3-2087 Kaumualii Highway
Lihue , Hawaii
Tel: 808 245 9593
The old Gaylord's restaurant at the Kilohana Plantation is no more, but the beautiful patio-style space with an open-air courtyard has been reborn as 22° North. Fresh produce grown on-property (take the Kilohana Train Tour and you'll see the fields) complements local fish, eggs, and meats in whimsical lunch plates like the 22° North "sammy" (house-cured meats, pickled vegetables, fried egg, mayo, lettuce, and tomato) and dinner entrées like beef short rib ravioli or crispy line-caught barracuda. The new taste good/feel good menu hasn't alienated the Kauai ladies-who-lunch crowd or families seeking Sunday brunch. But the simple, hearty, almost Southern-style comfort food is also attracting a younger crowd of eco foodies who come for date-night sparks inspired by fresh-fruit cocktails and meals lit by flickering tiki torches.—Cathay Che
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:00 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9:00 pm, Sundays 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
2956 Kress Street
Lihue , Hawaii
Tel: 808 245 3271
The first thing you will notice about this hole-in-the-wall lunch shop, honored in 2006 by the James Beard Foundation in the America's Classics category, is that it looks like it was designed only for people of short stature. The Menehune-size (Menehune are Hawaii's little people) S-shaped counter seats about two dozen people when the place is packed, which it is most of the time. The much-buzzed-about saimin (homemade ramen noodles served with chives, egg, and fish cake in a homemade soy-based broth) comes fast and cheap (the basic bowl starts at $6). Adding an order of beef or shrimp skewers makes it a more filling meal. Just be prepared for the hunt to find it on Lihue's backstreets, and for very limited parking once you do.—Cathay Che
Open daily 10 am to 10 pm.
3830 Hanapepe Road
Hanapepe , Hawaii
Tel: 808 335 5011
This humble hole-in-the-wall in Hanapepe, a little plantation town just west of glitzy Poipu Beach, promotes a purposefully healthy take on food—which is refreshing in an area where steaks, burgers, and fried seafood are the norm. The signature dish is the local catch, grilled and served with steamed rice and fresh, Hawaii-grown greens. Breakfast orders (muffins, scones, fruit plates, etc.) are mostly to go, but this place gets packed at lunchtime. It only opens for dinner on Fridays (when there's also live Hawaiian slack-key guitar music). It's difficult to find budget-friendly food on the south shore, and even harder to find vegetarian options, so this has been a welcome addition to the scene.
Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner only on Fridays. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
5 Pokole Road
Waimea , Hawaii
There are two shave ice (Hawaiian snow cone) places in Waimea called Jo-Jo's. And, oddly, the bright yellow Jo-Jo's Clubhouse on the main highway isn't the real thing (though it is the original location). For the legendary 60 flavors of this local delicacy and mind-boggling combos, including some with macadamia nut or coffee ice cream hidden inside, you have to turn off toward the ocean on the easy-to-miss Pokole Road to find Jo-Jo's Anuenue. To get the full, complicated backstory on the two locations, pick up a printed card that explains everything when you go to Jo-Jo's Anuenue (and you must go). But all you really need to know is that this is the best shave ice on Kauai.—Cathay Che
Kukuiula Village Shopping Center
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Street
Poipu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 742 7117
Chef Jean Marie Josselin isn't as well known as some of the other founders of Hawaii regional cuisine, but his food is still entirely worth seeking out. Josselin took his talents to Las Vegas after bad business partnerships caused all three locations of his A Pacific Café chain to close in the early 2000s. But in 2010, he returned to Kauai to start over with this lively second-floor, open-air eatery in a Poipu mini mall. The stylish restaurant reflects the Spanish aspect of its name with spice-colored decor, delicious house-made sangria (red or white), and plates that are meant for sharing. But the flavors are 100 percent Hawaii: coffee-smoked pork tonkatsu with banana crispy bao and buttermilk BBQ dressing; blackened opah with a vegetable spring roll and basil papaya sauce; and sweet Kauai corn tortilla soup. The portions vary dramatically in size, so it's hard to know how many plates to order, but having an abundance of this fun, flavorful food is no bad thing.—Cathay Che
Open daily 5 to 10 pm.
Port Allen Marina Center
4341 Waialo Road
Eleele , Hawaii
Tel: 808 335 0448
One of the newer discoveries in Hawaiian agriculture is that cacao grows well on Kauai. The outcome is this mom-and-pop chocolate shop in Port Allen (where boat tours leave for the famous Na Pali Coast). Among the crave-worthy best sellers are Chocolate Opihi, a shell-shaped combination of shortbread, caramel, and macadamia nut covered in rich creamy chocolate, and Da Brick, a variation on fudge with more caramel and macadamia nuts. Simple treats, such as a dark chocolate–covered marshmallow on a stick, are good to eat while driving back to your hotel. The only drawback is that it's tough to transport these temperature-sensitive treats home with you to the mainland.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 5 pm.
Hanalei Colony Resort
5-7130 Kuhio Highway
Haena , Hawaii
Tel: 808 826 9875
Fresh hummus, tabouli, and baba ghanoush are a bit unexpected in the Hanalei Colony Resort's remote corner of Hawaii. Yet you won't be disappointed with the Mediterranean Gourmet's menu, which reflects Middle Eastern, Greek, and French influences and also includes perfectly executed standards such as Caesar salad and filet mignon. The venue, home to Charo's "hoochie coochie" dinner show in the 1980s and still owned by the Spanish bombshell, recalls the dive bar from Coyote Ugly (trading the bras strung up as decor for a belly dancer who wiggles between the tables on Friday nights). Yet somehow, even when you're perfectly sober, it works out to a lively and tasty (not to mention affordable) evening. Picking up a picnic lunch is a good idea, too, but skip the overpriced couple's dinner ($300 per couple, not including alcohol) unless you relish the idea of having chatty Imad Beydoun, the Lebanese chef, cook for you tableside.—Updated by Cathay Che
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 9 pm.
1384 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa , Hawaii
Tel: 808 821 2026
Wraps don't usually inspire passionate praise, but not all wraps contain seared tuna, nutty brown rice, cucumber slices, and pickled ginger doused in a heavenly wasabi cream sauce and offset with a splash of soy. This simple sidewalk café in Kapaa also serves tropical tacos, coconut curry, and basic salads and sandwiches. Whichever you choose, it'll be delicious, filling, and under $11; indeed, one serving can be shared or may suffice for both lunch and dinner.
Open 11 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. every day.
Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
3838 Wyllie Road
Princeville , Hawaii
Tel: 808 827 8700
While the condos of the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas are generic and too far from the ocean for us to recommend, the property's unpretentious restaurant, Nanea, is a Kauai standout. Diver scallops stuffed with crab, sesame-crusted mahimahi, and rack of lamb rubbed with locally grown coffee are just a few of the dishes you'll recall fondly after returning home. The menu of island fare also includes vegetarian options like agedashi tofu, and anyone with a sweet tooth should save room for one of the daily special desserts. There's both indoor and outdoor seating, and note that at this casual eatery, the only thing that's dressed up is the food.
Open daily 6:30 to 10:30 am and 5:30 to 9:30 pm; bar menu available 11 am to 11 pm.