The Sandwiches Eat Food on Kauai

One of the benefits of vacationing in a condo is that you have a kitchen. While I don’t harbor much interest in cooking while on vacation, I’m perfectly happy to buy bagels at the local Costco, and yogurt, hot dogs, and other items at my favorite markets in Koloa: Big Save and Sueoka’s. I even bought a T-shirt at Sueoka’s, as if it were a concert and not a grocery store.

But we didn’t eat every meal in the condo, and naturally we made a point of visiting some old favorites. Upon arrival we had plate lunches at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, and when dinner arrived it was time for calzones at Pizzetta. One evening we had a lavish and delightful meal at Plantation Gardens, which has become a Kauai tradition for us.

On Friday, after snorkeling at Anini Beach but before leaving for Ha’ena and Tunnels Beaches, we paused for a bite at the Anini Beach Lunch Shak. It isn’t really a Shak, or even a Shack; it’s a lunch truck, serving a variety of tacos and burritos. I went for the fish tacos, and Mr. Sandwich had a kalua pig burrito. (This does not involve an entire pig, at least not at the time that you’re eating it.) Everything was good, but a little bland; the addition of the truly excellent salsa made it quite tasty. Dinner was actually breakfast-for-dinner at Lihue’s Oki Diner, which touts its pancakes and offers a variety of syrups (I opted for coconut). Verdict? Okay, but not amazing. I think their main strength is that they are open 22 hours on an island where most restaurants seem to close at 3 p.m. Our visit must have come at their slow time, because we were the only patrons, and we didn’t stay anywhere near 22 hours.

Alas, the Camp House Grill in Kalaheo is closed, which means no more of their delicious pies. However, across the street is the Ohana Cafe, which makes excellent burgers, fries, and saimin. Note: a small bowl of saimin here is a meal, but we were really hungry. Then, by the end of our visit, we were really full. However, I did take home a slice of their ola pie, which is a Fig Newton crust filled with banana ice cream, peanut butter, and chocolate. Even lasting for two days, it was a little overwhelming–tasty, but with a lot going on. The answer, I think, is to concentrate on the main course, which they do really well; their menu is limited, but focused.

Duane’s Ono Char Burger in Anahola is an institution. I opted for the teriyaki burger and a marionberry shake. I have no idea what a marionberry is, but I do know that it makes a great shake. The burgers were messy but good, and the fries were amazing.

We had still more burgers at Kalapaki Beach Hut in Lihue. From the top deck you can see part of the bay at Lihue. You can also feed french fries to birds, although we probably weren’t supposed to do that. My conclusion is that, overall, Kauai is a good place for burgers. Especially teri burgers. I think I’m in love with them.

Our last meal in Hawaii was at the Olympic Cafe. It’s open after 3, and we were in the middle of the aforementioned deluge. Service wasn’t fast, but it was friendly, and our meals (kalua pig burrito, kalua pig sandwich) were tasty and enormous. The result was that the restaurant was a nice place to while away both a rainstorm and a few hours before our flight–and we had a great view of the weirdly brown ocean.

We also tried malasadas, a Portuguese donut (more spherical, no hole) at two locations: Hanalima Bakery and the Kauai Coffee visitor center. Both were good, but we determined that the best malasadas we had were on our last trip, at a stand outside the K-Mart. The secret? They were fresh, which takes a malasada from good to delectable.

On the whole, we ate well. A little too well, I fear. But that’s vacation for you.

The Sandwiches Have Adventures on Kauai

Why, yes, we have been on the island of Kauai. And it’s been a great week. So great that it cannot be confined to one post. Or it could, but it would be a very long post, and who wants to read that? No one, that’s who. Whom. Whatever. So let’s start with the exciting stuff and later move on to food.

We arrived late Thursday morning and checked into our condo at the Prince Kuhio Resort in Poipu, on the south shore of the island. This is where we’ve stayed on each of our three Kauai trips; many of the units fit nicely within our budget, and the large studio has a kitchen–meaning we can have bagels and the like on hand for breakfast. But I digress into food.

Friday we drove to the north shore for some snorkeling. Our first stop was at Anini Beach, which had looked promisingly calm two years ago. This time it wasn’t as calm, and the snorkeling wasn’t all that interesting. So we headed a little further west to find ourselves at Ha’ena Beach Park, which has poor snorkeling but quite a bit of parking. Adjacent to Ha’ena Beach Park is Tunnels Beach, where the snorkeling was fantastic. We had a great time splashing around the reef, where I saw what I swear is the girliest fish I’ve ever seen–white near the head, becoming pink toward the tail, and what appeared to be eyeshadow and mascara. In fact, I was struck by how much fish look like cartoons of fish.

Saturday found us renting bikes and heading through Poipu and down a cane road to Mahaulepu Beach, where we found fishermen and several families camping. The sea was rough due to a surge from the south, but I only got scraped up a little on the rocks. This was a repeat outing; we made the same trip two years ago and enjoyed it both times.

On Sunday we had what was, inarguably, The Best Time Ever. And what was that? Why, it was the Waterfall ATV Tour offered by Kipu Ranch Adventures. The guides provided simple instructions and sent everyone in practice loops around the yard, and then we were off, riding across one of the island’s historic land grants. After a stop to talk about the history of the ranch and its appearance in any number of Hollywood blockbusters (Jurassic Park, Outbreak, Six Days and Seven Nights, Mighty Joe Young, etc.), we drove along an earthen dam, between tree-lined berms, and down a steep hill–where we paused again for instruction on descents and how to navigate trenches. Both of us were new to ATVs, and found that the instructions and demonstrations increased our safety and comfort. After any number of scenic views, we found ourselves on the bank of the river where Indiana Jones escaped from the Hovitos via vine and seaplane in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Naturally, we made several of our own leaps into the river. From there it was back to the trails, with stops for lunch and a waterfall swim. The entire thing was a rattling good time, and although my arms and shoulders were sore from steering the ATV, it really was an amazing way to see a fairly secluded part of the island.

Monday meant that it was time to go back to the north shore for kayaking on the Hanalei River. The river winds through taro fields that, as it turns out, you can’t really see from your kayak–but we did see a freshwater turtle and a lot of traps that we can only assume were for fish. Once we reached the most navigable point on our inland journey, we turned around and headed for the point where the river meets the sea. There we beached on a sandbar and splashed around in the warm, calm waters of Hanalei Bay.

We weren’t done with the north shore; the snorkeling at Tunnels was so good that we went back for more on Tuesday. We saw an enormous variety of fish, but the highlights were definitely the leopard eel, and the sea turtle hunting for lunch.

Wednesday meant that it was time for another ATV ride–we went back to Kipu Ranch, this time for the Ranch Tour. This time the trails were a bit more advanced, and we headed up to the pass to Kipu Kai–a secluded set of beaches on the ocean side of the mountain range that divides the ranch. The views were unparalleled–and, due to the seclusion of the locale, rare even for locals.

Alas, all trips must come to an end. With a redeye ahead of us, we spent Thursday driving westward, with a variety of stops, including the Waimea swinging bridge and Kauai Coffee. We learned that a flash-flood warning had closed the road to Hanalei, and decided that we should make our way back to the east shore, where the airport is. Sure enough, we found ourselves in a deluge that cut power to the Internet cafe in which we had taken refuge. That sent us back on the road, where we passed more time in Kapaa before reluctantly turning in our rental car. Let me tell you, Kauai knows how to have a storm. There was so much runoff from the rivers that right now the ocean is coffee-colored almost all the way to the horizon.

Hmm. This is still a ridiculously long post. Good thing I saved the food news for later.

Aloha

No, we’re not going to Hawaii. Although wouldn’t that be wonderful? We’ve been lucky enough to go several times since our wedding, and it’s at the top of the list of places we’d live if we won the lottery.

However, I am experiencing an element of Hawaiian culture. After years of talking about it, I’ve started taking hula lessons. Tonight was the first session, and I’m really enjoying it. Hula turns out to be quite the workout–particularly Tahitian style.

Now, you might think that I became interested in hula as a result of going to Hawaii, but that’s not the case. No, I decided that I wanted lessons after seeing Lilo & Stitch. That’s right. My inspiration came from Disney.

It is a lot of fun, though. Four more classes don’t seem like enough.

More Eats on Kauai

I need to catch up on our Kauai eats.

First, more on garlic shrimp. Savage Shrimp, on the corner of Lawai Road and Hoonani Road in , is housed in a lunch truck. It may move in the next two years, depending on what happens with the shopping center that is supposed to be built across the road–but for now, the truck can be found mid-day, with Susan dishing up freshly cooked shrimp in a handful of preparations. We had the Garlic Scampi and the Bahia Scampi, both of which were delicious. It’s worth noting that the prices are a tiny bit higher than indicated in the Roadfood.com review, but only by a dollar or two. Portions are generous and flavorful.

Next, Hamura Saimin. This is a small place on shabby Kress Street in , but it’s good for a cheap bite. The menu is small, but the Special Saimin is quite good. Try the lilikoi pie–light and fluffy. At one end of the restaurant is Halo Halo Shave Ice. Their hours are limited, but the shave ice is vastly superior to the mainland Sno-Cone and its kin. We had it plain, without ice cream at the bottom, and found it very refreshing–just the thing for a hot day. The serving was big enough for both of us, so keep that in mind when ordering.

The Camp House Grill in offers enormous, messy breakfasts with spicy-but-not-too-hot gravy in the morning and big, tasty burgers in the afternoon and evening. Be sure to have pie. They excel at pie.

If you’re in (and why wouldn’t you be? It’s delightful), try Polynesia Cafe. Their plate lunches and fish sandwiches are quite good, and they’ll provide you with fuel for hiking (at least part of) the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, which begins at and provides cliffside views of the Na Pali coast. Even if you only make it to the first overlook, you’ll have worked off your lunch and seen truly spectacular scenery.

That’s it for Kauai, unless I remember something else that I just have to share. Eat hearty.

Fine Dining in Poipu

When in Kauai, our favorite restaurant for a nice dinner is Plantation Gardens, in .

My parents came here in the early/mid 1970s and loved it, and we had a terrific meal at the same place during our honeymoon. This time, we started with the tempura plate and moved on to surf’n’turf and the fish of the day, which in this case was a pan-roasted ono. Everything was cooked perfectly, and the sauces for each dish were fantastic.

Plantation Gardens is in the Kiahuna Plantation Resort, and is definitely worth a visit–no matter where you’re staying on the island.

Burritos

If you’re in , why not stop at Burritohead? We went because it’s owned by a friend of a friend, but we’re talking about going back because of the food. As you might guess, they have burritos–as well as tacos, flautas, and quesadillas. These come with pork, chicken, or beef, and are all in the $7-9 range, or fish for $2 more. We had a pork quesadilla and fish tacos, and everything was really good.

Shrimp, Glorious Shrimp

In the town of Waimea, on the south shore of , is a roadside restaurant called Shrimp Station. Actually, “restaurant” is a generous term–it’s basically a cookstand with a patio. But no matter how basic the setup is, the outcome is fantastic. The sauteed garlic shrimp are to die for, and the beer-battered shrimp are crisp and light. Please, sir, I want some more.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Kayaking, snorkeling, hiking on lava, eating, shopping, brother’s wedding. All fantastic. Oh, did I forget to say that I spent a week in Hawaii? We were on the Big Island–truly magnificent.

Also, I read:
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Waiting by Ha Jin
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I started Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant, and (as I had heard) it is highly readable. But it was a bit heavy to carry on the plane, so I’m still working on it. I’ll bet that was the least-predictable book being read at the resort pool that day.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Actually, I don’t think I ate any cheeseburgers there. And in a week on the Big Island of Hawaii, we never went to Starbucks and only ate one meal at McDonald’s. Hey, we were late to the airport. So sue me.

At any rate, for a romantic sunset dinner, I highly recommend Huggo’s. I know, the name sounds like there should be clowns and balloons, and maybe a giant Sasquatch mascot. But it’s not like that at all.

Or maybe you’re looking for something more casual. For that, you might try L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

Both of those establishments are in Kailua Kona, on the west side of the island. Perhaps you’re staying in Hilo.

Hilo Bay Cafe is a fantastic place for lunch. The crab cake sandwich is tasty and enormous, and stays crisp for a surprising amount of time, considering that it’s a crab cake inside a sandwich. The french dip is excellent as well. Hilo Bay Cafe is nowhere near downtown; clearly it’s designed for people who actually live in Hilo, rather than tourists, but they were perfectly happy to provide us with food in spite of our out-of-state driver’s licenses.

And that’s just a few places on only one island. Be adventurous. Enjoy.