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Bring your appetite

Our restaurant survey revealed 20 bargains on Kauai, an island known for its higher-than-average dining prices. The secret? Eat what the locals eat, including traditional Hawaiian fare.

November 30, 2008|Rosemary McClure | McClure is a freelance writer.

Scoping it out: Rub shoulders with politicians, agricultural workers, retirees and savvy tourists at the counters of this locally famous noodle shop, in an aging downtown section of Lihue. We tried the specialty saimin, a steaming, heaping bowl of ham, Chinese cabbage, pork won ton, roast pork and saimin noodles in a hearty pork broth ($6.50). Also terrific: the teriyaki beef or chicken sticks ($1.75). Great for lunch, but expect to wait.

We loved . . . the cultural experience and great value.

We didn't love . . . the long line.

Hamura's Saimin, 2956 Kress St., Lihue; (808) 245-3271.

13. Lihue Barbecue Inn

Price: $11.95 to $25.95

Scoping it out: Take a step into the past at Lihue Barbecue Inn, where Mildred Sasaki believes in giving customers value for their money. A typical dinner plate special: chicken, shrimp and spare ribs with soup or fruit cup, beverage, bread and cream pie. The cost: $11.95. The Sasaki family opened the restaurant 68 years ago, and now Sasaki runs it with daughter Donna Muramota. The food isn't fancy, but it's filling and a real bargain.

We loved . . . getting a three-course meal for less than $12.

We didn't love . . . that it's closed in the middle of the day.

Lihue Barbecue Inn, 2982 Kress St., Lihue; (808) 245-2921.

14. Mark's Place

Price: $3.25 to $7.95

Scoping it out: Construction workers line up here each day to score a bountiful plate lunch. "They say all you have to do then is find a tree to take a nap under," says chef Mark Oyama, whose plate lunches are among the most popular on the island. The Lihue location opened 10 years ago and is in an industrial park because Oyama thought he would do only catering. (He caters many weddings and other events.) But the takeout lunch business is great, and three years ago he opened a tiny storefront near Poipu. Family dinner specials range from $26.95 to $31 and will feed four.

We loved . . . the beef teriyaki, made of sweet, succulent top sirloin.

We didn't love . . . lack of seating if you want to eat in.

Mark's Place, 1610 Haleukana St., Lihue, (808) 245-2722; and 23687 Kaimua Highway, Lawai, (808) 332-0050.

15. Keoki's Paradise

Price: $5.50 to $13.95

Scoping it out: Most of the restaurants we list here are local favorites -- places where you'll mingle with residents and dine on regional foods. Keoki's Paradise isn't one of those. It's where you'll meet other tourists. But it's fun anyway. A waterfall runs through the middle, dropping into a lagoon; a palapa-style thatched roof covers the bar; tiki torches burn; a giant banyan tree shades a bamboo forest. Keoki's is really two restaurants. Ask for seating in the Bamboo Hut Bar, which is family-friendly -- and affordable -- and offers such items as nachos, ribs, fish and chips. It's not gourmet, but in Poipu, where expensive restaurants reign, Keoki's Paradise is a breath of fresh air.

We loved . . . the tropical atmosphere.

We didn't love . . . the line outside and slow service inside.

Keoki's Paradise, 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive, Poipu (Poipu Shopping Village); (808) 742-7535,

16. Sheraton Kauai Point

Price: $8 to $15

Scoping it out: Watch a golden sun sink into a crashing sea while you celebrate the good life with an umbrella drink and an order of kalua pork nachos at this indoor-outdoor resort restaurant in Poipu. The salads, sandwiches and appetizers here fit into our budget, but if you indulge in multiple tropical drinks, you may have to go hungry for a day. But, oh, the joy of sitting on an oceanfront patio sipping a mojito or a mai tai as you listen to the surf and the rustle of palm trees.

We loved . . . the location and the kalua nachos ($13).

We didn't love . . . the drink prices (beer is $5, tropicals are in the $9 range).

Sheraton Kauai Point, 2440 Hoonani Road, Poipu Beach; (808) 742-1661,

17. Sueoka's Store and Snack Shop

Price: $1.95 to $5

Scoping it out: You can pay $40 for lunch in some of Poipu's pricey restaurants, but at Sueoka's Snack Shop, about three miles away, you can get a burger for $1.95 and a plate lunch -- meat or fish with rice and potato/macaroni salad -- for $4.75. The snack shop, next to the market, isn't much to look at, but the fare is hearty and oh-so-cheap. And you can pick up some groceries while you're here.

We loved . . . the prices, which were the lowest we found on the island.

We didn't love . . . trash cans and other parking lot refuse where you order food.

Sueoka's Snack Shop, 5392 Koloa Road, Koloa; (808) 742-1112.

18. Koloa Fish Market

Price: $6.75 to $9.75

Scoping it out: If you're looking for fresh fish to grill or eat, Koloa Fish Market is the place. Hook a deal on swordfish, yellowfin, moonfish, wahoo and smoked fish such as marlin, salmon and ahi. Or try a cold or hot plate to go; the menu varies day to day. When we visited, there were four entree plates, including sauteed ahi for $7.75.

We loved . . . that the fish is just-off-the-boat fresh.

We didn't love . . . the length of the line.

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