I just returned from a week's stay in Hanalei on the north shore of Kauai. It was a fabulous week and would recommend to anyone spending some time in this area of Hawaii. It was a long flight from the East Coast, but worth every second of flying time. The area is amazingly beautiful. The food was good and certainly got the job done. Service was mostly good. The waitstaff was usually what I would call indifferent. Not terrible, not great, just indifferent. It was Hawaii time. One thing that we learned was that restaurants in Kauai are not air conditioned. Many have outdoor seating or are open air style. Since it was the heat of the summer, dining at 6:00 was just too early. It's just not a lot of fun to eat when you're too hot. By 7:00, just as the sun was going down, it was a lot more pleasant.
Here's my take on the places where I ate.
Postcards - We arrived at 6:00 and it was a really hot night. Indoors, it was ghastly hot, and outdoors seemed even hotter. We requested a table under a celing fan, but were informed that the owner would be dining at that table. I think being so hot changed the experience for us. We just wanted to eat and get the heck out of there. I had the machong (fish) with honey dijon sauce. It was excellent fish and I loved the sauce. The potatoes on the side were well seasoned. I can't say enough about the food. Excellent quality. Unfortunately, we were so hot, I don't have good memories of the meal.
Hanalei Dolphin - We enjoyed our meal so much here that we came back for a second one. Dining on their outdoor patio was very nice. This is one restaurant that the pictures on line make it look less nice than it really is. Though not a bargain, $31 gets you a piece of fresh fish, all you can eat salad with homemade dressing, bread, and a side dish. One night I had the Ono and another night the Ahi. Their signature terryaki sauce was excellent. We also liked their mai tais very much.
Hanalei Gourmet - We managed to score a table on the outside deck, but then when we tried to order alcohol, we were informed that to drink we had to move inside. Inside was very crowded and hot, so we just had water. No big deal. The food was a mixed bag. Some was very good and some was awful. My grilled veggie salad with grilled ahi was excellent. They grilled every veggie I could think of and it was really great. My friend ordered crabcakes which came in a huge portion. Also very good, but were served with the worst potatoes you could imagine. If they weren't instant, it was someone trying to imitate instant. Another friend had an ahi sandwich that looked and according to him was tastless. An unseasoned overdone piece of fish. I would go back and stick to appetizers and salads. Skip the entrees.
Bar Acuda - This was my favorite meal of the week. They have a nice variety of tapas to pick from and a really well chosen wine list. We ordered 7 different things to share. The highlights included an ahi caponata, endive salad, and a sea scallop over really good mashed potatoes. The only dish that didn't work for me was the whole roasted tomato bruschetta. The highlight of the meal for me, as good as everything else was, was the dessert! The coconut layer cake with burnt chocolate ice cream was to die for! The cake was so fluffy and the frosting was a cross between marshmallow and meringue. The service here was also excellent - the best on the island. They were not on Hawaii time and constantly were around filling water glasses and making sure our every need was taken care of.
Cafe Hanalei - Everyone knows this is the place to go for a meal with a great view. And a great view it does have. We went for breakfast on my mother's birthday. We opted to order off of the menu, although there were also two options for the buffet. All of our food, except for the egg's benedict was excellent. My macadamia nut french toast was the best of the bunch. The service was slow, but good. Should it take two hours to eat breakfast? Probably not. But we had the view to keep us company. Our waiter was a gem. He even brought out a delicious chocolate mousse pastry for my mother decorated with "Happy Birthday." I thought that was very thoughtful. We certainly weren't expecting anything like that at breakfast. It is expensive. $100 for breakfast for 4 people. But we enjoyed ourselves.
Kilauea Bakery - After a trip to the Kilauea Lighthouse, we stopped in for a quick lunch. The pastries and the pizza were excellent. I could have eaten an entire pizza myself. Unfortunatley, the service was horrible. There were at least 4 people working behind the counter, and they all went out of their way to be as unhelpful as possible. It almost seemed like a joke. I have never seen such unfriendly people. Maybe they should reconsider working in the service industry.
Brennecke's (Poipu) - We spent one day driving to Waimea Canyon and stopped at Poipu on our way back to the North Shore. Brennecke's was a great place for lunch. My friend had the ono fish and chips and they were awesome. I had a plate lunch with mahi mahi, kalua pork, rice, and potato salad. The service here was also excellent.
Foodland - The grocery store located in Princeville was pretty nice. Make sure you pick up a discount card at the service desk to avoid sticker shock. It made the high prices, though still high, more tolerable. We found some good deals on wine. Paying even less than what our neighborhood liquor store charges. We also liked the premade sadwiches from the deli case. For $5, you got nice sized sandwiches packed nicely to take to the beach.