I’m such a foodie, one of the top reasons I travel is to eat. When I’m home I try to watch my “diet” but when I’m traveling I have no filter— I’m on vacation let me live.
Through experience I’ve found the best places to eat, are where the locals eat. Before my trip, I talked to my friend who grew up on Kauai and asked her where her favorite places to eat are. She gave me a long list of her favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots. I literally tried every place she recommended. None of the spots let me down, but I narrowed down my favorites. Here are 5 must eats that you have to try on Kauai:
1. Kintaro Japanese Restaurant: Japanese food & the best cocktails
It’s very obvious that Kintaros is a local favorite. I called ahead to make reservations on a Friday night and the only times they had available were 5:30 at opening or after 8, we chose the latter. When we arrived the restaurant was packed with people waiting outside and in their waiting area inside.
TIP: Make reservations to avoid a long wait
The food: Before ordering they brought out complimentary wontons, a delicious and unique starter. The menu consists of amazing dinner specials which are accompanied with buckwheat noodles (soba), miso soup, rice, and Japanese pickles. I love that there are so many options for mixing entrees because I’m always indecisive about what I’m in the mood for. For my entree, I chose Dinner Special C which is a combo of sashimi and tempura. There were so many people around us ordering sushi so I had to sample a roll. I went with the Bali Hi Bomb Roll— sliced fresh salmon over California roll with tobiko, seasoned, and then baked. To satisfy my sweet tooth we shared the green tea mud pie— green tea ice cream with an oreo crust. Name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait.
If you’re of age 😉 The cocktails here are INCREDIBLE. I sampled four different drinks (not all mine I tried my friends’ drinks lol) and I’m not being dramatic when I say they were all so delicious. Like dangerously delicious. I started with the lilikoi mojito because mojitos are my all time favorite cocktails and it didn’t disappoint. If you’re in the mood for something a little stronger the GREEN MULE, it’s a spin off of a classic Moscow Mule but they add midori where it gets its green color from.
2. Pono Market: Authentic Hawaiian food and fresh poke
If you’re on Kauai you should be eating plenty of poke and Hawaiian food. We tried three different poke and Hawaiian food spots and this one was my favorite.
The food: There were so many combination plate options to get everything you want— Kalua pig, lau lau, fried chicken, beef stew, lomi lomi salmon, mac salad, sushi rolls, and all the poke you can think of. I chose a combo of two entrees and one side with Kalua pig, spicy ahi poke, and lomi lomi salmon. The Kalua pig was so juicy and not too fatty.
TIP: If you’re on Kauai you need to try Hanalei poi. Not pictured above because I mopped it in 1 minute lol Hanalei poi, is sweeter than regular poi and not as sour.
3. Kauai Pasta: For your carb cravings
If you’re in the mood for some food that’ll put you right to sleep this is the spot. Sometimes you just gotta say F*ck it I need carbs, vacay is the perfect time.
The food: Rich, creamy, delicious. The pesto grilled chicken with fettucini alfredo fulfilled all of my carb fantasies and dreams. Which is good because after this dinner I won’t be eating carbs for the next few months : – ) They’re known for their homemade meat sauce— the chunks of Italian sausage remind me why I could never be vegan; get this if you’re in the mood for a red sauce. We also shared a couple appetizers, the Spinach & Artichoke dip and the Clams. The clams were sitting in a pool of tomato sauce with Italian sausage and served with garlic butter bread. Incredible.
Tip: When you’re finished with the clams ask your server to leave the sauce you have left over to dip your bread in.
4. Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Company: Breakfast
What I love about this place is that their menu is unique but their food is still comforting. The ambiance is nicer than other spots but the food isn’t too foofoo where it loses quality or quanitity. I noticed that this is one of the few places that offers healthier options too which is really appealing. There are tons of vegetarian and gluten free options, they offer brown rice and wheat toast, and there’s even an option to make pancakes whole grain.
Sonny, who get’s a little thrown off by modern menus like this even loved this place! I knew he was skeptical because of all their veggie options lol but when he got his food he was impressed.
The food: I got a veggie omelette, with perfectly seasoned and crisp home fries and a short stack of pancakes. The pancakes were so fluffy, and had a hint of cinnamon. Sonny had a custom omelette with hash browns and corn bread— the hash browns were so buttery.
TIP: Hash browns and corn bread. Get it.
5. Verde: Mexican Food
I know what you’re thinking. Mexican food on Kauai? Trust me this place is legit. Good food. Good service. Good Prices.
On our third night in Kauai we were in the mood for Mexican. Long story short, we ended up in the wrong restaurant next door to the place we were supposed to be eating at. The worst Mexican food I’ve ever had, maybe the worst restaurant I’ve ever been to. We were all in a sour mood after that, and knew we didn’t want to leave Kauai on a negative note. On day four we had time to stop somewhere to eat before going to the airport. We had to stay relatively close, so I found a Mexican restaurant 10 minutes away with amazing reviews. Verde made up for the disaster we had the night before and went above and beyond my expectations; I guess some things happen for a reason.
The food: The portions here are HUGE, they use grass fed Kauai beef, and antibiotic and hormone free chicken and pork— quality and quantity. Coincidently, we walked in on margarita Monday which features $4 house margaritas which gave this place extra points. I honestly would fly to Kauai for a day JUST to get dinner and drinks from here. Verde isn’t just a favorite on Kauai, but a favorite of all time for me.
I got the al pastor taco salad and Sonny had the al pastor burrito. They don’t skimp on the meat, toppings, or portions but everything is reasonably priced. Our bill was just over $40 for two huge entrees, a side of guac, and two margaritas.
TIP: The tip is to come here. I literally do not have anything else to tell you other than this place will change your life.
I had so much fun eating my way through Kauai, and finding places where the locals eat. If you ever go to Kauai make sure to check out these places, they won’t disappoint.
A Whole Lotta Love,