Top Eats Around the Island
I know a lot of you have asked for more Kauai related recommendations so here are some of my favorite places to eat on island. I tend to favor healthy dishes, local ingredients, and family owned small places so a lot of these lean that way. If you've been here and don't see your favorite place on this list - leave me a comment below so I can go check it out :) I've organized it from west to north, with **stars beside some of my super favorites. Menus linked in the title for each. Happy eating friends!
Little Fish has locations in both Poipu and Hanapepe. The Hanapepe shop is small and in the older part of town with lots of cute character. It has some seating inside and more in the courtyard in back. Great smoothies, acai, and yummy sandwiches.
Ishihara Market is a quintessential island style market. In the front, it’s a normal grocery store, but in the back, they have plate lunches and a ton of different kinds of poke and other island favorites. Because it’s in Waimea, it’s the perfect place to pick up food for a westside adventure. I stop here to grab poke, garlic soybeans, and li hing mui fruit on my way to watch the sunset or go hiking up in Kokee.
Kauai Juice Co **(also have locations in Kapaa, and Kilauea)
I love Kauai Juice Co. because they were my first intro to fresh pressed juice, and it’s been such a pleasure watching them expand but stay so true to their ideals and desire to strengthen the community.
When they first opened, they didn’t even have a store, it was just a little window in the side of a building.
Along with being delicious, their juices are made as much as possible with agriculture grown on Kauai, bought directly from farmers. They also have a recycling program, which means their 17 ounce bottles can be dropped off at one of their locations for fifty cents each in store credit.
I get a Ginger Snap shot every time I leave for or get home from a trip to boost my immune system. The Rainbow Unicorn Juice, Watermelon juice, and Green Bottle are some of my favorite juices. They also have a variety of ready-made meals. I love the kelp noodles and the spring roll peanut sauce wrap.
I've also recently gotten into adaptogens and they sell a great locally made root butter from Laka Living. In short, it helps your body naturally be better at coping with stress (amongst a whole bunch of other things).
This family owned cafe is always packed for breakfast. Pretty much everything they make is amazing. For breakfast, try their veggie tofu wrap. (John and Chris if you read this please bring back the cajan eggplant wrap!) At lunch, I like the salad with pasta and grilled chicken. Vegetarian options, their staff is super friendly, and I don't drink coffee but I hear that's good too.
The Eating House is a nice restaurant with a sunset view. It has a lot of the food you can expect from a Hawaii fusion restaurant, such as local beef and fresh fish, but to me are done in a more interesting way. My favorite things to order are the Crispy Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts and the Spicy Ramen Bowl, which is HUGE and can easily be split between two people.
Makai Sushi makes amazing, albeit slightly expensive sushi in Poipu. It’s a small locally owned sushi bar located in the Kukuiula Market. Matt uses super high quality fish and supports local fishermen (including my dad). For a poke bowl the Gorilla Bowl is my fav, which has three different types of fish, ocean salad, onions, avocado, etc. Super yums.
After you eat your Gorilla Bowl, head outside for some Loco Coco shave ice, which is located in a food truck in the parking lot. The owner, Thomas, makes all of his own flavors from fresh fruit. The shave ice isn’t the syrupy overload a lot of people are familiar with. Loco Coco is not super sweet and Thomas makes all of his own flavors from fresh fruit and he makes the honey too! My favorite is the calamansi, which is a tangy lime from SE Asia and a flavor I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Deli and Bread is one of those family-owned establishments that has been here as long as I can remember, and it’s also been busy that long. It's somehow kind of the only good sandwich place on Kauai (that I know of at least). If you go here at lunch time, it’s pretty much standing room only, but orders come up quickly and tables will open. On your way out, grab a loaf of their fresh-baked sweet bread to make French toast in the morning. (An alternative is the newly opened Great Harvest Bread Co just down the street. I've only been there once so I didn't want to add it to the main list.)
From the outside, Mark’s Place is decidedly unsuspecting. Located in a blue building across from the feed store in the Puhi industrial park, this unassuming place offers some of the most quintessential Kauai cuisine, like their huge portions of beef stew and chicken katsu. Not going to say it's the healthiest, but such a staple of local food.
Papaya’s is a natural food store with grab-and-go food options and a grill with some heavier fare. This is a great place to stock up on snacks if you’re on the way to the north shore. They were some of the first to have a selection of vegetarian and vegan options on our little island. Try their Taro burger, which is topped with veggies and pineapple slaw and is SO GOOD.
This vegetarian café is open for both lunch and dinner, but I recommend dinner. The ground of the outside seating area is covered in glass pebbles and the area is lit with string lights, giving the restaurant a casual island vibe. Like many places on this list, they source many of their ingredients locally. The flavors are rich and decadent, and for those of you who love meat, you won’t be missing it. Try the sweet potato samosas or the coconut mac nut tofu.
Tiki Tacos **
I eat Tiki Tacos almost every time I drive to or from the North Shore. Everything they serve is amazing. They source all their meat locally and make their tortillas in house. This is not a place to go for the ambience. It’s basically a hole in the wall with a few tables, but the food is WELL worth it. Try the Kalua Pork Taco with guacamole or the Roasted Veggie Taco. The portions are also really big so you probably only need one.
You’ll recognize Java Kai by the turquoise storefront in the heart of Kapaa town. Java Kai feels like your local hippie café grew up and went to art school, it’s funky and has the work of different artists hanging on the walls. Pop in here on your way to rent bikes and cruise down the bike path along the east side beaches. They’re known for their coffee and breakfast. I like the Kauai Gold Smoothie and Rainbow Salad.
Pono Market is a grab and go local market similar to Ishihara Market. There’s not an actual grocery store inside, but they have a counter full of local favorites, and for a much better price than almost any other place around. Try the Hawaiian plate or the fried chicken, but go early as this place tends to sell out. The family who owns it is also very involved in the community, donating a lot of money to the local schools and sports programs.
This shave ice truck is another gem among the many, many shave ice places on the island. The local boys who own it have expanded to Portland and San Diego, but they started out in their retro trailer in Kapaa town, slinging shave ice made with fresh local fruit and house-made syrups. I forget what it's called but the Haupia topping on coconut one is particularly yummy.
On the way up to the north shore, you might notice Moloaa: a long, pastured strip along the highway between Kapa’a and Kilauea that seems relatively uninhabited. There are a ton of small, organic farms in that part of the island and a lot of the produce from there makes its way into local food establishments, including Kauai Juice Co. Moloa’a Sunrise Juice Bar is a cute, small shack along the highway, and really the only thing around for a few miles. They serve delicious smoothies, wraps, and fish tacos. As you’ll find at most places on the north shore, there are great vegetarian options here.
Hanalei Taro is a food truck in the heart of Hanalei town. Taro was central to the Hawaiian agricultural system and is grown today in the big paddies to the left of Hanalei Bridge as you enter Hanalei. Those taro paddies are part of a sixth-generation farm and produce the taro products that are served on the food truck. Hanalei taro is great place to try taro in dishes like the taro acai bowl. This is also a great place to stop if you’re interested in trying some other good island food like kalua pork (ask for a side of BBQ sauce) and lau lau. Don’t be afraid to try poi (mashed taro), it’s super delicious and to me tastes like rain (maybe just me). Check the hours if you’re planning on this for lunch, they’re closed at sort of odd times.
Fresh Bite **
Fresh Bite Kauai is a great food truck in Hanalei in a little alcove of maybe 5 food trucks. These all only opened in the last year or two and Fresh Bite is my favorite of the bunch. The menu is heavy with vegetarian and vegan options. A bunch of items come as either a salad or a wrap, and they also have sandwich and dessert options.