Kaua’i’s Hanalei Dolphin restaurant didn’t wow

But the Ono Char Burger definitely worth a visit

PRINCETON, Kaua’i, Jan 25, 2014/ Troy Media/ — Within minutes of our arrival at the Westin Resort in Princeville, two of its employees assured us that “The Dolphin” in Hanalei was THE first address for good food in the area. But we were warned that the place is always packed.

On one of our early afternoon excursions, we took the short drive to Hanalei and found The Dolphin nestled on the right side of the road in the typical tiki style with numerous concrete picnic tables scattered off the front veranda. We were just in time to sample the lunch menu. With no available tables, we sat at the bar and were promptly served by the bartender who seemed to do far more than merely tend to frothy cocktails and garnishes.

The drink menu offered a wide selection of beers, cocktails and wines. In the spirit of island Aloha, we opted for a local pale ale and a passion fruit margarita that refreshed but didn’t wow-oha.

Lunch Dolphin-style was a selection of fine fish dishes and burgers. We ordered the Ceviche, a cup of Fish Chowder and a Feather Burger (Teriyaki grilled chicken burger – Hawaii seems to be into Teriyaki). The Ceviche was a mix of Ono and Shrimp with sweet onions and cilantro served with Nacho chips. The fish was well “cooked” in the acidic juices, too well-cooked for my taste. And while the fish flavour was delicate, the onions were excessive and the Nacho chips didn’t provide either an enhanced flavour or texture to compliment the dish. I found myself craving a piece of baguette or bread.

The Fish Chowder did not disappoint: rich and velvety textured creamy fish velouta that satisfied and left us wanting more. The Feather burger took considerable time to arrive but was generous and juicy. Served on an over-sized rye bun, the chicken was perfectly grilled and served with a large piece of romaine lettuce and four super-sized tomatoes slices.

Sadly we visited the Fish Shop attached to the restaurant after lunch and noticed the incredible sushi fish selection. Had we discovered it before ordering, we would have tried the tempting sashimi. All in all, we found the Hanalei Dolphin not to be quite the island treasure we set sail for.

The Hanalei Dolphin
5-5016 Kuhio Hwy
Hanalei, HI 96714
(808)  826-6113(808)  826-6113

Ono Char Burger

Strolling along Waikiki Beach in Honolulu one morning, we encountered one of many booths flogging pearls. Charming and well-versed in his spiel, our salesman quickly proceeded to sell us one of his “authentic island treasures,” complete with setting.  In the course of our encounter, our charmer inquired about our stay in Hawaii and, upon hearing that we intended to visit Kaua’i, launched into a passionate monologue about “Ono Char Burger” – the “best” burger he has ever eaten.

Five days later, on Kaua’i, as we drove from Princeville southbound towards Lihu’e on the Kuhio Highway, we passed Anahola, a small island village/town. We spotted the infamous Duane’s Ono (translated Ono means good or great) Char Burger, a modest red hut, set back off the road and next to a strip mall-like building with a general store and other tourist-specific amenities. We stopped to see if the commendation we received held an ounce of truth and because we simply want to believe there are great burgers out there.

There was a line up, which we took to be a good sign. The menu provided a generous selection of burgers: island specialities such as the Local Boy (pineapple and Cheddar Cheese amongst other garnishes) and the Local Girl (pineapple and Swiss Cheese, etc.), the Avocado, (homemade) Blue Cheese or Teriyaki Burger as well as such classics as Cheddar, Swiss, Mushroom, BBQ  to name a few. Onion rings seem to be a staple all over Kaua’i, and Ono Char was no exception. Milkshakes came in the expected flavours such as strawberry, chocolate and vanilla, but Marionberry (blackberry variety) was a surprise.

We opted for a sharp cheddar burger and onion rings. The staff – consisting of a mere four people, two on the grills and two up front – are masters of large orders: they provided efficient and friendly service.  Seating is available off the left of the order window on small concrete picnic tables and benches crafted in a Flintstones’, Bedrock City sort of style.

The burger was indeed delicious and the onion rings crisp and cooked to perfection. Our pearl charmer was right, and although we won’t go so far as stating that it was the “best” we ever tasted, we will concede that Ono Char is a pearl in its own right and worth stopping for.

Duane’s Ono Char Burger
4-4350 Kuhio Hwy
Anahola, HI 96703
(808) 822-9181 (808) 822-9181

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