Great grille

Want some dining advice?

Go to the Garden Island Grille in Old Koloa Town. In a nutshell, here’s why: It’s fun, it’s friendly, it’s affordable and overflowing with aloha.

My wife and I went there for dinner Sunday night and came away with two thoughts: I waited too long to try it out, and two, we’ll be back often (my wife, turns out, has already been there several times). We got to hear my friend Larry Rivera play his beautiful music, we got to chat with owners Dave and Sheri Trentlage, we got to enjoy great meal and, best of all, we had a wonderful time.

The Trentlages did a fantastic job renovating what was Tomkats inside the courtyard area of the Old Koloa Town shops. The restaurant and bar sit inside the Kawamoto Building, 5404 Koloa Road. This was their dream when they opened two years ago, and it shows that they put their heart and soul into it. It is warm and welcoming, as if you’re having dinner in a friend’s backyard.

They created two casual dining rooms. The first, closest the stage, has a historical theme with photos from island history. The second has memorabilia from movies filmed on Kauai, along old-time photographs of canoeing, outrigger surfing and paddle boarding.

Anywhere you sit, you’ll have a fine view of the stage, where live “Falling Down Romance” performs Thursday to Saturday, and Rivera plays on Sundays.

The staff is fast and greets you with a smile. Sophia, the hostess, is talkative and treated us like ohana with big hugs. Same for our waiter, Patrick. Good people. That’s not always the case. We recently ate in another restaurant and the waitress was all business, close to disinterested. No smile. No small talk. Here’s your food. Here’s your bill.

Not so at Garden Island Grille. Plenty of talking story. Plenty of smiles. Plenty of music and even plenty of dancing, and even more when Falling Down Romance is on stage. Dave and Sheri both stopped by our table to say hello. A nice vibe going on, with young and old in the mix.

Now, about that food. It’s fresh, it’s good and it’s a bargain. Lots of choices for seafood, salads, burgers, steaks and tacos.

I ordered the Hawaii 5-0, which is grilled chicken breast, Swiss cheese, a slice of pineapple with a teriyaki glaze. Let me state it simply, it was a monster and it was great, a bit messy. I love to eat and it took me a while to devour everything on my plate.

My wife order the veggie delight — grilled pita bread stuffed with fresh sprouts, tomato, cucumber, avocado, shredded carrots and red cabbage and mayo. She loved it.

And all sandwiches and burgers come with fries or coleslaw.

Both of our meals were $12, perhaps one of the best deals on the island.

Prices are more than reasonable and range from $17 for fish and chips or a seafood salad to $10 for an Island Caesar salad to $9 for the This Club Rocks sandwich to $11 for a vegetarian tortilla bake.

There’s a cozy bar to sit, have a beer (craft island brews on tap and bottled) and chat with friends. And one just has to look around to see they’re among friends at the Grille Island Grille.

In the Garden Island Grille logo, in the lower right, it says, “Aloha on tap.” Indeed, it is.

The Trentlages, who came here from Michigan, did a remarkable job transforming this restaurant into something with a spirit that you can feel from your first steps in the door.

If you’re visiting Kauai, make this one of your stops.

If you live here, don’t wait like I did to try Garden Island Grille. Go there. Eat, drink, be merry, listen to music, relax and best of all, meet your new family.

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