NOM Kauai is Southern food you have to try

Quirky, over-the-top breakfast and burgers in Kapaa
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NOM Kauai is open 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to Monday unless they sell out of food.

Two weeks after NOM Kauai graduated from food truck to brick-and-mortar earlier this year, the restaurant proved so popular it ran out of food at Sunday brunch. So one week later I show up at the 7:30 a.m. opening time, determined to avoid a long wait.

It was definitely worth it.

NOM has a fun, casual vibe. The wall decor has a distinct burger theme and descriptions of some of the menu items.

NOM makes locally sourced Southern food from scratch. We’re talking big, fluffy, buttery biscuits and gravy, Kauai shrimp and grits, and burgers made with beef from Medeiros Farms in Kalaheo.

I’m not kidding when I say everything on the menu sounds good. The 13 breakfast choices have names like Cheeky Moco (that's shoyu-braised beef cheek) and Toasty Elvis, which is banana bread French toast with peanut butter, pecans and crumbled bacon. Then there's the 11 burgers, which like breakfast are served all day. I end up ordering two dishes.

Alicia Fuquay, who co-owns NOM with her husband Thomas, tells me the food truck-turned-restaurant was originally named for the sound people make when eating good food. Now, she says, NOM stands for not on mainland because the quirky, locally sourced menu is one of a kind.

The Fancy One ($18) is a medium burger with goat cheese, pork belly, sunny egg, butter-braised onions, roasted garlic and tomato jam.

I don’t usually order burgers for breakfast, but the Fancy One has pork belly (my favorite) and is new. One bite in, and I have no regrets. The generous portion of pork belly is smoky, fatty, juicy and crispy with a light char. There's a heap of goat cheese, and the runny egg and roasted garlic add umami. This burger is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

The Ultimate ($16) is buttermilk fried chicken, bacon, sunny egg, pineapple-bourbon butter and maple syrup between Belgian waffle buns.

I like traditional chicken and waffles, but NOM’s glorified Ultimate version is in sandwich form. That doesn’t mean it’s any easier to eat — it's hefty enough to require a fork and knife. The Belgian waffle is soft and doughy and the chicken is cooked to a perfect crispy golden brown. The best part, though, has to be the pineapple-bourbon butter whose sweetness I enhance by drizzling even more maple syrup on top. This is breakfast done right. 

I don't have room for the PB&J burger topped with goat cheese, bacon, creamy peanut butter, butter-braised onions and spicy chili pepper jam, or the Southern Chick (buttermilk fried chicken with cheddar cheese, sunny egg and spicy sausage gravy on a house biscuit). I scan the menu one more time before shuffling out in a food coma, trying to commit other options to memory so I know what to try next time. 

NOM on.

NOM Kauai
4-1101 Kuhio Hwy.
Daily except Tuesday 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (hours may vary)