OK, so you guys aren’t big on exercise… I get it.
My attempt to foray from my usual food-related columns to an “outdoorsy”-type last month garnered five measly comments all month (four in the last half of the month). It got just as much action as one of my nerdy, computer related pieces before I transitioned to the grindz.
Well, it’s either that, or you are madly in love with me and all of my columns and are just more vocal about the ones with the eats. Yeah, I like that excuse… I think we’ll use it!
OK, you little democratic peeps, you have spoken. Starting this month (and continuing for at least another month or two), I will be covering some of your favorite eateries from our Garden Isle… Kauai.
For one reason or another, I’ve been making many, many trips to the island of Kauai in recent history. Whether it be for business, a wedding at the spectacular Princeville or just for the sheer heck of it, your boy has been racking up the mean mileage. But whatever the occasion, I made sure to equip myself with the trusty camera to capture the moments in time and food for y’all.
To make the most of your day, I would suggest booking an early AM flight to Lihue (if you’re a resident of Kauai, just meet us at the airport and we’ll go get breakfast together). Since we’ll be arriving early, it’ll be perfect timing to pick up our car and head north towards the nearby, and local favorite Tip Top Motel & Cafe.
Tip Top Motel & Cafe Sign
Paraphrasing a bit from their pamphlet, here’s a little history on the gem that has been serving the people of Kauai for more than 85 years:
Tip Top originally started as a Cafe & Bakery in November of 1916 by Denjiro Ota, and soon starting baking and delivering fresh bread island wide. In 1925, Denjiro’s creative son Mitchell the took over the business where he introduced pastries, pies and other baked goods that were to become the mainstay of the business. One is the famous pancake recipe which is still used today and another is the Macadamia Nut cookie which was the first Macnut cookie made in Hawaii.
In 1965, Mitchell moved the business a half mile to its present location and built a restaurant, bakery, 34 room motel and a bar. In 1989, Mitchell passed away at the age of 85, leaving the business in the hands of his 30 year old grandson Jonathan, the 4th generation of Otas to run the business.
Tip Top is known for their famous banana/macadamia pancakes, Macadamia nut cookies, and their best seller, the Oxtail soup, but since we’re here for breakfast, let’s get eatin’!
(! – As always, get here early or come during semi-off-peak hours as it’s always crowded, though I’ve been here twice and there was no wait on both occasions…)
Tip Top Cafe morning crowd
Rather than the traditional hand over the shoulder technique, the wait help at Tip Top cutely rolls your order to you on a tray on wheels type contraption.
Meal on wheels
On this occasion, we skipped the popular banana/macadamia pancakes and went straight for the hefty items, scrambled eggs, corn beef hash & hash brown, and Loco Moco.
Corn beef hash and eggs with hash brown
Yum! Another successful morning at Tip Top. Next stop… Waimea Brewing Company.
Now that we’ve got the most important meal of the day in our tummies, we should be energized to do something that involves exercise. What do you say? Yeah, I know, not your cup of tea, but c’mon, we’re on vacation! We’re supposed to be doing activities galore. OK, ok, what if I promise more good eats afterwards? I knew I’d getcha with that!
So let’s head west and do the touristy thing by checking out the Waimea Canyon Lookout.
Waimea Canyon Lookout sign
Since this is a column on food, I’m not going to get too deep into describing the canyon (you can Google it and find all the info you need), but we do have time to kill until lunch, so let’s just pretend you’re with me on this virtual tour of sorts a-ight?
Waimea Canyon lookout
Whew! What a drive huh? And how about that view? I bet you’re hungry for lunch now huh? Well, I’ve got just the place for you! Let’s hit the “World’s Westernmost Brewpub”, the Waimea Brewing Company Restaurant.
Waimea Brewing Company sign
The Waimea Brewing Company is the self-proclaimed, westernmost pub in the world. To get here, you would drive down that exhausting, winding Waimea Canyon Road, and, instead of turning left to head back towards town, you’d actually take a right (at the West Kauai Technology & Visitor Center). Waimea Brewing Co. will be on your left.
Now I’m not condoning mid-day alcohol consumption by any means, but if you’re a beer connoisseur, you’d enjoy the home-brewed beers at this place, especially after being out in the sun for the past few hours.
The menu is quite extensive, ranging from pupus like Mango-stout BBQ Ribs and flash fried calamari rings, to entrees like “Jawaiian” Chicken and Coconut Prawns, to burgers to desserts. And this does not include their large drink menu too. On this occasion, I figured the best thing to go with my booze was their “Hawaiian Burger”, a 1/2 pound Angus burger with a thick slice of fresh pineapple & teriyaki sauce served on an onion bun.
The Hawaiian Burger, a 1/2 pound Angus burger with a thick slice of fresh pineapple & teriyaki sauce served on an onion bun.
With our big ol’ bellies, let’s head back to town and see what else we can stuff our faces with. In my July column on Shave Ice, I mentioned Jo Jo’s Clubhouse, a popular Shave Ice hut along Kaumuali`i Highway. Since it’s on our way back, why not eh?
Jo Jo’s Clubhouse
Jo Jo’s Clubhouse
Mile Marker 23, Kaumualii Highway (Hwy. 50)
Waimea, Hawaii 96796 (map)
Other notable, but highly touristy stops on the way back are the Kauai Kookie Kompany (1-3529 Kaumuali`i Highway, Hanapepe, Kauai, HI. 96716. Open M-F from 8am-4pm, and Sat and Sun from 9am-4pm. Call 1-800-361-1126 for more info), Kauai Coffee Company (Just past Eleele, on Kaumuali`i Highway, as you head toward Poipu. Open seven days a week from 9am-5pm. Call (808) 335-0813 for more info) and the Kauai Chocolate Company (Port Allen Marina Center – 4341 Waialo Road, Eleele, HI 96705. Call (808) 335-0448 for more info).
OK, so we’ve got some time to kill before dinner. What do you feel like doing? Hit Poipu Beach for some fun in the sun? Do a little shopping in Old Koloa Town? How about we split up and meet back in Kapa`a at around 6PM? Cool? Cool!
*some time later…*
OK gang. Welcome back! Did you have a good time? What’s say we hit up this joint called Lemongrass Grill Seafood & Sushi Bar?
Lemongrass Grill Seafood & Sushi Bar is a fairly newer establishment in the quaint little town of Kapa`a. The usual hotspot for sushi here is local favorite Kintaro’s, but to be quite honest, I liked the sushi from Lemongrass a lot better (sorry Kintaro fans!).
Editor’s Note: It was recently reported that Lemongrass Grill no longer serves sushi. I called them and they confirmed this. If anyone knows why, please use the Comment Field below to discuss.
With a menu that hinted towards influences from Japan (sushi) and Italy (pasta), the main theme (including restaurant design) was definitely Thai.
On this occasion, we started with the Asian Marinated Chicken Satay for our appetizer, and threw in a couple of sushi handrolls – the Volcano Roll (masago & katsuo bushi on a California roll with a special spicy sauce) and the Spider Roll (deep fried soft shell crab with cucumber) – for good measure.
Note: apologies for the color clarity on these photos, but the lighting at Lemongrass was not all that bright.
Asian Marinated Chicken Satay – served with green papaya salad, crispy fried noodle and spicy peanut sauce for $7.50
Volcano Roll – masago & katsuo bushi on a California roll with a special spicy sauce for $6.75
Spider Roll – deep fried soft shell crab with cucumber for $11.50
We then moved on to our main dishes of Guava Glazed BBQ Ribs and Sauteed Shrimp with Penne Pasta.
Guava Glazed BBQ Ribs – Baby back ribs cooked just right, basted with our guava BBQ sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob for $17.50
Sauteed Shrimp with Penne Pasta – A garlic white wine broth garnished with capers and tomatoes for $21
Lemongrass Grill Seafood & Sushi Bar
4-885 Kuhio Highway
Kapa`a, Kauai, HI 96746 (map)
Tel: (808) 821-2888 or (808) 822-2288
Fax: (808) 822-1221
As mentioned before, an alternative in close proximity to Lemongrass is the local favorite Kintaro Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar (4-370 Kuhio Highway). Another somewhat new establishment is Wahooo (not misspelled) Seafood Grill & Bar, but I did not have a good experience there (rude host, costly and questionable food).
So we’ve gone an entire day with breakfast in Lihue, lunch and a sweet snack out in Waimea, and dinner in Kapa`a, and are almost ready to head back to our crib (hotel or otherwise) for some shut eye. Before we hit the hay though, let’s go for a little nightcap at a local hangout called the Lizard Lounge Bar & Grill in the Waipouli Town Center in Kapa`a.
With dart boards, video games, pool tables and a full bar, hanging out for hours at the Lizard Lounge is not hard to do. They’re open nightly until 2am. Go check um out!
OK, now we’re really ready for some shut eye. Let’s get our rest so we can start early tomorrow morning (a.k.a. next month’s column) for more eating adventures in Kauai.
No worries gang… I haven’t forgotten about the local favorites like Hamura’s Saimin, Brick Oven Pizza, Ono’s Family Restaurant, and much more! We’ll see each other “bright and early” to cover those and many more in Kau Kau Kauai Part 2.