We felt it was our duty to sample a few different versions, so we tried them out at Hanalei Gourmet, Tahiti Nui, and Kalypso. (We were confined to Hanalei, since we didn't want to drink and drive.) Our verdict:
Best tasting: Hanalei Gourmet
Most entertaining atmosphere: Tahiti Nui (a genuine tiki bar with live entertainment on weekends).
Shave ice is kind of like a snow cone, but it has a different texture. It's lighter and fluffier, and in my opinion way more delicious. Definitely get it over ice cream; it makes all the difference. Our favorite shave ice stand was the Wishing Well in Hanalei. They serve it out of a beat up old trailer and have a rigid code for ordering that is posted near the window. Better pay attention--it's their way or the highway. I recommend the pina colada flavor with coconut flakes and macadamia nut ice cream. Be sure to read the rules before you order, or NO SHAVE ICE FOR YOU!
Quest for Pineapple
I don't think I can overemphasize how important pineapples are to Jody. Whenever I asked him what kinds of things he wanted to do on Kauai, his answer was "eat pineapple". And after that? "More pineapple". I tried to warn him that Kauai isn't really the epicenter of pineapple farming, but I don't think it really got through; when he saw the extra bedroom in our cottage, he said "maybe this can be the pineapple room!". So imagine his disappointment when we went to the store and could only find the same Dole pineapples that we get in San Francisco. We headed to the Saturday Farmer's Market in Hanelei in search of locally grown pineapples, only to find that they'd sold out in the first five minutes. We were instructed to come back for the Tuesday market at 2:00, and we were waiting in line at opening. As soon as the rope came down, we rushed over to the vendors and fought the crowds for our pineapples. We got two; a "regular" pineapple and a white pineapple. Was it worth it? YES! They were both amazing, but the white pineapple was the best we've ever had.
Lappert's Ice Cream Princeville
Oh, man. Probably a zillion artery-clogging calories and worth it. It's all good, but my favorite flavor was the Kauai Pie (hence the name of this blog). Kona Coffee Ice Cream, Toasted Coconut, Chocolate Fudge, Toasted Macadamia Nuts.
Blossoming Lotus Kapa'a
This place got rave reviews, so we were really looking forward to it. We're both familiar with vegan food (both raw and cooked) and like it, but Blossoming Lotus was a disappointment. Jody had Chana Masala and it was weird and crunchy. I had some kind of pasta and veggie thing. The pasta was mushy and overcooked, and the vegetables had an aggressive seasoning that reminded me of Thanksgiving stuffing (which normally I like, but not over pasta.) I couldn't even eat it, and if you know me, you know that something has to be really bad for me to not be able to choke it down. So, two thumbs down for Blossiming Lotus. But it was the only meal we had that we didn't like.
Crunchy Chana Masala
Polynesia Cafe Hanalei
We liked this place so much we ate here twice (which is saying something when you've only got a week.) Healthy, yummy food, good selection of vegetarian dishes. Not fancy-- paper plates, no table service-- but yummy.
Thai Tofu and Veggies with Rice
Seared Tofu with Green Salad
Postcards Cafe Hanalei
I would have liked this place better if I hadn't chosen it for our BIg Dinner Out. It's nice enough, but nothing about it was particularly memorable. The interior is pleasant, but boring: white walls, wood floors, and not much else. I think I was expecting something with more character. To start, we ordered the PuPu Platter, a sampler of taro fritters, seafood rockets, summer rolls and seared ahi. I had the fish, of course, and Jody had the taro and summer rolls (both vegetarian). I really liked mine; the seafood rockets were particularly good. Jody was less impressed with his-- he said they were ok, but nothing special. For our main courses, Jody had the "The Shanghai": sautéed tofu and vegetables with roasted cashews in a tamari ginger sauce, served over rice pilaf. He felt the same way about it as he did about the appetizers. I had their "From the Sea" fish of the day, which was grilled Ono with rice and broccoli. The fish was very good, but the sides were blah: bland rice and hard-as-a-rock broccoli. It was like biting into a tree. We passed on dessert. Service was efficient-- they has us in and out of there in less than an hour. I only had time to drink one glass of wine (three would be usual for me). I'd recommend Postcards for a decent meal if you're already in the area and don't mind paying $100 for a quick dinner. But in my opinion it's not a "destination restaurant"-- something you'd go out of your way for.
Tropical Taco Hanalei
Good tacos with a thick, homemade syle tortilla. Jody had the veggie; I had the fish. Jody thought they were excellent; he said it was the best taco he'd ever had. I thought it was good but not great. I liked the tortilla and the fish, but there was only one bean option (refried pinto, which I don't like) and I thought the salsa was a little blah. And... $8 for ONE veggie taco! That's hard to take when you're coming from San Francisco.
Tropical Burger Poipu
I can only comment on the veggie burgers, since that's all we had. We had differing opinions. Their veggie patties are homemade and heavy on the veggies-- they aren't soy patties. I thought they were great. Jody didn't like them, because he's a soy patty guy. Decent thin-cut fries (again, I liked them, but Jody thought they were really average.) This restaurant is in a shopping mall, which is better than it sounds, since everything is open-air. We got to watch roosters and other birds scavenge scraps of food as people left their tables. On our way out, we walked by Puka Dog and saw that they offer vegetarian dogs. Since we were already stuffed, we didn't try them. They're on the list for next time.
Some fresh fish and tofu on the grill, a salad, a bottle of wine... it doesn't get much better than this.