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Denim-covered seating, decorative saddles, and a stagecoach in a loft helped to transform the historic Ako General Store in Waimea into a West Side steak house. You can eat under the stars on the deck out back or inside the old-fashioned, wood-panel dining room. The 16-ounce New York steak comes sizzling, and the rib eye is served with capers. A tasty salad is part of each meal. Those with smaller appetites might consider the vegetarian or Japanese-style tempura or the ahi served on penne pasta. Local folks love the special lunch: rice, beef teriyaki, and shrimp tempura with kim chee served in a three-tier kaukau tin, or lunch pail, just like the ones sugar-plantation workers once carried. A gift shop has local crafts. wranglersrestaurant.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun.
Offering the island's only river view, this marina restaurant—an island fixture for almost 40 years—is a good spot to stop for lunch after a boat ride up the Wailua River to the Fern Grotto, and worth a visit on its own merit. With more than 40 selections, the menu is a mix of comfort food and more sophisticated dishes; portions are gigantic. The chef is fond of stuffing: You'll find stuffed baked pork chops, stuffed chicken baked in plum sauce, and ahi stuffed with crab. The steamed mullet is a classic island dish. Credit cards accepted. Closed Mon.
Country-style Thai cuisine, hearty portions, reasonable prices, and a casual dining room make this family-run eatery a solid choice on the restaurant-sparse West Side. Most dishes can be prepared vegetarian-style or with beef, pork, chicken, or seafood. Try Toi's Temptation, a hearty mix of meats, pineapple, potatoes, and lemongrass in a sauce of red-chili-heated coconut milk, or one of the excellent curries. Meals include a green papaya or lettuce salad and warm tapioca or black rice pudding. Credit cards accepted.
Combining classic Mexican food with chili-based sauces and creations from the chef's home state of New Mexico, Verde's menu includes tostadas, enchiladas, and tacos served with fresh fish or slow-cooked beef or chicken. The seared tuna tacos with red chili aioli and the stacked enchilada, with chicken or beef short ribs smothered in red or green chili sauce, are favorites. Beers and margaritas served with premium tequila complement the spicy sauces perfectly. Don't be misled by the location of this spot—a small space in a shopping complex. www.verdehawaii.com. Credit cards accepted.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai is notable for its excellent restaurants, which differ widely in their settings and cuisine. This one is definitely the most tropical and campy, sure to appeal to folks seeking a bit of island-style romance and adventure. Private grass-thatch huts seem to float on a koi-filled pond beneath starry skies while torches flicker in the lushly landscaped grounds nearby. The equally distinctive food has an island flavor that comes from the chef's advocacy of Hawaii Regional Cuisine and extensive use of Kauai-grown products including fresh herbs from the resort's organic garden. You won't go wrong ordering one of the signature dishes, such as the volcano spiced opah, macadamia-nut crusted mahimahi, or the Hawaiian-salt and garlic-rubbed prime rib. Start with jumbo lump crab cakes or wasabi-crusted calamari to wake up your taste buds. If you're still hungry at the end of the meal, the molten chocolate lava cake is sure to satisfy. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Roy Yamaguchi's tasteful restaurant overlooking the beautiful Prince Golf Course offers a convivial, lively atmosphere to dine in. Though it lacks ambience after the sun goes down, the food is high-quality, with specialties like Parmesan-crusted ono, ahi poke spiked with a kukui nut base, an excellent onion soup gratin, plus steak, burger, and chicken choices. Kid- and small-group friendly, the Tavern lends itself to a casual come-and-go vibe. www.tavernbyroy.com.
This recently-opened eatery provides a refreshing alternative to the typical fish and seafood offerings at most of Kauai's upscale restaurants. Boasting no particular Indian regional style, this small-plaza hideaway with a tandoor oven has delicious curried vegetables, chicken dishes, and naan. Their samosas are especially noteworthy. The lunch buffet is a bargain at $14. www.shivalikindiancuisine.com.
Ribs and other succulent smoked meats are the stars at this casual upstairs restaurant that has a large, often noisy dining room and lovely ocean view. While the BBQ is best here, the menu also has shrimp, chicken, and burgers. You can choose your BBQ sauce and two side dishes; the coleslaw and baked beans are noteworthy. If you still have room for dessert, try the make-your-own s'mores. www.scottysbbq.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun.
If you want to eat at a hip restaurant that's a favorite with locals, visit Kintaro. But be prepared to wait on weekends, because the dining room and sushi bar are always busy. Try the soft-shell crab roll or the unbeatable Bali Hai bomb, a roll of crab and smoked salmon, baked and topped with wasabi mayonnaise. For a traditional Japanese meal, ask for the tempura combination, complete with fish, shrimp, and vegetables. Teppanyaki dinners are meat, seafood, and vegetables flash-cooked on tabletop grills in an entertaining display. Tatami-mat seating is available behind shoji screens that provide privacy for groups. The purple haze, a delicious mix of warm sake and framboise liqueur, is a must-have cocktail. Credit cards accepted. No lunch. Closed Sun.
With its vintage photos of the North Shore, beamed ceilings, and light interiors, this plantation-cottage restaurant has a menu stressing seafood but also offering additive-free vegetarian and vegan options. But don't get the wrong idea—this isn't simple cooking: specials might include taro fritters or fresh fish served with peppered pineapple-sage sauce, or blackened ahi. Desserts are made without refined sugar. Try the chocolate silk pie made with barley malt chocolate, pure vanilla, and creamy tofu with a gingery crust. This charming restaurant is one of your best bets for dinner in Hanalei town. www.postcardscafe.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
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