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Kim Steutermann Rogers
Article Source: Blog Post
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
A large bar area and a porch overlooking an inner courtyard with a nice tropical setting give this grill a casual island vibe. Try the macadamia-nut-crusted "katch of the day" with a passion-fruit butter glaze or the BBQ ribs. Wash it down with a glass of wine or one of 15 ales, stouts, ports, and lagers. Plenty of Tomkats' Nibblers—such as buffalo wings and ahi poke—enliven happy hour from 3 to 6 pm. Restaurant workers love this spot for a pau hana drink, late night pupus, and a fun atmosphere with live music. Credit cards accepted.
This hip restaurant strikes a perfect balance between traditional Japanese and Pacific fusion cuisine. The specialty rolls, prepared with fresh, locally caught fish, have a heavy Hawaiian flair, some with provocative names such as Butter Me Up, Green Dream, and Lollipop. Save room for dessert, especially the Green Scream, tempura rice pudding balls sprinkled with powdered sugar. Tasteful artwork adorns the bright red walls, and there is live music nightly. www.sushibushido.com. No lunch Sat.--Mon.
This funky establishment is the poster child of coffee-shop culture on Kauai. Aside from some the best specialty coffees in the state (the awards prove it), Small Town Coffee is a venue for live music, readings, open mic, tango nights, and the sort. An eclectic clientele, a fishpond, cool merchandise, and an adjacent used bookstore add to the laid-back atmosphere. A selection of excellent bagelwichs and gluten-free pastries nicely accompany their unbeatable coffee. www.smalltowncoffee.com.
RumFire opened in 2012 at the Sheraton Poipu as the last piece of the resort's $16-million renovation. In the upper level, the elegant centerpiece bar has seating for almost three dozen patrons, and features a comprehensive wine list and an array of rums from around the world. While all tables enjoy magnificent ocean views, the lower-level booths that face the glass walls offer the best panorama. The menu uses many ingredients from local farmers and fishermen. Mini tacos filled with ahi poke and pork ribs are your best bets for appetizers. For entrées, try the Hawaiian paella or the sea scallops. And be sure to save room for a yummy flourless sea salt chocolate cake. www.rumfirekauai.com.
The crown gem of Princeville's Westin Resort, Nanea Restaurant and Bar sits on an 18.5-acre bluff overlooking Anini Beach. The menu is up to par with the beauty of the property. The spiced kabocha squash soup with Chinese five-spice powder and sage crème fraîche, and the trio of bruschetta are perfect starters. If you're a meat lover, try the grilled half-rack of lamb, served with Gorgonzola polenta and braised chard. Nanea also has many vegan or gluten-free options. True to its motto, "buy local, eat local," Nanea supports at least a dozen local vendors. Indoor and outside seating, a chic bar, and a professional staff make this a sure bet for dinner in Princeville. www.westinprinceville.com/dining/nanea.
This is your best bet for authentic Mexican food on Kauai. Owner-chef Monico crafted a menu that reflects ethnic foods from his native town of Oaxaca, Mexico. The food is excellent and cheap; the service is quick, efficient, and friendly; and most entrées cost less than $14. A small bar and a few outside tables take some of the overflow from this ever-busy restaurant. Go straight for the fish tacos or the seafood burrito. Monico's uses only fresh ingredients, no canned stuff, although their tortillas are flown in from Oahu every other day. Beans have no lard, and there are many vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. www.monicostaqueria.com. Closed Mon.
This charming café brings a piece of Eastern Europe to Kauai. The menu blends Eastern European recipes, world cuisine, and Kauai produce. Try a fougasse or a crepe filled with fresh organic produce, but leave room for a gluten-free, fluffy blueberry cheesecake, best served warm. The rich coffee is always pulled from an espresso machine. On the top floor of this two-story, 80-year-old historic building, a clean-cut art gallery rotates artists on a regular basis. The only downside is an often lengthy wait for orders, but this becomes less important as customers sink into the place's mood and start to believe they are in Europe. www.artcafehemingway.com. No credit cards. Closed Mon.
A restored plantation cottage set back off the highway and surrounded by tropical foliage is the setting for this island café. Two nearby apparel shops called Bambulei and Pagoda make this a fun stop for any meal. Outdoor seating in the vine-covered garden is pleasant during nice weather, and natural repellents keep the bugs away. Acoustic music is offered regularly, attracting a laid-back local crowd. Potstickers filled with tofu and chutney, sweet potato samosas, ahi wraps, Greek and organic salads, fresh fish and soups, and a daily list of specials are complemented by homemade desserts. A recent change in ownership turned up the service a notch. Credit cards accepted.
Nestled in a bamboo forest draped in bougainvillea and flowering vines and hidden from view off the Kuhio Highway is a charming little venue where local musicians perform nightly. Caffé Coco offers pupu (appetizers), entrées, and desserts. It may not have a liquor license, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the local talent; just bring your own wine or beer. The outdoor setting—twinkle lights and tiki torches beneath a thatched hut—is what the Kauai of old must have been like. There's hula every Friday, and Hawaiian music on Thursdays. It's open until 9 Tuesday through Sunday.
As suggested by our Facebook fans:
Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House
Outrigger Lae nani