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Reviews:  Kauai Eats - Mostly on the Cheap

Reviews: Kauai Eats - Mostly on the Cheap

avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 08/23/2017
Posted On 05/04/2018 20:19:53

Destinations | Reviews | Hawaii | Kauai | Dining | Restaurants | Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner | Budget

After four days of overeating while on Maui, our goal was to cut back on both the amount that we ate as well as what we spent on dining during our seven days on Kauai. We had some leftover groceries which we made into several breakfasts that we ate in our hotel room, and a Google search led us to some budget friendly restaurants at which we often ate in the late afternoon.

Dinner at Bubba's Burgers

4-1421 Kuhio Hwy.; Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746

Just a short jaunt down the road from our hotel, Bubba's Burgers was a quick and budget friendly burger restaurant. The menu was displayed above the counter where we placed our order (just past the entrance), and once prepared, our order was waiting at the pick-up counter along with self-serve ketchup for our fries. We were a little earlier than the regular dinner crowd, so there was no wait, and we had our choice of tables. (There was a line of people waiting to order that extended beyond the door when we were leaving the restaurant, so they do get busy during peak dinner hours.) The restaurant had inside tables as well as seating on the outside deck (our choice). The temperature outside was comfortable, and looking beyond the sports field, we had a view of the ocean.

In addition to our burgers (Scott stuck with the traditional 1/6 pound Bubba Burger while I chose the Teriyaki Burger with mayo, onion and teriyaki sauce), we each had a soft drink (no free refills) and shared an order of fries. The service was quick, the burgers were good, but by no means qualified as a gourmet burger, and the price was right ($18.50 for dinner for two) - this was our cheapest meal of the week. I considered ordering a shake as I had read that they were great, however I prefer more exotic flavors than the chocolate, vanilla and strawberry choices on the menu.

Burgers, Fries and More at Bubba's

Burgers, Fries and More at Bubba's

Breakfast at Safeway Deli

4-831 Kuhio Hwy.; Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746

The burritos at Safeway don't really qualify as Mexican food (or even Tex-Mex), and they certainly were not "local food", but they were a relatively inexpensive and quite filling breakfast. For $3.99 per breakfast burrito, we could choose yellow or white egg with potatoes, meat (sausage, bacon or ham), and a choice of cheeses, all rolled into a large flour tortilla. They offered made to order burritos, or for quicker grab and go service, there were some pre-made sausage burritos, however they were noticeably smaller than the custom-made burritos. We've ordered these same burritos at our home Randall's (a subsidiary of Safeway) on multiple occasions for $2.99 each, and in both cities, the burrito looked and tasted quite different depending on the cook. The downside was that there was only one outside table where we could eat, but for the speed, price and convenience (very close to our Courtyard by Marriott Kaua'i at Coconut Beach hotel), we ate these breakfast burritos on two occasions.

Lunch / Dinner at Da Crack

2827 Poipu Road; Koloa, Kauai, HI 96756

On the day that we explored southern Kauai, Da Crack was a convenient lunch / dinner option, so we gave it a try. Of all of the meals that we ate during our week on Kauai (excluding breakfast), this was our least favorite. Our food was by no means bad, and the meal cost was among the lowest ($22.50 for both of us), yet the restaurant didn't make the top of our list primarily due to the atmosphere. We placed our order at an outside window, and luckily one of the benches had space on which the two of us could sit to eat. We were both successful at eating while balancing our meals on our laps and taking as needed sips of our canned soft drinks which we placed on the concrete sidewalk - and we never accidentally kicked them over! There were people nearby eating meals from Da Crack or other restaurants in the strip center - some were as lucky as we were to find a bench, while others were either standing or sitting on the concrete.

Although there were a lot of choices, the layout of the menu posted right next to the window where we ordered helped to simplify our decisions for what appeared to be the most commonly ordered menu items:

  • Burrito, bowl or tacos (corn or flour)
  • Meat (price was based on selection of chicken, pork, beef, fish, shrimp, or veggies)
  • Rice (Mexican or brown) and beans (black or pinto)
  • Sauce (mild, hot, lava or pico de gallo)
  • Toppings (cheese, cabbage, olives, guacamole and/or sour cream - plain, chipotle or wasabi)

Scott's two chicken soft flour tacos with Mexican rice and pinto beans were served in a styrofoam container, while my two chicken soft corn tacos with brown rice, pinto beans and hot sauce were served on a paper plate covered with foil. For some reason, my pinto beans were served without cheese - maybe because I ordered corn tortillas? The restaurant advertised that they use the freshest ingredients, and I would agree that everything that I ate tasted fresh - it was just rather difficult to eat on the provided take-out dishes with plastic utensils all while trying to balance and not spill!

Soft Tacos at Da Crack

Soft Tacos at Da Crack

Breakfast at Foodland

4-771 Kuhio Hwy.; Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746

To experience the taste of a more traditional and local breakfast, at the recommendation of an Oahu couple who we met while relaxing in the hotel hot tub, we stopped at the nearby Foodland (just a short distance from our hotel) twice during our stay. On our first visit, it took us a few minutes to figure out that the pre-packaged grab and go breakfasts were located in front of the self-serve donut display rather than in the deli area. After finding the available selections, we had to decide between the Portuguese Sausage & Spam Bento Boxes with Fried Eggs and Rice and the Spam Musubi. We both chose the bento boxes ($3.99 each after $0.30 discount for providing our phone number), and as much as I hated to admit it, I really enjoyed my breakfast - even the Spam! On our return visit, we must have slept in too late as they were sold out of the bento boxes with Spam and all that they had were Portuguese Sausage & Bacon Bento Boxes with Fried Eggs and Rice - I actually preferred the Spam, even though I thought that I despised Spam! I would definitely recommend a stop at Foodland to pick-up this quick, tasty and inexpensive breakfast - I would, however, encourage anyone who planned on stopping by the store to make a plan for an eating destination (picnic table, hotel room, etc.), as there were absolutely no tables in or near the store.

Foodland's Grab and Go Bento Boxes

Foodland's Grab and Go Bento Boxes

Dinner at Street Burger

4-369 Kuhio Hwy.; Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746

Since we didn't go wrong with our Foodland breakfast experience, we had dinner at Street Burger, also recommended by the Oahu couple that we met in the hotel hot tub. Of all of the restaurants at which we had the opportunity to dine this week, our meal here was the most expensive ($36.25 for two - even with no dessert and just ice water to drink), but it sure was filling and also very good - and I am not even a huge burger fan! The restaurant, also very close to our hotel, was quite crowded when we arrived, and upon checking in, we were told that the wait would be 20 to 25 minutes. We were provided with a menu to peruse during our slightly shorter than anticipated wait, and we had ample time to review the menu which included:

  • Beer and wine: local and craft beers on tap plus an assortment of wines
  • Firsts: ahi, veggies, cheese and soup
  • Leafy stuff: blt, caesar, farmer, greens and duck confit
  • Fries & rings: onion rings and 6 varieties of fries
  • Classic burgers: 5 traditional hamburger/cheeseburger combinations (served with sea salt fries; $2.00 to substitute green or caesar salad)
  • "Something Different " Burgers: 12 non-traditional hamburger/cheeseburger combinations (same fries / salads options as with classic burgers)

So that we could each taste more than one menu item, we decided to split two burgers - one from the classic burger collection (bacon & bbq - hardwood smoked bacon, fizzled onions, bourbon bbq and cheddar) and the other from "something different" (wailua - crispy spam, jalapeno-pineapple marmalade, teriyaki glaze and spinach). The gourmet burgers were large, perfectly cooked and very tasty, and the huge order of fries on each plate was more than enough for one person.

Although we were stuffed beyond measure, we did take a peek at the "Sweet Treats" menu as I had been salivating over the aroma of the hot donut holes rolled in cinnamon sugar from a nearby table. The Street Burger S'more (chocolate mousse, peanut butter feuilletine crunch and toasted Swiss meringue) on the menu was also calling my name, but my tummy truly had no room for another bite. I would have loved to return just for dessert, but with Street Burger being closed on Sundays and Mondays, a dessert visit never worked with our schedule.

Sharing Street Burgers

Sharing Street Burgers

Dinner at Captain Andy's Na Pali Original Sunset Dinner Sail

4353 Waialo Rd. # 1A; Eleele, Kauai, HI 96705

Captain Andy's doesn't really fall into the category of dining - it was a romantic evening on a sailboat on which dinner, dessert and an open bar were offered during our return voyage. We enjoyed a "sneaky tiki" followed by a buffet dinner which included:

  • Tossed green salad
  • Grilled flat iron steak with sour cream horseradish sauce
  • Garlic and herb grilled chicken garnished with basil, tomato & pine nuts
  • Rice pilaf
  • Grilled asparagus
  • Lime cheesecake topped with whipped cream
  • Beer, wine, "sneaky tikis", soft drinks and water

The meal was prepared by a catering company, delivered to the boat before we sailed away and kept at the appropriate temperature until serving time. I tried a little bit of each dish offered, and everything tasted very good.

Dining aboard the Sailboat Akialoa

Dining aboard the Sailboat Akialoa

Dinner at Mariachi's Authentic Mexican Cuisine

4-1387 Kuhio Hwy.; Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746

As it was quite near our hotel, we drove past Mariachi's nearly every day, and with my love of Mexican food, Scott agreed to give this cash only restaurant a try late one afternoon to break up our rainy return to our hotel. (We actually were hoping to visit for breakfast one morning as we were having withdrawals since our weekly breakfast taco regimen was interrupted while traveling, but it was difficult due to the timing of our planned activities.)

We arrived during happy hour (2:00 PM - 5:00 PM), so I took advantage of the special pricing by ordering the Small Nachos ($7.00 during happy hour / $9.75 standard appetizer price). Although I only ordered an appetizer, the tortilla chips topped with ground beef, cheese, guacamole, pickled jalapenos, beans and sour cream were enough for a light meal - and I had room for dessert, which doesn't happen often! Scott took advantage of the one all-day breakfast item on the menu, the breakfast burrito (the full breakfast menu was available from 8:00 AM to 12:00 NOON). Priced at $9.25, the flour tortilla was stuffed with scrambled eggs, rice, beans and bacon (other options were chorizo or ham), and Scott was happy with his "breakfast for dinner" choice.

While I really enjoyed my nachos, I have to confess that the best part of our meal was the two desserts that we shared. After reviewing the menu, we ordered one sopapilla and one apple burrito a la mode. Both the presentation and, more importantly, the taste of the two desserts were magnificent! Although we devoured every last bite of both desserts, our favorite, hands down, was the apple burrito a la mode. Dessert and gratuities included, our bill totaled $35.00 (cash only) for the two of us.

Sharing Dessert at Mariachi's

Sharing Dessert at Mariachi's

Dinner at Puka Dog

2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr.; Koloa, Kauai, HI 96756

Our dinner at Puka Dog was definitely meant to be - as we pulled into the Poipu Shopping Village for a "dog", a commercial for the restaurant began playing on the radio! Hot dogs are truly my least favorite of all foods, so needless to say, I was a little apprehensive about our meal at this highly recommended establishment. Fortunately, there were lots of ways to customize each order, so my hope was that I could disguise the taste of the dog.

The restaurant was an open air venue near a large courtyard in the outdoor shopping village. As we approached the counter, we were greeted by a couple of young men ready to help us through the ordering process and make recommendations as requested. Our choices included:

  • Dog: polish sausage ($7.95) or veggie dog ($8.95)
  • Garlic Lemon Sauce: mild original, spicy jalapeno, hot chili pepper or lava habanero
  • Tropical Relish: mango, coconut, pineapple, banana, papaya or star fruit
  • Mustard: Hawaiian (recommended), yellow or dijon
  • Other: ketchup and / or sweet pickle relish
  • Extras: fresh squeezed lemonade ($3.50) and / or Maui Chips ($2.00)

After paying for our order ($26.00 total), we took our bag of chips (to share) along with our two lemonades and chose a table at which to sit for the short wait until our dogs were prepared according to our personal specifications. Scott chose a polish dog with mild original garlic lemon sauce, mango relish and yellow mustard and I chose a polish dog with hot chili pepper garlic lemon sauce, coconut relish and Hawaiian mustard. YUM - I'm sure that mine was better than Scott's, even though he really liked his dog!

At first glance, we could immediately tell that a Puka Dog was nothing like a traditional open-faced hot dog as the bun (a Hawaiian-style sweet bread) completely surrounded the dog as well as the sauce, relish and mustard. Secondly, it wasn't even a hot dog, so that was good news - I would not have been so concerned about this dinner had I realized that before arriving. Third, the sauce was perfectly spiced - not too much and not too little. Fourth, the coconut relish was outstanding, and finally, although I am not a huge mustard fan, the recommended Hawaiian mustard had a really nice and not too "mustardy" flavor. I was amazed at how well all of the flavors combined to make a great tasting dog, as well as how I could actually taste each of the individual ingredients. (It was also interesting to watch the preparation of each dog - to toast, the bread was "impaled" onto a heated rod which made a hole perfectly sized in which to fit the grilled dog and all additional selected ingredients.)

Puka Dogs & More!

Puka Dogs & More!

Dinner at Lihue Barbecue Inn

2982 Kress St.; Lihue, Kauai, HI 96766

On our final night in Kauai, we narrowed our dinner choices to the two remaining restaurants on the "cheap eats" list, our primary dining inspiration for the week: Island Taco or Lihue Barbecue Inn. As the latter was closer to our hotel and we'd already eaten Mexican dinners twice, yet hadn't had barbecue (Scott's favorite) since we left home, we saved the tacos for our next Kauai vacation.

The restaurant, housed in a rather non-descript building located off the main drag going through downtown Lihue, was opened in 1940 and has been going strong ever since. The meal selection was quite extensive, however ironically there was no traditional barbecue anywhere to be found on the two-sided laminated menu. What Lihue Barbecue Inn did offer, was a meal complete with several courses - soup, small salad, entree (protein plus a starch) and a dessert. The restaurant had a little bit of everything on the menu - main course options ranged from American food (Scott's choice) to Hawaiian food and Asian food (my choice). When it came to dessert, there were so many choices that I truly had trouble making a selection. Scott quickly chose a slice of macadamia nut cream pie (a dessert that I was considering), so with a little assistance from our server, I ordered a slice of coconut cream pie. While our dinner was a close second in highest total cost ($36.00 for both of us), it was hard to beat the value with all that was included in our dinner tab.

Four Course Dining at Lihue Barbecue Inn

Four Course Dining at Lihue Barbecue Inn

Although we would not refuse a return visit to any of these restaurants, if we were forced to rank the six dinner restaurants at which we dined during our week in Kauai with all things considered (portion size, taste, quality, price and ambience/dining environment), our ranking would be:

  1. Puka Dog
  2. Street Burgers
  3. Mariachi's
  4. Lihue Barbecue Inn
  5. Bubba's Burgers
  6. Da Crack
(Note: We excluded Captain Andy's as we felt that the main expense was for the sailboat excursion, rather than for our dinner.)

Recommended Restaurants for Future Maui Visits

Island Taco

2360 Kihuana Plantation Dr.; Koloa, Kauai, HI 96756 9643 Kaumuali Hwy.; Waimea, HI, Kauai. 96796

With my love of Mexican food, I want the opportunity to try the home made tortillas filled with Hawaiian flavors at one of Island Taco's two locations. Although their website says they regularly add new items, I currently have my eye on the Papaya seed Shrimp Tacos.

Street Burger

4-369 Kuhio Hwy.; Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746

Although we were stuffed beyond measure after our dinner at Street Burger, we did take a peek at the "Sweet Treats" menu as I had been salivating over the aroma of the hot donut holes rolled in cinnamon sugar. The Street Burger S'more (chocolate mousse, peanut butter feuilletine crunch and toasted Swiss meringue) on the menu was also calling my name, but my tummy truly had no room for another bite. I really need a return visit to the gourmet burger restaurant, even if just for a "sweet treat" (or maybe two as I will have a hard time choosing

Street Burger

Street Burger

Na Pali Coast

If you are considering a visit to the Na Pali Coast, take a look at our post titled "Sunset Sail in Kauai" for some options to consider (all of which include either lunch or dinner) plus an overview of our excursion.

Restaurants on the Garden Isle

What are your favorite restaurants on the island of Kauai?

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Kauai, HI, United States

Reviews:  Kauai Eats - Mostly on the Cheap


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