If you’re going to visit Kauai for more than a few nights (and it’s totally worth spending time there), you should leave the resorts on the south and eastern sides of the island and head to the North Shore. There aren’t many hotels and you’re more than likely to rent a condo or house on Airbnb. Because many of the people who visit are owners, there’s a limited number of restaurants around Princeville. In fact, almost all of the restaurants in Princeville are located in the Foodland shopping plaza.
Sure, Hanalei and its many restaurants are only a few minutes away down a winding mountain road with single-lane bridges. Sometimes you want to eat nearby and Foodland plaza was a short walk from our Airbnb.
Sharon searched for Tiki Bars on Kauai before the trip and one place that keeps showing up was located in the plaza. But how good could a Tiki Bar be if it’s located next to a supermarket?
5-4280 Kuhio Hwy
Tiki Iniki is an exotic place for crafted Tiki Cocktails and Island Cuisine. The decor is Vintage Tiki, Hawaiiana, and Exotica from the 1940s to the modern day. The staff of sultry sirens and saucy liquid chefs add to the ambiance. Owners Michele & Todd Rundgren know how to throw a party, and you are invited! Reservations suggested, “Everyone who works at Tiki Iniki knows they are hosting a party, and our guests should feel like they are a guest at a party in my home. Wigs are encouraged and Hawaiian attire is appreciated!” Michele Rundgren
If you’re old enough, you know who Todd Rundgren is. The 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee had several hits in the 70s as a solo artist before working as a producer for other artists. The legend is that Todd and his wife Michelle moved to Kauai in 1992 and longing for a good Tiki bar, eventually decided to open one themselves.
Because of the lack of restaurants in Princeville, places fill up early and stay that way all evening. We didn’t make any reservations (a big mistake) and walked to Tiki Iniki around 6 PM on Friday night. The place was already packed and we were third in line at the door. When we told the greeter that we didn’t have a reservation, he said we could leave our name and phone number and they’d text when a table was available; probably 45 minutes.
I decided to take a walk around the plaza and even went inside the Foodland to gasp at the prices. Sharon texted me in 30 minutes saying our seats were ready. We were given two seats at the bar.
Forgive the quality of the pictures, as Tiki Iniki loves blue lighting and I’m not great at using filters in Apple Photos.
You enter Tiki Iniki through the bar area. The statue in the circular window gave me serious Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room vibes.
IMHO, the most important thing about a Tiki bar is the Tiki drinks. If all you serve is a bunch of fruity cocktails in tropical glasses with umbrellas, I needn’t waste my time. Tiki Iniki’s menu looked promising. Sitting at the bar, we got to watch each drink get prepared from scratch. While you might have to wait a little longer for a drink, it’s worth it.
Sharon went for the house special “The Iniki” while I tried the Navy Grog.
Mine wasn’t as good as the one I had at Latitude 29 in New Orleans, but most Tiki drinks aren’t. Sharon enjoyed her beverage while we waited for food.
Sharon was “trying” to eat healthy at times during the trip to make up for some of our more extravagant meals, and ordered the Asian Chicken Salad
I wasn’t trying to be healthy at a Tiki bar and went for the Grilled Iniki Burger.
I’ve never had a beef/spam burger before so I had to try it. I also wanted to taste the shoyu mayo.
The burger tasted great but it did have the problem of being too unwieldy. If I wanted to taste everything at once, it was impossible to get a bite through the bun, slaw, cheese and burger.
We had no other plans so I decided to try a different drink. I picked the Penicillin which is a mix of scotch, lime and ginger. I took a few sips and looked at the bartender. He asked, “Everything OK?” I replied, “I almost never do this, but this drink is terrible. Could I have something else?”
His response was that I’m not the first one to say this about the Penicillin. I switched to an original Mai Tai, which was wonderful.
Before leaving, we purchased some of the Tiki mugs they had for sale. One of them came with a CD from Michelle Rundgren’s band.
Tiki Iniki is not a fancy place to eat. It’s a Tiki bar that serves (mostly) good drinks and has quality bar food. In addition, it’s one of the only places in Princeville that’s open late, serving fries and hot wings until 10:45 PM. Due to pandemic staffing issues, they are closed on Sunday and Monday, which we found out when we went back to eat there on Sunday.
Since we’re Tiki bar fans and it was within walking distance to our Airbnb, it was an easy decision to go and check it out. However, I didn’t get to bang on my drum all day. Maybe next time.
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