The Blue Nun Cafe, in the Orongo Center, serves substantial portions of inexpensive food to be consumed at tables overlooking the lagoon. The name refers to the small kuramoo bird depicted on its sign, not religious nuns. The menu on the wall lists fish and chips, mussels and chips, curried chicken rice, and hamburgers. Wednesday and Saturday nights there's island dancing at 2030 (even if you decline the buffet dinner you can still watch for the price of a beer).
Mae Jo's Cafe, across the street from the Pacific Resort Aitutaki, serves Chinese food.
Tauono's Garden Cafe, between Paradise Cove and Vaikoa Units, is easily the best place on the island for a home-cooked lunch served in the garden. It's available daily 1200-1400, but on Sundays you must book ahead.
The Crusher Bar and Restaurant, near Paradise Cove on the way to the airport, is a funky open-air bar with picnic tables under a tin roof. The Monday dinner and cultural show is by Tamanu. Thursday night is island night with a Polynesian buffet followed by an excellent show by the dance group Tiare Aitutaki. The Friday special grilled fish or steak dinner has features live entertainment. Saturday night is "backpackers nite" with main course and dessert at reduced prices and disco music after 2000. Sunday nights it's a roast or fish of the day. The à la carte menu is available nightly from 1800. Animation is provided by the infamous lady killer Riki de Von (also an excellent cook). Call ahead for reservations and hotel pickups.
The Samade on the Beach, run by Sam and Adrienne at Ootu Beach, is a great escape for those staying at the nearby Aitutaki Lagoon Resort. For others it makes an excellent base for a day at the beach. You can order drinks on their white sand terrace all day, and weekdays they serve lunch and dinner. Choices include fish burgers and steak burgers. There's an island night with traditional dancing Tuesday at 1930. The Friday night beach party and barbecue and the generous Sunday umukai (earth oven) with string band music at 1330 are also recommended. It's best to reserve the evening meals, and Poo Bishop does transfers. Samade on the Beach also has 12 bungalows for rent.
Cafe Tupuna, near Gina's Garden Lodges between Arutanga and Tautu, is good for a nicely presented, semi-upscale dinner. Tupuna Slattery is an ingenious cook, specializing in curries, steaks, and fish. Try the sashimi. A selection of wines is offered and the floor is pleasingly sandy. Book ahead as seating is limited (transfers available).
Maina Traders Ltd. (closed Sunday), near the wharf, offers a good selection of groceries, fresh vegetables, and drinks.
Rirei Store (closed Sunday), the place with the Heiniken sign a few hundred meters north of Rino's Beach Bungalows, scoops out ice-cream cones as well as selling fresh vegetables.
Ask the people where you're staying if the water is safe to drink. Rainwater is okay but the well water is sometimes slightly brackish and boiling won't help much in that case.