One didn’t always jet set to the Hawaiian islands for the incredible cuisine. A lot of the food was often imported–and therefore expensive. But this is changing, and there are fantastic dining options, especially on Kauai, known as the Garden Island. The food is fresh, often healthy, but can also be sweet and decadent. From poke bowls to hula pie, here are five inexpensive must-try eats on Kauai that are also incredibly delicious.
If there’s one thing you should eat while on the island of Kauai, it’s a poke bowl (pronounced POH-keh). Poke is Hawaiian for “to slice or cut” a raw fish salad, which is often served as an appetizer–or pupu. Poke bowls can be found everywhere in Kauai, but often the best come from a simple grocery store or gas station, and served atop rice with savory sauces. Try the Gorilla Poke Bowl from Makai Sushi: a packed-to-the-brim dish made with Ahi, ono, salmon, cucumber, avocado, and sweet maui onion ($16), which is so filling it can easily be shared.
No, it’s not a snow cone–let’s just get that out of the way. Shave ice (not shaved ice) is more like freshly fallen snow, topped with fruit juice, then drizzled with condensed milk, and it’s hands-down the perfect dessert when visiting the warm Hawaiian islands. While in Kauai, try The Fresh Shave, made with all organic and local farm-fresh ingredients. The Chevron ($6) is made with coconut and lime and topped with a coconut chia seed cream, or the Handle Bar is comprised of fresh pineapple and coconut.
After landing at Kauai’s Lihue Airport, it’s a tradition for many to ditch the sweater and stop at the nearby Duke’s Kauai: a beachside bar and restaurant that basically solidifies you’re on a Hawaiian island. And if there’s a stand-out item on the menu it’s the Hula Pie (okay, and a La Pina, too). It’s a simple, no-bake dessert that starts with a chocolate cookie pie crust that’s piled high with macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, and chopped macadamia nuts. Hint: Turn the massive pie on its side for maximum flavor and ease of consumption. (A slice is $11 but easily sharable.)
Or what’s better known as a Hawaiian-style hot dog where the bun is baked entirely around the hot dog. The Puka Dog is so beloved, it’s been chosen by the Travel Channel as one of the top 10 hot dog stands in America and featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. It starts with the dog: a Polish sausage ($7.95) or veggie dog ($8.49), and is then topped with sauces, relishes, and perhaps Auntie Lilikoi’s Hawaiian Mustard to create a sweet, tangy, uniquely Hawaiian flavor. Puka Dog is located in the Poipu Shopping Village.
Sure, you can get an acai bowl just about anywhere on the mainland these days, but they won’t taste the same as what you’ll find in Kauai. The frozen superfood is topped with the freshest fruits you’ll ever taste, shaved coconut, and ultra-healthy items like bee pollen or hemp seeds. We love the bowl at Living Foods Gourmet Market & Cafe‘s juice bar ($11.50) that is best enjoyed on the outdoor deck.