Kauai Food + Drink Worth Seeking

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Mountains Kauai

Towering mountain peaks like Hihimanu and Mamalahoa provide a memorable backdrop for Kauai meals.

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Compared to other Hawaiian islands, Kauai is relatively rugged, with red soil to the south, lush greenery up north, and the Napali Coast’s impenetrable mountains out west, accessible only by hiking trails or boat. When natives and visitors take a break from all the possible recreation, they need replenishment. Discover 17 top places to eat and drink well on Kauai.

Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.

13. Nom

Brunch Kauai

Notorious P.I.G. is a beast of a brunch plate at Nom.

Chef Thomas Fuquay showcases “Local Ingredients Southern Roots” in Kapaa Shopping Center. The black and red space features word clouds and butcher diagrams on a black wall. Notorious P.I.G. teams a cheddar jalapeño cornbread waffle, meaty maple braised pork belly, sunny-side-up egg, and maple au jus. Even his colorful fruit bowl shows surprising flair, including distinctly tropical choices and edible flowers.

MUST ORDER: Notorious P.I.G.

14. Oasis on the Beach

Cocktail Kauai

Oasis by the Beach is a great place to enjoy a classic Mai Tai.

Chef Sean “Skittles” Smull presides over a progressive farm-to-table menu at the Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort Kauai, which features a satellite kitchen, prime beach views, and a plant-lined patio with tiki torches. Joel “Pickled Pueo” Downs complements the cuisine from behind a canoe-shaped bar with his “farm-to-liver” program. The thoughtful bartender went back to basics for his Classic Mai Tai and also elevates cocktails like the Hot Buttered Rum.

Note: Between 4 pm – 6 pm, all signature cocktails are half-priced, only $5.

MUST ORDER: Uku Crostini, Uku Saimin, Classic Mai Tai, Hot Buttered Rum

15. Pono Market

Hawaiian Food Kauai

Pono Market has served Hawaiian comfort food for over 50 years.

Robert Kubota and his family have run Pono Market in Kapa’a since 1968. Every day, they build anticipation, releasing 5-hour steamed lau lau at about 9 a.m., and six-and-a-half hour roasted Kalua pork at 11 a.m., with plate lunches starting to run out by noon. Regardless of your arrival time, look for textbook SPAM musubi and fried chicken. A fully packed poké bar features fresh ahi tossed with ingredients like creamy Sriracha mayo, sea salt, and Big Island ogo.

MUST ORDER: Fried Chicken, Spam Musubi

16. Shrimp Station

Shrimp Kauai

I hold a special place in my heart for coconut shrimp, and Shrimp Station delivers.

Shrimp Station occupies a canary yellow building with breezy open windows and island music wafting toward the adjacent road. The menu more or less mirrors what’ you’ll find at Oahu’s North Shore shrimp trucks, with shrimp sautéed in sauces like garlic butter or a spicy “Thai” blend of olive oil, garlic, basil, and lemongrass. Still, coconut shrimp is the station’s true knockout, with sweet shelled shrimp dipped in a “secret batter,” breaded with coconut flakes, and served over French fries with a punchy papaya ginger dipping sauce.

MUST ORDER: Coconut Shrimp

17. Village Snack & Bakery Shop

Hawaiian Food Kauai

What’s the one thing that could improve Village Snack & Bakery Shop’s chile pepper fried chicken? Pork combo plate.

Village Snack & Bakery is a humble Hanalei restaurant from Narcisa Concepcion located in the back row of Ching Young Village since 1982. The space features worn blue benches inside, old black and white photos of the area, and a single picnic table out front. The set-up of their menu is pretty simple, with loco moco, egg dishes and pancakes for breakfast, burgers and sandwiches for lunch, and a single specialty: chile pepper chicken. Lightly battered thighs are deep-fried and tossed in a savory soy sauce flecked with red Hawaiian chile peppers. After kayaking or paddleboarding, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying snack. During my second visit, the chicken was available as part of a combo plate with roast pork slices slathered with savory brown gravy, a scoop of brown rice and potato mac salad. After plate lunch, stick around for dessert. Chocolate Haupia Slice is a square play on Hawaii’s most famous pie and features a soft shortbread base supporting firm coconut custard, chocolate (or vanilla) pudding, and whipped cream showered with shredded coconut.

MUST ORDER: Chile Pepper Fried Chicken, Chocolate Haupia Slice

Note: Thank you to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau for bringing me to Hawaii and Aston Aloha Beach Hotel for providing accommodations on my 2013 trip.

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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