If you’re wondering where to eat in Lana‘i, your first choice is do you want to go low-key and local with a quick, satisfying bite to eat, or would you prefer a dining experience with an atmosphere as elegant as your meal? Lana‘i has it all.
Even though it’s no longer a sprawling pineapple plantation, the red dirt of Lana‘i still manages to produce some locally grown crops. The Lana‘i City Farmer’s Market (Dole Park and behind Richard’s Supermarket, 6am-11am Sat.) is the best place for grabbing fresh items such as corn, papaya, and pineapple. It’s a great weekend activity for putting your finger on the pulse of the island’s only town.
While the outside decor might not look like much, at Blue Ginger (409 7th St., 808/565-6363, 6am-8pm Thurs.-Mon., 6am-2pm Tues.-Wed., $6-11) the swinging screen door and funky, plantation-style appearance are all part of the hole-in-the-wall charm. Breakfast is categorized by heaping loco moco plates comprised of fried eggs, hamburger meat, rice, and gravy, and the homemade hamburger patties are the lunchtime draw which have kept patrons funneling in from Dole Park since the restaurant’s founding in 1991. A true local hideout. Cash only.
When you’ve had your fill of plate lunches, infuse your diet with some fresh fish at the Lana‘i Ohana Poke Market (834 Gay St., 808/559-6265, 10am-3pm Mon.-Fri., $7-17, cash only), which in classic Lana‘i fashion is either open until 3 o’clock or until they run out of fish. While the poke alone can be expensive, your best bet for a cheap and filling lunch is a poke bowl: one-third pound of fish served with two scoops of either white or brown rice. Simple outdoor picnic tables provide the seating for this hole-in-the-wall takeout stand.
Pele’s Other Garden (811 Houston St., 808/565-9628, lunch 11am-2pm Mon.-Fri., dinner 5pm-8pm Mon.-Sat. $7-19) is the de facto hangout of anyone hankering for a good sandwich or a cold draft beer. The bistro also whips up healthy and affordable food options, ranging from avocado and feta wraps to chicken parmesan. The place is so popular that it accepts online reservations for dinner Wednesday nights, when the live band starts playing (7pm-10pm), which is the closest Lana‘i City gets to nightlife.
Despite its location in what is often regarded as Lana‘i’s “third hotel,” the Lana‘i City Grille (828 Lana‘i Ave., 808/565-7211, 5pm-9pm Wed.-Sun., $15-38) takes the cake for the island’s finest restaurant. Under the direction of award-winning chef Bev Gannon (of Hali‘imaile General Store fame), Lana‘i City Grille puts out a fine dinner menu that is usually reserved for birthdays, anniversaries, proposals—or a special vacation. The fare here is going to be more expensive than at the hole-in-the-wall plate lunch stands, of course, but when the waiter serves you a plate of pan-roasted venison loin with a mushroom risotto, cost gets thrown to the wind, and you become wrapped up in culinary splendor. It’s paired with the island’s most comprehensive wine list. Reservations are highly recommended, particularly on Friday evenings when the live jazz band provides the best entertainment anywhere in town.
Even sleepy Lana‘i City needs some help waking up in the morning, and Coffee Works (604 Ilima Ave., 808/565-6962, 7am-3pm Mon.-Sat.) is the island’s only full-time java establishment catering to the under-caffeinated. Breakfast bagels and lunch sandwiches accompany the usual range of coffee offerings, and the outdoor porch is a great place for watching the mellow town slowly spring to life.
The Four Seasons Lodge at Koele
Of the two main restaurants, The Terrace (7am-2pm and 6pm-9:30pm daily, $18-23) is more relaxed and informal. This American bistro looks out over the reflecting pool and well-manicured croquet lawn. Order an ahi tuna wrap or combat the evening chill with a bowl of venison chili.
Adjacent to The Terrace, the Dining Room (6pm-9:30pm daily, $59) is an immaculate and sophisticated venue offering a grandiose experience. The multicourse offerings, with entrées like beef tenderloin and keahole lobster, don’t disappoint. Reservations are recommended. Ditch the tank top and rubber slippers for a nice shirt and pair of slacks.
Restaurants at Four Seasons Manele Bay Hotel
If you’ve only made it as far as the pool by lunch and have no real intentions of leaving, order some food poolside from Kailani (11am-4pm and 6pm-9:30pm daily, $18-29), where you can get a Mediterranean seafood salad or rock shrimp and bay scallop ceviche. Having at least a drink or appetizer alongside one of the world’s most scenic swimming pools is worth the price. Or, if you spent the morning hitting the golf course and are looking to replenish at the 19th hole, The Challenge at Manele Clubhouse (11am-3pm daily, $21) has the most reasonable lunch options with burgers, club sandwiches, and local beer.
Splurge and reserve a table at Nobu Lana‘i (6pm-9:30pm daily, $30), the island’s most highly anticipated restaurant in recent memory. As at other fine Nobu locations around the globe, the selections of yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, lobster ceviche, rock shrimp tempura with butter ponzu sauce, and sushi are some of the freshest and most creative seafood offerings you’ll find on the island. Expect to spend at least $50 per person.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.