One amazing thing about Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is the lack of chains. No Starbucks. No Subway. No McDonald’s. It’s enough to make a coffee-loving, fast food-devouring American feel dizzy. Fortunately, I don’t care for coffee and this also doesn’t mean Rarotonga doesn’t have fast food. Yes, even this slow-paced island that runs on even slower-paced “island time” is not without its fast food, but this fast food is local.
Our awesome bartender/sample-giver from the Cooks Lager Brewery, Wendy, recommended Palace Takeaways. Situated on the outskirts of Avarua, this little shack served burgers, fish and chips and not much else. Wendy told us they were the best burgers in town, so I had to find out for myself.
When we first arrived in the Cook Islands, we asked our airport driver where we should go to get a good meal. Hoping to get some sort of local insight, he recommended Trader Jack’s to us. His sentiments agreed with the brief food research we had done before coming to Rarotonga – Trader Jack’s was a must-eat. It took us until day two to get there, but when we got there we found it nicely situated on the shore of the Pacific with a beautiful view of the mountains in the background. And after half a day of hiking those mountains with Pa, it seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.
In the Cook Islands, 90% percent of the beer consumed is imported. Sure, most of it just comes from New Zealand, a mere three hours and International Date Line away by flight, but it is still shame when you consider the small island of Rarotonga has not one, but two breweries. One of these is the Cooks Lager Brewery and it is nothing like any brewery you’ve seen before. It resides in an old supermarket in the town of Avarua and has only existed for less than two years (replacing a defunct Cooks Lager brewing company that had shut down years before). Yet, in those two years, the five-man operation of Cooks Lager has begun to make its dent in the local brew scene.
Wandering the streets (err ummm street) of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, waiting for our hotel to let us check in, we made our way to a part of the island called Avarua. Avarua is often referred to as “town” since it is the closest thing Rarotonga has to a town. As in any town, we got hungry and walked into the first place that looked delicious, called Cafe Salsa. Typically, a restaurant named as such would serve Mexican or some other Latin food, but this was not the case and the only thing remotely Mexican about the place was the name.