Postcards Cafe (Kauai)
Dining in Hawaii can be a bit tricky. Like Brazil, so many of the “traditional” foodstuffs are heavy - and perhaps even more disconcerting, similar. Aside from a wide variety of fresh seafood available, you may find yourself hunting for cuisine in Kauai that is a bit more unique - and delicate.
One restaurant that we think fits both bills is Postcards Cafe in Hanalei. We broke into this superb spot on a Sunday night right as it opened to kick off Doug’s birthday. One glance at their simple, straightforward menu was all that it took... well, that and the restaurant’s quaint “Old Hawaii” charm. (Nestled inside a replica of the small 1860s plantation cottage that once served as the town’s museum, Postcards Cafe is awash in warm shades of red and green; a comfortable setting at once elegant, and simple.)
Priding themselves on their use of organic ingredients and locally grown produce, Postcards Cafe has been serving up gourmet seafood and vegetarian dishes for almost 20 years! Yep, you read that right - seafood and vegetarian only. You’ll find no poultry or meat on this menu - not that you’d miss it. The international-inspired menu segues effortlessly from one world cuisine to the next without missing a beat.
After chowing down on a few baskets of that incredible bread (!), your Set of Drifters started with the kick-ass “Postcards Platter,” an artful mélange of spice-crusted seared ahi, crab cakes, taro fritters and seafood-filled “rockets” with curry sauce. Accompanying the non-traditional pupus were a trio of zesty chutneys and sauces! Simply delicious. We continued onward with a hearty caesar salad topped off by a crisp “parmesan cloud,” before indulging in “the Sorrento,” a fusilli pasta dish emboldened by shrimp, fish and mushrooms. Of course, with so much intriguing food before us, you knew we’d need something to wash it all down with. May we recommend a little hibiscus white sangria?
Now, no visit to Postcards cafe can be complete without a taste of one of their exquisite desserts. A “Happy Birthday” was definitely had by Doug upon arrival of the Coconut Caramel Sundae, a coconut-encrusted scoop of macadamia ice cream drizzled in salted caramel sauce! Are you kidding us?
Set of Drifters tip: Are you vegan? Postcards aims to please. Ask your friendly server about the possible customization of your meal.
Postcards Cafe - 5 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, HI 96714, (808) 826-1191
Gaylord’s at Kilohana (Kauai)
Our final meal from our Fall 2012 trip to Kauai was enjoyed at Gaylord’s, the inviting indoor/ outdoor restaurant located at the main house of the extensive Kilohana Plantation. An ode to bygone “Old Hawaii,” the 1930s-era estate beams throughout with Art Deco pride, as seen in its polished woodworking, floor-to-ceiling beveled mirrors and period furniture purchased originally from Gump’s! And that’s just the interiors. Dine for lunch or Sunday brunch at Gaylord’s, and you’ll be rewarded with unfurled views out to Mt. Wai’ale’ale!
Named after the patriarch who built Kilohana, Gaylord’s has been impressing critics and “foodies” ever since its inception in 1986. With support from a 67-acre on-site sustainable farm, many of the menu’s inventive dishes and, yes, cocktails feature fresh, often seasonal ingredients! (We chose the blueberry & sage martini and spiked plantation iced tea - for starters!) As for the main course, Gaylord’s delivers every time out with food that almost doubles as art. Quite honestly, the red wine braised beef short-rib "dip" was one of the best sandwiches we’ve ever tried. Set of Drifters tip: Save room for dessert; those sugary fritters with vanilla whipped cream and coffee anglaise were to die for!
If you’ve run out of things to do in Kauai (highly unlikely), you could do a lot worse than spend an entire day at Kilohana. We loved browsing in the shops located in the main house - even if the hefty price tags kept us from buying anything. Our favorite boutique was Cane Field Clothing & Gallery. Here, innovative takes on classic souvenir ideas will ensure special gifts for friends back home. Elsewhere, high-end Ni’ihau shell necklaces, rare coins and Hawaiian Monarchy documents will soften even the most jaded collector. Be sure to also check out Koloa Rum’s on-site tasting room, perhaps right before boarding the charming Kauai Plantation Railway, a fully-narrated tour of the estate’s 105-acres aboard a 1939 Whitcomb Diesel Engine train!
Gaylord’s at Kilohana - 3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI 96766, (808) 245-9593, http://www.gaylordskauai.com/index.html
Cane Field Clothing & Gallery (located within the Kilohana Plantation main house) - 3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, # E, Lihue, HI 96766, (808) 245-5608, http://www.kauai.com/canefieldclothing
Hanamalu Restaurant Tea House & Sushi Bar (Kauai)
If you haven’t figured it out by now, we love vintage restaurants, especially when the food being served is purported as exotic. So you can imagine our thrill at spotting from the side of the road, Hanamalu’s 1950s-era tea house and sushi bar on our way back from Waimea Canyon (see "sights"). Oddly, sushi seems to be in short supply in Kauai, and by our 6th day on the island we had been jonesing for it!
We happened to arrive at Hanamalu in the middle of some private party where dozens of parents were doing their best to corral school-aged children from the restaurant’s inviting backyard garden. We must admit the setting was rather nice, complete with a number of koi ponds, Japanese-style pagodas and footbridges. Because it was somewhat late in the evening, our hostess eschewed us through the restaurant’s more mundane “sushi bar” section and placed us in one of the more traditional rooms where you take your off shoes. Hand-carved wooden friezes and rice-paper wall dividers helped to finish off the fantastic Japanese-retro decor.
We quickly ordered some beer, bento meals and several sushi rolls and we were quite happy to be served tea even without asking for it. (Sometimes it’s the little things that make a restaurant so special.) Luckily, at Hanamalu, the food is not upstaged by the warming ambiance. Our dinner was wholly satisfying, with a special nod going out to the sushi. Sashimi and the like always seems to taste better when served in a location where you know the water quality is good and the fish catch is fresh.
While we would have gladly stayed longer to linger over a dessert of green tea ice cream, we suddenly realized, at only 9:00 PM, that we were the last people in the restaurant! Set of Drifters tip: If you are looking for late night parties, Kauai is not the place. In fact, a young couple of transplants to Kauai at the next table over told us that most restaurants and bars on the island close early so that locals can spend as much time during the day enjoying nature! Hey, we’re all for enjoying nature, but where does a dude get a drink around here? (See “Tahiti Nui” in “sips” for the answer.)
Hanamalu Restaurant Tea House & Sushi Bar - 3-4291 Kuhio Highway, Lihue, HI 96766, (808) 245-2511
Neide’s Salsa & Samba (Kauai)
On the last night of our 2012 trip to Kauai, we were certainly ready for a little change. (How much pineapple can one eat in a week? Too much, apparently.) Our party decided on Hanalei as our final destination, partly because the town was only a hop, skip and a jump away from where we were staying in Princeville, but mostly because it has proven to be the most special village on the island.
Checking out the wait for a nearby tapas joint, we happened upon Neide’s Salsa & Samba by accident, a happy one at that. We were first drawn in by the incredible greenery that abutted the restaurant’s small patio. From here, spreading views out to the Hanalei Wildlife Reserve were triumphed only by the double rainbow that sprang out from its lushness. (They say travelers should not depart Hawaii until they have seen at least one double rainbow. I guess it truly was our time to leave the following day.)
A cursory glance at Neide’s menu was perhaps a bit confusing... Did they really have the gall to tout authentic Brazilian and Mexican fare even while located inside a Hawaiian shopping mall? The answer is happily yes. In fact, namesake Neide hails from Brazil originally, even though she has resided in Hawaii for over 14 years! As head chef, her takes on classic Brazilian dishes are a nice, and welcomed, departure from the Polynesian flair that permeates so much of the island. We suspect the addition of Mexican staples such as burritos, tostadas and chimichangas are intended just as much for the locals as they are for the tourists.
From the Brazilian menu, we suggest either the panqueca (crepes filled with vegetables, chicken or beef and then draped in Neide's special sauce), or the ensopado, a stew comprised of chicken, carrots and potatoes in a spicy Brazilian sauce. Served with rice and beans, sinner portions of both dishes are hearty, and you may want to consider sharing. Fresh fish tacos on the Mexican menu are also a sure bet. They’re served with in a warm tortilla with all the fixings you might imagine south of the border.
What we liked best about Neide’s, aside from the grand view, were the prices! With most dishes under $15, you can afford an extra cocktail, or three! Neide’s Salsa & Samba is open daily from 11:30 AM until closing (dependant on season). Happy hour occurs from 3:00 PM until 5:00 PM with special deals on drinks and pupu appetizers.
Neide’s Salsa & Samba (located within the Hanalei Center) - 5-5161 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, HI 96714, (808) 826-1851
Beach House Restaurant (Kauai)
When we first arrived on Kauai’s South Shore, it’s no overstatement to say that we had entered into a paradise. Golden sun. Swaying palm trees. The perfect temperature. But it simply could not be! Was that perfectly-manicured lawn at Lawa’i really real? Perhaps the gorgeous blue waves and white sandy beach had created some sort of mirage for us all.
We’re happy to report the answer is a big, fat “nope.” This paradise is all real. And perhaps the best spot to soak it all in from is Poipu’s Beach House Restaurant, the ultimate oceanside bar and grill. A favorite for years of Brady’s family, and countless Kauai food critics, the indoor/ outdoor Beach House Restaurant certainly lives up to its award-winning reputation - partly for the food and drink of course, but most notably for that view! We dare you: just try NOT to snap a photo - or 30!
But we digress. Back to the food... In his light, savory offerings, Executive Chef Marshall Blanchard uses fresh-caught island fish and local-reared beef and vegetables, creating dishes that are just as good to look at as they are to eat! Some of our favorites from his mostly “Pacific Rim”-inspired menu included the fish, scallops and tiger prawn ceviche (served in a half coconut), the watermelon salad with baby greens, caramelized macadamia nuts and raspberry vinaigrette, and the wasabi crusted fresh island catch, served with lilikoi lemongrass beurre blanc! Geez, we’re getting hungry just thinking about it. Now, if any of this sounds too grandiose, don’t worry your pretty little pineapples. An assortment of grilled sandwiches, sashimi and sushi - even decadent burgers round out Blanchard’s deliciousness!
And don’t forget the drinks! The Beach House bar is famous for their classic Mai Tais and other more inventive treats like the Coconut Mojito or the Banana Mac Nut Delight. The latter is concocted out of Irish cream and banana liqueur, then blended with fresh bananas!
During our September 2012 visit to the Beach House Restaurant, the only downer was courtesy a rather gruff waitress who, originally from the mainland, did not have as much “Aloha” as we would have liked. Nevertheless, we would still recommend it. Quite simply, there is no better place to take in the lulling warm tropical breezes that accompany one of the most staggering views around! Set of Drifters tip: Though this is the perfect place to start and end your day, don’t forget to bring your board! Lawa’i Beach offers some of the best surfing on Kauai. (See “beaches” in “sights” for more information.) The Beach House Restaurant is open for lunch from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM daily, with light fare following until 5:30 PM when dinner begins. Both the dining room and bar are open until 10:00 PM.
Beach House Restaurant - Beach House Restaurant, 5022 Lawa’i Road, Koloa, HI 96756, (808) 742-1424
Wahooo Seafood Grill & Bar (Kauai)
Don’t let this restaurant’s name (three “o’s,” really?), or its inclusion near a strip mall fool you. Wahooo Seafood Grill & Bar serves some of the tastiest meals on Kauai. And if you have read any of our other restaurant recommendations above, that’s saying a lot. Located on the southern tip of Kapa’a, this colorful little spot abuts a picturesque palm grove that’ll quickly tempt shutterbugs into submission. (The illustrious, and ruinous, Coco Palms is attached to the palm acreage on the southern end - see “sights” for more information.)
We stopped in for a late lunch one afternoon, and were treated with what we believe to be the best “Aloha” on Kauai. Our host/ waitress was so friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable about her island home that we left with a better understanding of Hawaiian culture - and the people who make up its rich fabric. Now, how often can you say that about a typical “bar and grill?” (Trust us, not often.)
We started off with a few large ‘n frothy cocktails whose names we can’t quite remember. (Set of Drifters tip: Just ask for the “Bartender's choice.”) Next up was a delicious poke salad (local fresh fish served over mixed greens and crispy won-tons with sweet rice vinaigrette and wasabi aioli). The perfect accompaniment to our liquid and seafood appetizers, a duo of hearty sandwiches followed. Doug tried the fresh ahi with herbs and guava basil spread (served alongside a ramekin of pineapple papaya relish), while I opted for the BLT & C (bacon, lettuce, tomato and snow crab salad pressed between two slices of homemade sourdough bread). We recommend saving room for dessert. Lead chef John Borales, Jr.’s “Caramel Custard” (vanilla bean custard enhanced with cinnamon and orange rind then iced with raspberry caramel glaze) is a hit!
Wahooo Seafood Grill & Bar is open for lunch and dinner daily, though we are not certain of exact times. Happy Hour is noted on their website as 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM, and during these hours you can expect a plethora of pupus and tropical drinks at discounted prices. ($5 Mai Tais? We’re so there.) Live music courtesy of Kanile’a is also on tap Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 6:00 PM until 8:30 PM.
Set of Drifters tip: While checking out Wahooo and its adjacent palm grove, don’t forget to look for “Tony’s Goats.” What are Tony’s Goats, you ask? Oh please, can’t we just leave you with a little mystery!
Wahooo Seafood Grill & Bar - 4-733 Kuhio Highway, Kapa’a, HI 96746, (808) 822-7833
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and Oku’s Sushi Bar (Maui)
Your Set of Drifters pretty much love anything Japanese. And right up top of that list is sushi... sashimi... uh, Japanese beers... yakitori... and kobe beef! All of these delectables, and oh so much more, can be had at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and Oku’s Sushi Bar on Maui. Serving Lahaina for over 26 years, Kobe is the more sophisticated cousin of the ever-popular teppan-style chain Benihana’s. Though that being said, if you’re the kind of “event diner” who still longs to watch your table-side chef pop shrimps into his hat, we promise you won’t be disappointed. Like Benihana’s, this is a “special event” kind of restaurant, and you’re sure to see any number of nearby groups celebrating a reunion, anniversary or some such nonsense.
Prices at Kobe are all over the map depending on how creative you want to get with your meal. While some sushi items and teppan dinners won’t impact your budget too much, others could make this your “big night out” on Maui! (Lobster Tail combos will set you back $58 USD). Either way, one thing is for certain: the quality at Kobe is top-notch! And with cocktails only $7.50 USD, you really can’t go wrong! My stomach is growling just thinking about this place.
Kobe chefs chop up your veggies, chicken and shrimp nightly from 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM, with “Super Sunset Specials” until 6:00 PM. Set of Drifters tip: Toddy Lilikoi hosts dancing and karaoke every Friday and Saturday night at 9:30 PM. Heading to Oahu? Kobe’s first outpost resides here in Honolulu!
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and Oku’s Sushi Bar - 136 Dickenson Street, Lahaina, HI 96761, (808) 667-5555, http://www.kobemaui.com/
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse - 1841 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96815, (808) 941-4444, http://www.honolulukobe.com/
Keoki’s Paradise (Kauai)
Normally, your Set of Drifters do not stop for chain restaurants. So how did we end up at Keoki’s Paradise in Kauai? The answer is simple. T’s Restaurants, the geniuses behind a 13-strong family of similarly-themed grub spots, have used different names for many of their outfits found in California and Hawaii. You may even know some of them. (“Duke’s” operates out of Malibu, Huntington Beach, Ka’anapali, Waikiki, and Kalapaki Beach respectively.)
We were pulled off the road in Poipu simply by Keoki’s retro-80s luau resort architecture and signage. Though many might find this exact setting a bit off-putting, it was precisely what we had been hungering for all week long prior.
We popped in to sample some of Keoki’s basic, yet tasty, bar foods - and naturally, a few scrumptious tropical drinks. Try the Holua Sliders, a trio of sandwiches that include crab cake, BBQ Kalua pork and a mini-cheeseburger. They’ll go nice with the Ahi Poke Tostadas - served with crisp wontons, edamame puree, and a wasabi drizzle. And don’t forget the “Blue Thyme” from the bar. This blueberry vodka and red wine concoction is blended with local thyme and a hint of lemon juice!
Ultimately, with a clever use of indoor and outdoor space, we were quite impressed by Keoki’s relaxed atmosphere that still managed to pack a “paradise”-like punch. The Dining Room of Keoki’s Paradise is open daily from 4:45 PM until 9:30 PM (reservations are recommended), while the Bamboo Cafe is open for lunch from 11:00 AM until 10:30 PM. Set of Drifters tip: Be on the lookout for cats nipping at your crumbs. These feisty little guys were alllllmost as bold as the ones from Tunisia!
One the way out, Set of Drifter Brady was somewhat stunned to discover a T’s postcard that listed all of the restaurants they managed throughout Hawaii. In fact, he had already been to two of them on Maui: Kimo’s (for fine seafood in Lahaina) and Leilani’s On The Beach (best for stunning sunset views). If you are looking for some go-to spots that provide quality food in line with their price range, any of these watering holes should suit you fine. (Keep in mind that “dining room” prices will be considerably higher than those found at the bars.)
Keoki’s Paradise (located within the Poipu Shopping Village) - 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive, Koloa, Kauai, HI 96756, (808) 742-7534, http://www.keokisparadise.com/
Kimo’s - 845 Front Street, Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761, (808) 661-4811, http://www.kimosmaui.com/
Leilani’s On The Beach (inside Whaler’s Village Shopping Center) - 2435 Kaʻanapali Beachwalk, Ka’anapali, Maui, HI 96761, (808) 661-4495, http://www.leilanis.com/
We also recommend:
Don The Beachcomber at the Royal Kona Resort (Big Island) - 75-5852 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, (808) 329-3111, http://www.royalkona.com/Dining.cfm
Island Lava Java (Big Island) - 75-5799 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, (808) 327-2161,http://www.islandlavajava.com/
The Fish Hopper (Big Island) - 75-5683 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, (808) 326-2002, http://www.fishhopper.com/kona/
Cafe Pesto (Big Island) - 308 Kamehameha Avenue, #101, Hilo, HI 96720, (808) 969-6640, http://cafepesto.com/
Daylight Mind Restaurant and Coffee Company (Big Island) - 75-5770 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, (808) 339-7824, http://daylightmind.com/
Da Poke Shack (Big Island) - 76-6246 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, (808) 329-7653, http://dapokeshack.com/
Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery (Big Island) - 55-3415 Akoni Pule Hwy, Hawi, HI 96719, (808) 889-5555, http://www.bamboorestaurant.info/