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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.
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.
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.
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.
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Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens