Eric’s family was insistent that we stop at Tip Top Cafe in Kauai. He had visited the café with his family on every trip to Kauai since he and his siblings were kids. So, when our plane landed at Lihue Airport just after noon, it seemed like an excellent place to grab a bite before heading down to Poipu.
The lunch rush was over by the time we’d collected our baggage and rental car and made our way out of the tiny Lihue Airport. We found the café easily and were seated immediately. As we perused the menu, I asked Eric for his recommendations.
“Well, Tip Top is really all about the breakfast. I’ve never eaten lunch here.”
A detail that would have been useful to know before. But no worries. There’s a first time for everything, and I suppose this was the first time for both of us to eat lunch at Tip Top. After five hours on a plane with only a small, overpriced cheese tray to share, I was feeling particularly gluttonous. I ordered a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, fries, and a decaf coffee. Eric asked for the surfer’s special: grilled local fish, white rice, chow mein, and shrimp tempura.
Tip Top cooks up a unique mix of Hawaiian, American, and Chinese cuisine. Eric’s grilled fish was mouth-watering. This was my introduction to fish in Hawaii, and it was unlike any seafood I’d tried on the mainland.
My grilled ham and cheese was comfort food at it’s finest. A delicious and gooey grilled cheese sandwich with a few thick, succulent slices of ham tossed inside for good measure. The fries were perfect after a long and exhausting flight.
But still, I felt a sense of incompleteness. I had to return for that highly esteemed breakfast.
On our last morning in Kauai, we returned to Tip Top Cafe. Eric and I each ordered ourselves a stack of pineapple macadamia nut pancakes. He had an orange juice, I had a steaming hot coffee. Even though it was a busy Tuesday morning, the service was fast and efficient. We received our orders quickly.
As promised, pineapples and macadamia nuts were cooked right into the fluffy pancakes. I topped mine off with a little butter and a generous helping of coconut syrup. Perfection. The pancakes were warm and soft, with just the slightest crunch from the chewy nuts.
Tip Top is a popular spot with Lihue locals, and can be crowded on weekends. But, as with most places in Kauai, there’s no need to be in a huge hurry. Kauai life is all about enjoying yourself — and you’ll definitely enjoy yourself with a breakfast at Tip Top Cafe.