5-5161 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei
Chef Jim Moffat opened this Hanalei spot for tapas and fine Mediterranean wines after establishing himself with two restaurants in San Francisco (the jazz club, 42 Degrees, and the bistro, The Slow Club). Thanks to the chef’s close collaboration with island fishermen and local organic farmers, these small plates are brimming with Hawaii-inspired fare made from fresh, regional ingredients—like ono (a kind of mackerel, also known as wahoo), ahi tuna poké, and roasted ali’i mushrooms—which also means the selection changes daily, and ingredients vary by season. Their curated wine list features select Estate-bottled Rhone-style specialties, several of which come from wineries that practice sustainable, organic, or biodynamic farming. As one of the island’s foodiest destinations, it’s likely to be busy—call ahead, or come ready for a bit of a wait.
Beach House Restaurant
5022 Lawai Rd., Koloa
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.
Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co.
2-2560 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo
Found in upcountry Kalaheo—not far from the 4,000-acre coffee farm where they source their specialty Kauai, Kona, and Hawaiian coffees—Kalaheo Café is a great choice for breakfast. We love their creative, locally inspired interpretations of classics, like their popular Bonzo breakfast burrito, house-made sausages (chicken, turkey, or Portuguese-style), as well as Belgian waffles and classic fluffy pancakes. For something lighter, try their Anahola granola or half-papaya with fresh fruit and yogurt. But don’t forget the coffee, a staple of this café-slash-coffee company: You can even buy a bag (or two) of Hawaiian-grown beans to bring home.
Kilauea Fish Market
4270 Kilauea Rd., Kilauea
This quaint and cozy cottage house is a perfect casual lunch spot with outdoor seating for local fish—seared ahi tuna poké wraps, mahi mahi tacos, as well as some very interesting non-fish items, like sea asparagus. If you’re not in the mood for seafood, they also offer delectable BBQ chicken and a few vegetarian options (including big, hearty burritos). Important to note: It gets busy come dinner, and they’re closed Sundays.
Merriman’s Fish House
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St, Poipu
Peter Merriman was one of the pioneers of the local food scene in Hawaii—he was at the forefront of efforts to grow vegetables in the local volcanic soils, so they could be eaten fresh (rather than after a lengthy journey on a boat). Today, he partners with local farmers to serve his three restaurants, and there’s one each on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. The dining room and menu are dressed up without being overly stuffy, so it’s ideal for a nicer family or group outing. Try the upcountry salad (made with kale and butter lettuce from local farms), the fresh-caught mahi mahi, and vegetarian taro cake.
5408 Koloa Rd., Koloa
Inspired by chef Cathy Shyne’s hometown of Altomonte, Calabria in Southern Italy, Pizzetta is a go-to in Old Koloa Town. It has all the classics you’d expect, along with entrées that are Italian-meets-Hawaiian—like kalua pork (grilled in papaya BBQ sauce) and grilled ono (Hawaiian mackerel). Set in an airy, open space with indoor and outdoor seating, it’s perfect for a laid-back meal of quality comfort food.
5-6607 Kuhio Hwy, Wainiha
Stop here on your way to Ke’e Beach (sometimes called the beach at the end of the road/world). Everything here is gluten-free (even the soy sauces), sourced from local fish, and made with organic vegetables. Get the ahi sushi burrito.
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