Kauai: Where (and What) to Eat
A tropical vacation is all about sun, sand and relaxation, but that doesn't mean the food should be left to chance. With so many options, a strategy is essential. Here are my top five Kauai culinary must-haves.
Ice Cream Bananas
Ice cream bananas are an essential element to my Kauai visits. I am geuninely not at ease until I can get to Farmer's Market and collect a hearty bunch of these squatty little dudes. They may not be much to look at, but pop them into the freezer, and they take on a perfect ice cream texture (hence the name). Their naturally sweet vanilla flavor also means that these bad boys taste like a ice cream - not just a frozen banana. Enjoy them straight out of the freezer like an ice cream bar (dip them in chocolate if you want to get extra fancy!) or blend them up into a frothy soft serve.
The Shrimp Station in Waimea is the best place to go for coconut shrimp indulgence. Made fresh to order in an unassuming roadside stand, they strike the perfect balance of coconut-y batter and fresh from the-sea shrimp. Sure, they might sit a little heavy if you eat all 12 by yourself, but it's nothing a hike through Waimea Canyon can't fix!
Kauai Juice Co.
If you need to atone for some over indulgence, or just need a tasty shot of vitamins and nutrients, head to Kauai Juice Co. Yes, nut milks and cold-pressed juices are all of the rage these days, but this is is a company committed to values and flavor. Sourcing their ingredients almost exclusively from the islands (80% is from the Hawaiian islands, the remaining 20% is sourced from organic, mainland farms), Kauai Juice Co. is making hearty nut milks like the chai-inspired Golden Milk or bright Rainbown Unicorn juice. They even have kombucha on tap and shots of kefir - it's basically a health nut's dream, but without sacrificing flavor. So no matter how many Puka Dogs or Pina Coladas you've downed, Kauai Juice Co will leave you feeling renewed and refueled.
Tiki Tacos in Kapaa was a new discovery this year, and definitely the best. Like any fish taco joint worth its salt, the folks at Tiki Tacos use only daily-caught fresh fish. What sets them apart from the pack is the thick, warm, housemade tortillas that serve as a vessel for hearty, overflowing portions of fish, cabbage, and queso fresco. If fish isn't your thing, they also have delicious chicken, steak, and veggie alternatives. Don't let the 40 minute drive from Poipu or the unassuming strip mall ambiance deter you - these guys are worth it.
Confession - the photo credit goes to Food and Wine here. It's not that I didn't take any photos, it's that I struggled to capture the Puka Dog - a hot dog slipped into a sleeve-like bun and topped with tropical sauces like lilikoi mustard and mango relish - without the end result looking...off. But these are a true Poipu gem, and I couldn't bear to keep them off of the list just because of my poor photography skills. Go for a veggie or polish dog, and mix and match the sauces to your tropical heart's content.