Putting this list together took me longer than expected but here we go. Who says Kauai isn’t a dining destination? Pity the fool who says so because what it all boils down to is a styrofoam container stuffed to the gills and a spot on the beach with the sun going down. I make a point to visit my favorite eateries whenever I’m back, but as MotH was my chow partner this time around, I made it a mission to try as many new places as possible, specifically those that fell under the category of hole-in-the-walls. Kauai is ripe with establishments that fit the bill (in fact you could also get away with calling them “street food” since you’re practically eating next to a busy street), and it was a tough job narrowing down the list that would take us from the island’s westside and up to the north shore. I also had a couple of food trucks jotted down but as neither was right next to the bus stop, I hope to get to them the next time.
Da Crack, next to Kukui’ula Market in gorgeous Poipu: put the word crack on anything and it works. We tried the burritos – 1 pork and 1 veggie – and both were decent enough although I wish we had gone for the really hot sauce instead of the mild (which we were told was hot). Hot and spicy on Kauai is silly compared to what piccante means in Italy. Inexpensive eats.
Da Booze Shop in Waimea: next to crack, put the word booze on a sign and how can anyone not notice? Well here’s a confession – I’ve known about this place for years but never went in thinking that it was all alcohol and no food. Apparently that changed a while back and now they serve more food than beer but the name still stays the same. We inhaled our bbq pork wraps with spicy fries and mac salad. The girls working there were also super nice!
Kalaheo Cafe: not really a hole-in-the-wall but still a must for my favorite knuckle pastry and a quick cup of coffee in the morning. This place fills up fast in the a.m. but when we walked up a few minutes after 6:30 in the pale morning light, a handful of early birds were the only ones in there. This knuckle pastry (left) and cinnamon roll are even better fresh out of the oven!
Puka Dog in Poipu: the concept is cute, the quality is there, and any plug from Bourdain is like money in the bank. Still…I simply cannot wrap my mind around this place. We got one veggie dog with pineapple relish and one polish dog with papaya relish, both with lilikoi mustard, and all I kept thinking was “Is this it?” It could be the substantial ratio of bun to dog (which had me tossing the butt end to the birds jonesing for a hand-out) or because when I see the word relish, I expect to see it and not some finely chopped stuff in a sauce. Not overly expensive even for a place like Poipu and I’d suggest visiting at least once if you are a No Reservations fan.
Chicken in a Barrel in Kapaa: online reviews rave about this place and for good reason – the bbq chicken is incredibly moist and so delicious with your choice of sauce smothered all over! I would gladly give them 5 stars (food, value, hole-in-the-wall ambience, service and cleanliness) plus an extra star for being near to the neighborhood center bus stop on the Kauai Bus route. We split the chicken plate (Big Mike’s favorite) – hands down some great eating. I like that there’s a sink for washing hands before and afterward, and that the chef kept busy wiping down tables in between cooking and running the counter. Web: Chicken In A Barrel
Mermaid Cafe in Kapaa: the reviews were mainly all good but I thought the local favorite – Ahi Nori Wrap – to be on the bland side even if it was of a generous size and assembled nicely. This is a 100% hole-in-the-wall with very limited seating, sandwiched between Java Kai and The Eastside.
Hamura Saimin in Lihue: for those born and raised on Kauai, it becomes a pilgrimage to stop into Hamura’s if you’ve been away for a long time. Usually it’s the first stop upon landing and the last one before getting back on the plane to wherever you now call home. It is 50°F outside as I type this and how I wish this could be dinner right now.
Paco’s Tacos in Hanapepe: decent mexican food is so hard to come by in Italy that it really should’ve been higher on my chow list. I’ll try harder next time since I won’t be wasting time chasing down the elusive Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy Balls. Paco’s Tacos always had people coming/going whenever we passed by on the Kauai Bus so we stopped in for an order of both carne asada and carnitas tacos and some chile rellenos. Better than what I’ve had in Italy and way more authentic than Taco Bell. And they had containers of hot sauce on the side! http://pacostacoskauai.com
Ishihara Market in Waimea: poke (assorted fish salads, raw or cooked), pastries, pies, bentos, sushi, kimchee and pastele portuguese sausages, poi and a nice variety of BEER! A very helpful clerk explained that there was a need for variety due to mainland workers at the nearby missile range. A modest selection of local, national and international brews line the refrigerated shelves.