Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Inexpensive Dining Fit For Alii

Ancient Kauai royalty (alii) dined on fresh caught ahi and taro. Today most dining establishments want you to think that regal dining in Kauai means forking over 40 dollars for toenail sized serving of fish more reminiscent of a Kandinsky painting than a meal. However, if you know where to look, you can enjoy the freshest seafood in the state without having to take out a second mortgage.
Often when people imagine breakfast on the island, their reveries feature melting ice sculptures surrounded by crab, heaps of pineapple and plates of banana pancakes, accompanied by a $30 a person tab. Instead, follow the locals. In Kapaa, you won’t find a better banana pancake, smothered in homemade piping hot coconut syrup than at Ono Family Restaurant (808-822-1710; 4-1292 Kuhio Highway). Or if you want a real treat, on weekends, brunch at Blossoming Lotus (808-822-7678; 4504 Kukui Street)
can’t be beat; here you can dine on vegan delicacies like dal or buckwheat pancakes and a smoothie for half the price of big hotel brunches. Up on the North Shore, surfers head to Hanalei Wake Up CafĂ© (808-826-5551; 5-5140 Kuhio Highway) for a mouth-watering mac-nut cinnamon roll or breakfast quesadilla. Finally if you are staying on the South Shore, you are in luck. Here you’ll find the best traditional breakfast on the island at Joe’s on the Green (808-742-9696; 2545 Kiahuna Place). On Sundays locals crowd the patio along the golf course to eat the most authentic loco moco around.
For lunch, it’s hard to avoid a trip (or three) to Hamura’s Saimin Stand (808-245-3271; 2956 Kress St, Lihue) for huge bowls of noodle soup, lilikoi pie and grilled meat for well under ten bucks. However, if you look a little farther, you’ll find many local favorites. In a little shack on the ocean side of Highway 56 in Anahola, locals line up at Duane’s Ono Charburgers (808-822-9181) for tetherball-sized burgers, addictive fries and marionberry milkshakes. When you are on the South Shore, don’t miss the hole-in-the-wall Koloa Fish Market (808-742-6199; 5482 Koloa Road). They serve up the best poke on the island, fantastic seaweed and macaroni salads, and massive plate lunches to go.
A trip to Kauai is not complete without a visit to Kilauea Fish Market (808-828-6244; 4270 Kilauea Lighthouse Road, Kilauea). Locals line up out the door for lunch or an early dinner. Serving up the freshest sustainable fish on the island, you can’t go wrong with an ahi or tofu wrap enjoyed on picnic tables overlooking a meadow.
For dinner, most tourists head to those candlelit seafood restaurants around the hotels. And while many of them are worth the hefty price tag, you can eat just as well for a quarter of what they will pay. Locals and surfers testify that pizza and burritos are the best ways to fill a hungry belly after a long beach day. On the North Shore locals favor the fresh (and huge) slices at Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza (808-828-2020, Kong Lung Center, Kilauea). While South Shore folks head to Brick Oven Pizza (808-332-8561; 2-2555 Kaumuali‘i Highway, Kalaheo) for huge garlic-crusted pies in a lively setting, smothered with fresh veggies. Around Kapaa, Monico’s Taqueria (808-822-4300: 4-356D Kuhio Highway, Kapaa) does the trick, dishing up authentic Mexican delights in a strip mall in Wailua. While in the know locals and tourists head to Kauai Pasta (808-245-2227; 3142 Kuhio Highway, Lihu‘e) for pasta that will make you want to continue eating well past your finish line.
Dining like alii shouldn’t break the bank and with a little know how, you’ll find that food at inexpensive restaurants often outshines the pricy offerings of traditional sit down places, leaving you plenty of cash to take that helicopter tour, and return to Kauai next year.

Stay at Aston Islander on the Beach.