Where to Eat in Kauai
Still swamped with TheAlchemyShop.com. Am really excited about all the press we have been getting, if you haven’t seen it yet, check us out, we’ve been on the Today Show, in OK! mag, on People.com and more! Woohoo!!
However, I am sad that I haven’t been able to write on Chasing James Beard for a while, BUT, I have a goodie for you. Here’s a loooooong blog post on places to eat in Kauai. I just got married to my best friend (literally, he was one of my best friends before we started dating) and not only did we get married in Kauai, but we also spent our honeymoon there.
And because I didn’t know when I would get to eat there again, I was pretty much a glutton there. No seriously, the entire time I was there I never felt hunger and was just full all the time, which is disturbing, but I had to take to opportunity to try their stuff out.
Now, for my own sanity and because I’m jet lagged, I’m just going to show you what I ate in chronological order, however, if you want to speed up to see what my favorite places were and that I would highly recommend trying and going to, then look for
Right before the name of the eatery.
However, if you are in a rush and can’t read more, just take this advice. Skip the fancy restaurants and stick to local eateries and food trucks. That’s where the majority of our favorite food finds were.
You ready for the most fantastic adventure of your life? Then book a trip to the Amazon. However, if you would like to read about where to eat in Kauai, Hi, then keep reading.
If anyone from the St. Regis is reading this, special thanks to Phyllo who showed us around the hotel, Mike our Romantic Dinner host and to the pretty blonde Kauai raised server at the St. Regis bar, who loves the ocean (your name doesn’t escape me on purpose, I just had a lot of martinis that night). You guys are AMAZING and we hope to run into all of you again.
Our first morning brought us to Makana Terrace at the St. Regis, we opted to order at the tables versus their buffet and it was delicious. My lobster omelette was light and fluffy. Pricey, but that’s what you get for eating at a hotel restaurant. The fresh pineapple juice and guava juice was wonderful.
Plus, look at our cute dining mate. S/he sat with us perched on my guava jam jar and eating it while we finished our meal.
On another morning we enjoyed the All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet. We made sure we got our money’s worth.
Shaved Ice Paradise
If you are in the Ching Young Village in Hanalei and need to refresh a bit, try one of the shaved ices from Shaved Ice Paradise across the street. We got one with mango, passion fruit, orange creamiscle and a snow cap (condensed milk). I’ve actually never had a bad shaved ice before, so it’s a bit hard for me to rate shaved ice places. But stop here and sit to rest your feet from all the shopping you will do in the Village.
Also, if you happen to be shopping for a ukulele, be sure to stop by Hanalei Music’s Strings & Things located inside Ching Young Village. The young guy behind the counter was really friendly, chill, informative and played music for Patrick to help him decide which one to get. Patrick got a wonderful one for around $150 and provided us with a box to ship it back in (although they can also ship it back for you if you wish). They also have under $100 options. Originally we had gone to Larry’s Music in Kapaa, but they weren’t very friendly/helpful there and made us feel uncomfortable, so we just left. Very happy we found the ukuleles in Hanalei.
Nalu Kai Grill and Bar at the St. Regis Kauai
Back at the hotel we would have drinks at either Nalu Kai Grill and Bar or poolside before dinner. The St. Regis has an awesome cocktail collection and even has a special section devoted to Bloody Mary’s from St. Regis hotels around the world. Seen here is the Aloha Mary, which also gave me my first taste of sea asparagus. I hearted it. Sea asparagus is light, salty and crunchy. I could snack on it all day. The Harry’s Texas Mary was also fantastic. Great for those who love spicy Bloody Mary’s. Patrick’s go-to drinks were the Ginger Margarita and Kapaa Margarita. The Ginger Margarita must be very popular, because it seemed to be in all the menus at the hotel. Other places on the island do have it, but the St. Regis made it the best and freshest. The Kapaa Margarita is slightly sweeter than a regular margarita and is lined with Li Hing powder, which is a sweet and sour plum powder that is wonderful. It’s something that I grew up eating and reminded me of my family.
For our wedding dinner, we booked a Romantic Dinner at the St. Regis. It was a private beach dinner in a cabana that that was just as it sounds, incredibly romantic. Our server Mike was fantastic and very knowledgeable about food. He seems like a guy you can sit around with and learn a lot from. Dinner was as follows:
Trio of Beet
Pan Seared Sea Scallop with Chorizo Polenta, Edamame, Citrus Beurre Blanc (ohmigosh, so goooooood, what a great way to start the meal)
Norwegian Smoke Salmon Salad-salmon and potato rillettes with orange papaya mustard vinaigrette and salmon caviar (tasty, but nothing to write home about)
Sushi Platter (delicious and they give you so much)
Fruit Caviar with Fresh Strawberries
Certified Angus Center Cut Ribeye with caramelized onion, pommes anna potato, sautéed long bean, cherry tomato and marchand de vin sauce. (The meat was fine and beautifully cooked, but I wish the sauce was on the side because I wasn’t a fan of it. The potatoes were a bit dry, but the tomatoes were wonderful and flavorful)
Wagyu Beef Filet with confit of red wine onions, caramelized ali’i mushroom and asparagus and merlot reduction. (This was great, you could cut the steak with just a fork)
Seafood Portofina with ali’i mushroom, Kauai shrimp, scallops, lobster tail and squid ink pasta. (I love squid ink pasta, which is why I ordered an extra dish for us to taste, but the pasta was all mush unfortunately. I didn’t want to eat it.)
Caramel Nougat Bavarian Tower-Chocolate flourless center, spiced macadamia nut brittle, creamy caramel drizzle, meringue smoke (It was an amazing way to end the meal. Hands down, one of the best desserts that I have ever had in my entire life. It had everything from light and rich flavors, to crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth textures that really made it a perfect dessert.)
Strawberry White Chocolate Tiramisu-Midnight chocolate layer, marinated Kula strawberries (This was delicious too, but I was so enthralled by the other dessert, I can’t remember exactly what it tasted like.)
Chicken in a Barrel
There are a couple of these in Kauai. We munched on a sampler platter that consisted of pork, ribs, chicken, rice and a bean chili. It was very good, but not somewhere we felt like we had to go to again before we left. However, if we did live there, I could see it being a place we would head to over and over again as a chill spot to grab some good grub. I did love their chili concoction though, which says a lot, since beans and tomatoes were the stars, versus meat. It had a lot of flavors going on. I also bought a bottle of their BBQ seasoning, which tastes great out of the bottle, so I know it will be something I will cook with a lot.
Here were some supermarket finds that we found. Ice cream OREOs!!!. Couldn’t justify buying them since we knew we wouldn’t finish the whole bag, but fun to see.
Also, BLT potato chips taste weird.
Hukilau Lanai Restaurant at the Kauai Coast Resort
OK, first off, the presentation of the food is outdated for a restaurant, but once you try the food, you won’t really care. You can tell that they use really great ingredients, which made this one of the best restaurants on Kauai that we ate at.
First dish was the Adam’s Poke nachos with ahi poke, local tomato, avocado, tobiko, inamona, wasabi cream and crisp wonton chips. The idea sounds so amazing, taste was very good, but not amazing. I think that it was a bit hard to get everything on one chip. Maybe chopping the poke smaller like a ceviche and putting the wasabi cream on top, rather than on the plate would allow you to get all of those great flavors on one chip.
Next up were Caesar salads. Doesn’t look that great, right? BUT these were some freaking good Caesar salads. Salty cheese, crisp lettuce and full of umami. One of the best Caesar salads I have ever had before. Every time I ordered a Caesar salad elsewhere after that, I was sad because it didn’t compare.
Prime Rib au Jus-prime rib of beef, Hawaiian salts, secret spices and basil red skin mashed potatoes. Oh. Oh, I loved it. The meat was tender, the au jus was delectable and I’m pretty sure the potatoes were great too since I ate them all and I wasn’t even hungry.
Pork Tenderloin-sauteed pork tenderloin medallions, fried polenta, local mushrooms and marsala cream sauce. Another great dish that really wakes up your taste buds. This dish made me want to cook with polenta more. When you taste how great they make it, you are going to wonder why more restaurants don’t do it their way.
Oh, Pho Kauai, if I could sing your praises I would sing them on top of the Waimea Canyon, but since I am the only one in my family who 1) has stage fright and 2) sounds like Scuttle from The Little Mermaid, I will type your praises from behind my keyboard in the privacy of my NYC apartment.
Pho Kauai was damn good.
I wanted Vietnamese, which led us to this local eatery and so happy that we found it. Vietnamese coffee, two apps and two entrees came out to less than $30. The Vietnamese coffee was strong and sweet. I caught someone staring at me as I chugged it and then proceeded to tip the glass to get every last bit of it. Sometimes I get caught up in eating and look as if I haven’t eaten in weeks and it makes me look rabid and crazy. (Afterwards I went on Amazon.com and bought a Vietnamese coffee filter.)
The spring rolls and pork rolls were great.
Of course we had to get a pork chop, and not only loved it, but really loved the rice it came with. We killed that rice.
But my favorite part of the meal? The broth in their pho. This stuff is money. It’s magical.
It was my favorite meal of the entire Kauai trip.
The Coconut Experience
We were constantly driving past this charming fruit stand on the way to the hotel and Patrick offered to pull over to the side of the road because he got tired of me saying, “Oh look, it’s that fruit stand.” The women who was running it was great. She was very knowledgeable and patient with me and I kept picking things up and asking what they were, since there were a few things I haven’t seen in NYC before. She also let me know when to eat everything so that I could taste it at its best.
I left with a pink lemon. Which I know we can get in the states, but I had never had one before. Yep, tastes like a lemon. However, a bit less harsh.
These are caimitos. They are juicy, sweet and have a crunch and seeds that are very similar to a mangosteen. And just like the women told me at the stand, try not to eat to close to the skin otherwise it will give you a fuzzy feeling in your mouth. I actually forgot the name of them after I left the stand, but after asking a few of the workers at the St. Regis, this lovely Filipino woman was able to ID it for me because she said they had them in the Philippines, where she grew up.
This here is a black sapota, which I never got to eat because it didn’t ripen in time before our trip back to NY(hence, which it isn’t black). However, luckily I got to try a different variety of sapota on a chocolate tour I took (later on in this post) and in their version, it tasted like a cooked Asian pear.
And this is a canistel AKA egg fruit. It’s a strange fruit, but I really enjoyed it. It’s very rich, creamy and sweet. It gets the name egg fruit because the texture, while strange to associate with a fruit, is just like the yolk of a hard boiled egg. Patrick wasn’t fond of the way it would smell up our hotel room when I would open our refrigerator door, but I am almost 100% positive that he prefers this smell to that of a durian.
The Tavern by Roy Yamaguchi
Patrick and I had never eaten at a Roy Yamaguchi restaurant before so we stopped by for lunch and it was fantastic.
We sipped on refreshing and fresh guava sodas and argued for about 20 minutes if that was Roy sitting in front of the TV or not. I think he was right, but I was to embarrassed to say anything to him because what do you say to a stranger who is trying to enjoy a game on the telly?
The lunch menu was different from the dinner menu, but we weren’t disappointed with the selections available and like I wrote on Instagram, it was Holy Crap good.
We got the salt & pepper wings, that not only tasted fantastic on their own, but I would have eaten all the ranch dressing on its own to if it weren’t for the fact that we were only halfway through our trip and for some strange reason my bathing suits that I bought up a size already were sinking and disappearing into my flesh now.
The RY’s pork ribs came with frites and were glazed in a guava likoi BBQ sauce. They were fall off the bone wonderful. All the frites were gone by the end of the meal too.
The grilled ham and cheese with tomato bisque? Incredibly homey feeling and such a perfect pairing. I loved how crunchy they got the outside of the bread.
I’m not really sure why I stopped in this shop since Kauai Kookies are available in practically every tourist shop and supermarket. All I remember is seeing the word Kookies and making Patrick turn the car around. These buttery and crispy cookies were delicious. Plus the red bean bun reminded me of home. A lot of the foods on Hawaii reminded me of home because of all of the Asian influences there. I mean, you could go into the Walmart and K-Mart and find dried fish snacks and Asian fruit snacks. My momma would love it here.
OK, so caramel Bugles aren’t native to Hawaii and have been around for a few years. However, it was my first time trying them and I fell in love. They remind me of caramel popcorn, have a great crunch and none of those popcorn kernel skins get stuck in your teeth.
Steelgrass Chocolate Farm Tour
I would HIGHLY recommend taking this tour if you love learning about nature and trying new foods. And don’t forget to tip your tour guides.
It’s not like the Mast Brothers chocolate tour in Brooklyn where you get to see chocolate being made and get to taste the chocolate that they make. This farm has just started making their own chocolates, which are produced in very limited quantities, which means that they aren’t available for purchase on a consistent basis at this time.
What you get out of this tour is learning about different plants on their farm and tasting fruits/vegetables that are in season and grown on there.
After this tour, you get a lesson on cacao plants and taste various chocolates from around the world. It’s very fun, but educational at the same time. The tour guides did talk a bit as if we were children at times, however, there were children in our group, so I can’t really fault them for that.
(orange with green skin, sugarcane & lime, lime leaf, cherries, grapes, I forget, pineapple and not seen here, but we also had sapota-just not the black variety I bought at The Coconut Experience)
Again, if you love food and learning about it, don’t skip this trip. It’s definitely worth the money.
The St. Regis Bar
Funny thing is that although it was the bar, it was our favorite place to eat at The St. Regis and we found ourselves there multiple times. For the quality of food and the prices we paid, we felt it was the best for our money compared to their actual restaurants. And sorry I forgot to take pictures:). I was on my honeymoon, lol.
Some of our favorite items to eat there were the Charred Chili Rubbed Beef Skewer (so tender), the Black Truffle Comte Fritters (Um, yuuum) and the Wagyu beef sliders with truffle dressing and brie.
They do have live music there and if you get a chance to enjoy Jonah’s music, do. He sings and plays the guitar on certain nights.
The food was very good here. We weren’t hungry, but wanted to try the restaurant, so we skipped appetizers and went straight to cocktails, entrees and then a dessert. Keep in mind that this is a pricey restaurant.
We got the:
Kona Lobster with artichoke vinaigrette, scallion and potato – Delicious and I was so happy to have leftovers to eat for breakfast. If you love lobster, you won’t be disappointed.
Mahi-Mahi with nut and seed crust, sweet and sour jus – Perfectly cooked, filling and delicate tasting. I actually liked the sauce a lot, which had miso in it, but Patrick hates miso, so steered clear of it. He tried it just in case, because he ended up trying a few things on this trip that he usually doesn’t like, but to no avail. I still think it was tasty.
Mashed potatoes – Creamy and tasty, we couldn’t finish it so I was also able to eat this for breakfast:). They were more of a potato puree, which is my favorite way to have mashed potatoes.
Mushrooms – A great side to accompany our dishes.
Lava chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream – You really great go wrong with a lava cake with amazing vanilla ice cream. If I had room for it, I would have asked for more ice cream.
There was a French (I think) gentleman bussing our tables who I really enjoyed talking with. You could tell that he loved food and knew so much about it. He definitely had a lot of experience. It was slow at the restaurant when we were there, so we were able to talk for a few moments each time he stopped at our table. He had mentioned to me to try whipping my yogurt before I eat it so that I could taste and feel the difference in it, which I will be sure to do. Though, I forget what type of yogurt to do it with, so again, if anyone from the St. Regis is reading this, please let me know.
The Right Slice
I was really excited to go to this place because it got such high ratings on Trip Advisor, plus, I really like pie. We actually had to drive almost an hour from our hotel to get to this pie and then another hour back. Unfortunately it wasn’t really a great place for pie, which is weird because they only sell pie and cheesecake. That’s a lot of the word ‘pie’ in one paragraph, huh?
Now, the lilikoi cheesecake was very good. Rich, creamy and a nice layer of passion fruit.
However, the peanut butter fluff pie, caramel apple pecan pie and mango-passion fruit pie were a bit of a disappointment. We were trying to figure out why the reviews were so high. Can’t figure out if it was just an off day or what, but the fillings were a bit bland and the crusts were soggy, not flaky at all. Sad:(. I will say that the apples in the caramel apple pecan pie were lovely and had a nice crisp to them still, but still, wouldn’t get it again.
I hate wasting food, but we ate as much as we could get through and unfortunately had to toss the rest because it just wasn’t really worth eating.
Now, I did have pie at another place later that week that was pretty good, just keep scrolling for it.
Al Pastor Tacos
What to do when you drive for a very long time for not so good food?
You try and make up for it by finding great food! Our original taco plan was to head to Island Taco, but we were never in the area, but we stumbled upon Al Pastor Tacos food truck and it was amazing.
The rice was great, the fresh tomatoes and guacamole very tasty and the tacos were fantastic. Each bite we took had amazing flavor. We got the Al Pastor and fish taco combos and polished these babies off. If you are looking for a great food truck find, be sure to hit this place up!
Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant
They don’t take reservations here and it gets crowded, so you might be in for a little bit of a wait when you get here. The food was pretty good and I was very happy that they had king crab on the menu. Do I dream about this place every night, no. BUT, I would definitely recommend eating there if you are looking for a good place to grab dinner at. Sorry if my description is a bit boring here, I think I’m getting sleepy.
Village Snack & Bakery
This was another great local eatery that we were really happy to locate. It’s inside of that Ching Young Village where we got the ukulele from. DON’T follow Google map directions through YELP, they are wrong. It has a striped awning on it and is across from Hanalei Pizza. If you don’t see it across from Hanalei Pizza, walk around to the other side, I think Hanalei Pizza has two openings. The food was really tasty and hearty. We got the loco moco (meat, gravy, egg), which was very flavorful and came with rice and macaroni salad (rice and macaroni salad is a standard when it comes to Hawaiian lunchbox/combo meals). We also got the chili pepper chicken with rice and macaroni salad. The skin was incredibly thin and crispy, and the meat very juicy. Really good stuff here. Keep in mind that this isn’t fancy food. These are filling, delicious meals that locals eat on a regular basis.
We also got the banana cream pie (I wanted to try more of the pies because they looked so nice and fluffy, but again, I was still full from all the previous meals we had). The pie was much better than The Right Slice. We ate every last bit crumb of it. Patrick loved how flaky the crust was. I really wish I had room for the Haupia (coconut cream) pie, it looked delicious.
Here we have another local eatery, which is where you go when you want some, I guess you would call it, Hawaiian ramen. Saimin is a type of noodle soup that is homey, hot and filling. If you love ramen, give this place a shot. It’s full of locals and random tourists like us. Far from fancy, but good for cheap eats. I also had the beef sticks, not a fan of them, stick to the saimin.
Sorry for the half eaten noodle pic, we just kind of dove right in. It originally was the won-ton saimin and contained broth, noodles, ham, fish cakes and scallions.
Hanalei Taro and Juice Company
Another food truck find, you will get a filling plate of food when you order from here. The staff is very friendly as well and much quicker then other food truck spots we hit up. Seen here is a combo plate with macaroni salad, rice and two kinds of pork. We also purchased a fresh fruit smoothie. Everything was really good because you can tell, like from all the other places we loved, that the ingredients were really good. Didn’t love their macaroni salad, just because I thought it had a bit too much taro in it, so it didn’t taste like macaroni salad anymore.
My favorite part of the meal were these taro mocha cakes that they give you. They are slightly chewy, just the right amount of sweet and really good. I brought one back for a friend to try, but ahem, it might not stay as fresh as it should be by the time I see her so I think that I’ll have to eat it myself. Oh well.
I’m getting sleepy, so this is going to be short and sweet. It was good ice cream, nothing to write home about. If you just want ice cream and happen to be in the area, stop by for some. Featured here is Kona coffee and Haupia medium size.
Lappert’s Ice Cream
I forgot to take a picture of it because I was just kind of enjoying the day. Lappert’s is one of the most famous places to get ice cream here. It’s very good and tasty, but tasted like standard good ice cream that I could get in the premium section of a grocery store. Again, if you want ice cream and it’s there, go for it.
So it’s not ice cream because it’s gelato, but let’s just group it with the other creamy treats. This place was my favorite ‘ice cream’ place. Definitely better than Pink’s and Lappert’s in my eyes. I got the mango sorbet and the Mexican chocolate ice cream. I was in love. If they were in NYC I would definitely head back to them. The mango tasted like a sweet, fresh mango, but icy. And the Mexican chocolate had such a great flavor to it that it still stays fresh in my taste buds. The texture was fantastic.
Um…so again, I was in la-la land and just enjoying the day and forgot to take a picture because I was staring at all of their celebrity pictures on the wall, but Bubba’s Hawaii makes some really good burgers. They are a standard burger place, reminiscent of Milk burger or Shake Shack in New York. Loved how tasty and juicy they were. I wish I were hungrier so that I could’ve eaten my own. There are usually a bunch of people eating here and now I know why. If there was one in NYC, I think they would be successful.
There are a few of them on Kauai, so find the closest one to you.
North Shore Grindz
Inside a gas station you have a pretty good food stand. Didn’t get to try the pizza, but did pick up some burgers, onion rings and fries. The onion rings and fries were good, and so were the flavors of the burger, however, the meat was not juicy at all. They were cooked till they were extremely well done. While I loved the seasonings on them, it felt more like I was eating a slice of meatball (by slice of meatball I mean like the ones that are sliced up and put on pizza), versus a burger. Would I eat here again if I were in the area? Yes. Would I eat here if Bubba burger were next door to it and I wanted a burger? Probably not. Would I eat here again if I was looking for a meatball sandwich? Definitely.
Without a doubt, though, this was a very tasty surprise to find inside a gas station store.
So a couple of notes.
1) I’m really mad that I didn’t get to try Kauai Malasadas. When we got there they were closed because they are only open until they sell out and we only discovered them on the way to the airport. Malasadas are pretty much just fried dough, but it looks like Kauai Malasadas makes them really fresh. I guess I have to go back to Kauai, huh?
2) You may notice that for some of the restaurants, I wrote that the food was delicious, but I didn’t put
in for it.
Why? The price was probably to high for what the food was, or there might have been something off about the service for the amount of money that was being paid. Again, our favorite places were mainly the local eateries.
OK, I have got to sign off because it’s morning and I have to sleep a little to actually work:)
Aloha Hawaii, till next time!