It’s impossible not to fall in love with Kauai’s North Shore. It’s tropical: one minute a rain storm, the next a rainbow. It’s colorful: from the flaming red flora to the turquoise waters and golden sand. It’s mountainous and has gorgeous verdant valleys. It’s unspoiled: no high rises allowed here. And yet, even though it’s home to many of the island’s organic farms, it can be hard to find great places to eat that serve quality “real” food. To be sure, there are lots of average taco joints, burger shacks and tourist spots serving bar food or over-sauced fish. But no fear, the scouting has been done, and you, dear reader, get to go directly to the good stuff.
- Hanalei Farmers’ Markets – There are two famers’ markets in Hanalei – one is on Tuesday just after lunch (head north out of town and you will soon see it in a field on the left) and the other is in town on Saturdays, opening at 9.30am, just behind the soccer fields near the church. I defy you to find a farmers’ market in a more majestic setting. The backdrop is towering green, ridged mountain. Breathtaking. You’ll find the usual market food fare: lettuces, veggies, and so forth, along with local beef, goat cheese, an array of coconut vendors, tropical fruits and locally grown fresh turmeric and ginger. There’s also jewelry and other knick-knacks in case you’re looking for mementos to take back home.
- Kauai Juice Co., Kilauea. – There are two Kauai Juice Co. stores on Kauia. One in Kapa’a and a more recent addition in Kilauea in the stone building on the way to the lighthouse. They both open Monday-Saturday, closing at 5pm. From delicious, freshly brewed kombucha in tropical flavors like mango and acai, to an array of cold-pressed juices, whether you’re planning to cleanse or just want to drink your nutrients, this is the place to go. Juices are typically around $11 and kombucha is $5. You can expect to find these juices at health stores around the island too. I collected way more bottles in a week than I thought possible, but sadly the 50 cent deposit is only refunded if you return the bottles to Kapp’a. Hopefully that will change soon.
- Pat’s Taco Truck, Hanalei Beach – I’ve written about Pat’s before – it’s a pilgrimage for Monkey (and me) every time we visit Kauai. The schedule is a little hit and miss – we always cross our fingers that the white kitchen on wheels will be parked up near the pier in Hanalei. When it’s there, hours are noon to 3pm. Tacos are now $5 each – which still makes them cheaper than some inferior options around town – but now you have think twice before ordering three. Or at least, that’s what I told Monkey. Our favorite is always the carne asada. We tried the rice and beans ($2) this time around too, and they are tasty way to ensure a full belly at the beach.
- Mermaids Café, Kuhio Highway, Old Kapa’a (en route to the North Shore) – Okay, this isn’t the North Shore, but you have to drive through Kapa’a to get to Hanalei and you might be hungry, in which case, seek out Mermaids Café. It’s a veritable hole in the wall with just a couple of tables out on the sidewalk, but it turns out amazing fish wraps, salads and more. Filling, healthy and super tasty, this joint is worth making a detour for. We went for the coconut curry with ahi (approx. $15), and the tropical tacos ($12.95). Just the ticket for our hungry, post-7am flight from Oakland, bellies.
- Bar Acuda, Hanalei – In case you’re in the mood for a “special” night out, and don’t want to cook for yourself, then Bar Acuda is the place to go. The sensibility of the food is based around Spanish tapas – lots of share plates and tasty bites – made from local produce, fish and meat. And the wine list is pretty good too (which is a bonus because wine lists can be quite mediocre, along the food, in many places). We went for the steak skewers, spinach and poached egg salad and risotto fritters (all priced between $8-15). While the egg white wasn’t quite cooked (and who likes uncooked egg white) and we had to have a re-do, overall, the food was good and the setting is elegantly colonial in style with an outdoor, wrap-around veranda.
- Dolphin Fish Market, Hanalei – Tucked around the side of the Dolphin Sushi Bar and restaurant, and located just as you drive into Hanalei itself, the Dolphin Fish Market is a great place to stock up for a picnic at the beach–they serve uncut sushi rolls for $12/pop–or you can buy some amazing fresh fish to prepare at home. Expect to find sushi-grade fish too, along with prepared ahi pokes sold for about $19.99/lb. The ahi sesame is my particular favorite. If you’re homesick for California cheese, we were thrilled to find Cowgirl Creamery cheeses in all their glory.
- Kilauea Bakery – This little spot is a perennial favorite. Serving pizza by the slice, with a crisp, pastry-like crust, fresh soups and stews, and an array of baked good, including gluten-free goodies, this is the perfect stop on the way to the lighthouse to watch the sunset, or if you’re heading out for afternoon tea at the beach.