Interested in tasting authentic plate lunches and some of Hawaii’s most beloved local grinds? You’re in luck because several spots around Kauai stay true to the eclectic cultural flavors that make Hawaiis food so unique.

Mark’s Place

Image of Pacific Rim Cuisine
Photo: Mark’s Place

This is one of the most popular places for Pacific Rim Cuisine. Tucked in an industrial area in Puhi, it’s where you’ll find a variety of grab-and-go plate lunches and bento boxes that you can take with you or enjoy at one of their outside tables. Try a little bit of everything when you order Mark’s Famous Mixed Plate, served with chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, beef stew, rice and a scoop of classic potato macaroni salad.

Smiley’s Local Grinds

Image of Miley's Local Grinds
Photo: Smiley’s Local Grinds

This place has just about every single kind of local plate you can imagine. Try any number of items, including laulau, chicken long rice, kalua pig or loco moco at a fraction of the cost of other places. And bring your appetite to this small diner, which is nestled inside a mini strip mall on Rice Street, because portions are ample.

Hamura Saimin

Located in an obscure alley in Lihue, this place has bustled with customers ever since opening in the 1950s. And not much has changed about it since then, including its old-fashioned U-shaped counter. Visit on a chilly evening and order a warm, heaping serving of saimin, a bowl of soup reminiscent of the plantation days when workers would cobble together ingredients in order to fill their bellies after a hard day’s work. Each bowl is made with ramen noodles, broth and a range of other ingredients, such as lunch meat, fish cakes and roasted pork.

Koloa Fish Market

Get your fill of locally caught, fresh fish at this tiny South Shore grab-and-go eatery. This little hole in the wall is the perfect place to pick up something to bring to the beach for a picnic. They’ve got ahi poke with all the spicy trimmings, as well as fish plates that come with rice, green salad and macaroni salad.

Fish Express

This is another fresh fish option that serves an array of poke bowls, as well as Hawaiian plates made with your choice of laulau or kalua pork, lomi salmon, rice and a side of poke. They also have grab-and-go gourmet bento boxes with options like baked teriyaki chicken and furikake crusted salmon. Best of all, this is an excellent place to pick up fresh fish, such as ahi, ono or mahimahi, to take with you and grill yourself.

Pono Market

This locally owned and operated Kapaa eatery, which also serves as a convenience store, opened in 1968. The market is known for its Hawaiian plate lunches that include an assortment of flavorful options, such as spicy poke, lomilomi salad, chicken laulau steamed in taro leaves and hefty scoops of rice. They also make musubi by the hundreds every day with different flavors and meats, including teriyaki beef or chicken, and, of course, classic Spam.