The best places to eat in Po‘ipu span many cuisines, price ranges, and most have draws such as a great view, a romantic atmosphere, nightly specials, or make for an excellent place to stop for a quick bite on the go.
A wonderful atmosphere can be found at Keoki’s Paradise (2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr., 808/742-7534, 11am-10:30pm daily, $15), where ponds, a small waterfall, greenery, and a large beautiful tree make a very relaxing vibe. Here you’ll find a mix of visitors and locals enjoying a drink at the bar. Service is friendly and good, and the food is pretty good but not spectacular. They have nachos, steaks, burgers, and seafood in large portions. It’s in the Poipu Shopping Village with outdoor and open-air yet covered seating.
Open-air eatery Brennecke’s Beach Broiler (2100 Ho‘one Rd., 808/742-7588, lunch and dinner daily, $10-30) is right across from Po‘ipu Beach, offering great views along with lunch and dinner. The food can’t match the views, but it’s not bad. They’re famous for their kiawe-broiled meat and chicken. A children’s menu is offered for lunch and dinner.
Two farm-to-table restaurants are Merriman’s Downstairs Cafe (808/742-2856, opens at 11am daily for lunch and dinner, $12-22) in Kukui‘ula Shopping Village and Merriman’s Fish House (808/742-8385, opens at 5:30pm daily for dinner, $25-35), where good food and sustainability are combined to produce high-quality Hawaiian regional cuisine. Both eateries utilize locally grown or caught ingredients, constituting 90 percent of the food they use. The downstairs café offers casual dining while the upstairs fish house offers mountain and ocean views with a full bar. They purchase produce daily.
The open-air Beach House Restaurant (5022 Lawa‘i Rd., 808/742-1424, 5-10pm daily, $20-40 entrées) has a prime oceanfront location on Lawa‘i Beach. The front lawn is dotted with tiki torches, making it a perfect spot for watching the sunset (although you can’t bring drinks out there). Opening later in the day just for dinner, the Beach House serves seafood, steaks, and even a roasted duck dish. They also have a great wine list. Make reservations; it can get crowded.
Always a good choice is Roy’s Bar and Grill (808/742-5000, 5:30am-9:30pm daily, $25-35) in the Poipu Shopping Village. The elegant yet island-style restaurant serves seafood, steaks, and pastas cooked perfectly consistently. Menu specials change nightly, with fresh local fish, produce, meats, and game made into creative dishes. Vegetarians are treated to a special meat-free menu with appetizers, main courses, and specials. Service is always great and you can bring your own wine if they don’t carry that particular kind. Roy’s doesn’t require exceptionally formal attire, but don’t roll in straight off the beach.
At the elegant Dondero’s (1571 Po‘ipu Rd., 808/240-6456, 6-10pm Mon.-Sat., $18-42) you will be treated to a wonderful meal with a romantic and high-end atmosphere. You can sit outdoors under the stars, overlooking the ocean, or enjoy your meal inside with Italian decor of murals and tiles similar to a villa in Italy. They have a great wine list to complement their fresh local fish, veal, pastas, and decadent desserts. Vegetarians can find plenty to eat here. It’s in the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i, and dressing up is required, meaning covered shoes and collared shirts for men.
Okay, so the food here isn’t entirely Spanish, but the style of eating tapas is. Josselin’s Tapas Bar and Grill (808/742-7117, 5-10pm daily, $8-32) in Kukui‘ula Shopping Village inspires sharing with friends and family by serving up tapas, a variety of small dishes served to share. The chef has won numerous awards with his Pacific-inspired eateries, often named the best of the best. From fresh fish tapas to tapas made in the wood-burning oven, Chef Josselin has it covered. The truly exotic array includes tapas, scallops, oxtail, vegetarian tapas, duck, fish, and so much more. They also serve lovely liliko‘i and pomegranate sangrias along with other signature drinks.
Ice Cream and Shave Ice
For a local treat head to Uncle’s Shave Ice and Smoothies (Kukui‘ula Shopping Village, 808/742-2364, 11am-9pm daily), where you can expect just what the name says. Shave ice and fruit smoothies are made to cool a hot Hawaiian day. They offer 25 shave ice flavors, with extras like cream caps (really good), fruit, and ice cream. They also sell other snacks like caramel apple bites and popcorn. Sugar-free syrups sweetened naturally with stevia are a progressive option here.
Shrimp is a constant throughout Hawaii, and the south side’s Savage Shrimp (Kukui‘ula Village, 808/212-2197, 11am-9pm daily, $12) serves up shrimp plates, fish tacos, shrimp tacos, fish and chips, and fried shrimp (am I sounding like Bubba Gump?). A favorite with beach-going locals, it used to be in a lunch wagon and now has a permanent home.
Spacious and elegant, Living Foods Market and Cafe (Kukui‘ula Shopping Village, 808/742-2323, 8am-8pm daily) prides itself in being a gourmet food store, but also offers normal snacks like candy bars. Pick up homemade breads and dips, made-to-order pizzas, and sandwiches, or packaged foods. Outside tables are provided.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.