Polynesian Cafe: Economical choice
Since this is a tourist town, prices are a bit more than you would expect in other areas. Polynesian Cafe seems to have found a market for reasonably priced food here. The place looks like a taco stand; there isn't indoor seating and you have to eat on tables in the middle of a somewhat grimy area of shops right off the main road. But if you don't mind that, and eating with paper and plastic, then you should be OK. The $5 lunch specials are an especially good deal. I had the pork plate, as close to Hawaiian food as you will find here, and it was just fine (a little salty, but that is what you get with this kind of food).
There is also a gazebo type platform with tables and chairs where you can eat. Don't expect any memorable views, however.
- Food and Dining
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Polynesia Cafe: Variety and Freshness
Located in the Ching Young Center, this breezy cafe has a varied menu utilizing fresh ingredients including local specialties (kalua pig sandwich), seafood (fresh fish specials), and a few Mexican dishes. Their concept is gourmet on a paper plate and the menu items look like they take that to heart. On the occassion of our visit I was just a bit hungry between meals so I only bought a blueberry muffin from the large case of baked goodies. It was a good muffin as muffins go. And a decent cup of coffee to go with it. The vibe is definitely casual with limited seating with an openess to the outside that allows the breeze to filter through. It's an atmosphere that goes well with the location and surroundings. We'll definitely eat lunch or dinner there the next time we come to Hanalei.
Tahiti Nui: Great little Hawaiian roadhouse
This one one of our favorite places on all Kauai. It isn't a fancy restaurant, it is actually very casual. And while the food is good, there is better on the island. What Tahiti Nui has more than any other place is an authentic feel. We were here three or four times and always got friendly - but not the fastest - service. It really has the feel of a locals' place.
There is often live music, and one night we were there a group of students from town were playing Hawaiian music. Their friends and family were there to support them, and there was not doubt that this was a friendly gathering spot, not just a business. Later the adults took the stage, and along with the beautiful music, the musicians had a comfortable rapport with the crowd all through the evening.
- Family Travel
- Food and Dining
Bubba's: Claim to be the best for burgers
Bubba's has two places on Kauai, one here in Hanalei and another in Kapaa. We only went to the one here. There aren't a lot of restaurants in Hanalei, and Bubba's always seemed to have a line of patrons waiting, so one day during our trip we decided to try it. It's located in a pretty little building right in the middle of town.
We won't go back. My wife said it was the worst food she's ever had in Hawaii, and that is saying a lot since she's been to Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai and the Big Island. If we're getting a burger, or chicken sandwich in her case, and expect anything more than the minimum, we'll want a decent bun and condiments. All they have here are soft factory buns, condiments out of a squirt can, etc. The fries were nothing special and a little greasy. Also, the service was slow - I guess that's why the lines are long.
Yes, their prices aren't too bad for Hawaii, but really, you can do better.
- Road Trip
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Java Kai: Great local coffee shop
This is a great place. Good atmosphere with outdoor deck seating, friendly service, a great variety of specialty drinks and bakery snacks. We were there several times during our stay and it seemed to be very popular with the locals.
The T-shirts they sell are nice too.
Favorite Dish: Maui Mocha. Try it.
- Road Trip
Hanalei Dolphin: Restaurant and Fish Market
The Dolphin has been a part of Hanalei since 1977. It is perched right on the Hanalei River with both indoor and outdoor seating. On beautiful days, take a table next to the river to enjoy the view.
My favorite part of this restaurant is the fish market located in the back. It has a private entrance on the outside of the building. There are daily fish specials and different types of sushi rolls and sashmi. Often, we'll buy fish, bring it back to our resort (Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena) and grill it up ourselves. Or, we'll buy sashimi and have a wonderful salad with either sashmi on it or seared tuna.
The price is quickly going up for the restaurant, but it's definitely worth the trip.
Favorite Dish: The seafood chowder. It's thick, creamy and full of yummie goodness! (scallops, shrimp, calamari and clams in white sauce)
Wake up Cafe: For those early risers
This was one of the places around here that opens early. Maybe because it caters to locals and surfers.
The food here was good but the portions were small (by Hawaiian standards) We ordered a side of portuguese sausage and they gave us 3 little pieces!~
The service was good and friendly and the place was clean and cozy. You can eat outside or inside.
The restaurant is located in a little shopping center.
Java Kai: Coffee, Smoothies, and More
Get your coffee fix here! They also have fresh baked good, smoothies, and teas. I highly recommend the Aloha Bar: toasted coconut, macadamia nuts and chocolate chips on a shortbread cookie crust. A great way to start your morning!
Favorite Dish: Kona coffee, aloha bar!
Kalypso Island Bar & Grill: Casual Dining
A nice casual setting in town with American fare with a Hawaiian twist. Lots of fresh seafood items, interesting drink menu, full bar, and veranda seating. A nice place to have a drink and pupus on the veranda and watch the world go by on the main drag through Hanalei. Itrems we especially liked included the opakapaka burger, fried artichoke hearts, and the coconut shrimp. The fish taco was just OK. I've had much better in southern California.
Open for lunch and dinner and a children's menu.
Favorite Dish: Fried artichoke hearts, opakapaka burger. For a drink choice, try the Shaka Rita.
Zelo's Beach House: Slightly Overrated
The ambiance of this restaurant was better than the food. The Hawaiian decor, especially the burning Tiki torches in the front make it seem like a really enticing place to have a nice meal, and it's not that bad, just not that good.
Favorite Dish: We ordered two appetizers, artichoke hearts and calamari, neither of which were good. I had coconut shrimp which were small and overcooked. The only redeeming quality was the sauce that they were served with. Nate had some sort of fried fish which was also not good. The only meal at the table that was good was the fresh catch from the specials board that my friend Jules ordered.
Hanalei Gormet: Hanalei Gormet
Hanalei Gormet had some of the best food that we had while on the Island. It's kind of a hole-in-the wall place that would be easy to miss if you weren't looking. Though the place must have a good reputation, because it was packed both times that we went there. The menu was pretty simple with a relatively small selection of burgers, sandwiches and salads and the prices were comparable to anything else in the area.
Favorite Dish: The Waldorf Salad was soooooo good!! Highly recommended, even if you don't normally enjoy this kind of salad. They put a slight twist on the original recipe I think because I wouldn't have even tried it had it not been for the suggestion of a friend.
The fish and Chips were also really good.
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