Almost everyone asks the same question of New Year’s Eve. Go out or stay home?
It is, after all, the last day of 2017 and the first day of 2018. Seems like a good reason to be out there celebrating. But with all the cars on the roads and the idiotic drivers that are sure to out there, too, sometimes it just makes more sense to have dinner in the living room and watch a movie, or at least the dropping of the ball in Times Square.
If you do plan to go out, we have a few recommendations for you. This isn’t a definitive list but it does offer some places to try on Sunday. Mind you, not every place stays open until midnight so you likely won’t want to just show up at 11:45 p.m. and expect a table.
And we’ll warn you now, don’t drink and drive. Know that police will be out there and sobriety checkpoints will be set up. You don’t want a DUI on your record. Drink in moderation or have a designated driver.
But some of the following are terrific for either the food, the view, the atmosphere, the service, the music, the staff, and even all of the above.
Let’s start with an old favorite, Tahiti Nui in Hanalei.
It’s one of Kauai’s classic haunts, long part of the dining scene, with live music every night. If you’re a visitor, you really must be sure to visit the Nui, as some locals refer to it. It is as iconic as it gets. It’s where they shot a scene for the movie, “The Descendants,” with George Clooney (try to get his seat in the corner of the bar by the door. Just look for the picture on the wall). Order one of the many pizzas, have a beer and do some people watching. Be aware, however, that on New Year’s Eve it might be crazy busy and if you travel from Kapaa or Lihue, it’s a long drive back on a night when there will be dangerous drivers out there.
Just down the highway from Tahiti Nui is another island favorite and another place that’s almost always busy. They have a terrific selection of burgers and sandwiches, large screen TVs and an extensive selection of ice-cold beer. The outside tables are a bit nicer than the inside, just because it can be crowded in there.
The Garden Island Grille
For ambiance, a cozy, relaxed environment, this restaurant on Koloa Road is your place. Prices are fine, food is great, service is terrific. Friendly folks all around. This is where Kauai’s famous musician and ambassador of aloha, Larry Rivera, plays. Again, you’re a visitor, the Garden Island Grille is a must stop. You might not notice it from the main street, but once you walk inside, you’ll see the courtyard that invites you to sit, eat and enjoy.
This is authentic Mexican food at its best. There are two sites, one in Kapaa and one in Lihue at the Harbor Mall, which has a terrific view of Kalapaki Bay. It’s fast, friendly service, great prices. It’s a good spot to enjoy an early dinner on New Year’s Eve.
Bamboo Grill and Sushi
This is, as they advertise, “Local food at its best.” It’s a little hard to find at Anchor Cove in Nawiliwili Harbor, kind of hidden away in the back not far from the ABC Store. It has a nice vibe, with plenty of space between tables. The servings are big, so come hungry. The doors are open so don’t be surprised if a chicken wanders in. Just don’t feed it and they’ll leave you alone.
Coconuts Fish Cafe
Coconuts Fish Cafe is relatively new to the restaurant scene, but this spot at 4831 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, already has a strong following. It’s referred to by some as upscale food at an affordable price. It has more than fish. Try the pasta dishes, too.
Makai Lounge at the Courtyard Marriott is where good deals and drinks await. Another spot to kick back and have fun without spending too much money. Have fun here.
Pietro’s Pizza Kauai
Owned and operated by Tom Iannucci, this is where you’ll find the best brick-oven pizza on the island. It’s in Harbor Plaza. But New Year’s Eve being a Sunday, they will be closed. But we’ll mention them, anyway, because this is another restaurant you must try.
In Lihue, Duke’s Barefoot Bar (downstairs) and Duke’s restaurant (upstairs) are always a good choice. The Barefoot Bar is more relaxed, perhaps a bit more fun, with menu items in the $10 to $15 range. Duke’s upstairs is a bit more upscale, more expensive menu, nice views of Kalapaki Bay. Reservations are a must upstairs. One thing in common: Good service.
Kukui’s on Kalapaki Beach
This is almost heaven on earth. Beautiful pool-side setting, palm trees, torches and the ocean a short stroll away. It’s casual, so don’t sweat about what to wear. Just drop in and they’ll take care of you.
Another relative new entry to the dining scene and family owned and operated. This open-air restaurant at the Shops at Kukuiula in Poipu is a good stopping point on the South Shore. They strive for excellence and creativity without costing a week’s pay. A fun, lively atmosphere where you can carry on a conversation in a normal tone without getting dirty looks from other diners. Loosen up and enjoy.
Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt
Let’s be clear, this isn’t the place for you if you’re on a limited budget. But with a koi-filled lagoon, tiki torches and tropical garden, the setting is perfect for a lovely dinner. The steak and lobster are to die for. And they will treat you like royalty. Call ahead.
While you’re at the Grand Hyatt, Stevenson’s Sushi and Spirits is a nice stop for the views, cocktails and music. Diners, by the way, get free valet parking.
OK. That’s enough to give you an idea. There are more places out there, of course, and you’ll do fine by most of them.
And, by the way, if you stay home for New Year’s Eve, give OKI’s a call at Kukui Grove Center Court and order a box lunch special. For $10.99, you can make your own combo.
Now, have a happy new year. And eat well.