Locals Supporting Local: Hukilau Lanai

This blog is part of a series from Mālama Kaua’i  & Tasting Kaua’i, highlighting local restaurants that source locally for their ingredients, sharing their tales of the pandemic and their battle for resiliency. Each week we encourage our readers and fans to support this restaurant as a movement to keep our small businesses who support our local food systems alive.

A feature from Hukilauʻs tasting menu: Pate and sausage made from local pork, topped with pickled veggies, herbs and microgreens. Accompanied by Rick’s Mustard (also made on Kauai)

Hukilau Lanai is an east side restaurant that was started in 2002 by Russ & Paige Talvi and Roberta Wallace. Ron and Krissi Miller were the opening Chef and dining room manager respectively.  In 2010 Ron and Krissi Miller purchased the business and continue to call it “home”.  They still have 5 employees that have worked at Hukilau since day one.  We got a chance to catch up with Chef-owner Ron and get his take on how they’re doing…

What’s happened to your restaurant during the pandemic? 
We are so humbled by the support of the local community that have kept us going. There have been some pretty rough patches, but we have been able to hang in there and look forward to the future.  Our staff has been beyond amazing.  Everyone just comes to work, does whatever it takes to get the job done, and never complains.  They support each other as well as the restaurant.  

I think the worst is behind us and really look forward to a bright future.

Ron Miller, Chef-owner of Hukilau Lanai

Have you tried pivoting?  
We are learning how to be better and more efficient at our take out business. It’s been challenging – and fun – and is a substantially larger portion of our business than before the pandemic.  We now have on-line ordering for takeout at our website, and we have partnered with D2D a fantastic local food delivery company.

Tell us about your local sourcing.
A list of all of our local producers and farms is on our website.  We use about 20 different local businesses that include farms, ranches, and spirit producers (which use local ingredients).  We only sell local fish, and buy from several local fishermen.  

Bison Bolognese is a special locally-sourced feature that Ron loves

What’s the most local dish you have on your menu? 
I really like our fish selection.  It changes depending on what is available, enabling us to use local veggies etc. to create interesting and tasty specials.  We also make our own pasta every day and it too is a good canvas for creating specials that incorporate local ingredients.  The Hanalei Bison Bolognese is pretty darn good!!  We also carry quite a few local liquor products.  Koloa Rum, Hanalei Spirits, Nani Moon Mead, are all really really good.

Why is local sourcing important to you as a business? 
Since day one we have worked hard to buy local.  We always look on island first, outer Island second, and lastly elsewhere.  That has not changed, but I think it is easy to get comfortable when things are going well, so since the pandemic we have used the down time to try and evaluate and improve what we used to take for granted – things like getting back to the farmers markets, and continuing to develop relationships.  

What’s your future vision for local food and restaurants on Kaua’i? 
We are so grateful for all the love and support that we receive every day.  I can’t believe the tenacity and resilience that Kauai has shown.  It is heartbreaking to see places close and to see people struggle.  I think the worst is behind us and really look forward to a bright future.  I expect many new opportunities for people as recovery begins to take shape.  

For Hukilau Lanai hours, menu, online ordering & more visit Hukilaukauai.com

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