Part of what makes Kauai so special is that it's not as developed as Maui or Oahu. Unfortunately, that means the dining scene is somewhat limited by comparison, but a slew of very welcome new restaurants, both high-end and low, have emerged since 2009. Of course, there are several excellent restaurants in the resort areas of Poipu, Kapaa, and Hanalei. And because nothing on the island is farther than a two-hour drive apart, having dinner in Kapaa when you're staying in Poipu is not out of the question.
The main town of Lihue is sort of a culinary wasteland, with the notable exceptions of 22° North at the Kilohana Sugar Plantation and Hamura Saimin, a James Beard Award–winning hole-in-the-wall lunch spot. Kapaa, where you'll find the casual Mermaids café, is a 20-minute drive up the coast. The surfer town on the north side of the island, Hanalei, is home to Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Kauai Grill inside the St. Regis Princeville resort. And you certainly won't go hungry in Poipu, with Josselin's Tapas Bar & Grill. When heading west to Waimea Canyon or the Napali Coast, stop for lunch at Hanapepe Café and pick up local-style shave ice for dessert at Jo-Jo's Anuenue (the original Jo-Jo's is back!).