Everyone knows that Kauai is beautiful. There are beaches and mountains and jungles and waterfalls. So yeah, you hike and swim and what not. But a girl’s got to eat, right? And what is there in terms of restaurants? Not a lot. Many restaurants in Kauai are woefully mediocre. But you can get a few excellent meals if you know where to look. Here are a few tips:
- The first place to look is outside the window of your rental car for a sign that says “Huli Huli chicken sale.” A huge cloud of black smoke on the roadside might also be an indicator of said chicken sale. If you see the sign followed by a giant grill covered with whole chickens, park immediately. Don’t succumb to those “It’s not lunchtime, I’ll come back” thoughts, because when you come back, Huli Huli will be gone. It’s a mysterious thing, this Huli Huli chicken, it only seems to be there when you have just eaten. No matter. Stop the car immediately and get yourself some chicken in a Styrofoam box and eat it by the side of the road. You’ll notice that it was cooked with some sort of killer marinade. It might have soy sauce in it. All I know is that it’s delicious.
- With Huli Huli chicken out of the way, make your way to the Shrimp Station in Waimea. There’s usually a crowd. The coconut shrimp are deep fried and covered in coconut flakes and come with ginger-papaya tartar sauce, which sounds lamely yuppie, but is actually very refreshing. Also, I think ginger and papaya both grow there, so it sort of makes sense. There is also some sort of Thai spicy shrimp on the menu, which I didn’t try, and will forever regret.
- Now for some shave ice. Say it. Shave ice. Fun to say, isn’t it? Not as fun as it is to eat it. It’s basically ice in a Styrofoam cup covered with the syrup of your choice. Jojo’s shave ice in Waimea has 60 flavors of syrup, including grape, cream soda, watermelon, lychee, mango, and many others. Don’t forget to pay extra for macadamia nut ice cream which they bury under the shave ice. So when the ice melts into the ice-cream, you can drink it through a straw. Yummy.
- Bubba’s Burgers has some decent old-style burgers and a lot of attitude. The sign outside says “We cheat tourists, drunks & attorneys.” The chili dog is weird: the hot dog has a strange texture and the chili is a little scary. Good burgers though, good burgers. You’ll feel sick afterward, but hey, you just ate a greasy burger. Oh, get the onion rings! The onions are soft and sweet, I wonder if they are special Maui onions or something.
- No Kauai food blog is complete without mentioning Hamura’s Saimin Stand. Saimin is noodle soup. The “special saimin” comes with BBQ pork, egg, mustard greens, fish cake (those flat, soft discs with pink spirals that you’ve probably seen in udon), ham, and noodles of course. It’s served with spicy mustard. I saw people who looked like local Hawaiians mix the mustard with soy sauce in a little condiment dish just like people mix wasabi in soy sauce in sushi restaurants. I did the same. It tasted good. There’s nothing that satisfies like noodle soup.