Lihue Barbecue Inn a Kauai Favorite

Donna Muramoto, left, and her mother, Millie Sasaki, keep Lihue Barbecue Inn a family business.

Donna Muramoto, left, and her mother, Millie Sasaki, keep Lihue Barbecue Inn a family business.

One of the things I love about living on Kauai is the small-town atmosphere and getting to know the owners of my favorite restaurants. One of them is family-owned Lihue Barbecue Inn, opened in 1940 by Masaichi Sasaki who wanted to do something for the people of Kauai. Seventy years later, the business is still thriving.

“People keep coming back because of our menu,” says Donna Muramoto, the founder’s granddaughter who now runs the restaurant. “It’s pretty big and we have a number of specials every day, things like beef stew, roast pork and stuffed cabbage. We also have some Pacific Rim items like a seared ahi salad and macadamia nut-chicken. So even if someone were to come in every day, they could get something different.”

With the name Barbecue Inn, is there any barbecue on the menu? Nope! Not even Donna’s mother, Millie Sasaki, knows where the restaurant name came from because they’ve never served barbecued food! It’s one of Kauai’s mysteries.

Lihue Barbecue Inn's delicious Eggs Benedict with tangy Hollandaise sauce.

Lihue Barbecue Inn’s delicious Eggs Benedict with tangy Hollandaise sauce.

I enjoy Barbecue Inn’s breakfasts. They are tasty and served in a flash – great for days when you want a hearty meal before being on your way. Their eggs Benedict with tangy Hollandaise sauce and breakfast scramble burrito are my favorites, and my boyfriend loves their buttermilk pancakes.

When it first opened its doors, Barbecue Inn’s trademark was that all lunches and dinners would be complete meals with a slice of homemade bread per person, a cup of the day’s soup or a small salad, your entrée, topped off by a slice of your choice of the day’s fresh-baked cream pies for dessert. The wonderful thing about Barbecue Inn is that it’s still like that! I love choosing from a slice of chocolate, blueberry, banana, peach or chocolate-banana pie, or whatever they have made that day. (Their Japanese-style meals come with pickled vegetables and a small somen salad instead of dessert.) If I am in a rush, I know I can enjoy a full, delicious meal and be out the door often in about an hour.

Donna, who literally grew up in the restaurant – Millie, used to keep a playpen in the kitchen when the children were little – says her father treated all his customers as family. Donna and Millie have kept up that tradition, greeting everyone who walks in, asking about parents, children and grandchildren.

“My father always said, ‘The customer comes first.’ He wasn’t about making a killing,” Donna says. “He wanted to make the people of Kauai happy.”

Enjoy small town Kauai at Lihue Barbecue Inn and celebrate a bit of island history, located at 2982 Kress Street in the heart of Lihue. Phone: (808) 245-2921.

Read more about Lihue Barbecue Inn in “Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kauai’s People,” a joy-filled collection of more than 50 stories about life on Kauai available at more than 20 locations on Kauai and also on Amazon.com. Visit www.kauaistories.net for more information.