Wednesday, August 22, 2012

8 Places to Stuff Your Face on Kauai

Before Aaron and I went to Kauai, I received a ridiculously long and amazingly informative email from Brandon, whose family has vacationed on Kauai every year for the last 10 years (lucky!).

In it, he listed his top recommendations for activities, his favorite beaches and — of course — the best places to eat. Aaron and I took him up on a lot of his advice, and now I'm here to share with you, in no particular order, the eight highlights from the food-and-drink portion of our vacation.

This bright, sun-drenched café was just two minutes away from our jungle studio, so of course we ate breakfast there three times!

Twice, I opted for my favorite breakfast of all time — Eggs Benedict — which is the café's house specialty and served on toasted bagel halves instead of English muffins. My other breakfast was the daily special, which was a California scramble with hash browns and a toasted corn muffin. I really just wanted the corn muffin so I could slather it with melted butter, but the scramble was incredible, too.

Aaron's mission, apparently, was to leave no carb behind, so he enjoyed pancakes, waffles and a cinnamon roll. He normally sticks to the Paleo diet and doesn't eat conventional carbs, so he was in vacation heaven. I stole bites of everything and can attest to the deliciousness.

Brandon recommended this pizza place, which is right across the street from The Kalaheo Café (there is also a location in Kapaa). We ordered a pizza with half pepperoni and pineapple and half BBQ chicken, and both sides were fantastic.

Aaron has high standards for pizza, and this was an absolute winner with plentiful toppings, gooey cheese and thick, flavorful tomato sauce. The crust was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside — perfection. Be sure to ask them to brush it with garlic butter!

3. The Feral Pig

We scrambled over here for dinner after a tour guide recommended the not-on-the-menu Feral Burger, which comprises a half grass-fed beef/half pork patty, two strips of thick pork-belly bacon, grilled onions, cheddar cheese, spicy house-made aioli and a toasted taro bun.

It was outrageous — the best burger either of us had ever eaten. We enjoyed it twice during our trip!

Run, don't walk, to The Feral Pig.

Located right across from Poipu Beach — a popular, family-friendly stretch of sand to set up shop on a sunny day — Brennecke's offers everything you could want to reenergize after splashing around a bit, plus super-fresh seafood.

I always crave fish in Hawaii, so I went with a pupu platter of ceviche, ahi sashimi, smoked fish, shrimp and king crab one time, and fish tacos another. Aaron really loved his fish 'n chips — the breading wasn't too thick or greasy, and the fish was moist.

Brennecke's is a great place to people-watch, since it looks right out to the beach, and I imagine it's an ideal spot to grab a drink and watch the sunset, too.

When we went to Oahu last year, Roy's in Waikiki was our fancy, romantic date-night restaurant. We decided to hit it again on Kauai because we each received a coupon on our flight for $10 off an entree! We needed no further excuses.

The coupons were valid for the three-course prix fixe menu, so we both went for it. The first course included a BBQ rib, a spring roll and a shrimp skewer. Aaron had eaten to-die-for short ribs at the other Roy's, so we both chose it for our entrees (still amazing) along with heavenly, cheesy potatoes au gratin and roasted veggies. Last, but not least, the dessert I can never resist if it's on a menu: Chocolate-raspberry lava cake. I felt like I was going to burst afterward.

Not only was the food fantastic, but our server was incredible. He was energetic, knowledgeable, fast and friendly. We couldn't have asked for more from the experience! I hope to keep Roy's a tradition for years to come.

Clearly I was a bit sunburned for this dinner at Hukilau Lanai, which is located at the Kauai Coast Resort and looks out onto the beautiful hotel grounds, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the best steak of my life.

This was our fancy-schmancy, romantic meal of the trip (Aaron surprised me with the reservation), and we started with red wine, salad with really tasty papaya-seed dressing and tortilla soup. Aaron sprang for the filet mignon, and I went with surf 'n turf (above).

Somehow, some way, my tenderloin just blew Aaron's filet out of the water. Some sort of black magic was used to sear the most incredible flavor into the outside of the meat, and the inside was perfectly medium-rare. The creamy gravy was divine. The fish was great, too, but the steak made me nearly die of happiness. Aaron's filet was great by any other standard, but in comparison... poor him. Don't worry — we shared bites. : )

7. Tortilla Republic

A Facebook friend of mine recommended Tortilla Republic for great Mexican food and inventive margaritas. Aaron didn't expect much and I just wanted to eat some guacamole, but we were both blown away by what we ate.

First of all, bring a group of guacamole-loving friends and order the Guacamole Tableside. The restaurant's guac specialist will roll a cart full of ingredients to your table and proceed to make you a massive bowl of fresh guac, just the way you like it. Aaron isn't an avocado fan, so I couldn't justify the $16 custom-made guac for myself, but I ordered a regular side of guac and chips and happily polished off the entire thing. I had an octopus appetizer as my entree, which was super tasty.

My cucumber-lavender margarita was incredibly refreshing (and boozy), and I would happily go back just to sample more of the margaritas.

Aaron had something (carne asada, maybe?) that was unexpectedly tender and flavorful — I was jealous. It also came with the rice and jalapeno mashed potatoes in the photo above.

And who can resist crispy-but-soft, melt-in-your-mouth churros with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces? Certainly not I.

8. Lappert's Hawaii

If you're got room for ice cream, Lappert's is the way to go on Kauai. We hit the Koloa location quite a few times, but you can also find it in Hanapepe, Kapaa and Princeville.

This was another recommendation from Brandon that hit the mark. You can really taste the difference between mass-manufactured, store-bought ice cream and ice cream that's made in small batches with the best ingredients. I especially loved Lappert's cookie dough flavor, which was just as good as any I've ever had — and I've had a lot.

Bonus! A place to drinkDuke's Kauai

I don't have much to say about the food at Duke's Barefoot Bar — the nachos and fish tacos were just meh for me — but it does have yummy drinks, a great location right on Kalapaki Beach and a fun atmosphere. It was the first place we went to grab a bite when we got off the plane from Seattle, and the last place we hit up to pass the time as we waited for our flight out.

I really enjoyed the pineapple mojito; Aaron liked the frozen mai tai. Drink up!


Whew! Now I'm hungry for all of the great things I ate on Kauai. We'll probably have to go back someday.

Until then, I'll be dreaming of that Feral Burger...


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  1. OMG -- now i have to go have supper, immediately. This all looks so amazing and now I must go there so I can eat at all these places and stay in the jungle studio!!!!

    And nothing will ever beat Eggs Benedict. EVER.

    1. Agreed. Wish I could put hollandaise on EVERYTHING! : )

  2. amazing finds!! :)

    i remember a place called Hanalei Pizza (right in downtown) - if it's still there, that place is AH-mazing!

    1. Oooh, yum! We went to Hanalei but didn't eat there. I'll have to try it next time!

  3. My parents are retiring in Hawaii in December so Tony and I are going to live with them for 2 months at the end of our RTW trip... This article just made me pumped for all the great food places we need to check out! That carb filled breakfast of pancakes, waffles, and a cinnamon roll made me smile! and ohhh that burger looked insane!

    1. You guys will have so much fun! To be fair to Aaron, he had the cinnamon roll on a different day than the pancakes and waffle... but did have the pancakes and waffle together. I have no clue how he manages to eat as much as he does!

  4. Thank you for the mention & link, Devon!

    I'm glad you guys enjoyed some of my recommendations, and got to see why Kauai holds such a special place in my heart.

    If you guys ever decide to come visit Utah, I'm sure I could write up another guidebook for you!

    1. Aaron has been to Utah twice and loves it! He watched his mom run the St. George marathon last year and a few months ago he went to SLC and Moab to mountain bike. We may very well go together someday, so I'll definitely hit you up for advice!

  5. Yeb i living Kauai today, so i am very fun to visit a few place above. Thank a lot.


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