I’ve been vacationing in Kauai since before I could walk, so when I visited the Hawaiian island last week, I knew where I would be eating before I even collected my luggage:
Hamura Saimin This James Beard "America’s Classics" winner is always my first meal off of the plane. Saimin is a dish that's unique to Hawaii and is a hodgepodge of Japanese, Chinese and other Asian influences; the soup of egg noodles, dashi, scallion and fish cakes is done amazingly well here. I also love their marinated beef skewers, towering lillikoi (passion fruit) pie and malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts). 2956 Kress St., Lihue; 808-245-3271.
Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza On the north shore, this bakery turns out piping-hot thin-crust pizzas with a variety of toppings, from Maui onions to smoked ono, a local fish similar to mackerel. I adore their island-style pie with pineapple, ham and chipotle peppers, which I like to follow with one of their chocolate-drizzled coconut macaroons. Kilauea Lighthouse Rd., Kilauea; 808-828-2020.
Koloa Fish Market Off of Koloa's tourist strip is this small market which has excellent poke, the Hawaiian dish of raw fish, traditionally marinated with sesame oil and shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and served with sweet onions and seaweed. This market has many variations, and my favorite is the Korean poke, which has a bit of kimchi and sesame seeds mixed in with the ultrafresh ahi. 5482 Koloa Rd, Koloa; 808-742-6199.
Koloa Farmer’s Market Island life moves slowly, except during Koloa’s Monday farmers' market off of Maluhia Road. Shoppers are kept behind bright orange cones until exactly noon, when they trample in to buy lychees, pineapples and papayas. I always get a fresh coconut for sipping, and purveyors are great about explaining what each exotic fruit is and what it tastes like. Adorable orchid bouquets can be had for just a dollar.