KONAWEB - Kona Hawaii

Big Island Food Favorites

Conde' Nast Traveler has referred to
Konaweb's Restaurant Recommendations as
"Quirky, but quite reliable" -
We take that as a compliment!

Hawaiian food draws from a rich variety of cultures. The textures and flavors of 15 or more different ethnic groups make up the background from which Island restaurants draw their inspiration. Following are some of our personal restaurant recommendations.

Thought for Food:
Sunset sneaks up on us here in the tropics. If you plan to enjoy a Kona Sunset with dinner, make your reservations for 1/2 hour before sunset.
(Click here to see what time the sun will set.)

Heading South out of Kona?
Start at the bottom of the page.

In Holualoa -- the charming little artists' colony in the Kona Coffee Belt

Holuakoa Gardens - Holualoa's only restaurant has started up in a newly built structure that has some nice features - a rather hidden koi pond, interesting landscaping and pleasant nooks and crannies in which to sit. (All seating is outdoors, with most seating located on the ground level.) A replica of a "holuakoa", a sled that was used by Hawaiians on steep lava slopes, made of koa wood and designed by island artist treasure, Herb Kane, hangs from the ceiling of the upper level, which is accessed from the back parking lot and has but a few tables. The food is very, very good and well presented. The ingredients used are top-notch, and locally grown produce is used whenever possible, along with fresh breads and desserts made on the premises. Our praise to Wilson, the chef! Some items we've loved have been the ahi sashimi appetizer; a bowl of half carrot-ginger/half heirloom turnip soup w/apple and pancetta garnish; an incredible Caesar salad; "Fresh Pasta Lasagna w/Marinara & Pesto Sauces, Grilled Vegetables and Ricotta", "Homemade Potato Gnocchi, Roasted Tomato, Ichiban Eggplant and Summer Squash, Baby Fennel, Local Greens & Edamame", and an amazing bbq pork sandwich, served on homemade cornbread with creamy cabbage/apple slaw. The lilikoi cheesecake gets raves. The menu changes often, and the restaurant now has its liquor license. Take an interesting dining partner, because service can be pretty slow. The restaurant is located just north of the post office, next to the Holuakoa Cafe (north side). It is open for Brunch from 10am to 2:30pm, Tues-Sunday, and for Dinner from 5:30-8:00pm, Tues-Saturday. Reservations: 322-2233, $$$

In Kailua-Kona -

La Bourgogne - located on the mauka side of Hwy 11 just south of Lako Street and north of Seaview Circle, is one of the few places here where you can forget you are in Hawaii! The small, charming French restaurant is run by the owner and his wife (he's the chef; they both serve). All the food is delicious and prepared with great care. Their cassoulet, which is not always available, has a cult following. The restaurant is now offering a three course Prix Fixe Menu on Tuesday nights for $45 per person, but the regular menu will be available, as well. Reservations are recommended due to limited seating: Phone 329-6711. Dinner only, $$$.

Splasher's Grill - Upstairs, across from King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. A good choice for breakfast or a casual lunch/dinner. Plentiful portions. Good specials. Good burgers and fish sandwiches too. Large servings. Takeout orders are welcome. Breakfast (till 11:00am), Lunch, and Dinner. Ph: 329-9694. $$

BaLe - is the place we prefer for "local-style" food, though some of the dishes have a Southeast Asian twist. Our favorite is the Lemongrass Chicken sandwich (on one of their freshly baked rolls, not a croissant), which has julienned strips of marinated veggies on it in addition to the chicken - you can also get the Lemongrass Chicken atop a cold noodle salad, which is delicious. People who love Pho, the beef broth and noodle soup from Vietnam, say this is some of the best. In Kona Coast Shopping Center, near KTA grocery store, on Palani Dr.

Island Naturals - in the Old Industrial Area in front of Kona Bay Books on Kaiwi St., this new branch of the popular natural foods store based in Hilo is a big hit in Kona! See the review of Hilo's buffet.

Kona Brewing Company (Brew Pub) - Not by the ocean, but a great choice for gourmet pizza and homemade brew. Kona Brewing Co.'s beers have long been some of our favorites, and now you can also stop by their "Growler Shack" and get a half gallon growler of fresh brew to take home with you for $25, which can be refilled for $15. The Pub has some new menu items (lasagna - yum!) in addition to the sandwiches, quesadillas, nice salads, and those delicious, crispy-crusted pizzas. One of the specials offered is always a slice of pizza and a side salad, for when you're in the mood for a lighter meal. Deluxe root beer and sodas are available, as well. Ask about "special brews" - Konabob has raved about a stout made with Kona coffee and chocolate, and another made with fresh island ginger. Seating in or out (the seating area has recently been expanded), with a good atmosphere enhanced by Tai Lake's beautiful custom koa wood and "sea log" bar. Live music on Sundays, from 5-8pm. Be prepared to wait for a table. North Kona Shopping Center. Entrance and parking is now accessed from Pawai St. (off the bottom of Kaiwi St.) in the Old Industrial Area, and some new parking has been added. Lunch and Dinner, $$

Bangkok House - In Kamehameha Mall, just up the hill on Palani Rd, overlooking King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, entrance on Kuakini Hwy. They have the best Thom Kha Gai (coconut, lemongrass, chicken soup - order medium spicy!) on the island! Sweet people; good food. $$

The Fish Hopper - Across from the seawall on Alii Drive, near the Ironman start. This restaurant has tried very hard to become more appealing to local residents since its opening a few years ago (their flagship restaurant is in Monterey, CA), by featuring more fresh Hawaiian fish and creating a "Kama'aina Menu", and their efforts have definitely paid off. The Dinner Specials feature fresh fish flown in from the mainland and Hawaiian fish, but there are also beef entree's available. Konabob had a fantastic Parmesan crusted Sea Bass with sautee'd vegetables in a light tomato sauce ($19.95), and I had the Tenderloin Filet, Shrimp and Scallop Kabob Kama'aina Special, which I enjoyed very much. The ample serving of veggies that came with it were cooked perfectly, and included glazed sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli, and carrots. The Kama'aina Specials are $14.95 and include 3 courses: a very good clam chowder or a green salad, a choice from a variety of delicious-sounding entrees, and dessert (we loved the warm chocolate bread pudding with Kona coffee cream sauce). A very good deal. We kicked things off with an appetizer order of grilled artichoke - yummy! Drinks are $1 off during Happy Hour if you are seated at the bar. Service was efficient and friendly, and we saw several acquaintances there who told us that they go there often. There's a small parking lot behind the restaurant for patrons. Also open for breakfast and lunch. $$-$$$

Rapanui Island Cafe' - In the breezeway near the large banyan tree across from the seawall in downtown Kailua-Kona. This little restaurant is located in a breezeway off Alii Dr. and has fresh, tasty menu selections, including sate', curries and special vegetarian, meat and fish preparations with a South Pacific flair. Specials at lunch include lamb burgers and grilled fresh island fish. Seating inside or in the breezeway. Wine and beer. Phone: 329-0511. Lunch 11am-2pm, Tues.-Fri.; Dinner 5-9pm, Mon.-Sat. $$

Shivalik Indian Cuisine - Konabob has been to India twice, and we have both longed for an Indian restaurant to show up here in Kona. Finally, one has opened upstairs, across from the seawall, on Alii Drive. We went with a friend for our first visit, and arrived at sunset. They were busy, but we had a reservation, and were taken to a table with a nice sunset view of the bay. They do not have a liquor license at this point, so we brought our own drinks (no corkage fee). (There is a small store downstairs which sells beer and wine if you like!) As we arrived, some friends of ours were just leaving. These friends of ours were in India on their honeymoon years ago, and also love Indian food. The wife, who worked as a chef and cooked Indian food at a well-known restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, told us that the Navratran Korma dish was good, as was her daughter's "Chicken Makhni" (boneless chicken cooked in the tandoori oven and served in a rich tomato sauce). She didn't recommend the Biryani. The menu is very large, with many traditional Indian dishes that we love. Eleven kinds of flatbreads (much to the amazement of our friend!). We got a side of Onion Kulcha which is a leavened bread, soft and filled with sweet grilled onion. Loved it. We ordered a Vegetable Platter Appetizer to start with, which had samosas, pakora, and onion bhaji. We wouldn't order it again, as fried food does not seem to be the restaurant's forte. The samosas were not up to par. We ordered three very complementary, vegetarian (since our companion is vegetarian) entree's and were very happy with all three: the above-mentioned Navratran Korma (seasonal vegetables cooked in a creamy, cashew sauce), Baingan Bhartha (eggplant roasted in the tandoor oven, mashed and blended in a rich mixture of tomatoes, herbs and spices), and Palak Paneer (seasoned spinach cooked with cubes of homemade mild cheese). We shared the dishes, family-style. The food is quite spicy; we ordered medium hot. People have complained about the high prices here, and when the small-looking serving bowls arrive, you wonder about the portions, but there is no need to...they are served with rice that has been steamed with cumin, and after spooning the entree's over the rice, they fill you up! Because we had ordered the appetizer, we had to take a plate full of food home! Next time we will get another order of bread instead. We had a very enjoyable meal for three people for under $70. We're looking forward to working our way thru the menu, and also trying the lunch buffet. Open every day. Lunch Buffet (and regular menu) 11am-3pm; Dinner at 5pm. Ph: 326-9889.

Bianelli's - Bianelli's has reopened at Keauhou Shopping Center, where Rocky's Pizza used to be. GREAT pizza crust (2 types - Deep Dish & Hand Tossed New York Style, which is our favorite), lots of great pizza selections, from "healthy" & gluten free, to barbecue chicken or Mexican pizzas. Pizza by the slice available from 11am-2pm only (cheese, veggie or pepperoni). Special: slice with a side salad & soft drink for $7. Good salads. Great calzones - the regular size feeds two, to say nothing of the "Amazone" which the menu says is made for two... It is a full service restaurant, with beer and wine. $$

Island Lava Java - This is the place on Alii Dr. to see and be seen. The cinnamon rolls are very good. The food is light, not greasy, even the eggs, potatoes and bacon breakfasts. You might have to jockey for a table at times, but that goes with the territory. Outside, drinking good Kona coffee and looking at the waves...makes you want to pinch yourself! At Alii Sunset Plaza, next to Coconut Grove MarketPlace. Breakfast (starting at 6am), Lunch, and Dinner (5:30-9:30pm) daily. $$+

Kenichi Pacific - Located in Keauhou Shopping Center, this small "Sushi & Fusion Cuisine" restaurant has top-notch food. The Dungeness crab cakes are melt-in-your-mouth good (of course, the appetizer portion leaves you wanting more!), and we loved the "Aspen" sushi roll, with tempura asparagus as its prime ingredient. The broiled black cod appetizer is unbelievably good; melts in your mouth. Some good happy hour & Kama'aina sushi rolls specials are offered (Sat. nites, half price w/local ID). Don't miss the delicious and well-priced bento dinners. For dining reservations, call 322-6400. Dinner $$$

Special Stop! Burritos & Things at the Keauhou Farmers Market - The owners of the well-loved and oft-remembered Makali'i Cafe' now have a vendor booth at the Keauhou Farmers Market. They have been doing catering since the demise of the Cafe', and have also been perfecting their charcuterie skills! At the booth you will find burritos of different types, fish tacos, bbq, their fabulous Thai shrimp bisque, and now their charcuterie - homemade Italian sausage, pastrami, bacon, bratwurst, Portuguese sausage and more (the notation by their homemade hot dogs says...get ready..."no lips, no assholes!") They use only local products, including fish, beef and, now, the newly available USDA approved local pork. $$

Habaneros - a cute little restaurant in Keauhou Shopping Center near the movie theaters. Reasonable, mild but authentic-seeming food, cooked to order with enthusiasm. Specials every day. Fresh salsas. We especially like the veggie enchilada plate, the Tacos Al Pastor, and the crispy chicken tacos. To-go orders welcome. Breakfast (from 9 to 11:30am - try the Huevos Rancheros), Lunch, and Dinner. Liquor license. Open Monday thru Saturday, from 9am to 9pm. Now accepting Visa/Mastercard. $$

Mai Tai Bar - Royal Kona Resort on Alii Dr. This is a favorite of ours for lunch, and pupus (sweet potato fries with ginger remoulade!!) at sunset-time (Happy Hour 4-6pm). Right on the water, with great menus and good service. The food is excellent. Lunch 10am-2pm; Extensive pupu menu till 9pm. $$+

Jackie Rey's Ohana Grill - One of our favorite restaurants - good, fresh food! Located in Pottery Terrace on Kuakini Hwy. The fresh catch preparations are very good. Good soups and entree salads. They offer a wide selection of foods to choose from, and recently won a Wine Spectator Magazine award for their wine list. Chef Muzzy won the "Battle of the BBQ" at Don the Beachcomber's Mai Tai Festival in 2010 for his Korean-style glazed pork skewers w/dark rum pineapple slaw - yum! Try the Homemade Macadamia Nut Bar for dessert. The menu changes regularly. Lunch 11:00am to 2:00pm (except Saturday and Sunday); Pupus 3-5pm; Dinner 5-9pm every nite. Reservations recommended for dinner. Ph: 327-0209 $$+

Pine Tree Cafe' - (by Konabob) You know you have just eaten good local kine food if you have to go home and take a nap. I just woke up, and now it's time to tell you about the "Pine Tree Cafe" which just opened in the new Kohanaiki buisness park (Matsuyama's Shopping Center). Kohanaiki is about a half mile north of Hina Lani (that's the "Costco Road" to you locals) on Highway 11. Gloriously local style, you choose items off large wall mounted menus or the "Specials" white board. (Shirley had a killer Shrimp Curry Bisque with Homemade Cornbread, $6.95). Place your order and pay. Wait for them to call your name. No view, but what a great place to watch people! We are talking Local Kine working persons' food. Simple. 2 can eat for $20 or less and feel stuffed, and often have enough to take home, like when you get the fresh fish plate! Breakfast is served 6-10 am weekdays and till 11 am on weekends. Good French toast made with Punalu'u sweet bread, 4.95; 10 different Three Egg Omelettes w/rice or hash browns and toast, $6.50; Loco Moco, $5.95 for the single patty with fried egg, rice and gravy... Lunch served till 8 pm. They also offer Mini Plates for $2 less of the following items: Korean Chicken, Chicken Katsu, Teriyaki Chicken, Shoyu Chicken, Huli Huli Chicken, Pulehu Beef, grilled or deep fried Mahi Mahi, Beef Stew, Chili... all with rice or fries, a great potato/macaroni salad (the kind I like, with canned tuna and peas in it!) and/or salad. Bento (3 kine) includes spam musubi! Sandwiches, including shrimp burger, fried egg sandwich, tuna melt and the usual burger selection, $4 to $8.95. They do to-gos and catering too, ph. 327-1234. Breakfast 6-10am (11am weekends); Lunch 10am-8pm. Saturday nites, starting at 6pm, are "Bike Nites" (that's motorcycles, but it's sponsored by Solid Rock Ministries, so don't worry!)

Ceviche Dave's - Located in the "New Industrial Area" on Kamano St., around the corner from Costco, this is a great little spot to venture into for the pleasant surroundings, the friendly people, and the great food! Dave's ceviche is made with locally caught fresh fish that is marinated till "cooked" (it really is!) in citrus juice, fresh herbs and spices, prepared in four styles which use ingredients like coconut milk, macadamia nuts, and lilikoi juice (my favorite!) and served either on a bed of greens; a half of a large, wonderful, local avocado; on tortilla chips; or on a baguette. Much of their produce is organic, and they use 100% biodegradable packaging and utensils. Try it once and you'll be hooked - "garans ball bearins"! Average prices range from $6-9. Quarts of the delicious mixtures are available to go for $28, or pints for $14 (phone ahead). 73-4976 Kamanu St., Ste. 100. Open 10:30am-6pm, Tues-Sat; 11am-3pm on Sunday. Closed Mondays. Ph: 326-4737.

In Kawaihae - There are a couple of restaurants in Kawaihae, the Kona Coast's working harbor town, worth mentioning here. The views may be of the fuel depot, but the food's good and the places are charming. These places are also a lifesaver for those staying in the resort hotels up north, where there's a dearth of good restaurants on site.

Cafe' Pesto - Good food in a classy atmosphere. A good option if you're staying at the resorts on the "Gold Coast" and feel like trying a local restaurant. The rosemary/gorgonzola focaccia is a great way to start things off. The Japanese eggplant calzone is a favorite of Konabob's, and we both love the gourmet pizzas. Good selection of wine. Located in the lower level of the (small) Kawaihae Shopping Center - you can't miss it! Lunch and Dinner, 808/882-1071. $$

In Waikoloa Beach Resort(The King's Shops) - Take the "Waikoloa Beach Rd." entrance off Highway 19 on the makai (ocean) side.

Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill - Roy's has remodeled a bit and changed its menu. Always a good choice, though it can be a little noisy. We sometimes sit at the bar here and have drinks and pupus/light meals if we go there on the spur of the moment. Lunch and Dinner (5:30 pm -). Ph. 808/886-4321 $$-$$$

In Hawi - this charming little plantation town up north is surrounded by rich, green lushness and is starting to bloom as a unique shopping destination.

Bamboo Restaurant and Gallery - The "Hawaiian Saloon" style decor of this place is great. The staff is very friendly and the service and food are good. The restaurant serves fresh local organic greens and uses no trans fat in their cooking. Some "faves" are the fresh catch sandwich with fresh fruit salsa on focaccia bread, Eggs Benedict w/lilikoi hollandaise, the tasty and varied salads, and the wonderful fruit "slushes" (we loved the lilikoi one). Portions are a bit small for the price. Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch till 2:30pm. 808/889-5555. $$+

In Kapa'au - a bit east of Hawi

Minnie's - This is a great place to go for a good local-style plate lunch! They have a way with fish (delicately sauteed in a very, very light batter) - the mahi plate is great, with a generous amount of fish. Sides of mac/potato salad or coleslaw w/pineapple. Raves for the Caesar salads, which can be topped with your choice of meat/fish. Outside and inside tables. A local favorite. Lunch and Dinner. Closed Sun/Mon. Ph: 889-5288 $$

In Waimea - Waimea is known for Parker Ranch, good restaurants, and good shopping opportunities. It's one of the biggest towns on the Island, but still feels "country".

Daniel Thiebaut's Restaurant - A charming dining atmosphere with wonderful food, located in the 100+ year old Chock In Store building, across from Waimea's town park. Daniel Thiebault was the chef at the original Palm Cafe' in Kailua-Kona (remember pre-Lulu's?), which used to be one of Konabob's and my favorites. Open for Lunch Mon.-Fri. from 11am-2pm. Every day, open for Pupus at 3:30pm; Dinner from 5-9pm. Sunday Brunch from 10am till 1:30pm. Reservations are recommended for Dinner: 808/887-2200. $$$

Merriman's - An excellent choice for a quality meal, especially recommended for dinner, though their prices rival the Gold Coast Resorts now... Good use of local produce/seafood. Innovative preparations. Lunch and Dinner. Reservations recommended for dinner, 808/885-6822. $$$

Solimene's; Pizza, Pasta, Panini - A cozy-feeling, family run Italian restaurant in Waimea Shopping Center (the center where KTA is), Solimene's serves good Italian food, with interesting specials offered each nite in addition to the standards. Some specials on the board when we were there recently were fresh ravioli with goat cheese (we were excited about this, because Waimea produces fabulous chevre) and sun-dried tomato sauce; fettucine with roasted garlic cream sauce and grilled chicken; penne with spinach and gorgonzola cream sauce; and a grilled eggplant pizza. We love the tomato-y goodness of the Pasta Rustica (red sauce with Italian sausage, peppers, mushrooms and onions served over rigatoni), the spicy but mellow Puttanesca - and the Penne with Vodka Sauce is a favorite of ours. Good, fresh salads too. We are looking forward to trying the sandwiches, calzoni and pizza! This is a good choice for satisfying your Italian food cravings. Lunch 11am-3pm; Dinner 5-9pm. Phone 887-1313. $$

Lilikoi Cafe - We were pleased to find this pleasant, family run place around the back of Parker Ranch Center for tasty, fresh food. The array of deli salads is very tempting and varied. One standout is the Greek Salad, with big juicy wedges of luscious Waimea tomatoes, calamata olives, artichoke hearts, red onion and feta cheese in a nice light dressing served on mixed greens. Bob loved the fresh beet salad, and I the creamy curry salad with chunks of chicken breast, apples, red grapes and celery. The green beans with cumin and raisins are fantastic, as is the new fava bean, corn salad w/leeks! You can get combos of two or three selections on a bed of mixed greens. Breakfast is served all day, and hot entrees (like meatloaf, linguine w/Waimea sauce, vegetarian or chicken crepes, melted ham & cheese sandwich) are also available. Good lookin' desserts too, such as rice pudding, bread pudding, apple cobbler, creme caramel (flan), crepe lilikoi...yum! What a find... Delivery available. Open Mon-Sat, 7:30am to 4pm. $$

Hawaiian Style Cafe' - "Konawebber Kerri P had endorsed this little "Local Style" place for breakfast, so when Shirley and I found ourselves on Hwy 19 just west of the main intersection in Waimea this morning, we figured we might as well try it. The prices were in the $5 to $8 range which is not out of line with other local breakfast places...The dish I ordered was $7 something, and was called "2 large eggs with choice of meat and either rice or hash browns and either toast or pancakes". Sounds like a mouthful, but I thought I was up to the challenge. Then the food arrived. The portions that they give you are truly Hawaiian! The hash browns were easily twice the size that I am used to seeing in Kona restaurants. The bacon was not 2 strips, or 3 or 5, it was a large mound! Then the pancakes showed up and I could not believe what I was seeing. Each pancake was at least 10 inches in diameter, and there were 2 of them. I tried so hard to eat everything, but sadly, I was not able to finish the bacon, the hashbrowns, or the pancakes.... drat! So we plan to go back when we get the chance. Next time we plan to split the entree! A few more things I should pass on. Shirley's fried rice was good, and some of the specials we noticed were Kalua Pork Hash, Fried Rice Omelet and Chicken Fried Steak. Cash or Traveler's Checks only. No plastic accepted!" - Konabob $$

Huli Sue's - By Konawebber Lynn C - (We couldn't agree more with her review, except to say that you are given a choice of 4 delightful sauces to grace your BBQ - Chipotle, a Carribean-inspired honey citrus sauce, Chili water/Pineapple/Sugar Cane, and Crackseed. Konabob had a baked potato with pulled meat of his choice, Fontina cheese and cilantro sour cream which he loved. There are other specials, salads and soups...The restaurant is owned and run by the people who operate Fujimamas - formerly in Kailua-Kona, now in Waimea at the old Edelweiss location. ~Shirley) "Very laid back & casual with quality food. On Mamalahoa Hwy heading towards Honoka'a. We have been there for dinner & lunch. The prices are very reasonable and the portions are substantial. I see most people leaving with leftovers. Their lunch sandwich is quite a bargain at $10. The meat (beef, pork or chicken) is stacked high on a grilled bun with just the right amount of chipotle sauce AND...homemade slaw AND beer battered onion rings. A bit hard to fit in your mouth! They fill the rest of the plate with homemade fries which were cooked nice & dark to bring out the flavor. Salads are made with their homegrown greens and could not be fresher." Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm; Dinner 5pm every day. Now open near the golf course at Mauna Lani Bay Resort too. $$

In Honoka'a - in the Waipio Valley area.

Tex Drive-In - On Highway 19, this little diner is known for its malasadas (Portuguese pastries, kind of like a raised sugar donut without the hole), and you can even get them with a filling inside (the pepper jelly and the strawberry guava fillings are dynamite). They're served hot, of course. Breakfasts, Plate Lunches; Open till 8:30 p.m. $

In Hilo - The 2nd largest port in Hawaii is located here. Not a touristy town, but an interesting mix of local cultures. This is the "rainy" side of the Island and you can see real jungle and huge waterfalls because of that mixed blessing. Bring an umbrella, just in case!

Special Stop! If you take the beautiful Onomea Bay 4 mile scenic drive just a few miles north of Hilo (and you should!), stop at What's Shakin' smoothie stand. Delicious! Only fresh frozen island fruits are used, "blended with the essence of Hawaiian juices" - no ice, just fruit. Just the thing after the humid, beautiful Hawaii Botanical Gardens hike (on the same scenic route)!

Bear's Coffee - A great little gourmet coffee shop, with good pastries, light breakfasts (ie. eggs steamed in the espresso machine and fruit waffles) and lunches. Hang out with the morning paper amongst the locals. No credit cards, but local checks ok. $$

Puka Puka Kitchen - Good, simple food with fresh ingredients lovingly prepared and served. Their fresh fish specials get raves. Right next door to the Dragon Mama store on the Bayfront Drive. $

Ocean Sushi Deli - An unpretentious place to get good sushi. Local favorites on the menu, too. Located a couple of streets inland from the bayfront, on Keawe St. $$

Short 'n Sweet Bakery & Cafe' - A little gem, run by Maria and Dien Short, at 374 Kino'ole St., a couple of streets inland from the Bayfront. The place is cheery and bright, with some inside and outside seating. You order at the counter, which has a beautiful large painting by Dien's mother hanging above it. Maria has serious creds as a pastry chef (visit www.shortnsweet.biz to see them), and Dien makes outstanding breads, including a cranberry/almond loaf, French sourdough, honey wheat, pumpernickel, foccacia and more. Among their accomplishments, a wedding cake from the Bakery was a 2010 Bride's Magazine winner in an article entitled "America's Most Beautiful Cakes". A select variety of fresh salads and panini sandwiches are found on the menu. The panini are served on the housemade focaccia, grilled and served warm. Bob loved the Roasted Vegetable Panini with bell peppers, zucchini, egglant, fresh tomatoes, provolone and olive tapenade, and I loved the Herb Roasted Chicken Breast w/basil pesto, mozzarella, roasted bell peppers, organic greens (I added tomato). And now for the DESSERTS! Wow! Mini-creme brulee', Kohala Crunch chocolate bars, rugelach, salted caramel cupcakes, banana roulade, coconut shortbread cookies, and much, much more. They also have "Grab N Go" sandwiches while they last each day for $6.95 - Curry Cranberry Turkey; Fresh Island Fish w/lime mayo; Roasted Veg w/Olive Tapenade...Check out the Early Bird Special Breakfast Sandwich and Small Coffee for $5.95 daily (the breakfast sandwich is available all day); "Happy Hour" from 2:30pm to closing, with half off selected desserts & beverages. Brunch on Sundays (Brioche French Toast...) from 8am to 3pm. Hours: Mon-Fri, 8am-4:30pm; Sat. & Sun., 8am-3pm. Phone 935-4446. $$

Hilo Bay Cafe' - Good food, sophisticated, classy atmosphere. Nice bar. The menu changes every six months, and there is a wide variety of tasty offerings, from Crab & Mascarponde Stuffed Calamari with Shaved Coppa and Beurre Blanc appetizer, to a Hot Pastrami on Rye w/Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese & Horseradish Cream. We had an incredible appetizer here the last time we were in: Roasted Eggplant-Parmesan Custard served with (La Brea) Rosemary Bread. Melt-in-your mouth good! I had the crab cake salad and enjoyed it very much, and the French onion soup was also great. In the shopping center where Ross is, across from Prince Kuhio Plaza. Mon-Sat 11am to 9 pm; Sunday 5-9 pm. Reservations recommended. Ph: 935-4939. $$+

Island Naturals - The deli and the luncheon buffet here are really good bets for good, nourishing and tasty lunch selections. I love that they charge by the pound for the food on the buffet, so you can make a sampler of what looks appealing! Vegetable selections, free-range turkey meatloaf, samosas, a "laulau casserole"-type dish, veggie lasagna...the selection varies. In Hilo Shopping Center. There is now a branch in Kailua-Kona in the Old Industrial Area on Kiawe St., and a small one in Kainaliu at Mango Court.

Cafe' Pesto - see description of their Kawaihae restaurant. On the bayfront, this is our favorite of their two locations. More reliable quality, in our experience. Their seared ahi salad and warm rosemary gorganzola foccacia are just wonderful! $$

Reuben's Mexican Food - (by Konabob) "Shirley and I were in Hilo recently, downtown on the Bay front. We had been talking about Mexican food earlier, and when we walked past "Reuben's, we stopped and read the menu. At that point, a customer was coming out the front door, and saw us. "Good food! Try the fish tacos!," she exclaimed. And that was that. No view from inside, and I could do without the Sports Channel on 4 big TV sets, but honestly, the food made up for everything. Reuben's used to have a location in Kona - in the building across from Big Island Grill. That building has terrible fung shui, in my opinion. No business has done well there for many years, so we were not surprised when Reuben's closed. In Hilo they are thriving! We ordered Cheese Enchiladas A La Carte, which came with rice and beans, 2 sides of Chile Rellenos & one side order of Fish Tacos (fresh ono). We split a margarita, and it was quite good, and was larger than most. I was very pleased with the flavors of the food. The sauce on the rellenos is outstanding. It really satisfies a certain Mexican food craving...The service was efficient and friendly. We left after paying $30.99 plus tip. We will indeed return! Open Mon-Thurs, 11am-9pm; Saturday 12pm-10pm; Closed Sundays. PH: 961-2552. $$+"

In Volcano - This pretty, lush, area at the cool elevation of 5000' ft. is closest to Hawaii Volcanoes Nat'l Park. It has some good B & B's, and a restaurant of note.

Kilauea Lodge - Fine dining. Continental cuisine (Duck a L'orange, for example). Very Good. Now open for Lunch, Mon-Sat., from 10am-2pm, and Sunday Brunch, 10am-2pm. Dinner from 5-9pm. Reservations recommended, 808/967-7366. $$-$$$

Thai Thai - Right in the middle of town. Probably the best Thai food on the island. Very nice decor, as well. Great Massaman curry, Tom Kha (coconut milk, lemongrass, kafir lime soup with your choice of meat/tofu), Thai "Long Rice", and Pad Thai, just to name a few dishes that we've tried. Phone 967-7969. $$

In Na'alehu - Blink and you'll miss "The Southernmost Town in the USA". This is a picturesque area with beautiful monkeypod trees lining green hills, and black & white dairy cows grazing in brilliant green pastures that end in spectacular ocean cliffs.

The Hana Hou Restaurant - serves quality home-cooked food at reasonable prices. Fresh fish sandwiches, great homemade pies, etc. Sunday-Thurs, 8am-7pm; Friday and Sat, 8am-8pm. Live music Friday eves rom 5:30-7:30pm, often featuring popular island musicians like Buddy & Sammi Fo, slack key guitarists Chris Yeaton or Bolo, sometimes Keoki Kahumoku or Cyril Pahinui. Phone 929-9717, $$

In Captain Cook -

Kalama's - Down Napo'opo'o Road, the yellow "house" right after the big old macadamia nut factory. A real slice of local life. Outside seating; order at the window. Good place for grass-fed local beef hamburgers, fresh fish sandwiches and more. Wow, the "MBC" (Mushroom, Bacon, Cheese-burger - $7.75) was great, as was the "Poi Dog Burger", which is a gorgeous piece of grilled fresh mahi-mahi with Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato & homemade dill tartar sauce ($10.95). Eric's Mahi Burger will be my next choice to try: grilled mahi w/havarti cheese, teri-cabbage, dill tartar sauce... Everything grilled on the spot. There's a Kim Chee Burger, a 1/2 pounder that takes 25 minutes to grill; a Laulau Burger; Spinach Ahi Nori Wrap (other types of nori wraps available as well); Henry Cho's Hot Plate (grilled teri chicken and teri beef layered open face w/homemade red-skin potato salad), local-style plate lunches with brown or white rice ($9.75-$11.25), pastrami sandwiches, local favorites like spam musubi and more. What a treat! Open Mon. 11am-3pm; Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm. $$+

Special Stop! Coffees n' Epicurea - A worthwhile stop for good Kona coffee and great pastries and desserts. Made on the premises. Mini-eclairs are so hard to pass up! Sweet (purple!) potato/haupia pie! Chantilly cake and others by the slice! Great scones...and specially made chai! They've even started making brioche loaves. In Captain Cook, across from mile marker 106. $-$$

"The Coffee Shack is still a great place for breakfast or lunch. A jaw-dropping gorgeous view from Kealakekua Bay all the way south past Pu'uhonua O Honaunau will be yours while dining here. The outdoor lanai/dining area is small and we almost always run into someone we know, or end up chatting with visitors about Hawaii. Service quality and and speed has much improved here, so we will be back much more often now. Sandwiches are served on homemade bread, of which there is a variety to choose from. There is also a bakery case which features some very fine looking pies, cakes, bars, and muffins. Located on Hwy. 11 south of Kona, between the 108 & 109 mile markers. Open 7 days a week, 7:30am to 3pm, 328-9555. $$

Paparoni's - This casual "neighborhood" restaurant has some of the best hand-tossed pizza you'll find. The crust is just about perfect in our opinion. Other tasty options (chicken and pasta dishes, etc.) are available on the menu, but that pizza crust is why we go here! Wine and beer available. Reasonably priced. Located in the small "strip mall" across from the Fire Station in Captain Cook. Hours 4-9, Mon-Sun. Phone: 323-2661 $$

In Captain Cook -

Patz Pies - Great pizza! Now serving fresh, hot, malasadas! In what used to be Chris Bakery for many, many years, diagonally across from the big red antiques store in Kealakekua. Here, you will find a big red-headed guy named Patrick serving up the best crisp/thin-crusted New York style pizza on the island. Try the veggie white pie, with a selection of top-grade vegetables (zuke, sweet onion, mushroom, basil and more, atop an alfredo sauce) - around $3 a slice, or $21 for a pizza. They also offer good looking organic salads. No place to sit but the steps, but to-go orders are welcome. Pizza from 11am-7pm. Phone: 323-8100.

Mi's Italian Bistro - This place is very good! Please support it! In the space formerly occupied by Billy Bob's Park & Pork, and Uncle Inbea's Steakhouse, mauka side of the Mamalahoa Hwy. in a mini, island-style "strip mall". The owners, Morgan and Ingrid (their initials form the name of the restaurant), have done a stellar job of fixing up the space and giving it a classy, up-scale feel. The foccacia and pastas are made fresh at the restaurant. There are intriguing specials each day, in addition to a daily foccacia and a lasagna. We enjoyed a wonderful risotto special for dinner that included green chili pesto (not spicy, just flavorful) and a generous portion of shrimp as components. The Cioppino, a menu item, is very good, not as spicy as some we've had, but rich-tasting and very satisfying, with a variety of seafood. The Herb and Cheese Ravioli was delicious, with its creamy white wine pesto sauce and topping of chopped tomatoes, broccoli florets, toasted pignoli nuts and Parmesan. We all liked the Marinated Beets and Haricot Vert (delicate green beans) Salad very much. It also has baby arugula, Maytag blue cheese, candied macadamia nuts and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. The service was excellent, and the chef was a very accessible and integral part of the dining room experience. By the way, all the desserts are good too, but the Big Island Banana Rum Flambe' with Vanilla Madadamia Nut Caramel served over Vanilla Ice Cream drew especially dramatic responses from all who tasted it. A recent special was grilled fresh-caught mahi mahi over a creamy white wine risotto, drizzled with fresh tomato vinaigrette - you had to taste it to believe the incredible bust of flavors! Open Tuesday thru Sunday from 4:30am to 8:30pm. Reservations highly recommended: 808/323-3880. $$+

Keei Cafe - A nice place. Island fresh fish is offered in a variety of preparations, all tantalizing, but you can also partake of rib eye steak, pork chops (with black peppercorn gravy), a grilled half chicken with your choice of the aforementioned gravy or red Thai curry sauce, and chicken or tofu fajitas with local avocado and sour cream. There are many vegetarian selections, and starters include a soup d'jour (vegetarian black bean with a warm tortilla when we were there), eggplant rolls with a different sauce accompaniment, or a local fresh greens salad (ours had a wonderful variety of "leaves" and included anise, basil and small yellow tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette). Not a place to go if you're in a hurry or want a quiet dinner (the dining room is noisy!). Mixed reviews on service. Lunch served from 10:30-2pm and Dinner from 5-9 pm Monday thru Saturday. The restaurant asks that you allow extra time for slow traffic in getting there. Reservations highly recommended: 808/322-9992. No Credit Cards. $$+

In Kainaliu - this little town is becoming more "vital", and has some very good shopping too.

Annie's Island Fresh Burgers - In Mango Court. This newly renovated space is delightful, and makes for a very pleasant little oasis, right next to Kona Stories Bookstore and a branch of Island Naturals food store in the small shopping court just south of "downtown Kainaliu", makai side. The burgers are delicious and are made with island-raised beef; they can lean toward the rare on the inside, so be specific when you order (average price $10.95). Organic veggies. Good specials - KB loved his roasted veggie sandwich on ciabatta bread with fresh pesto; there's a good Poke Cake burger (panko-coated patties made with fresh sesame-shoyu fish, sautee'd & complemented with sliced avocado & cucumber aioli). Some creative & flavorful sandwich & burger choices - a portabello burger, a fresh catch, and a chicken sandwich, to name a few. Incredible Okinawan purple sweet potato chips w/spicy seasoning!! Beer and some cocktails available. Open 11am-8pm every day; live music on Friday evenings. $$+

In Honalo - the next little town north of Kainaliu.

Teshima's - a local favorite. Run by a Japanese family, it's a simple place with formica tables. Sashimi, tempura. We also like their local-style teriyaki chicken dinner. This is a good place for a local breakfast, as well (fried rice omelet!). It's a real slice of local Japanese life, and you might even get a visit from sweet "Grandma" at your table, serving you a complimentary nori roll as a dinner pupu. (Grandma just celebrated her 102nd birthday, and is looking great. Everyone at the restaurant got a piece of her birthday cake on her special day!). Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. $$

This is just a sampling of some of our favorites. Hope you will enjoy them, too. We're always on the lookout for new additions to the list!

Big Island Food & Entertainment


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