The Fish and the Hog
64-957 Mamalahoa Hwy., Waimea
While an excellent barbecue joint might seem unlikely in Hawaii, considering the island's natural predilection for pork, as well as Waimea's reputation as a "paniolo" town (i.e. cowboy), The Fish and the Hog makes perfect sense. What's fun is that you can get pulled pork, beef brisket, and all the requisite sides (their Crackseed, Hawaiian-inspired sauce with Chinese plum is not to be missed), you can also get super fresh poke and delicious, chili dusted calamari.
780 Haiku Rd., Haiku
This sister restaurant to Paia Fish Market is more subdued—but no less delicious. While the space is small, the menu is mighty: Sashimi platters, excellent bowls, specialty rolls, and plenty of poke, all sourced from local purveyors wherever possible. Don't miss the Asian French Fries, served with wasabi aioli and furikake, or the Japanese fried chicken.
Paia Inn Café
93 Hana Hwy., Paia
This indoor/outdoor café—which is part of the sweet and sleepy Paia Inn—serves one of the town's best brunches, with a menu that spans from cardamon french toast to a breakfast board that includes both pork belly and lox. They source ingredients from local Maui farmers, and focus on whatever is hyper-fresh, as illustrated by an exhaustive array of fresh juices.
2956 Kress St., Lihue
This old-school ramen shop has been a Kauai stand-by for 70-odd years and counting (they're also known for lilikoi pie). There's typically a long line of locals, and it is completely frill-free, but it's a great post-airport choice after a long ride (or in advance of a red eye back to the states). By Hawaii standards, they're also open quite late.
5-5161 Kuhio Hwy., Hanalei
This relatively new arrival from the group behind Hanalei Bread Company and Bar Acuda is focused on ramen and ceviche-style fish preparations, which weirdly fills a hole on the island.
4-369 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa
Sea-salt dusted fries served with srirachi aioli and chickpea battered onion rings are just one indication that this isn't your typical burger joint. Using only grass-fed Kauai beef, they do a million complex variations (plus an ahi burger and a veggie version) with the beer selection to match. It's a good choice for a big group post beach, and kids are into it, too.
Eating House 1849
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Rd., Poipu
After training in Los Angeles at Le Serene, Chef Roy Yamaguchi opened his first Hawaiian restaurant, Roy's, in the late '80s. Born in Tokyo, the menu was Hawaiian fusion, some of the first of its kind, and Yamaguchi went on to win a James Beard award. There are three Eating Houses 1849's scattered across the islands (the name is an acknowledgement of the first restaurant on Hawaii, which was called Eating House), and the one on Kauai is part of the Shops at Kukuiula (where a lot of the island's great restaurants are nestled). The menu changes frequently, but expect to find classics like potstickers, chicken wings, and an outstanding "Hapa" burger, which is a mix of beef and Kaluna wild boar. There's also an excellent spicy ramen bowl.
5492 Koloa Rd., Koloa
Fancy Italian might seem out-of-place on an island as laid-back as Kauai, but when you've had enough of island food, it's a welcome break—and it's also delicious. The far-ranging menu includes everything from pear and gorgonzola flatbreads, to a decadent lasagna and eggplant parmesan. They also serve an egg-centric breakfast that's the perfect way to fuel up before a big hike or day at the beach.
Beach House Restaurant
5022 Lawai Rd., Poipu
Sure, the views from all sides are stunning—one of the island's best snorkeling beaches is immediately below—but the food here is also reliably fantastic. This is partly due to the fact that it's co-owned by Peter Merriman, who knows exactly how to nail the upscale Hawaiian beach vibe, but a fair share of credit goes to chef Marshall Blanchard who turns out seafood-inflected comfort food that's the perfect amount of fancy. This translates to a really good option for big celebratory family dinners, as well as low-key sunburnt lunches. Don't miss stand-outs like panko-crusted calamari and the fish & chips (with pineapple tartar sauce)—there's a straightforward kid's menu, too.
10 Wailea Gateway Place, Wailea
From the same group that's behind Merriman's (and conveniently close to the Andaz), Monkeypod has a straightforward menu of Hawaiian classics like poke and Kalua pork, plus a few great burgers and fresh fish. They're proud of having 36 beers on tap, and have great cocktails featuring unusual Hawaiian ingredients, like a Mai Tai with honey-lilkoi foam, and a "Pod Thai" with créme of coconut and lemongrass-cardamom syrup. There's a second location in Kapolei.
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