So last week, when my family and I were in Kauai, I tried to seek out some food love on the Garden Island, Yelping, Chowhounding and asking around to find some alternate food opportunities that would allow me to feed my kids (and myself) a variety of local and fresh food that didn’t break the bank. The following list highlights restaurants, markets and one farm that are focused on serving the best fresh local food the Island of Kauai has to offer.
Raw: When you buy raw fish to cook at home, you will be asked how thick you want the slices, how many people are eating, and how you plan to cook your fish. Poke: There are a variety of pokes available in the refrigerated case (poke is a Hawaiian dish of cubed raw fish, usually Ahi, that has been flavored with various herbs or spices). Cooked: Each day the market features a couple of cooked fish plates that you can top with their teriyaki, wasabi cream or butter and garlic sauces. When you go to the Koloa Fish Market, be sure to avoid the lunch hour if possible as the store is full of hungry locals and the employees try to rush everyone through quickly. After my various coffee adventures this summer, I was excited to stumble upon a local roaster in Hanalei.
The restaurant is also run under the name Java Kai, which is a small breakfast and coffee chain, so if you’re in Hanalei, look for the Java Kai sign. The state of Hawaii runs a series of local farmers’ markets on Kauai Monday through Saturday. What visit to Hawaii would be complete without an enormous scoop of ice cream, and what better place to get it than Lapperts?
I was lucky enough to spend a few months on Kauai last year and had a great opportunity to live like a local and make some impressions. Kauai Coffee is well worth a visit, though, and I’m not just saying that because I lived right down the road and they offer free coffee samples.
The thing to remember about Kauai is that you are very far away from the rest of the world, so there is relatively little foodie culture compared to here in the Bay Area. We went to Kauai a couple years ago, and we at breakfast in Kapaa at the Country Kitchen and the food was great and it is a place the locals go.
If visiting the North Shore of Kauai, dine at Common Ground for a locally grown culinary experience. Hi Denise, we just created a (free) guide to vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in Kauai, and thought you may be interested. About Bay Area BitesBay Area Bites (BAB), KQED's public media food blog, feeds you visually compelling food-related stories, news, recipes and reviews from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. To ensure a better experience on our site, we recommend using a recent version of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
Pineapple sweetened in the field is a completely different fruit than what you find in your local grocery here.
If you know of a place not listed, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. With a case full of Ahi, Ono and Mahi Mahi, this is an old school market that only sells locally caught fish.
The fish mongers (is that still a current-day term?) will cut your fish the way you want it.

I need to come clean and tell you, however, that I didn’t actually get to eat a taco here.
With frozen yogurt, gelato, sorbet, and ice cream on hand, you can pretty much get whatever frozen treat you’d like — oh, and they serve coffee too. It’s enough to make anyone with any architectural sense break down to their knees and cry.
I have vowed to tour Kauai Coffee the next time I’m there (which hopefully won’t be too long from now)! I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). As a mom, I’m always disappointed with the quality of food in family restaurants on the islands.
After finding an abundance of $39-an-entree establishments that served food similar to what you’d get at Fisherman’s Wharf, I am hoping to steer you to some better locations for your own island getaway.
Be sure to get some sides of teriyaki and wasabi cream sauces to go with your fish as they are fantastic. All were great, but the Korean Poke was my favorite as it was slightly spicy yet still mild and perfectly suited for that fresh tuna taste.
The plates are served with cooked rice, macaroni salad (which is pretty good) and a random lettuce salad. Also, be sure to grab a bag of cooked edamame and a container of seaweed salad to go with your meal. I also have to admit that once I was sitting in my beach chair, it was almost impossible to get me out of it, especially as I already had locally-grown and roasted coffee sitting in my cupboard from Hanalei Coffee Roasters.
When I was there previously, however, their menu was full of locally-raised vegetables and fruits, locally caught fish and Kauai-raised meats.
You can go with the Garlic Scampi, the Bahia Scampi (which uses a Brazilian coconut and tomato sauce sauce), or the GrassHoppa Scampi (a spicy concoction).
When we stopped by for lunch, the very nice lady who cooks for Monster tacos informed us that she only serves her fish with Cajun blackened spices. But don’t be turned off by the management as the fruit and vegetables awaiting you are worth the septuagenarians elbowing each other out at the gate.
My favorite flavor was the caramel macadamia nut, although my husband had a few servings of the triple summer berry, which was also mighty nice.
I was amazed at the high prices of the obviously imported produce in the markets and wondered why there was not more locally-grown stuff. In addition, my husband and I both have various food allergies, so cooking for ourselves is usually a better option. Sweet and fragrant, ripened on the tree as they should be, they are the ultimate tropical treat as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, those expensive restaurants with overcooked fish covered in macadamia-nut butter often have the best views, so you may find yourself in one or two of them anyway. My kids loved the freshly baked bagels and muffins, and the patio was a beautiful and relaxing spot to spend a morning before we hit the beach.

That said, I am sorry I missed seeing how coffee is grown and have vowed to get my arse off the beach and to the coffee farm next time I’m there. We tried he first two and devoured each and every shrimpy morsel on our very full plates within five minutes flat. Although I’m not a big blackened fish fan (and neither are my kids), I wanted to give the tacos a try.
Full of fresh local fare, you can find exotic fruits that just aren’t available anywhere else at these markets. Even the poi (which is local) was more expensive than other starches such as potatoes or rice.
I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally.
I am always left wondering why, in a state full of farms and surrounded by fresh fish, are most of the restaurants so lacking.
I admit we spent an evening in a restaurant that was overpriced and barely passable, but only because my daughters wanted to spend their birthday eating Japanese food and the only other sushi restaurant was in a strip mall 20 minutes away. Maybe I was really hungry, but at the time I was thinking this may be the best shrimp I’ve ever had. We purchased some star fruit and dragon fruit, along with fresh and ripe guavas, wing beans, the cherished apple bananas and papayas, along with regular cucumbers, lettuce, spinach and bok choy. I tried not to bring my mainland expectations when I went to a restaurant or the farmers’ market because I realize that most of the food on the islands has to be brought there. Now normally I try to avoid kid menus, but the idea of paying $60 for my kids to pick at their meal brings out the devil on my shoulder — there he sits, smugly convincing me that French fries served with mac and cheese is a perfectly acceptable and nutritious meal for my growing girls.
Plus this place made virgin Mai Tais with umbrellas, which really made my daughters smile from ear to ear. Served with rice and a salad, the dishes of fresh local shrimp are filling and more than worth the $12.50 price tag.
That said, people rave about this place, so if you like blackened fish tacos and are on the south shore of Kauai, this is your place. As we were staying in a condo, it was fun to bring home our bags and explore the variety of produce available from local Hawaiian farmers. I asked several trucks where the shrimp came from on oahu, and this was just a few miles from the shrimp from on oahu, and they told me costco. After all, they can get their vitamins from the pineapple slice in their POG (passion fruit, orange juice, and guava juice cocktail), right? When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise's Kitchen.
Of course there are a few high-quality restaurants serving fresh seasonal foods, but these are far and few between and a dinner for four can often reach $300.

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