You’ll find that the Zogs are not the fanciest of folks. It’s not that we don’t have our moments of feigning pretentiousness, but I think Sir Zog and I agree pretty solidly that cheap eats are our favorites.
We just returned from Kauai, the one geographical location that has been a constant in my life from birth. Chris has felt like a local from the moment he first stepped off the plane on our first trip together – to the point of picking up the tonality of local lingo.
Anyway, without further ado, here is our list of must-eats when on the island. Some of these are things I’ve been eating for my 31 years, and others are newly found.
- Malasadas from the Kmart lady: She sells out quickly and doesn’t keep the most regular of hours. Her little stand is currently located outside of Kmart, and her posted hours (I believe), are 10a-2pm or so. If a cruise ship comes in, she sells out super fast. We always get the box special. Nothing beats a fresh malasada. Super-amazing dough pull, a beautifully confusing outer crust that has a little crunch post-fry that softens with time, all rolled in your choice of sugar or cinnamon sugar. A-MAZ-ING.
- Noodles from Hamura’s Saimin: This is a newer favorite. My family has been eating ramen/saimin for as long as I can remember. I guess I grew up on cheap eats as well. Certainly, my affection for noodles has turned my chopstick skills into that of a semi-pro.
- “Hawaiian” pizza from Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana: My favorite for super fresh tasting pizza. The “Island Stylin’” pizza also comes with chipotle paste, so if you don’t like heat, order it without. This bakery is also gluten-free friendly, so if you have Celiac’s disease or are avoiding gluten, this is your mecca.
- A “Lava Flow“: We aren’t alcohol drinkers, so these are virgin in our case. Our favorite restaurant/bar is no longer but you can find these at pretty much any bar on the island. Essentially a strawberry colada, but better.
- Fruit from the farmer’s market: If you go to Kauai, and buy your produce at the grocery store, I feel sorry for you. You are missing out on one of my favorite activities (and one of the most rewarding palate-wise) for Kauai. My family has been going to the Kilauea farmer’s market the longest but we recently started going to the Hanalei farmer’s market on Saturdays. Be prepared for a line 30 minutes prior to the opening. However, I have a great way on item 6 for you to help bide your time. Make sure to taste as much as possible while you are there. The sellers are happy to provide samples. We always buy mango, papaya, pineapple, apple bananas, lychee, longan, and occasionally some starfruit and veggies. At the Hanalei farmer’s market, you can also find some arts & crafts, Vietnamese cuisine, and baked goods.
- A waffle from Hanalei Coffee Roasters: I actually am allergic to tree nuts, so I opt out of this one. However, I can attest to the delicious scent that the waffle (and coffee house) emits. Also, I’m pretty in love with the coconut syrup that comes with your waffle. Like buttah.
- Puka Dog: A polish dog, a specially baked bun with it’s dog hole toasted, tropical relish (your choice), garlic lemon sauce, and Lilikoi (a form of passionfruit) mustard. Sweet, salty perfection.
- A cup of sorbetto from Papalani Gelato: Next door to Puka Dog, you will find a small gelateria. The flavors are what make this place special (and create a perfect ending to your Puka dog). My favorites are Lilikoi and Salt Pond butterscotch.
- A plate lunch or chicken katsu from Waipouli Home Kitchen: Warning – this will not be the most charming or clean place you ever visit. It is, however, cheap and tasty Hawaiian home-cooking. Comfort food. Around eleven bucks for a full plate of food. And macaroni-potato salad that I will actually eat. (which is saying something)
- Barbecue from Chicken in a Barrel BBQ: Hawaiians love their barbecue – for good reason – they’re good at it. Chicken in a Barrel BBQ is a simple, outdoor joint. Sit on a picnic bench and either watch the cars drive by or walk a little further and watch the ocean. Awesome smoke flavor – no sauce needed.
Okay, here’s a bonus: No. 1 Chinese Barbecue. It’s not fancy. It’s good bad Chinese/Local food. And it’s a chain. You can order off of the menu or get what’s hot in the buffet steam row. The pepper chicken, orange, chicken, and teri-steak are personal favorites. And I always appreciate when fried rice is not simply rice with a little color.