10 Best Restaurants on Kauai's West Side
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
Kauai's Wild West manages to fit quite a few great places to eat into such a small area. There's a lot of variation of cuisines on the West Side too, from a true western style steakhouse to awesome road side tacos, you'll likely be able to find whatever you're craving. Down along the sunny coast and far up inland in the high elevation state parks, you can find delicious food from the mountains to the ocean on the West Side.
Marking the start of the West Side is Ele'ele, where you can start your western journey with traditional Thai food at Toi's, or go the other direction and have some great locally beer and food at the Kauai Island Brewing Co. As Kauai's only brewery, they serve a wide array of different beers that would make any beer lover happy.
Further down the road in Waimea lies several awesome places to eat. For a local treat drop into Jo-Jo's for one of the best shaved ices around, smothered with one of their 60 flavors. Down the street is Wrangler's Steakhouse, heavily decorated with a western theme as one would expect. Their perfectly cooked steaks are some of the best around, and surprisingly they serve a good amount of vegetarian food too. The Shrimp Station and Island Taco are more always good places to grab a bite, and these can be taken to go an enjoyed on nearby beautiful beaches.
We've got you covered on the west with these ten amazing restaurants.
10 Kokee Lodge
High up in the cool climate of Koke'e State Park is the Koke'e Lodge, a restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. Their soups are a nice accent to the cool weather and their known for their homemade corn bread and banana bread. The Koke'e Lodge is pretty heavy on local style food, such as loco moco and kalua pork dishes. However, you'll find no shortage of tradition dishes too such as burgers and salads. Wine, beer and cocktails are also on the menu. It's ideal to grab a bite to eat at the lodge if you're already up in the park, where several must see sights are popular attractions. ((808) 335-6061)
9 Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano
If you're looking for an intimate, low-key place where you can enjoy good conversation and fabulous pastas, Pomodoro is ideal. Family-owned and operated by "real" New York Italians, this great restaurant offers well-prepared food at reasonable prices. The selection of pastas is substantial, whether you're looking for something dressed (fettuccine Alfredo) or stuffed (manicotti). If you're open to other possibilities, look to veal parmigiana, chicken saltimbocca, or one of the seafood dishes. The signature lasagne is also not-to-be-missed, and special requests can be accommodated as well. Although the restaurant is small and quiet, the owners welcome families and children with open arms. (808-332-5945)
8 JoJo's Clubhouse
Jo-JO's is famous for offering a whopping 60 flavors of very finely shaved, shaved ice. What's commonly called a snow cone in the continental U.S. is called ice shave or shaved ice in Hawaii. At Jo-Jo's you'll likely find a line, but it shows how much people like the product here. Make sure to try local flavors like lilikoi (passion fruit), coconut or melona (melon). A drizzle of heavy cream on top takes shaved ice to a new level. Shaved ice is a classic Hawaiian treat, and the locals still enjoy it on a regular basis. It's refreshing without being heavy, and they offer traditional as well as tropical flavors. (808-635-7615)
7 The Shrimp Station
To peel or not to peel, that is the question at the Shrimp Station. Some dishes come with peeled shrimp, while others, like the coconut shrimp come peeled. Either way, all of the food is great and worth getting your hands a little messy for. You'll find a selection of shrimp dishes here that will remind you of Bubba Gump and his endless ways of serving shrimp. Very casual, road side spot with meals enjoyed as take out or at picnic tables under a tent roof. The Shrimp Station is a great option for lunch on the west side, or last stop before heading out to Polihale Beach or inland to Waimea Canyon. ((808) 338-1242)
6 Toi's Thai Restaurant
If you find yourself out on Kauai's western coast, you'll want to stop in at this comfy Thai restaurant. The atmosphere is relaxed, and there's no pretense among staff and customers, only authentic Asian cuisine chock full of island produce and local ingredients. The menu offers a wide range of options, including curries, noodle dishes, and stir-fried creations, and you can even select what type of meat (or not) you would like for your entree. To make sure that you're satisfied, main courses come with rice, salad, and dessert. Located in an assuming shopping center in Ele'ele, Toi's Thai Restaurant is the only Thai food around for many miles. (808-335-3111)
5 Lappert's Hawaii
Hawaii's favorite ice cream, Lappert's is the brainchild of Walter Lappert, who retired only to build this frozen business almost as an afterthought. Insisting on premium ingredients (including practically all of Kauai's island fruits, along with nuts, chocolate, and even coffee), Lappert's also packs in nearly double the butterfat that other competitors use. This renders the ice cream absolutely decadent and irresistible. Also available at the island's four locations are sorbets (for calorie counters), coffee drinks, and baked items. You can find Lappert's all around the island at various locations. This is perfect for an after dinner treat or for a break during a hot Hawaiian day. (808-335-6121, 800-356-4045)
4 Grinds Cafe
At this comfortable, family-run restaurant, patrons find much to delight them. Outdoor dining is an island pleasure, breakfast is served all day, and an assortment of espresso drinks and local coffees ensures that a quality caffeine fix is never too far distant. On the food front, everything is made from scratch, including delectable breads and pastries. Pizzas, burgers, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and pastas also bring satisfied smiles to hungry folks. Located on the west side of the island, Grind's Cafe is casual and affordable. It's the ideal spot for a morning pick me up while heading out to explore the west side, or for a casual dinner. (808-335-6027)
3 Island Taco
Big portions of tasty food is what you'll get at Island Taco. The roadside eatery is simple, and resembles a Mexico taco stand, but totally clean, safe and awesome! It's order at the counter, where you can get a tiny peak into the kitchen, and enjoy at one of the roadside tables or take it to go. You can take it to go and enjoy at a nearby white sand beach, but with the big portions that can get a little messy. Vegetarians will fare very well here while meat eaters will find fresh fish, beef and chicken. All of the food is great, but tacos are a highlight. They add of unique elements such as cabbage and wasabi aioli sauce. A must stop while on the west side. ((808) 338-9895)
2 Kauai Island Brewing Co.
The Kaua'i Island Brewing Co. is a microbrewery and brewpub that incorporates nightlife with great food and beer. Featuring 10 house beers on tap plus several rotating guest beers both on tap and in bottles, the brewery pours some of the best beers on the island. Pub-fare menu includes a choice of pupus, salads, burgers as well as a variety of fresh fish and mouth-watering entrees. A keiki menu for the little ones is also offered. The full bar serves wine, mixed drinks, and cocktails. There are five 55" flat screen HDTVs throughout the pub to watch all the games. Brewery tours are available upon request. You can also pick up a growler of beer to go or rent kegs for parties. ((808) 335-0006)
1 Wrangler's Steakhouse
The allure of the Old West runs strong at Wrangler's, at least as it was interpreted by the cattle ranchers of the North Pacific! The establishment features a cowboy-themed decor, letting you know that the food is going to be both rustic and authentic. Steaks of all sorts satisfy most folks; try a T-bone or a sirloin, sizzling hot and flavored with herbs and spices. If that's not your style, opt for a fresh fish special, a local specialty, or even a Southwestern-styled treat. Outdoor seating is available, and the place is especially convenient for travelers to Kauai's west coast. (808-338-1218, 808-338-0031)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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