Dining Outside the Home: La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai. An Old World Italian dinner is as priceless as the family recipes that brave the test of time. At La Spezia, the customer becomes the guest of honor with classics “like Grandma used to make” that include house-made pastas, rich creamy sauces, and seafood specialties. They also understand the importance of island heritage to include local land and sea favorites. Put down the cell phone, sit back, and sip on a citrus Aperol Spritz. Taste the Prosecco? Now that’s refreshing. Nibble on focaccia bread and linger over conversation. This is a long-established Italian tradition and one you won’t want to miss.
Dining Outside the Home: Bobby V’s Italian Restaurant in Kapaa, Kauai. Happy Hour is always a good place to start, especially if you’re on vacation. Choose between Bobby V’s Hawaiian Mai Tai or the salt-rimmed Margarita to enjoy on the outside patio. Before you hit the default button and order pizza, consider other Italian favorites like the hearty Fettuccine Alfredo or the cheese-laden Classic Lasagna. A side of savory meatballs swimming in thick homemade marinara sauce does not disappoint. It’s okay to sprinkle on a little crushed oregano or grated parmesan cheese. Just saying. Word of warning: the portions are generous, so don’t fill up on the bread basket. Otherwise, I see leftover portions in your future.
Dining Outside the Home: Little Fish Coffee in Hanapepe, Kauai. Slurp on a smoothie that lives up to its name with shots of espresso, iced milk, and creamy caramel. It’s not called the “Jitterbug” for nothing. Little Fish Coffee understands what it means to be as happy as a fish. Their menu offers a variety of super-healthy açaí bowls, bagel and grilled sammies, plus delicious pastries. On a garden isle, it only makes sense to use local, Kauai-grown ingredients. The fair-trade organic coffees are great for sipping or on-the-go. Either way, prepare to be a happy little goldfish.
Dining Outside the Home: Hualani’s Restaurant in Lihue, Kauai. Like moths to a flame, people are drawn to a restaurant with an ocean view. Perhaps the sound of the waves lapping on the shoreline is conducive to ultimate freedom and peaceful relaxation. On the horizon you might catch sight of an airliner gliding over the lighthouse. Hualani’s open-air restaurant understands the hypnotic pull of the ocean. It’s one of the reasons their menu features local fresh ingredients from land, sea, and living by the water. I suggest a Yoga Girl Cocktail and Seared Shrimp Quesadilla. Is it any wonder the name Hualani translates to “Fruit of Heaven”? Come and see.
Dining Outside the Home: Nom Kauai in Kapaa, Kauai. When your husband wants breakfast and you’re ready for lunch, head over to Nom Kauai where you get the best of both worlds. It’s not uncommon to see other couples doing the same thing. Perhaps that’s the secret to a popular eatery with Southern roots: Keeping the peace. The burgers, like the Hella Hottie, are made with locally sourced beef, stacked a mile high with fresh ingredients, and then sandwiched between buttery toasted brioche buns. Go ahead and poke the egg. Who can resist a runny yolk? Golden Belgian waffles, served with pineapple-bourbon butter, can be ordered with buttermilk fried chicken and maple syrup. Because things are made from scratch, menu items are available until sold out. You know what that means. Come back again tomorrow.
Dining Outside the Home: Hualani’s Restaurant in Lihue, Kauai. Take a magic carpet ride to a place in which a Polynesian-style resort sits on the edge of the island with a close-up view of passing cruise ships. Palm trees sway around a two-tiered infinity pool while ocean waves splash ashore. Squint hard to imagine where the pool ends and the sea begins. Relax in a wicker chair on the lanai where the martinis are straight up, and sometimes a little dirty. Farm-to-table Hawaiian dishes are taken seriously since the herbs and vegetables are grown nearby. Savor them. And always, I mean always, save a little room for the Banana Macadamia Lumpia dessert. This flaky Filipino concoction is nothing short of amazing at Hualani’s Restaurant.
Dining Outside the Home: Monico’s Taqueria in Kapaa, Kauai. Change is good, especially when location is involved. Monico’s Taqueria moved up the road where they can serve more customers. Sitting on the outdoor patio at the edge of a coconut grove affords a stunning view of the mountains at sunset. Nice. Kick back, sip on a salt-rimmed margarita, munch on tortilla chips dredged in smoky salsa or homegrown habanero sauce. It doesn’t get any better than this. When the plate of fork-tender crispy pork carnitas arrive, you won’t want to share. Stuff the corn tortillas with beans, rice, pork, and guac. Fold over and bite. As the juices run down your fingers, don’t despair. Lick them. After all, it’s family. There’s no judgment here. The atmosphere is as down to earth as the food itself.
Dining Outside the Home: Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe in Waimea, Kauai. Head west on Kaumualii Highway until you see a landmark theatre in a town called Waimea that’s been around since 1948. Right next door is an island-style food joint well-known to locals as Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe. The family-owned place is small, with tables inside and out, yet very friendly and inviting. Try the Hawaiian favorite, Loco Moco. It’s a scoop of white rice, all-beef patty, an egg your way, grilled onions and mushrooms if you choose, and then a blanket of brown gravy over everything. This dish will get your engine revved for a day of hiking, surfing, shopping, and exploration. Savor every bite, then enjoy your day.
Dining Outside the Home: Kalapaki Joe’s Sports Bar in Lihue, Kauai! On the edge of nowhere sits the island’s secret for fresh salad meals, ocean fish, Happy Hour specials, ginormous burgers, cold beverages, and televised sports. Stop in for one reason or another. And if you’re hungry, go for the Big Plate Entrees. The Ahi Poke Crunch Salad was an adventure in fusion food: raw Ahi, Asian slaw, crispy tortilla strips, Oriental vinaigrette, and wasabi cream. No matter your craving, Kalapaki Joe’s brings people of the East and West closer.