We were based in Princeville and went to Kauai to visit my brother who lives near Kapa’a. First night off the plane my brother took me to Mema’s (4-369 Kuhio Hwy) for Thai. I was pretty out of it, having traveled direct from NYC, but enjoyed my meal. I think I had the house special curry with shrimp. Next morning, we stopped at the Kilauea bakery for coffee (Kong Lung Center, Kilauea Rd.). One loaf of bread and two pastries later we were back on the road to meet our parents who flew in to Lihue the morning after I arrived.
We spent most of our time on the north shore and Hanalei Gourmet (5-5161 Kuhio Hwy) was one of our standbys in Hanalei. The mango house dressing is delicious and we drank more of their passionfruit margaritas that we’d care to admit to. The best meal of the vacation was one we cooked for ourselves using the ono belly from the fish market in Hanalei. While we didn’t get to the Kilauea fish market this trip, the one in Hanalei gets a thumbs up from us. Also in Hanalei is Tropical Taco (5-5088 Kuhio Hwy, in the Halele’a Building) which is very, very popular and at which we waited 40 minutes for fish tacos. The fish tacos are not your LA variety but are huge and despite that I cleaned my plate. I really like the lemonade there as well. I loved BarAcuda (5-5161 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei). We had the banderillas, scallops, honeycomb salad, the main salmon plate and a few other things. They had an excellent wine list, excellent service and it was a real pleasure. It’s the type of place that would easily fit in to the New York restaurant scene.
Also worth a mention in Hanalei is the health food store at which we picked up their house made hummus and dolmas for beach snacks. The Foodland grocery store in Princeville is great - don’t hesitate to shop there. Try very hard to go to the farmer’s market in Haena if you are located near the north shore or go there for the day. It is only on Tuesday at 2 pm and you really must get there somewhat on time as some stands sell out very quickly. What’s nice about this market is that they don’t pre-sell. We had a ton of fun picking out fruit and trying all the things we didn’t know existed. Unfortunately you can’t take the local honey home to the mainland, but that meant my brother got to keep it.
We did the obligatory sunset meal at the Beach House. While the food didn’t blow me away, the sunset was pure pleasure, we were lucky that the whales were in good form that night and gave us plenty of showy jumps and dives. Book this AS FAR in advance as possible if you want a good table right by the open windows and, really, it’s a nice spot. The service was excellent as well.
We didn’t spend too much time in Lihue or Kapa’a as my brother wanted to forget about traffic for the week, but it was pretty inevitable we’d be there throughout our visit. Some local spots that I give a thumbs up are the Pho Kauai, the Vietnamese restaurant in the strip mall next to the bowling alley in Lihue (Rice Shopping Center). Excellent pho, very friendly. Also great was the Korean Bar-B-Q joint mentioned by Rebs (4-356 Kuhio Hwy) Very low-key yummy spot. Pretty sure the kimchee was homemade. I also really liked Scotty’s Beachside Barbecue (4-1546 Kuhio Highway, Kapa’a). I had the pork and it was amazing. Seriously brought me back to Kentucky. They have a great view of the beach and I think they get pretty busy around sunset.
Honorable mentions to the restaurant in the Princeville hotel where we had a very good bento box lunch and also Duke’s. These places probably don’t need any more name checking but they both did the trick. Great outdoor view (especially in Princeville) and solid food.
The places we missed that I’d like to go to (for the next trip!) are Tidepool, Postcards, Mermaids Café, Lighthouse Bistro Kilauea and as mentioned earlier the Kilauea Fish Market.