Dining: Something to Eat on Kauai
At last, I have had a trio of good meals on the Garden Isle.
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Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Co.
2-2560 Kaumualii Highway, Kalaheo // (808) 332-5858 // Breakfast and lunch: Monday through Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., until 2 p.m. on Sunday. Dinner, Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. // Free parking, major credit cards // www.kalaheo.com
“It’s nice to see a serious restaurant on Kauai,” I had told Sanchez at his restaurant.
“Tell me about it,” he said. “I love to go out and eat. In the six months I was here before we got the restaurant open, it was tough on me that there wasn’t much.”
He said he often ate breakfast or lunch at Kālaheo Cafe & Coffee Co., a place that had been recommended to me by Peter Merriman, who noted that former hotel chef John Ferguson has been doing a bang-up job there. Said Merriman, “It’s simple food, but it’s done right.”
That was my experience at lunch. As you walk in, there’s a big, red sign with “House Rules:” Grab menu/grab table/order at counter/enjoy.
Enjoy I did, a fish sandwich on whole-wheat toast, the bread fresh and housemade, the fish fresh and perfectly grilled ono, the sandwich loaded with avocado, jack cheese and a citrus-dill mayo. On the side, a salad of vibrant greens, tomato, onion, carrot, sprouts.
Of course, I wanted fries with that: a huge basket full, seasoned with cilantro and garlic.
Kālaheo does a more formal dinner menu four nights a week, unfortunately nights I wasn’t going to be on Kauai. But if it can put together a quick $20 lunch that good, next time I’m going back for dinner, maybe the orange-bourbon-glazed chicken.
5-5161 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei // (808) 826-7081 // Dinner Tuesday through Sunday, 6 to 9:30 p.m. // Free parking, major credit cards // www.restaurantbaracuda.com
Fortunately, my Kauai friend Janice likes to eat. Likes to eat so much that the next evening she was to pick me up—I was sunburned and bushed from a boat trip to snorkel off Niihau—and drive me all the way from Kauai’s south shore to the North Shore, through what passes on Kauai for rush-hour traffic.
All to eat at a little place called Bar Acuda, in the old Hanalei School building turned shopping complex.
Bar Acuda is a tapas restaurant, and the only one in Hawaii that sticks strictly to its concept. Its owner is Jim Moffat, an award-winning San Francisco chef who, in 2003, took a surfing trip to Kauai and decided to stay.
Says Moffat, “In Europe, I liked the way you’d go from place to place, sharing little nibbly things, a scallop and an inch of wine here, some chorizo and an inch of wine at a place across the street. It’s a convivial, social way to eat.”
Bar Acuda’s menu has small plates, only. “It was a hard sell in the beginning,” he says. “People in Hawaii wanted a big plate of food.” Now that the restaurant has been open for nearly five years, and the tapas concept is more widespread, it’s no problem, says Moffat.
It certainly was no problem for us, except we wanted every single thing on the menu and were forced to choose.