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Kona, HI

Hawaii Kona the Big Island

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#1 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 09:49 AM

Mr. BLB and I will be in Kona for 7 days in Feb. with his parents. They go every year, he's been once and I'm a Hawaii virgin.

I see lots of fish in my future.

Any places that are not to miss?

I don't want to rock the boat in their routine too much but I also want to be able to claim some portion of the trip as mine.

Thanks!

Jennifer



#2 Yentruoc

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 11:10 AM

I was also in Kona this past Feb. Go you for starting that research!

I was also with In Laws, who didn't place such a high priority on eating as I did (ie sandwich from the hotel poolside bar was fine with them for dinner). The other constraint we ran up against is that dining is VERY expensive (ie, entrees at $30 and up for places that would probably be half that here) due to the high tourist traffic. You know you're in trouble when the guidebook mentions BK and Costco as more moderate dining options...

That being said, I had good meals at Cafe Pesto and the Kawaihea Harbor Grill in Kawaihea (about 20 mins. north of the Hilton Waikaloa Village, where we were staying) and some excellent (and pricey) sushi at Atami on the Hotel grounds. We also ate 2x (!) at the Kona Brewing company- just plain good beer and straightforward, well-prepared American/hawaiian fusion. All of these places should be findable on Google.

#3 giant shrimp

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 12:16 PM

we were on the big island last month, and in the right place at the right time to experience the two biggest quakes they have had there in 30 years -- nothing destructive but enough to get you up in the morning.

i would head for waimea, which isn't that far from kona, maybe a half an hour drive, depending on exactly where you are staying.

across the street from each other, the two restaurants worth the trip in waimea are merrimann's and daniel thiebaut. their menus look similar, but the cooking is quite different. merrimann's is more like the kind of modern american cooking you might find in the pacific northwest; thiebaut springs from french, his sauces can be brooding, a bit mysterious, which goes well with the mist that usually envelops the town by dark. we had great meals at both.

my wife was especially fond of locally raised lamb at merrimann's and i had sushi-style fish (don't remember what kind, maybe opah) that was as good as it gets. we started with an appetizer platter that included a local goat cheese quesadilla. steak, i believe from the nearby parker ranch, is a standout at thibault. an appetizer of crab cakes was superlative there (as it is at cafe pesto, which is more informal and also has an outpost in hilo. there's a whole lot of fusion going on, but it provides reliable nourishment for the body and soul. we prefer the wetter side of the island, although you probably also have some rain in your future, which is nothing to worry about). i started at thibault with a seafood mousse purse, and it was supremely good. at least in july, they were selling local strawberries from a stand outside the restaurant and they made their way into some fine desserts.

these two restaurants probably are not perfect, but i don't think we hit one bad note at either. go with whatever you like, and you probably can't go too far astray. big dinners for two with wine and drinks is in the $150 range. look for coupons for a free dessert at thibault, which is also open for lunch; not sure about merrimann's.

merrimann's dining room is open and brighter, one big room, somewhat more formal, with some beautiful people hanging out; thibault is a dark collection of rooms in an old house, a better bet for finding a no-nonsense, supremely happy hawaiian waitress. you don't often stumble upon places this good on vacation.

there is also a good wine shop about half a mile further on the left on the main drag through waimea, the best we found on the island, with bottles you don't regularly see around here.

if you get over to hilo, which is about a half hour drive from the volcanic park, a visit to the farmers market is worthwhile. i think it is open on wednesdays and saturdays and you will see a lot of asian ingredients. they even grow tomatoes on the big island, and this is the perfect spot for fragrant flowers.

actually, just thinking about these restaurants makes me want to return next month, and i can use the excuse of going to contest my speeding ticket.

#4 Woodleygrrl

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 12:51 PM

I will be traveling to Honolulu in November and I will have the opportunity to try the best that this city has to offer. I am looking to have a big blow out dinner at some point. Where would you recommend? Price is not a consideration.
Jennifer O- lawyer to the stars

#5 laniloa

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 03:28 PM

Indigo for very nice Pacific Rim food. The staff there is fantastic and have helped me arrange a large work dinner in their private room. Alan Wong's is another great place for upscale local. Kanak Attack for great downscale local. Island Manapua Factory for the best manapua and Chinese food. La Mariana Yacht Club for local-style drinks. The Waiola store for shave ice (with li hing mui, ice cream AND azuki). Leonard's for malasadas. And if you see a roadside stand with huli-huli chicken (a hundred rotisserie-style grilling chickens ) stop and pick up a great picnic.

#6 johnb

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 04:12 PM

I will be traveling to Honolulu in November and I will have the opportunity to try the best that this city has to offer.  I am looking to have a big blow out dinner at some point.  Where would you recommend?  Price is not a consideration.


If you make the road trip up the eastern shore to the North shore, be sure to stop at the shrimp truck. One of the best meals in the world. Period. No kidding. Beats the pants off anything fancy in Honolulu. Garlic shrimp.

#7 Woodleygrrl

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 08:22 AM

Thanks for the rad advice. I will report back and let you know how it was and where I ended up.

I can't wait!
Jennifer O- lawyer to the stars

#8 Sthitch

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 08:36 AM

I always make sure to grab lunch at a Raman shop when I am in Honolulu. make sure you find one filled with Japanese.

#9 laniloa

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 09:25 AM

I always make sure to grab lunch at a Raman shop when I am in Honolulu.  make sure you find one filled with Japanese.

Ezogiku has fantastic ramen.

#10 laniloa

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 09:30 AM

I've been trying to remember the name of the killer Chinese restaurant I always try to hit when I go back but I'm blanking on it. It is on Kapahulu Ave a couple of blocks up from the beach in the same building complex that Sam Choy's (449 Kapahulu) Diamond Head Restaurant is in. Skip Sam Choy's and go to the Chinese place. The last 3 times I was there they had half the restaurant blocked off for big Chinese wedding banquets. The waiters would sneak me stuff from the wedding menu. If you really want to hit Sam Choy's, go to his lunch place near the airport instead.

#11 laniloa

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 10:03 AM

Oodles of Noodles would definitely be on my list. Cafe Sibu is very tasty Indonesian. Manago in the old Captain Cook Hotel is (I think) still owned by the Manago family and has great casual local food.

#12 crazeegirl

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 11:22 AM

Try La Mer...from my dining experience in Honolulu so far (X-mas in Hawaii for the past 8 years), it is the best French restaurant.

#13 crazeegirl

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 11:23 AM

If you really want to hit Sam Choy's, go to his lunch place near the airport instead.


I don't think it was worth the cab fare from Waikiki Beach.

#14 laniloa

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 03:04 PM

I don't think it was worth the cab fare from Waikiki Beach.

I went there with some fishermen for breakfast a couple of times and the corned beef hash and loco moco plates are wonderful. But I never had to pay cab fare.

#15 Woodleygrrl

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 05:42 PM

So I have never been to hawaii, so is there some special dish that I should not miss while I am there? And please do not say spam.
Jennifer O- lawyer to the stars

#16 laniloa

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Posted 01 September 2005 - 09:49 AM

So I have never been to hawaii, so is there some special dish that I should not miss while I am there?  And please do not say spam.

Plate lunch is the signature dish. Some form of protein -- teriyaki, katsu -- with one scoop of salad (typical macaroni and mayo-based dressing -- I skip and get extra rice) and two scoops of rice. Can be had in many local drive ins (L&L, Rainbow, Yummy's Korean BBQ), from trucks, and even a local fast food chain (Zippy's -- but skip that). If you are hungry, get the loco moco.

You could also get some poi (taro paste -- can be found straight which is sort of like lavendar wallpaper paste or incorporated into rolls or pancakes which can be very tasty), lau lau (butterfish, pork butt and chicken wrapped in ti leaves and steamed), and kalua pork (think Hawaiian version of smoked pork barbecue) for local flavor. If you like seafood get some tako poke (an octopus ceviche kind of thing).

Don't worry about looking for spam, you'll wind up eating it one way or the other. Hmmm...what is this meat in my fried rice, in my wontons, etc.

#17 mktye

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 02:25 PM

Mr. mktye is escorting some VIPs around the Honolulu area next week and, to add insult to injury (the injury being that he is going to Hawaii without me :lol: ), he has asked me to find some places for them to dine while they're there.

The suggestions already posted in this thread have taken care of most of the meals, but I am stuck on the first night they are in town. Their flight gets in around 6:30 and they are staying at the west (or would that be north?) end of Waikiki near the Hilton. They don't really want to venture too far from the hotel on that first night, prefer something within easy walking distance, open late and not too fancy. Anyone have any ideas?

Thanks!
M. K. Tye

#18 laniloa

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 07:19 PM

Mr. mktye is escorting some VIPs around the Honolulu area next week and, to add insult to injury (the injury being that he is going to Hawaii without me :lol: ), he has asked me to find some places for them to dine while they're there.

The suggestions already posted in this thread have taken care of most of the meals, but I am stuck on the first night they are in town.  Their flight gets in around 6:30 and they are staying at the west (or would that be north?) end of Waikiki near the Hilton.  They don't really want to venture too far from the hotel on that first night, prefer something within easy walking distance, open late and not too fancy.  Anyone have any ideas?

Thanks!

Forget north or west, that is the Ewa (pronounced eva) side of town (closer to Ewa Beach then the east side referred to as Diamond Head side, towards the mountains is mauka).

How are these folks with jet lag and eating late? 6:30pm local time is 12:30am EST. That's the time I'd hit a noodle joint and pass out. There are a bunch of places right in the Hilton complex that might make for best bets -- Hanajuban is their noodle shop and Bali by the Sea is the fancy Pacific Rim restaurant. I don't go to that area often, but I recall a number of small noodle shops and a variety of small Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai places on the main drag just outside the hotel. I believe there is also a Keo's -- local landmark Thai place -- right near there.

#19 crazeegirl

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 08:29 PM

Forget north or west, that is the Ewa (pronounced eva) side of town (closer to Ewa Beach then the east side referred to as Diamond Head side, towards the mountains is mauka). 

How are these folks with jet lag and eating late?  6:30pm local time is 12:30am EST.  That's the time I'd hit a noodle joint and pass out.  There are a bunch of places right in the Hilton complex that might make for best bets -- Hanajuban is their noodle shop and Bali by the Sea is the fancy Pacific Rim restaurant.  I don't go to that area often, but I recall a number of small noodle shops and a variety of small Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai places on the main drag just outside the hotel.  I believe there is also a Keo's -- local landmark Thai place -- right near there.


If you want Korean, there is a restaurant in the Waikiki Resort Hotel (5 mins walking distance from Hilton). The Japanese noodle places are all over the strip (get the shio ramen or the miso ramen)...many of them are chain restaurants with frequent "eater" cards (I think eat 10 get one free. The Surf Room at the Royal Hawaiian has a seafood buffet that's decent. Hy's steak house is also nearby.

Although NOT near Hilton, you should recommend a visit to Chef Mavro's. It is about 5 minutes by car.

Michel's or Michelle's (I think the later) has a spectacular view...sunsets are Michel's are inspiring. Dishes are not as memorable, but worth the visit just for the atmosphere.

#20 mktye

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 07:37 AM

Thanks laniloa and crazeegirl for the location-specific replies. They have been very helpful in planning a dining itinerary for my husband's trip. :lol:
M. K. Tye

#21 laniloa

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 07:56 AM

Thanks laniloa and crazeegirl for the location-specific replies.  They have been very helpful in planning a dining itinerary for my husband's trip. :lol:

Be sure to give him your shopping list of things to bring you!

#22 jjshyne

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Posted 27 October 2005 - 11:12 AM

I went to Hawaii a couple of years ago with my roommates who are Hawaiian natives. Here are the local eats you should definitely check out if you are interested must try eats.


Rainbow Drive In- Plate lunches with Rice, Meat, and Macaroni Salad.

Zippy's- Considered the best Chili

Cheeseburger Paradise- Yummy Burgers and you have a choice of many toppings!

Waiola Shaved Ice- THE BEST shaved ice I have ever had. The ice is the texture of fresh powdered snow.

Mc D's- Breakfast menu- Portuguese sausage with rice and scrambled eggs. Yeah it's weird but it tastes great and where else can you get this in the US? I loved the sausage so much I brought some back to the states.

ABC Store- Spam Masubi

Snacks (store)- Sour Patch Kids with li hing, Dried Cherries with li hing, Hurricane Popcorn- popcorn with Furikake and Rice Crackers, mochi cracker with furikake, corn flake cookies, of course Mauna Loa mac nuts- Chocolate Toffee Covered Macs, Kona Coffee Coated Mac Nuts, and Hawaiian Host- Macnut Crunch, Toffee Macs.

Oh man... my mouth is watering. I have a major Hawaiian food craving now.
--jen

#23 gnatharobed

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 10:35 AM

[Maui]
Any suggestions? Including a good place for Christmas dinner-

I leave tomorrow morning and I can't wait Posted Image

Debbie Tang
A&J Restaurant


#24 Waitman

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 12:04 PM

Any suggestions?  Including a good place for Christmas dinner-

I leave tomorrow morning and I can't wait  :)

Here's a start.

"Don't go braggin' about how cool and clean your kitchen is. 'Caus if your kitchen's so cool and clean, ain't nothin' cookin'!"

-- Jesse Jackson


#25 tanabutler

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 12:14 PM

Why no one should eat at Longhi's.

Longhi's

The guy is SUCH an ass.

#26 ustreetguy

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Posted 27 December 2005 - 01:38 PM

Hopefully I haven't replied too late, but Pacific'O in Lahaina was fantastic when I went this past summer! I especially enjoyed the Yuzu Divers and the giant prawns with coconut rice (although this no longer appears to be on the current menu). Avoid Canoe's at all costs!

Edited by ustreetguy, 27 December 2005 - 01:40 PM.

Larry T.

Still waiting to get my refrigerator fixed...

#27 JeffC

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Posted 18 March 2006 - 01:47 AM

For future reference, I just returned from Maui and, as I have come to do more and more, avoided the over-priced high end restaurants. Most of those are pretty good, but they simply aren't worth the money. I used to love Mama's Fish House, but the prices are now in the stratosphere.

There really are better ways to spend your money on Maui than on the Longhi's/Mama's/Roy's money pits. This time I worked my way through the terrific menu at the Honokawai Ozakuya, a Japanese/Pacific Rim deli on the Lower Honoapi'ilani highway, just north of Ka'anapali in West Maui. All the entrees are between $8-12 and are better than good. The serve "plate lunch" meals, with rice and either a very good macaroni salad or non-run of the mill sauteed veggies. Especially recommended is their teriyaki steak, lemon caper mahi mahi, chicken katsu, barbecued chicken, panko-fried mahi mahi....and on and on. I got carry-out eight times in ten days, for a grand total of less than I would have paid for one meal at Mama's. (There are a few stools and a couple of tables outside the deli, but no one eats there. The seats are all taken by people waiting for their food.)

That, and some nice wines from Costco, and my friends and I ate very well indeed. Be forewarned--this place is very popular. Most attempts to call in an order are either met with a busy signal or the phone simply goes unanswered. They're unbelievably busy, but if drive over and place your order, they always have it read in 10-15 minutes.

And they're super people. No attitude, always friendly. If you find yourself on West Maui, it's well worth checking out.

#28 tanabutler

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Posted 18 March 2006 - 02:29 AM

Anyone who goes to Longhi's deserves what they get. That guy is a 100% plastic bobblehead egomaniac idiot doll.

Google "tanabutler" and his name.

WHAT an ass.

#29 bnacpa

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 11:51 AM

I will be on the Big Island from Apr 29 - May 7th. For the first 6 nights I will be on the Kona side and the last two on the Hilo Side. Aside from Merrimans, I found a lot of good reviews on Daniel Thiebaut and a mom and pop breakfast place called Ken's Pancake House on the Hilo Side (not gourmet dining, just reliable and 24hrs.)

Can anyone offer up any other recommendations for a great meal as well as cheap eats?

Thanks!

#30 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 12:07 PM

Oh's Bistro on the Kona side was pretty wonderful. We had a dinner and lunch there. (Formerly Oodles of Noodles...)

Lava Java has the best coffee I had in Kona and the most amazing cinnamon rolls. Definitely breakfast worthy.

There is a brand of ice cream--Tropical Dreams (?) --that is worth seeking out for dessert. The Kona Airport sells it and we had a lovely snack on our flight home.

Merriman's is very much worth the trip.

Aside from that, we had pretty dull food the rest of the trip.

Good luck!

Jennifer

#31 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 12:12 PM

Also, Merriman's for lunch is an incredible deal. Signifcantly less expensive than in the evening.

#32 bnacpa

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 12:15 PM

Lava Java has the best coffee I had in Kona and the most amazing cinnamon rolls. Definitely breakfast worthy.

Out of curiosity ... did you go on any of the kona coffee tours or try and find the best coffee or was this more of the best kona coffee you found from various breakfast establishments?

Reason I ask is that we are still planning out our activities and I am not sure how much time we want to spend on various kona coffee farms ... especially if someone has already compared many of them.

Thank you for the other recommendations. I am sure my wife will love to try the ice cream ... lol Posted Image

#33 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 18 April 2006 - 02:40 PM

Out of curiosity ... did you go on any of the kona coffee tours or try and find the best coffee or was this more of the best kona coffee you found from various breakfast establishments?

Reason I ask is that we are still planning out our activities and I am not sure how much time we want to spend on various kona coffee farms ... especially if someone has already compared many of them.

Thank you for the other recommendations.  I am sure my wife will love to try the ice cream ... lol  :)

We didn't do any of the tours. Too lazy and we both get motion sick so we tried to stay in one place as much as possible. So my coffee sampling was limited to the local breakfast places...

#34 bnacpa

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 09:19 AM

My wife and I just got back from the Big Island a week ago and have a bunch of recommendations ... for not just Kona, but for the Big Island in general.

The following posts will cover our favorite restaurants while there (Merrimans, Daniel Thiebault, Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill, Luquin Restaurant), very good restaurants (Cafe Pesto - Kohala Coast, Island Lava Java, The Seaside Restaurant), and disappointments (Donatoni's, Cafe Pesto - Hilo,

My favorite meal was at Merriman's. We had the wine special that night ... a Spanish Flight tasting. Unfortunately I did not take notes for which wines they served, but they were all very young and could have used a few more years. The goat cheese crackers that they served to cleanse the palete between tastes were amazing and the pinot grigio that was recommended with the meal was great.

We shared the Crispy Rice Paper Lamb Spring Rolls and the Taster of Keahole Lobster. Both were wonderful. The different textures and flavors of the lobster made you feel like you were a judge on iron chef. It was great.

For Dinner I had the Mixed Plate which had the Ponzu Mahi Mahi, the Wok Charred Ahi (specialty of the house) and a filet steak medallion. I switched the Hamakua Mushroom sauce with the Cabernet Foie Gras sauce for the steak. I was glad that I did because on my filet was grilled foie gras which was wonderful.

For desert we had the chocolate purse which is a molten chocolate dish (without any unnecessary fruit combo like chocolate orange). The molten chocolate is contained in a very very thin light chocolate crisp which is pulled up at the top to look like an old purse or money bag. It is accompanied by Tropical Dreams Tahitian Vanilla ice cream, which was amazing. The tropical dreams ice cream is made on the big island and is super premium grade ice cream. Very very good to say the least.

My wife had the Lamb which was roasted. She liked hers so much that she wasn't willing to share :)

In the same area, Waimea, a few doors down on the other side of the road is Daniel Thiebault. This was my wife's favorite restaurant. We were there for lunch and their lunch menu was much less formal than the dinner. The menu mainly comprised of sandwiches and salads. We both ordered the lunch special, a macadamia nut crusted ono but had different salads. Mine was just fresh organic baby greens with an oriental dressing. My wife had a more elaborate salad with goat cheese, fruit, nuts and organic greens. We both shared strawberries with brown sugar and whipped cream for desert.

I imagine that their dinner's are more interesting but the fish and salads were incredibly fresh and very well prepared. My wife is not normally a big lamb eater, so it was surprising that she ordered it at Merriman's, but it also goes into consideration as to why she liked Daniel Thiebault a little better.


We were staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village for the first 6/8 days of our trip. Near us in the King's Shops was Roy Yamaguchi's Waikoloa restaurant out of his chain of hawaiian fusion restaurants. This was a very close second for me in terms of favorites, but my wife was discomforted by the loud noise. This place is very very loud and people are constantly running around .... but the service, food, and presentation were superb. We had the tasting menu. I had the steak and my wife had the ono. Both were delicious and the appetizer was my wife's favorite ... a sampler but the ribs were amazing. The meat fell right off the bone. The shrimp and the spring roll were also well done. I also ordered an appetizer off the menu knowing that my steak would only be 6 - 8 oz. I asked the waiter what he recommened and he suggested a crispy hoi fish that is not offered at other locations. The sauce on the plate was in a ying-yang display with the crispy fish in the middle, veggies that looked like slaw (did not taste like it though) on top, and rare seared ahi on top of that. The sauces (have no idea what they were) sent me to places that sauces rarely send me. Usually sauces seem to overpower the food itself and are used to mask lower quality or poorly prepared food ... but when done right ... will just accompany the food and act as a catalyst to bring out flavors or a side that you may not have anticipated. That is what his food did and it was great.

The service at Roy's is second to none. The restaurant was packed (sold out), and we were there at 7:45. The water boy was also the bread boy and he always made sure that we had a hot mini-loaf of bread on each of our plates and that the water was full. I don't ever remember him filling the glass and I never remember my glass getting below 1/2 full. At one point my wife was looking for the waiter because the runner brought out the wrong salad. The waiter appears out of nowhere, looks at the table, as my wife it about to tell him about the mistake he says "That's the wrong salad" and he was back in a minute with the correct one. We were very impressed with how everyone was working as a team there and despite the fast pace hustle, everything seemed in harmony.

The final top recommendation we have for the big island is a mexican restaurant that is open from crack of dawn till late night in a town called Pahoa which is 15 minutes from Hilo. The restaurant is a dive that has been expanding itself over time to own the entire building which it occupies instead of being just one shop of many along the small main drag in town. We were there as breakfast was ending and lunch was starting. This is not a place to get dressed up for or be formal with, but the food was the freshest Mexican I have ever had. The tortillas, salsa, mexican sausage and drinks were all top notch. This put to shame some of the authentic places I have been to in Old Town San Diego and clearly makes one recognize how far the chains (Don Pablos, Uncle Julio's Rio Grande, Chi-Chi's, Chevy's, etc...) are from authentic. This place is out of the way but is clearly worth it if you will be anywhere close to Hilo.

#35 bnacpa

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 09:40 AM

Now for the good restaurants ...


The first on the list is a casual italian restaurant called Cafe Pesto (recommended by some on here). They have two locations and we went to both of them, but we only recommend the Kohala coast location. The pizzas, salads, and drinks are very very good. We really enjoyed their garlic herbed vinagrette dressing on their house salad (very fresh organic baby field greens). The pizza was bistro style with a good amount of cheese and a sauce that you could taste but didn't overwhelm. I tried the fish special and was disappointed by the lack of freshness (it smelled and tasted a little fishy).

The Hilo location offers the same food, but the wait staff are much younger and less professional. We actually saw the waitress hanging out with the host/asst. manager and watched him grab her a$$ and hold his hand their too long and too frequently for comfort. Also, there was a musician there on the Saturday night we were there and he was going back and forth between james taylor, jim croce, and religious Jesus tunes. It was akward. The location is along a row of shops looking onto the ocean (with the main highway in between). Unfortunately most of those shops, including corner units, were boarded up and looked like a ghost town. The Kohala location was night & day different, so try them out if you get a chance.

Another good/decent restaurant was Island Lava Java. This was recommended by booklovingbabe and others and we gave them a good try. We were there twice for breakfast. They serve 100% Kona Coffee (get the dark roast) and their cinnamon buns/rolls were the best I had ever had. We found 2-for-1 coupons for their coffee in one of the numerous free tourist guides. They are along the coast in Kona and you can enjoy your breakfast and coffee outside looking at cruise ships coming into Kona or just the comings and goings of the regulars.

A good restaurant in Hilo is the Seaside Restaurant. If you go there, the fish is very fresh, but nothing is fresher than the Mullet. They have them in a pond out back and will pull them out fresh and cook it for you. The volcano roll appetizer is an amazing sushi roll and the fresh ginger and wasabi go great with this. I made the mistake of getting a surf and turf ... by adding on the prime rib with my fish. Fish was great, prime rib was super fatty, over cooked, and lacked flavor. Stick with the fish at this place (which I imagine most do). The crowd there were all locals with their families. No tourists aside from us could be readily identified. The wine list is only good on the chef's recommendations page ... which only has a few selections but one is Silver Oak at $95 ... which is a very good price if you can find in a restaurant. Unfortunately, my favorite wine doesn't go very well with fish, so it won't pair up with the food very well. We would definitely go back to this place again ... the sushi and fish were really wonderful.

#36 bnacpa

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 10:08 AM

Finally ... the rest


We hit the cheap eat of Big Island Grill in Kona and Ken's Pancake House in Hilo. The Big Island Grill was similar to a hawaiian diner ... food was ok and cheap, but nothing stood out. If you want big portions of nothing special, for a good price, this is your place. One thing to note ... they had a pinapple coleslaw that was actually pretty good, but that doesn't make it worth going out of your way for.

Ken's Pancake House in Hilo is a different story. We had read all the reviews by the travel books and trip advisor and it made it seem like this was a diner that was really really good ... turns out that most people don't seem to know what really good is (or I am some sort of breakfast food snob). The best breakfast we had on the Hilo side was at the mexican place, Luquin's. I had a mexican breakfast and my wife had normal pancakes, homefries, eggs ... etc. The prices at Luquin's were the same as Ken's, but the quality and service was much much much better. Ken's may get its positive reviews because it is the only 24 hour diner in Hilo, but there is nothing special about the food. It was stale and boring even for breakfast food which is sad.

I already touched on Cafe Pesto in Hilo ... so the only other bad review we have is Donatoni's ... the very fancy, highly recommended Italian Restaurant at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel. We were there on a Sunday evening and had pushed our reservation back to 8pm. When we got there we were offered inside or outside seating. We first chose outside. we were on the water (the Hilton's private lagoon) and there were tiki torches lit all around. Ambiance and atmosphere were great. Unfortunately then the waiter showed up and it went downhill from there. We were given a wine menu with over 20 pages of wines but they didn't have a Somelier. The waiter shows up dripping with sweat and reading off notes that he has on his hand. I don't mind dealing with someone new, but he needed a shower and a towel and we were both turned off by the idea of this guy delivering food to us. Plus he didn't know anything about wine. My wife polietly asked to be reseated inside where it was "cooler" and our new waiter didn't show up until 8:35 to ask about wine/beverages. By this time we decided that we would skip wine since we had to be up really early for a snorkeling excursion the next morning. I told the waiter that I would like a diet coke and had a question about the menu for him, but midway through me trying to say this, he walked off with what my wife described as a disgusted look on his face. I guess he didn't like the idea of us not ordering their wines (which many bottles were priced over $200 and some approached $900 for). He returned 10 minutes later and at this point we were highly considering leaving this place. We placed our orders and he argued with my wife becasue she wanted just red sauce with her Cannollini and he insisted that she should have it with the white on top and red on bottom or order something else. When the food came it was great ... I had a ribeye which was tough on the edges but very flavorful inside. Unfortunately, we Michael hasn't put out a BIG Island RTS yet ... so we had to suffer. I liked the taste I had of her Cannollini. The salads before the main meal were also very good. We skipped desert and we noticed that the complimentary cookies that everyone was getting with their checks were not given to us.

We left and the next day I noticed in the room there was a # to call if anything was truly disappointing during the stay. I called and they put me through with the assistant restaurant manager. He wasn't on duty the night we were there, but he tentatively scheduled us for dinner a few nights later suggesting that they will comp the meal and do everything they could to win us over. Two days later the restaurant manager (new guy named Felix) meets us to discuss with us our experience. We tell him and he acts like we are on crack and must be crazy because his restaurant only receives the best recommendations and reviews. He then says that we can stick with the reservation we have and he will comp us $100 off the check (the 2 salads, soft drinks, and entrees without desert or wine on Sunday was $115). Considering how arrogant and uninterested this manager was ... I loved it when my wife suggested to him that he just comp our meal from Sunday night the $100 instead. He did and we called it a day. We spent more at Roy's and Merriman's and were happy to do so. This was simply a case of us being a small fish compared to what they are used to in customers and the new manager putting too much emphasis on what past customers/reviewers have thought and not caring to ensure that a former standard of excellence is kept up.

Final note .... for anyone who has seen the recommendations for Tropical Dreams ice cream .... if you are on the Big Island ... go up to a town called Hawi (pronounced havi) on the north west coast .... there is a coffee shop there that has great prices for the size of ice cream and replaces flavors every 4 - 5 hours. We tried many and I am not normally a fruit flavor fan on ice cream compared with chocolate or other derivations ... but their strawberrys & cream flavor was the best. The strawberries were fresh into the icecream not frozen ... so when we had it, they were full of flavor and still a little tender, not rocks within the icecream.

#37 Woodleygrrl

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 07:36 AM

I am bumping this up because Roger Troutman and I are leaving for our honeymoon on Tuesday and we will be spending a week in Honolulu (and another week on Kawaii).

Anything new and awesome? How about some really romantic pleaces to eat?
Jennifer O- lawyer to the stars

#38 Demetrius

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 07:50 AM

I would recommend that you try: Roy's, Sam Choy's or a place by the fishing docks called Strawberry Connection.

#39 robojoe

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 01:57 PM

Click on the link for the Honolulu Advertiser's 2006-2007 dining guide. It's a handy guide to the best places, pricey and cheap, throughout the state. Have fun on your trip.
Joe Raffa
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Oyamel-Cocina Mexicana

#40 Erin11

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 10:42 AM

I'm resurrecting this thread as my sister and I are headed to the Big Island at the end of May and I wanted to see if anyone had recent updates? So far, we have a reservation at Pahui'a for our big "splash out" dinner. My sister and I are spending two nights in Volcano and three nights in Kona. Other than Pahui'a, places on my list to try are Tex Drive-In (for malasadas) and Bamboo. The folks who run the b&b we're staying at in Volcano recommended Shacka Restaurant in Na'alehu for a lunch stop (we're taking the southern route from the Kona airport to Volcano). Anyone have experience with this place?

#41 JeffC

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 09:59 PM

For future reference, I just returned from Maui and, as I have come to do more and more, avoided the over-priced high end restaurants. Most of those are pretty good, but they simply aren't worth the money. I used to love Mama's Fish House, but the prices are now in the stratosphere.

There really are better ways to spend your money on Maui than on the Longhi's/Mama's/Roy's money pits. This time I worked my way through the terrific menu at the Honokawai Ozakuya, a Japanese/Pacific Rim deli on the Lower Honoapi'ilani highway, just north of Ka'anapali in West Maui. All the entrees are between $8-12 and are better than good. The serve "plate lunch" meals, with rice and either a very good macaroni salad or non-run of the mill sauteed veggies. Especially recommended is their teriyaki steak, lemon caper mahi mahi, chicken katsu, barbecued chicken, panko-fried mahi mahi....and on and on. I got carry-out eight times in ten days, for a grand total of less than I would have paid for one meal at Mama's. (There are a few stools and a couple of tables outside the deli, but no one eats there. The seats are all taken by people waiting for their food.)

That, and some nice wines from Costco, and my friends and I ate very well indeed. Be forewarned--this place is very popular. Most attempts to call in an order are either met with a busy signal or the phone simply goes unanswered. They're unbelievably busy, but if drive over and place your order, they always have it read in 10-15 minutes.

And they're super people. No attitude, always friendly. If you find yourself on West Maui, it's well worth checking out.

I'm getting ready to fly back to DC tonight after two weeks on Maui. Not much to add to the above, with two notable exceptions.

The is now a Flatbread pizzeria in Paia, at the beginning of the Hana highway. It's another extension of American Flatbread, even down to the design of the oven and some of the pizzas, but the local ingredients are very much Maui--Maui onions, pineapple, ono (fish), etc. The pizzas come in 12" and 16", the former being appx. $12 and just the right size for this eater. Easily the best pizza I've had on Maui. I ate there three times--two were superb, the third one was a little overcooked.

I spent the last few days of the trip in Hana, which is usually a food wasteland, except the obscenely overpriced Hana Hotel. But Sunday I noticed a sign on the highway directing people to "Pranee's Thai Food", which turned out to be a Thai woman and her helper, serving some of the finest Thai food I've eaten out of a little hut in her front yard. I had sweet and sour mahi mahi, rice, and salad for $8! I also took home an order of Pad Thai and an order of Chicken Panang w/Kafir Lime and Coconut milk. Also $8 per order. It was spicy and good, much better than any Thai I've had at other places on Maui. For those planning a trip to Hana, they only serve food on Sunday and Monday, between 11 AM and appx. 2 PM. When the food's gone, they shut down.

Gotta plane to catch, so....

Aloha to all!

#42 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 01:30 AM

Anybody have any recent recommendations for the Kona District? We'll be at the Hilton Waikoloa Village next week and are looking for any and all ideas for food. There's this article from Serious Eats, which seems to be a good start. We have a car and are looking for all prices points, but will probably try and stick to cheaper eats, including food trucks, farmer's markets, etc. Thanks!!

#43 astrid

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:38 AM

My trip was in early 2009, so my restaurant recs may be out of date. I did check with Yelp and these places are still getting very good ratings.

Coffee Shack in Captain Cook - serves up a very tasty breakfast, definitely the best of its kind that we encountered

Manago Hotel - very inexpensive and tasty

Kona Villages used to have the best luau with great food and entertainment, but it looks like the new owners closed that down in 2012.

I would have recommended buying this but it hasn't been updated since 2009. Hawaii The Big Island Revealed gives generally pretty good guidance (though they were waaay too optimistic about the conditions of some unpaved roads), much better than Lonely Planet or Rough Guides.

#44 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 01:14 PM

Thanks Astrid!  We meant to get to Roy’s and Manago Hotel but ran out of time. This article from the LA Times was very useful, as the writer obviously stayed in the same area that we did.

 

Merriman's Market Cafe in Waikoloa is lovely, with fresh, local ingredients and a variety of lighter options (salads, non-fried fish dishes). We had an ahi burger and fish tacos.  The ahi burger had Asian flourishes (pickles) and came with an addictive mustard aoli.  The fish tacos were grilled and came with hummus, which is an odd but welcome touch for a person who doesn't care for tartar sauce. It’s in a nice outdoor strip mall, and the service is friendly and efficient. 

 

Island Fish and Chips is in the same shopping center as Merriman’s and is really just a window/booth shop by the man-made lake.  Almost everything is fried.  The non-fish dishes and fries aren't anything special, but the fish of the day (mahi mahi when we were there) is fresh, coated in a tempura-like batter, and surprisingly great with their industrial tartar sauce.  The view is pretty and they will pipe in music to the outdoor-only (there is some shade) seating area when musicians are performing in the shopping center square.  This may or may not be a good thing ;-)  There was also a teeny farmer’s market on Wednesday morning-afternoon in this shopping center.

 

Island Gourmet is a grocery/ABC store down the street from Merriman’s in the Queenstown marketplace, which also has some prepared and prepared-to-order foods, including sushi, rice bowls, breakfast, and sandwiches. It’s a decent place to grab drinks, snacks, and souvenirs.  They do have li hing mui (salty plum powder-coated things) treats and powder for sale.

 

We were staying at the Hilton Waikoloa and ate a couple times at the Chinese restaurant, Kirin.  It’s actually got decent food, better than we can get in the hinterlands of Ventura County (CA).  From 11-5 they have a dim sum menu with acceptable dumplings and nicely sautéed noodles.  Our dinner was similar, with well-executed, sweeter-sauced, barely spicy (even when spice was requested) Singapore noodles (though it was nicely dusted with curry powder throughout) and Sezchuan eggplant.  The chili sauce can rescue most dishes as needed for spice and the service is very cheerful and attentive.  On property, we also ate at the Boat Landing Cantina.  I think we are spoiled from living near LA but this Mexican-themed food is meh – small portions, not very flavorful, mostly fried – and they are always crowded and busy.  Go only for drinks as necessary.  We also went to the luau at the resort.  The show was cheezy fun and the meats and fruits were very good.  The roast pig and ribs were simply prepared and sauced and very nice.  I ate as much of those as I could (too much!).  The poke was also quite good.  The rest – the salads, carbs, vegetables, and dessert, were all very forgettable banquet/buffet-style fare.  It’s pretty expensive, but probably worth going if you’ve never been to the show and come hungry.

 

We ate twice at the Hawaiian Style Café in Waimea.  It’s everything as promised – huge portions of plain and simple local dinerish food.  I think the clientele is now pretty evenly mixed between locals and tourists.  The loco moco is huge and tasty (they use short-grained, stickier rice) and the pancakes are GIANT and fluffy.  The lamb ribs are fantastic – grilled to perfection and simply dressed.  We sucked those bones as dry as possible.  It’s only open until 1:30 PM and there is usually a fairly fast-moving line in the morning.

 

We stopped in Tex’s Drive-In every time we drove by for the malasadas (Portuguese donuts).  Hot and fluffy, dusted with sugar, and filled with fruit or cream toppings, these little pastries are the BOMB!  They are amazing when they first come out hot, but hold up throughout the day.  If you gorge on these they will carry through hikes to Akaka falls or around Volcanoes national park.

 

Our best meal of the week was at Rapanui’s Island Cafe, a little Indonesian place in downtown Kona (it’s inside a plaza so a little difficult to find, but there is free parking in the municipal lot out back).  The beef was better than the pork satay, and the chicken was also nicely grilled.  The veggie combination plate (stir-fry, curry, and salad) was lovely with the café rice (bathed in coconut milk and lemongrass?) but would have been a little bland without. The iced tea is not sweetened!  Refreshing, but surprising.  It’s very small (husband chef and wife FOH and that’s it for staff) so there will likely be a wait, but we really enjoyed our experience.

 

We also grabbed a bite at Ba-Le, a local chain of Vietnamese restaurants.  The bahn mi were great, the vermicelli noodles and pho broth (MSG!) were fine, and it was very quick and easy.  They also have mini plates (which we didn’t see) so you can sample more things.

 

I didn’t really care for the food at Nori’s Saimin and Snacks. The ginger pork was too sweet and the noodle broth too salty. Advantages – lots of locals, it’s open late (10 PM), and the desserts are homemade and look good.

 

Hilo Farmer’s Market – nothing special for folks that are used to nice farmer’s markets.  Worth visiting on market days (Sat and Wed, I believe) if you’re in the area and want to pick up some fruit, but we weren’t particularly blown away.  There are papayas, coconuts, guavas, and apple bananas for sale by the road all over the island!

 

Overall, there is a lot of decent local dining available, as long as you are willing to drive.  Almost every place you want to go is right off the only main road around the island.  Places close EARLY.  We weren’t able to get into Bamboo (Hawi) and Hotel Manago (Captain Cook Town) because they have their last seatings at 8 and 7:30 PM, respectively!  So be prepared :)


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