Ono (OH-no) is the Hawaiian word for delicious. The local food in Hawaii is influenced by the mixed plate of cultures and cuisines dating back to the plantation era — pork adobo, loco moco, lomi lomi salmon and lau lau are a few staple dishes. Here’s a list of “ono-licious” restaurants near and around Lihue, Kapa’a, and Hokuala that are serving up hearty local favorites.
But wait, there’s more. We’re here to help demystify some of the unusual words you might see on menus like furikake, laulau and lilikoi — and explain which meat is being served and why. And possibly most importantly of all, provide the fun facts on the origins of local dishes.
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Featured photo: Courtesy of ‘Uala Kauai
North Shore Shave Ice Map
Hukilau Lanai sources only sustainably caught fish and is part of The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. The views here are great, and everything is made on site from scratch. There are several gluten-free options on the menu, and every night there’s a five-course tasting menu for $65, offered from 5-5:45pm. Reservations are recommended. Open Tuesday through Saturday 5pm to 9pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Chef Jean-Marie Josselin has created a menu that merges the culinary influences of his native France, the clean flavors of Japanese cooking, and Hawaii’s multi-ethnic community. Jo2 focuses on using local organic produce and freshly caught fish. Our recommended dishes include ono ceviche with coconut water foam, tempura lobster tail ramen, and sake cured steelhead salmon. Open Tuesday through Saturday 5pm to 9pm. Closed Tuesday.
Waipouli Deli & Restaurant
Waipouli offers a unique blend of American, Japanese and, of course, Hawaiian cuisine to give you plenty of choices with comforting, authentic flavors. The menu is extensive, with everything from the classic American cheeseburger to oxtail soup — with so much available, you’ll be certain to find a dish that you’ll love at a price that you can afford. The deli and restaurant is open for breakfast through dinner for most of the week, and from breakfast to lunch on Monday and Sunday. waipoulideli.com
Wailua Drive In
Once featured on famed television show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives under the name Saimin Dojo at the time, Wailua Drive In carries on its legacy as a restaurant with delicious Hawaiian food that you’ll want to take the time to visit. There are plenty of menu items to choose from, including a teriyaki beef sandwich and ginger fried chicken. After eating here, you’ll know why Guy Fieri was intrigued. wailuadrivein.com
‘Uala Kauai’s motto is “beautifully inspired Hawaiian cuisine,” and they definitely live up to it. Their concept is also unique; it’s a food delivery service with local farmers and private chefs working together to bring you delicious meals. They offer a private chef surf and turf menu, as well as a vegetarian menu, and dining experiences such as their Hawaiian style luau and Mediterranean picnic. Even if it’s not your traditional restaurant dining experience, their food and philosophy is still absolutely worth giving a try. ualakauai.com