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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Tasting the Best Food on Lanai

Lanai's Sweetheart Rock

Welcome to Lanai!

Lanai can boast some of the best food I’ve enjoyed on any of the Hawaiian Islands. From the hotels – most especially the hotels – to the other island restaurants, the dining options are insanely tasty. It didn’t matter if I was ordering a fine dining kind of meal or a simple burger, everything was excellently prepared. For our tour, let’s start with the great options I tasted while doing the Dole Stroll.

Stopping in at Cafe 565

Stopping in at Cafe 565

Lanai City’s Dole Park is at the center of everything happening on Lanai. It is surrounded by great shops and other fun businesses, but, most importantly, all kinds of delicious restaurants. From one side of the square to the other, you really can’t go wrong; the island favorite seemed to be the Blue Ginger. I ate there twice, but my favorite was Café 565. The staff was quick and friendly and the sandwiches yummier than anywhere else.

(Yummier? Is that even a word? I’ll have to look it up.)

While doing the Dole Stroll, as well as on my return visits, I attempted to order menu items from the various restaurants that were relatively the same. For instance, my first choice was always a hot roast beef sandwich of some kind. The backup was a burger. I did this so I could fairly compare my meals. Each place was good – I didn’t have a bad meal – but something was lacking at any place other than Café 565, whether it be in speed of delivery or friendliness of service. Regardless, seeing as I could have simply had an off visit, each is worth a try. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad meal.

Lunch at the Blue Ginger

Lunch at the Blue Ginger

If you want to be guaranteed a spectacular meal with prompt and friendly service, I recommend dining at any of the three island hotels. Each hotel on Lanai is a very different and special experience. The one thing they all have in common, though, is amazing food.

The Hotel Lanai is one of the best boutique hotels on the islands. What puts it over-the-top in my book is the dining experience. Every meal is made to order with any sort of possible substitutions allowed. (Not that you’ll need any, mind you, but let’s say you have an allergy or don’t particularly care for something.)

The Lanai City Grille's amazing pork wontons

The Lanai City Grille’s amazing pork wontons

Each night I stayed at the Lanai Hotel, I ate in the City Grille. The one thing each meal had in common was the pork wontons. Oh. My. Gosh. They were beyond mouth-watering. That’s not to say the juicy chicken, fall-off-the-bone ribs, or crisp carrots and asparagus weren’t good. The wontons were simply unlike anything I had tasted before. They were seriously out of this world, and easily one of the best menu items anywhere on the islands.

A romantic table at the Lanai City Grille

A romantic table at the Lanai City Grille

Up the road from the Hotel Lanai is The Four Seasons Lodge at Koele. You want upscale service at its finest? Then check out the lodge. Everything about it is amazing, most particularly the food. Each meal I sat down for was outstanding, breakfast most particularly so. The beef rib and desserts for dinner were excellently prepared, but the French toast just about made me fall out of my chair.

The world's best French toast

The world’s best French toast

The Lodge at Koele’s French toast, I can say without hesitation, is the best French toast I’ve ever tasted. From banana to toast to Nutella, it is worth traveling for. Seriously. Book your airfare and stay now, and go eat the French toast. You won’t regret it. Well, not unless I get back there first. Then there may not be much left for you to enjoy.

The lodge’s cousin property, Manele Bay, is currently the only property situated along the coast of Lanai. This means a unique dining experience on the island, since no other resort can offer dining options with views of the ocean. They have several award-winning restaurants located right inside the hotel, but I only had time for a couple. As such, I chose those that most interested me – the Kailani (homemade Italian cuisine), ONE FORTY American Steak, the bar, and room service.

Dinner at the Kailani

Dinner at the Kailani

My first impression, the Kailani, made me regretting a reservation at any other restaurant. The lasagna was a hand-me-down family recipe prepared now with as much love and care as was originally done so in the old country. Add the best place on the island to see the sunset and an original drink from the bar and you have a combination for success.

Overlooking the Kailani is ONE FORTY. Is the view of the sunset better being that the restaurant is a little higher up? I wouldn’t know. I was too focused on my enormous steak and drink. By no means was it the best steak I’ve ever had – it was good, just not the best – but it was what I wanted at that exact moment, so all other distractions melted away as I dug into my meal. The dessert platter that followed was just as good as that at the upcountry lodge, which is amazing.

ONE FORTY's prime rib

ONE FORTY’s prime rib

My final dining options at Manele Bay – lunch at the bar and room service – were to be expect; each were quick, easy, but standard in taste. The bar nachos were what I wanted at the time, though, being that it was a simple meal without a lot of to-do over it. Room service was the same, which made it nowhere near as good as what you’d get with the French toast in the restaurant in the lodge. Nonetheless, both were good and adequate meals.

Pork nachos at the Sports Bar at Manele Bay

Pork nachos at the Sports Bar at Manele Bay

What’s the end result? Do the Dole Stroll. Try the local restaurants around the square. They’re all quick and tasty, many with local Hawaiian favorites. But, eat your big meals – breakfast and dinner – at any of the three hotels. All will impress. I can guarantee that, since they continually wowed me.

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2 Comments on “Tasting the Best Food on Lanai”

  1. agnesstramp September 4, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    Jason, you are a monster. Just came back from Europe and I am back on my diet after gaining 5 kg :). The food looks so nice, especially the French toast – mouth-watering.

    • Jason's Travels September 4, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      5kg? That’s it? I pick that up in a single meal! 😛

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