Where locals eat on KauaiPosted on: 09/12/2022
Kaua‘i’s food scene has grown over recent years, with a variety of healthy options to not so healthy options. We’ll show you where the local residents go for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour (because Jimmy Buffet always said it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!) From popular restaurants to off-the-beaten path, we make it easy to fuel up on food like a true Kauai local.
Aloha Aina Juice Bar
Start your day right, with locally grown fruit smoothies, fresh cold pressed juice, frozen yogurt parfaits and mouthwatering acai bowl combinations. Aloha Aina Juice Bar in Puhi is the hottest place to get your healthy fix right now. It’s hard to resist the chunky monkey acai bowl, topped with homemade granola, bananas, strawberries, honey, and chocolate chips. For a local twist on the acai bowl craze, the niu bowl has homemade haupia (a sweet Hawaiian coconut dessert), mango, homemade granola, bananas, and coconut flakes on top. Repeat after us…so ono (delicious)!
Tip Top Café – Every Sunday, residents line up nearly out the door for a table at Tip Top Café in Lihue. It’s your normal breakfast diner with a local twist, serving banana and macadamia nut hotcakes, the much beloved fried rice with an over easy egg and spam on the side, and an unconventional breakfast item, a hot bowl of ox tail soup (think great cure after too many mai tais the night before).
Kalaheo Café and Coffee Company
Just 15 minutes from Poipu is Kalaheo Café and Coffee Company, a hip and friendly breakfast spot with colorful local artwork displayed as décor. Regulars at the café can’t get enough of the housemade cinnamon French toast, massive breakfast wraps, homemade baked goods and wide variety of coffee from the nearby coffee fields. Here’s a tip: All orders must be placed at the counter and will be delivered to your table.
Mark’s Place – Located in Puhi Industrial Center, the average passerby would have no idea that this little takeout shop with picnic tables outside is headed by one of the best chefs throughout all of Hawai‘i. Chef Mark Oyama is one of the original pioneers in the Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine movement and his menu reflects a range from gourmet to basic plate lunches (meat, white rice and macaroni salad), all served inside a takeout container. Specials are announced daily on their website.
Gaylord’s Restaurant – While it could easily be mistaken for a tourist trap, Gaylord’s Restaurant at Kilohana Plantation is actually a favorite among the local lunch crowd. Set inside the open-air courtyard of a sugar plantation mansion built by the Wilcox family in 1935, lunch is served in a garden like setting with shops, rum tasting and train rides all on property. Much of the produce and herbs used in Gaylord’s menu are grown right on the property’s 67-acre farm.
Da Crack – Once upon a time, this little Mexican food spot in Po‘ipū had a different owner and a name that no one remembered. Because it was literally located in the middle of the building on a walkway between the grocery store and an outfitter company, it was nicknamed “Da Crack.” Eventually the old owner closed shop and a new owner reopened with a similar theme: delicious Mexican food using fresh caught seafood, monstrous portions, and affordable prices. And once again Da Crack was back.
Koloa Fish Market – Seared ahi in a butter herb sauce may sound like an entree at a fine dining restaurant, but at Kōloa Fish Market it’s a daily takeout special. In addition to fish specials, Kōloa Fish Market offers Hawaiian laulau (pork wrapped in taro leaf) and roasted kalua pig plate lunches. For those who like to sample everything, their Hawaiian poke selection of salted raw fish prepared in a variety of combinations is considered by locals to be one of the best on the island. Cash is king at Kōloa Fish Market and is the only currency accepted.
La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar – Homestyle Italian dishes and cozy atmosphere make La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar a favorite stop for local residents. What adds to the restaurants charm are tables made of wine boxes and glittering crystal chandeliers, while outside the restaurant is in an unassuming older building. The true highlight of the restaurant is the food, delicious antipasti, homemade lasagna, fresh mushroom risotto and an extensive wine list. After a long day at the beach, sometimes a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs just hits the spot.
Kintaro Japanese Restaurant – Locals flock nightly to this hotspot for their incredible hand rolled sushi, traditional style Japanese dinners and open flame teppanyaki stations. Try the heavenly soft-shell crab roll with avocado, succulent Hamachi collar or the Bali Hi Bomb roll of sliced fresh Atlantic salmon over a California roll with tobiko, topped with spicy aioli sauce and then baked. Reservations for large parties are a must because the restaurant fills up at five.
JO2 Natural Cuisine – Six-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee Chef Jean Marie Josselin is easily the most talented chef on Kaua‘i. The menu at JO2 in Kapaa incorporates Kaua‘i grown heirloom vegetables and the freshest seafood into every item served, blending the influence of French, Japanese and the multiethnic community on Kauai. Each menu serves seasonal offerings and changes nightly.
Kaua‘i Beer Company – For many local residents, Lihue Town is their center of work. Kauai Beer Company recognized this and opened its microbrewery on the historic Rice Street, right in the center of town. Since opening in 2013, locals flock to the brewery for their variety of light to dark, carbonated and nitro beers. Their beers are so tasty, it’s difficult to just stick to one and their 4 oz. beer samplers make it easy to try them all. On Thursdays, Kauai Beer Company invites local food trucks to park street side for patrons to eat and be merry, rotating trucks so each week is different.
Keoki’s Paradise – 3-5 pm and 9:30-10:30 pm are actually not Happy Hour at Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu – it’s Aloha Hour! Aloha Hour means live Hawaiian music, ice cold 29 degree beer, pineapple mojitos and pupu’s for snacking. With the restaurant designed to embody paradise, including flowers, plants, thick bamboo trees and a man-made waterfall with fish pond, the inside of the restaurant is just as tropical as the area outside of the restaurant.
Tiki Iniki – Tucked away in Princeville Shopping Center on the north shore is a gem of a bar called Tiki Iniki. Owned by well-known musician Todd Rungren and his wife Michele, this tiki bar embraces the essence of old Hawaii. Pufferfish lamps and glass balls that were used in Japanese fishing nets dangle from the ceiling while rows of vintage tiki mugs line the bar. No visit to Tiki Iniki is complete without trying the mother of all tiki drinks, The Flaming Zombie, that is made of five different types of rum and lit on fire. Another fun cocktail is The Iniki, created in honor of Hurricane Iniki that hit Kaua‘i in 1992. The umbrella…flipped backwards of course! A full dinner menu and live entertainment on their outdoor patio are also available nightly.
The Kaua‘i experience is a feast for the senses – our eyes take in the island’s natural beauty and lush landscape, our nose smells the fragrant tropical air, our troubles melt away at the feeling of sand beneath our toes. Kaua‘i’s many restaurants and eateries offer a taste of the islands that you have to try to appreciate.