Kaua‘i’s east side is home to many great restaurants and eateries. This is where you’ll find the majority of the island’s high-end and elegant restaurants, but there’s also a great array of hole-in-the-wall local eateries.
The Passion Bakery Cafe (4-356 B Kuhio Hwy., 808/821-0060, 6am-2pm Mon.-Sat., 8am-2pm Sun.) is a wholesale and retail bakery located in the Kinipopo Shopping Village. Their selection includes cookies, pastries and Croiscones (a hybrid of a croissant and a scone), Europeans teas and coffees, and artisan breads. They also offer sheet pan pizza and pizza by the slice. A local favorite. Service is quick and to the point.
A Lihu‘e staple is JJ’s Broiler (3416 Rice St., 808/246-4422, 11am-11pm daily) on Kalapaki Bay. A chart house feel with sailboats hanging from the ceiling, it is a classic Lihu‘e stop. Meats and local fish are offered on their extensive menu. The bi-level restaurant overlooks Kalapaki Bay, which enhances the experience greatly. The bottom level is more casual, offering a full bar and a veranda. Upstairs is a bit more formal and romantic. Their claim to fame is the Slavonic Steak, a thin broiled tenderloin dipped in butter, wine, and garlic sauce. Portions are large, the food is good, and it rarely disappoints.
The tried and true Kalapaki Beach Hut (3474 Rice St., 808/246-6330) serves up breakfast and lunch with burgers that have proved to be a local favorite and never a letdown. The restaurant offers views of the harbor and for breakfast has the standard fare plus local dishes like loco moco. Lunch includes fish and chips and sandwiches along with buffalo, turkey, fish, veggie, and beef burgers. A good reliable choice for a relaxed meal.
Gaylord’s (3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy., 808/245-9593, 11am-2:30pm and 5:30-9:30pm Mon.-Sat., 9am-2:30pm Sun. for brunch, $21-32) is a farm-to-table restaurant at the Kilohana Plantation. Using local ingredients, the classy restaurant features American comfort food and Asian-fusion cuisine options. They use produce grown in the fields at Kilohana, and their meat and fish comes from Kaua‘i ranchers and fishers. Some of the main dishes include potato-crusted mahi mahi, sesame seed-seared ahi tuna, chipotle barbecued pork chop, and grilled ribeye steak. Lunch mains include salads, sandwiches, fish and chips, steak frites, and vegetarian quiches.
A classic eatery in the islands, Duke’s (3610 Rice St., 808/246-9599, 11am-11pm, $11-30) is a must-stop on the to-eat-at list in Hawaii. Named after the legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, the restaurant is split into two levels, where railing-side seats with unobstructed ocean views are the best. The downstairs Barefoot Bar is steps from the sand and serves up sandwiches, burgers, fish tacos, Hawaiian plates, and more. The Dining Room serves dinner daily and offers fresh fish and seafood, steaks and prime rib, and a salad bar. Lanai seating is the best and music is offered several nights of the week.
On Kalapaki Beach is Kukui’s (Kaua‘i Marriott Resort, 808/246-5166, 6:30-11am and 5-10pm Mon.-Sat., 6:30-10am and 5-10pm), offering Pacific Rim food for breakfast and dinner. The poolside seating adds to the romantic and elegant experience. Sunday brunch is also offered. Service is always on point here.
The open air and views over Kalapaki Bay from Cafe Portofino (3481 Ho‘olaule‘a Way, 808/245-2121) offer one of the most ideal backdrops, especially to enjoy always-great Italian food. The food is good and the wine selection is well done. The owner is a genuine Italian, which reflects in the quality of the food. Seafood, pasta, veal, filet mignon, and other meat dishes are available, along with enough meat-free options for vegetarians. Homemade gelato and fruit sorbets are also served. This is romantic fine dining.
A local favorite, Kaua‘i Pasta (4-939B Kuhio Hwy., 808/822-7447, 11am-9pm daily, $12-22) offers a not-over-done sleek atmosphere. Tasty appetizers, wonderful and unique salads, paninis, and an array of main dishes with several suitable for vegetarians are combined with a few Pacific-inspired apps on the lounge menu. There are locations in Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a. The atmosphere is modern yet warm.
Another stop in Nawiliwili is Mariachi’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine (3501 Rice St., 808/246-1570, 8am-9pm Mon. and 8am-10pm Wed.-Sun.), where basic Mexican food is served up. The menu is quite extensive and offers many common Mexican options. Nothing is bad, but nothing is really amazing either. This is a decent stop while exploring Nawiliwili Bay.
A homestyle place is Mama Lucy’s Kitchen (4495 Puhi Rd., 808/245-4935, 6am-6pm Mon.-Fri., 6am-4pm Sat.), where you can get authentic Filipino food served with a smile. The desserts and treats are good too. The environment is nothing fancy.
Shakas Shave Ice (3474 Rice St., 808/652-1793) serves up standard shave ice beachside at Kalapaki Bay. Portions are good sized and I recommend trying local flavors.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.