Dining Outside the Home: Kenji Burger in Kapaa, Kauai. It’s always good advertising when a sign boasts: “We use 100% Kauai grass fed beef,” especially if you prefer a fusion diet of healthy meats and vegetables. Grass fed beef translates into leaner burgers. At Kenji Burger, the Japanese mix of Asian cuisine with American favorites provides a taste extravaganza that’ll leave your head spinning. Think outside the box. Teriyaki burgers, misoyaki fish sammies, spicy poke bowls, loaded sushi burritos, and furikake fries. This is not your ordinary burger joint. See the maneki-neko Japanese cat figurine, with its paw raised, perched on the counter? It definitely brings good luck. Perhaps you’ll give them a try. Kenji Burger is spot on.
Dining Outside the Home: Paniolo Santa Maria-Style BBQ in Kapaa, Kauai. In the heart of Old Kapaa Town, you can get food hot of the grill on the outdoor patio while listening to lively island music. Meet up with family or make new friends across the picnic table. Paniolo’s signature style reflects cooking meat that has been properly seasoned over an open fire. There is an art to moving the grill up or down to control the temperature. The results will amaze you. Plates are served with chili-bean rice, tossed green salad, and grilled French bread slathered in butter. Follow your nose to the woodsmoke aromas of barbecue pork, tri-tip steak, fresh fish, and tender chicken. It’s a toe-tapping happy place to eat.
Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai. Fusion food is spot on at Oasis on the Beach, an open-air restaurant a few steps from the ocean. This is Hawai’i, after all, where the fish is as fresh as the view is captivating. No humdrum menu here. One of the House specialties is the island catch-of-the-day, seared to perfection. Mmmm. Pair it with Thai curry spices blended into coconut milk for a fabulous sauce. Did you notice the farm-to-table veggie chunks to add flavor? Now you’re talking. Don’t forget a scoop of white rice. It’s a meal in a bowl that does not disappoint.
Dining Outside the Home: Hualani’s Restaurant in Lihue, Kauai. Celebrations of life are a good reason to reserve a table at Hualani’s Restaurant, where the ocean stretches forever in a sea of aquatic blue. After all, there’s nothing quite like watching palm trees sway against a torch-lit sky as the sun slides behind the Haupu Mountain Range. Relax with a crafted cocktail. Stretch your palate to try something extraordinary from land and sea like Whole Fried Market Fish, Mashed Okinawa Potatoes with scallions, and Spiced Rum Pineapple Confit. It’s the attention to detail and presentation that embrace a dining experience that will be long remembered.
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.