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Hawaii - Big Island recs sought


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#1 jschyun

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 09:59 AM

I checked the back posts and so far have only come up with Merriman's. A friend is going for Thanksgiving, and I was curious if there were any good places to eat there. Looking for expensive, no holds barred dining, as well as local, unpretentious eats. Ice cream and snow cone recs are always welcome. suntrips.com was having a special, $250 out of Oakland, and I'm tempted to go as well.

If anyone is familiar with the Big Island, please tell all! :biggrin:
I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.
--NeroW

#2 NVNVGirl

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 10:06 AM

I'll be over there for the Ironman Oct. 14-23! Check out Pancho and Lefty's on Alii Drive (the main drag in Kailua-Kona) for Mexican food, Sam Choy's in the Industrial Park off the Queen K Hwy (BYOB if you drink), Cassandra's for Greek food on Alii Drive. Jamison's and Huggo's on the beach on Alii Drive too. For really nice, the Orchid at the Mauna Lani is wonderful. So is the main dining room at the Four Seasons ( I forget the name of it tho, sorry). And for coffee, Lava Java is the place to be on Alii. The first place I hit tho, as soon as the plane has landed is the Kona Inn on Alii Drive for a mai tai and pupus...right on the beach....so nice. Dinner there is underwhelming tho. Just a great place to hang out and people watch and great mai tais. Have a great time! :biggrin:

#3 Jason Perlow

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 10:09 AM

If you want to take a trip up to the mountain overlooking everything, go to Bay View Farm for AMAZING 100 percent Kona Coffee (not the blended mostly colombian shit, the real goods). They are the second largest processor of coffee beans on the island and VERY nice people. We visited them on our honeymoon 8 years ago. We still buy coffee and Macadamia Nuts from them. Their mac nuts are HUGE and they are naturally dried, they aren't over salted or have an icky dusty coating on them.

http://www.bayviewfarmcoffees.com/
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#4 fifi

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 10:18 AM

What part of The Big Island?

This from Chef Fowke's thread on pastrami... clickety for all the details This is from page 4.

Last year, I was in Hawaii. On The Big Island, we stopped in the little town of Pahoa (I think) and spotted a BBQ place. I didn't hold out much hope. Boy was I surprised. I watched the guy slice off the meat from a brisket flat. That sucker was smoke ring red all the way through! The juice was glistening as he sliced. I had never seen anything like that so I started asking nosy questions. He said it went for about 18 hours (for the flat only) using kiawe (pronounced ki-AH-vay) wood at 180-200. I think kiawe is the same thing as mesquite. I would have thought that the smoke would be too strong but it wasn't. That was some of the best brisket I have EVER eaten.


Then this...

FoodZealot PM'd me about the place. Then I actually found a card that I had hidden in my billfold. The place is Big Jake's Island BBQ & Catering. The little restaurant we ate at is in Pahoa. That is on the Hilo side of the Big Island. (Hilo side is my favorite place.) You can't miss it as it is on the main drag of Pahoa. Not much of a drag so you don't really need an address. The card lists a PO Box in Kailua-Kona but I don't know if they have a place there. Strange, because Kailua-Kona is a long way from Pahoa. The name on the card is James Newlon and he wrote down a phone number... 808-965-7427

I think that for the good of the eGullet community, you are really obligated to go to Hawaii and research this phenomenon. We await your report. 


I will charge you with a similar mission. :biggrin:

(Off Topic... There is a botanic garden just north of Hilo that is a must not miss, even if you aren't a garden freak.

Edited by fifi, 23 September 2003 - 10:21 AM.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#5 jschyun

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 10:47 AM

What part of The Big Island?

Anywhere. No sense limiting oneself when there's a car.
I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.
--NeroW

#6 fifi

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 11:09 AM

I can't help you on the high end dining. I think that you will find that pretty much only in the resorts. I don't go there because I don't like staying in the resorts. (Nothing against them, just not my thing. I am just glad they have kept them to the West side of the island so that the rest of it is not messed up. :biggrin: )

You should have dinner at Volcano House just because you have to. The food is good, not great, but how often do you get to dine on the lip of a crater?
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#7 tighe

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 11:48 AM

I would second Merriman's and the Orchid for higher end stuff. I've also heard good things about the Parker Ranch Grill which is recently reopened.
Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.
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#8 Tremors

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 12:14 PM

I grew up on Hawaii and lived mostly in Kapoho which is just on the other side of Pahoa. I was just there and did not se this BBQ place people are raving about - but Pahoa is small so if its' there you shouldbe able to find it.

For local food go to K's Drive In or Cafe 100 for lunch plate. Go to Ken's Pancake House for good local breakfast (altho I was disappointed with their portugese sausage on my last visit.) Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea is the best place for a huge breakfast .

Don't forget Tex's in Honokaa for malasadas. They've gotten a bit commercial but the quality is still great. I would skip the Parker Ranch grill - Merriman's or Theibault's is much better and I don't think there is a big price difference.

On a side note - you must go see the lava flow at night. If you stay at Dolphin Bay Hotel in Hilo - John the owner can give you great details on how/where/etc. He is a great resource and I recommend his hotel as a base for volcano watching. This is a once in a lifetime thing - I've seen it many times and I still am blown away every time I go. John goes 2 -3 times a week!

Have fun - Big Island Mo Bettah!

#9 ExtraMSG

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 02:11 PM

I have a friend who has family there. Their favorite low cost places are Ken's House of Pancakes (I think it's in Hilo, though) and Bubba Gump's.

Pick up an Ultimate Big Island Guidebook:

Big Island Revealed on Amazon

I've used their guidebooks for Oahu and Kauai and they're excellent. Much, much, much better than a Fodor's or Frommer's guide. You get the sense that they are truly locals and anything listed as Ono is usually very good. They'll tell you about total hole in the wall places, even. On Kauai, two of the best places we went to were totally out of tourist areas, Hamura's Saimin and Mark's Place. The latter was actually a caterer that also did to-go orders in an industrial area. Some of the best plate lunch food I've *ever* had. Really great stuff. Never would have found it without that guide. And the guide is just as good for the sights and lodging. I gave the Big Island guide to my friend and he loved it. He really liked how it separated the items that were things tourists are just expected to do from the real gems, as they call them.

#10 Kimo

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 04:18 PM

Kona Side
Oodles of Noodles - Kona, in a strip mall (www.oodleskona.com)
Pahui'a for the breakfast/brunch buffet (main dining room at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai)
Manago Hotel for the best pork chops (if you like grease) - a real greasy spoon, pretty hard to find, legendary with the locals
Sam Choy's - poke omelet, poke, plate lunches, real down-home
Huggo's - fish
Brown's Beach House - Fairmont Orchid Hotel (formerly the Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani and Orchid at Mauna Lani) - great ice teas, awesome views
Kamuela Provision Company - Hilton Waikoloa Village

Hilo Side
Kaikodo Restaurant - pretty new restaurant, high-end for Hilo, heard great things; nice story on Hilo, including this restaurant, in this Sunday's New York Times travel section

#11 NVNVGirl

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 06:48 PM

Oodles of Noodles IS good...it's next to the Safeway on Henry Rd between Palani and Kuikini I think.

#12 the other tony

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Posted 24 September 2003 - 07:49 AM

if you come for the food, you'll stay for the surf. i only began exploring the food of the Big Island about two months ago when i moved from the mainland, but i wouldn't get your hopes too high. lots of mediocrity to be had. with that disclaimer, here are some recommendations...

there is a thai place in kona at the king kamehamaha shops that has very good crispy duck
the ice cream shop in hilo across from the bus station has great bubble tea
hawaiian style cafe in waimea is good for local grinds
bubba gumps has decent breakfast if your in kona
merriman's is great and getting better every day (i'm slightly biased about this one)
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#13 FoodZealot

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Posted 24 September 2003 - 12:44 PM

I'm not familiar with the fine dining, as I'm usually visiting family. Also, I'm only there once a year these days. As TOTony warns, it can be hit or miss. But FWIW, my mentions (with duplicates):
Hilo side (East)
Volcano House - incredible setting and history. no idea what the food is like currently. try to be there around sunset, sit around the fireplace afterwards.

Seaside Restaurant - simple preparations - some fish comes from on-site fishponds.
Cafe 100 - claims to be the home of the loco moco, with many variations. basic plate lunch stuff.
Kay's Lunch Shoppe - family restaurant version of local food
Itsu's - actually a bait and tackle shop. There might be better ice shave (Big Island vernacular) around, but this is the one I grew up eating
Nihon - Roy serves some beautifully fresh fish at the sushi bar.

KTA - locally owned supermarket, several locations - you could check out a variety of pokes (several flavors of ahi, probably also marlin, tako, calamari, etc) and get some omiyage here - taro chips, cookies, mac nuts, middle-grade coffee blends

Big Island Candies - IMHO, a little overpriced and overrated, but attractively packaged and tasty gifts for your peeps at home

blatant plug: visit my folks at their bonsai cultural center, Fuku-Bonsai

elsewhere
Sam Choy's in Kaloko Industrial Park - Kona
Tex Drive Inn - Honokaa
Kamuela Drive Inn - Kamuela (Waimea)
Merriman's - only been there once, several years ago, but it was enjoyable
Cook's Discoveries - carefully selected, quality gifts and souvenirs. Look for pikake soap & such. Kamuela
~Tad

#14 Sweet Willie

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Posted 22 October 2003 - 07:21 PM

Oodles of Noodles IS good...it's next to the Safeway on Henry Rd between Palani and Kuikini I think.

Oodles of Noodles surpasses its hokey name, very much so.

After we arrived at KOA (Kona Airport) about 3pm we were starved. Headed to the town of Kailua-Kona which is 10-15 minutes south of KOA. Dined at Oodles of Noodles.

We split an appetizer of the Hana Style Smoked Pork Spring Rolls w/sweet chili dipping sauce, quite tasty. $8

Wife had shrimp Pad Thai and it was quite good. $12

I had a house specialty, the Kona Style Tuna Noodle Casserole w/wok seared ahi tuna, a shiitake cream sauce, button like pasta and some crisp onions placed on top. GREAT DISH. $16

Directions/location/hours at: http://oodleskona.com/
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"

#15 Tani

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Posted 24 October 2003 - 12:20 PM

I recently returned from a too-short vacation to the Big Island and Oahu...

Merriman's was very good, we ordered 4 of the appetizers, all excellent, several different main courses, and 4 of the desserts. The only thing that wasn't polished off was the kona coffee cheesecake. Don't overlook the kalua pig quesadillas, I was skeptical (it sounded too easy; I never met a kalua pig I didn't like), but the mango chili sauce was extra ono. There is a lot of flexibility in the main courses, which we all appreciated, they were good (though not mind-blowingly so). The desserts were all excellent except for the aforementioned cheesecake.

We did not have time to try another restaurant that was highly recommended by some locals to us - perhaps you can try it and report back - Daniel Thiebaut's restaurant in Waimea, of the same name.

Also, for candy, you can't go wrong at Kailua Candy Co. They have wonderful tropical truffles and the people there really seem to care about their chocolates.

#16 SG-

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 11:12 PM

Just got back a few days ago and thought the following was pretty good.

Canoe House at Mauna Lani - great food and wonderful setting by the beach
Roy's at Waikaloa - enjoyed my meal very much, seems to fare much better in hawaii than the branches on the mainland.
Hakone @ Hapuna Prince - if you must have Japanese.
Kamaelua Deli in Waimea on Rt 19 across from Parker Ranch Grill - for some cheap and extremely huge portions of mix plate rice. tasty but not at all fancy local spot good for when you're tired of too much rich food.

#17 Sweet Willie

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Posted 01 November 2003 - 07:08 AM

I checked the back posts and so far have only come up with Merriman's.

do a search using key words like big island, kona etc and there are much more than just Merriman's. :smile:
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"

#18 jschyun

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 09:58 PM

I checked the back posts and so far have only come up with Merriman's.

do a search using key words like big island, kona etc and there are much more than just Merriman's. :smile:

Hmm, maybe my search methods are bad. I just did another search using "Big Island" and "kona" as you suggested, but all the threads that came up were very recent. In fact, most are about a month newer than my post!

Perhaps you can enlighten me as to what I did wrong. thanks.
I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.
--NeroW

#19 Tess

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 03:01 PM

[quote name='SG-' date='Oct 31 2003, 11:12 PM']
>>Roy's at Waikaloa - enjoyed my meal very much, seems to fare much better in hawaii than the branches on the mainland. >>


Ditto! I think Roy's is great all over the state of Hawaii. If you've only eaten at a mainland branch, you don't really have a fair picture of it, IMO.

#20 SG-

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 05:31 PM

[quote name='Tess' date='Nov 28 2003, 03:01 PM'][quote name='SG-' date='Oct 31 2003, 11:12 PM']
>>Roy's at Waikaloa - enjoyed my meal very much, seems to fare much better in hawaii than the branches on the mainland. >>


Ditto! I think Roy's is great all over the state of Hawaii. If you've only eaten at a mainland branch, you don't really have a fair picture of it, IMO.[/QUOTE]
Yes I was really skeptical after reading all the terrible reviews about the one here in Philly. Think the success of the Hawaiian outlets are due being in it's natural environment and the availability of wonderful local produce and the FISH!!!

#21 NVNVGirl

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 08:45 PM

[quote name='Tess' date='Nov 28 2003, 03:01 PM'] [quote name='SG-' date='Oct 31 2003, 11:12 PM']
>>Roy's at Waikaloa - enjoyed my meal very much, seems to fare much better in hawaii than the branches on the mainland. >>


Ditto! I think Roy's is great all over the state of Hawaii. If you've only eaten at a mainland branch, you don't really have a fair picture of it, IMO. [/quote]
I was going to totally agree with you, but there's a Roy's at Spanish Bay in Carmel and it's excellent. Other than that, I've only experience at one other mainland Roy's, which is right where I live...it's in Rancho Mirage and it's not very good. Interestingly, it's a limited partnership with Outback Steakhouse if you can imagine....I know that Roy does occasionally make an apperance here, but still, it in no way compares with any of his stores on any island in Hawaii.

#22 Jaymes

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 07:49 AM

...as well as local, unpretentious eats.

Ocean View definitely fits that description. Especially good for breakfast. Although when you see the place, you'd probably just keep going. Gives "unpretentious" new meaning.

#23 skchai

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 08:38 AM

On the Kona side, one unpretentious place that's really off the usual tourist track is the dining room at the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook - real old-style plantation cooking with a lot of local seafood prepared simply. The hotel itself is also one of the oldest in the state, still run by the Manago family, charming and very inexpensive. Very popular with Oahuans on their Big Island getaways.

Also, if you're looking for a change, Cafe Sibu is a nice, very casual Indonesian place in Kailua-Kona.

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#24 Sweet Willie

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 10:59 AM

Also, if you're looking for a change, Cafe Sibu is a nice, very casual Indonesian place in Kailua-Kona.

agreed, see: http://forums.egulle...showtopic=29991
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#25 skchai

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 01:36 PM

Thanks for the link, Sweet Willie!

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#26 skchai

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 02:09 PM

By the way, as far as I know, all of Roy's Restaurants on the mainland are co-owned by Roy himself and Outback. All those in Hawai`i are solely owned by Yamaguchi. Not sure about the restaurants in Japan and Guam.

Somewhat strangely, Roy also used to own the franchise to all the Outbacks in Hawai`i, though eventually sold them back to the main company. Certainly doesn't fit his well-cultivated culinary image, but in the end it seems like it turned out to be a good business deal for him.

A lot of people have wondered how Yamaguchi can keep up quality given his every-expanding chain, and his branches on the mainland have met with a mixed reception. However, most seem to be profitable. Furthermore, the reputation of his local restaurants has not slid at all. He still claims to cook nearly every day, though constantly moving from kitchen to kitchen.

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#27 ExtraMSG

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 05:40 PM

My wife and I will be spending a week on The Big Island May/June. I've been to Oahu and Kauai, but never the Big Island.

I have the Big Island Revealed, but will be putting together a guide to print out before I go as well. Their guides have been great for the other islands. You actually get out of the way locals-only type of places with great food.

We'll be staying on both the Hilo side and the Kona side. (No reservations yet, so any recommendations for good value places to stay would be greatly appreciated as well.) So feel free to throw out recs for all over the island. We'll be travelling around a lot. I tend to pack way more than should be into a given period of time on trips. Here are my preferences:

1) Hawaii-specific foods: saimin, plate lunch, local seafood, fruit stands, shave ice, poke, etc. It can be a dive or fine dining, just as long as it's good.

2) Fine dining: I'm sure we'll want at least one or two nice, romantic dinners that impress. Preference given, of course, to places with local flair.

3) Great food of any type that is especially good. If someone does the best sushi, the best Mexican-style shrimp, the best Hawaiian style pizzas you've had, go ahead, suggest it.

Specific recs for dishes are always appreciated, too, but not necessary.

Thanks. I'll take lots of pics and put up the whole trip on my site and give an abbreviated report here when I'm done.

Edited by ExtraMSG, 19 April 2004 - 05:41 PM.


#28 Jaymes

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 08:00 PM

Hotels

Best place to stay on the island: Kona Village

Best location: King Kam

#29 ExtraMSG

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 08:19 PM

I'd love to stay at Kona Village, but at min $515/night, I think I'll have to pass.

#30 skchai

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 08:42 PM

Just very briefly - the one very inexpensive place that I would recommend for those who want something different from the usual tourist track is the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook. Warning: it is small and basic accomodation. But it is the second-oldest continuously operated hotel in the entire state, has loads of atmosphere, and is still run by the same family that started it in 1917.

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