village. Passable – neither great nor terrible. A little pricey at $3-5 per slice, but still, pizza is a cheap lunch.
We went to TNT burgers, a truck in Kapaa across the street from Scotty’s bbq. Thought this was really well done. The meat was high quality, salted and peppered, lots of toppings to choose from. They don’t charge extra for lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, like Bubba’s, and are generous with the veg. Their steak fries were really tasty too, if you don’t need your fries thin and crispy. This place kicked the butts of Duane’s Ono Char and Bubba’s (both of which we sampled at previous visits).
We also ate at Kokee lodge in the canyon. They have some cheap, hearty food to prep you for a hike. The cornbread is great, but we didn’t like the chili. It was both sweet and sour, neither flavor of which we associate typically with chili. To each their own. It was filled with beans and big hunks of hamburger, and was probably our cheapest meal excepting the pizza.
The kids had some dogs at puka dog in Poipu – I didn’t even try because I was nervous about catching the flight back – but they were not wowed. The dogs were huge – they easily could’ve split one. The buns were even bigger (3x the size of a hog dog bun). And their gimmick is tropical salsas pushed into the wraparound bun (think pig in a blanket) which in reality just smooshes out the bottom end and gets all over your shorts. Yep. Big mustard puddle on the shorts. If that’s what you want from your $7 dog, more power to you. I’m trying to comment only on the value and the mess factor, because I didn’t eat the food.
Snacks: I finally feel compelled to throw my 2 cents into the shave ice throwdown, if there is one. We tried, for the first time, the place on the mountain side of the road in Hanalei, next to Bubba’s burgers. And went, for probably the 6th or more time to Jo Jos in Waimea, and Wishing Well truck in Hanalei (ocean side). Jojo’s has more flavors, and after hiking the canyon, you may feel you deserve the treat more that after frolicking at the beach. But Jo Jo’s ice was coarse, and the syrup didn’t add enough flavor till the bottom of the cup. The Bubba’s neighbor was fine – average – pricier than the other 2. Wishing Well has limited and unpredictable hours, that’s true. But the quality is the best. Really finely ground ice, enough syrup, made the whole thing smooth and went down easy.
Dinners: We went to Scotty’s bbq one night (Kapaa) because we had been before, and it was convenient to where we were. Pretty decent, not awesome. This is not a destination restaurant by any means. After a three hour hike, I felt ok indulging in a pile of meat on a bun and some fries, but I gotta say, I really missed any fresh fruit or veg. The buns were too thick for the amount of meat, and although they had 3 different bbq sauces, we found all to be too sweet and not enough spicy. Including the spicy one. But they have a beautiful view and if you stick with the sandwiches and avoid the plates, it won’t break the bank.
Here’s what broke the bank, but we only did this once. Meditteranean Gourmet in Haena. I have to say, there is nothing here that was original or inspired. But really solid, well prepared food that you would expect – kabobs, grilled fish, couscous etc. The charred artichoke appetizer was a standout. Very smoky, lemony, and served with a Cajun aioli. The salads were fresh and lovely. We didn’t care for the baba ganoush, which was oddly vinegary and undersalted. Also a nice view, but windowed, rather than open air like Scotty’s had.
Took the advice on Garden Island bbq and Chinese in Lihue. Great prices and delicious veggies. The proteins were average quality. We got a chicken dish that had dark meat (lots of people prefer this, I prefer white), but it was a bit sinewy. We got a shrimp dish but the shrimp were small and scarce. However, the tofu, pea, and mushroom dish we got was fantastic, and I wish we had gotten another veg only dish. It’s mentally hard to do that at a place where the veg only dishes cost the same as the protein dishes – which they do here. But the place was hopping – obviously it’s not a well kept secret.
Finally, another convenience stop – Kauai pasta in Kapaa. The prices were ok as long as we kept it simple. I got a pasta marinara, s.o. got the meatsauce marina, and the kids got the butter. On the bright side, the pasta was al dente. But the marinara really tastes like they threw open a couple cans of tomatoes and some spice and warmed it for 15 minutes. It didn’t have any long cooked flavor, no development. The kids each had a good ½ stick of butter in their bowls – it was dripping and swimming in butter. Then again, it was just like that at the Med Gourmet, a much more upscale place.
Our most adventurous dinner was the one we cooked outside. We went to the fishmarket and farmers market in Kilauea, then headed for the park to grill some en papillote with scallions, arugula, cherry tomatoes, okra, lemon, and garlic. It was lovely, but a lot of work. I wasn’t super impressed with the fish market, probably because of the acclaim preceding it. Perhaps it was late in the day (we went there after the Fm, so about 5pm) but the selection was small and the prices large. We used to shop at Santa Monica Seafood in LA, and that was a pricey market. But here, in this market, the cheapest thing was the shrimp at $17 per lb.
The FM was lots of fun to explore. Lots of unrecognizable fruit – mountain apples, purple round things and chocolate chayote. Longans and my favorite – rambutans – a red hairy thing that when bitten open, discloses a flowery grape tasting thing around a large seed. Yummy!
Anyhow, this being our 4th trip, we don’t go for the food anymore. The island is just spectacular. But you gotta eat, don’t you. Hope this helps future travelers!
Ono Family Restaurant
4-1292 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746