Let’s start by paying tribute to the local cuisine. If you have an adventuresome spirit, trying a few Hawaiian dishes is a must. Begin by attending a Hawaiian luau at one of several establishments. Besides enjoying a table laden with dishes that have been enjoyed by Hawaii’s families at festive get-togethers for years, you’ll be entertained with music and dances telling the ancient stories of Hawaii and the Orient.
But if it’s a quick sampling you’re after, there are countless small mom-and-pop restaurants where you can taste the island food dishes like tako poke, lomi salmon, haupia, and the ever-famous poi, to name but a few.
At many places, you’ll find the menu broadened to include non-Hawaiian delicacies, but ones that have been the mainstay of local diets for years, nonetheless-musubi, sushi, saimin, teri-burgers, lilikoi pie (a Kauai specialty-like lemon meringue pie, only much, much better) and sashimi with wasabi and soy sauce.
Many shops sell “bento boxes” and plate lunches which are local-style meals you can take on the road or to the beach. For breakfast, try a steaming cup of miso soup-or eggs, rice, and Portuguese sausage. . . Mmmmm.
Local fish is not to be missed and can be found almost everywhere. Mahimahi is probably the best-known of the many, but ahi (yellowfin tuna) and ono (wahoo) are also big favorites. You’ll find it served several different ways-kiawe broiled, blackened, poached, and even sometimes served with tropical sauces. Much of the fish is caught fresh daily off the nearby shores and is incredibly moist and delicate.
In recent years, a unique cuisine called “Pacific Rim or Hawaiian Islands Cuisine” has developed in the islands. It is an innovative blend of Western, Island, and Asian tastes and is as attractive to look at as it is good to eat. It’s definitely worth a try.
Kauai’s proximity to Asia makes it a mecca for Asian restaurants. You can choose Japanese, and watch the food being prepared right in front of you. Chinese food in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Szechwan styles is available, too. Korean dishes are especially popular. And spicy Thai food, a particular favorite among residents, is carefully prepared by Thai families who have made Kauai their home.
Fine dining, both American and Continental, can be found throughout the island. If it’s white linen and silver you’re looking for, it’s available. Perhaps a traditional English afternoon tea? A sumptuous Sunday Brunch? Kauai’s hotels and resorts offer a colorful spectrum of choices.
Casual dress is almost always acceptable. Decor and ambiance can range from seaside elegance to funky and old-fashioned. Prices vary as widely; many eateries accept major credit cards.
But if only burgers or hot dogs will meet the needs of younger finicky eaters, don’t despair. Besides the standard fast food restaurants found on the mainland, there are some amazing places scattered throughout Kauai with excellent reputations. Ask a local where to find good hot dogs and hamburgers. They know the hideouts well.
In spite of the fact they’re in the midst of great Asian food and some of the best fish in the world, there are folks who want to stick with the familiar-Italian food, Mexican fare, steaks, and chicken. That’s not a problem as there are many restaurants with dishes to please these palates, too.
Vegetarians will have no worries either. Many places have vegetarian offerings and a few serve primarily vegetarian food that showcases the organic produce and herbs grown in the islands.
In Hawaii, there’s a word for food that’s delicious. That word is “ono.” And we know you’ll be saying it over and over again as you eat your way around the Garden Island. Enjoy!