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jschyun

Hawaii - Big Island recs sought

49 posts in this topic

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.


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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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 (log)

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Hotels

Best place to stay on the island: Kona Village

Best location: King Kam


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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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.


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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I would recommend the Dolphin Bay hotel in Hilo - the owner (John) is very cool and can tell you everything there is to know about the lava flow - he goes up there several times a week. Every room comes with a kitchen - but it is definitely not a luxury hotel like you'll find on the Kona side or North Kohala/Waikoloa. Rates are below $100 a night. But very clean and comfortable.

He has lots of papaya and banana trees on the property and they are offered up for the guests in big bowls in the lobby. If you are looking to get to know some more local kind folks - stay there - otherwise in Hilo you can't go wrong with the Hilo Hawaiian. BTW - Bear Coffee is just down the way from the Dolphin Bay - for a nice walk and a good cup of coffee in the morning and a chance to hang with the haole locals.

And if you are brave stop by Cafe 100 in downtown Hilo - where the loco moco was invented/created - they have every imaginable combination of loco moco - but it's not for everyone.

BI Revealed can give lots of info on where to go etc. but I highly recommend seeing the lava flow wherever it is - and the Puna coastline is spectacular - albeit remote.

In Waimea - the Waimea Deli is good for plate lunch - better than anything over at the Parker Ranch mall - and definitely skip the Parker Ranch Grill - go to Merriman's or Theibault's.

Don't skip Tex's for the malasada experience - they are in Honokaa just off Hwy 19 - and it will be on your way to Waipio Valley which you shouldn't miss either. But the book can tell you all this.

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Leave tomorrow morning, but will be checking email. Here's our temporary food itinerary (which certainly may change if we start feeling like we're bleeding money in tourist-land). Comments and critiques very welcome:

DAY 1

Arrive about noon, rent crap, check-in.

Lunch: Sibu Cafe

Dinner: Royal Kona Luau

DAY 2

Cook's Monument, beaches, our anniversary

Lunch: Manago

Dinner: Pahu i'a

DAY 3

Drive to see the Volcano and stay the night in Hilo

Lunch: Somewhere along the way to Volcano maybe

Dinner: Kilauea Lodge

DAY 4

Check out the Hilo farmer's market, maybe drive down to Puna, maybe falls

Lunch: Cafe 100 or Big Jake's if it's still there

Dinner: Kaikodo

DAY 5

Drive back to Kona via Waimea, golf Mauna Lani

Snack: Tex's

Lunch: Merriman's, Thiebaut, Koa House, or Waimea Deli

Dinner: Canoe House

DAY 6

Kohala beaches, golf

Lunch: Maybe Roy's

Dinner: Maybe back in Waimea or Roy's

DAY 7

More beaches, maybe Honaunau Bay, maybe more golf

Lunch: Bubba Gumps

Dinner: Hale Moana or Samoa

I really do have a feeling we'll cut some of these for budget concerns. Plus, there are always stands and shacks with fresh looking wonderful stuff in Hawaii. I expect some lunch places to be taken up by those.

Another thing you could comment on is any snack/shack stops like shave ice, fruit stands, etc, that may be close to where we'll be on a day.

Any good places to check my email would be much appreciated. (I will be taking my laptop, too.)

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Well, here's how it really went:

http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?name=N...=article&sid=17

Here's the in depth notes:

http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?name=C...=showpage&pid=4

And here are the photos:

http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?set_al...=view_album.php

Here were some of my favorite things:

FARMER'S MARKETS

Over 100 vendors fit into three large tents at The Hilo Farmer's Market. The produce and food tent extends the length of a block. Fruits you may have had from your local supermarket, like mango, have amazingly vibrant flavor. The papayas are so much sweeter than what you find on the mainland. Passion fruit, normally expensive as gold, or at least porcinis, are downright cheap at six for a dollar. There are local goat cheeses, smoked ahi, and Asian vegetables galore. Plus, cheap gift items, t-shirts, and tropical flowers. This is an excellent farmer's market.

While the Kailua Village Farmer's Market isn't as impressive, it is a good spot on the west side of the island to find cheap, fresh fruit and cheap, hand-made gift items. For more information and other farmer's markets in Hawaii, go to this link.

FRUIT STANDS

Any place that grows 14 varieties of mangoes is a place I want to visit. South Kona Fruit Stand organically grows all its fruit. They sell their own dried fruit, too. Some of their fruit could be more ripe, but they're very helpful and there's no better fruit stand on the island.

On the road to Kealakekua Bay is a little stand called Hale Aloha that sells fewer fruits, but still is worth a stop. The island-hippie with the bloodshot eyes who works the spot is eager to answer any questions while you enjoy his reggae music.

FINE DINING

We ate at three credit card draining restaurants on our trip and all three were good. Pahu i'a had the most interesting menu of the three. They had very good desserts and surprised us by writing "Happy Anniversary" in chocolate on the dessert plates. Get there early and request a seat outdoors so you can watch the sunset.

The Canoe House also has a wonderful sunset view and grounds worth exploring, including shark and turtle ponds. The seared Kobe beef appetizer with dipping sauces and green papaya salad intensely captured the flavors of the islands and the orient.

Merriman's offers slightly lower prices than the resorts for equal quality food and the chance to get away from the heat a little bit in the ranchland area of The Big Island. The service is knowledgeable and attentive. The kalua pig quesadilla, shrimp fritters, and chocolate purse were as good as anything I had on the trip.

BIG JAKE'S ISLAND BBQ

Normally you expect competition to breed quality. Big Jake's may be the only Q on the island and yet it's some of the best meat I've ever had. Maybe it's the competition from the kalua pig. The brisket is smoked with keawe wood for 18 hours and the pork butt for 10. The mac and potato salad is excellent. Best I had on the island. The coleslaw is good. The beans are good. And, of course, the meats are fantastic -- tender, juicy, smokey, and nicely barked. Any Texan should be proud to have this place in their hometown. This may have been my favorite meal of the whole trip. The pork butt was sublime.

SIBU CAFE

I instantly respect any restaurant that pays attention to little details that separate their dishes from similar dishes at other places. When Sibu brought out three fantastic sambals, one made with local sweet and spicy fresh chilis, and when I tasted their fried rice with nuts and raisins, I knew I liked the restaurant. Even the little garnish/salad that came with each entree was perfectly balanced, fresh, and tasty. Oh, yeah, the entrees were darn good, too. Try the spicy pork.

SWEET TREATS

Any trip to Hawaii must include shave ice. It's like a snow cone, but with a better texture. The best places, like Scandanavian Shave Ice, offer to add a scoop of ice cream under the ice. They're humungous here. "Jumbo" really means it. Very tasty, even if the employees are a little too cool for their customers.

Though everyone recommends it, I was suspicious of the Mac Pie Factory. But it's actually quite good and they'll let you fill up on their samples. There's no cafe, but they'll pack up a pie for you with bubble wrap and a cardboard box for shipping or safe travel. The flavors are very well balanced which you can especially notice in the coffee mac pie.

If you're having a Krispy Kreme kraving and find yourself in Waimea or Hilo, Tex's Drive-In bakes lip-lickingly light malasadas, a Portuguese pastry somewhere between a roll and a doughnut, that are worth a little trip. Get the ones filled with strawberry-guava. The concentrated flavors of gelato make perfect sense for tropical flavors.

Palazzo Aikalima makes excellent gelato and has several tropical flavors. Try the passion fruit with something creamy or sweet. The essence of passion fruit is emphasized here, left moderately tart, which I appreciate.

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ExtraMSG - Amazing. Thank you so much for that extremely detailed journal and for the tons of great pictures. Other readers, you should definitely check these links out. . .

I haven't been to the Big Island in a looong time, but reading your journal makes me want to go and check it out once more. Sounds like the old standards (Sibu, Manago) are still good and there are a lot of new places to check out . . . Thanks!


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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Thanks Extra for that tremendous report. Over the past 9 years I've spent about 11 weeks vacationing throughout the islands and I've dined at many of the places you detailed. Your pictures are top notch...great job. Too bad you didn't get to have lunch or dinner at Ocean View in Kona...it's one of our favorite local dives. Thanks so much for sharing and for bringing back some fond memories.


View more of my food photography from the world's finest restaurants:

FineDiningPhotos.com

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Thanks Extra for that tremendous report. Over the past 9 years I've spent about 11 weeks vacationing throughout the islands and I've dined at many of the places you detailed. Your pictures are top notch...great job. Too bad you didn't get to have lunch or dinner at Ocean View in Kona...it's one of our favorite local dives. Thanks so much for sharing and for bringing back some fond memories.

Thanks.

I also wanted to hit Cafe 100 in Hilo while I was there, but every time I went they were closed. 9:15 pm on a Friday, closed. 8:15 on a Saturday, closed. Morning on a Sunday, closed. Ugh. That and missing the putting in of the pig were the things that I was most disappointed about food-wise. I wanted to eat at the birthplace of the loco moco. Instead ate at Ken's. Yuck! At least Blane's was okay. If Ocean View had their full menu available in the mornings, it would have been fine. We just were never in that neighborhood during lunch. Plus, the cash only thing was sometimes an impediment. Do they do that on purpose to keep away the tourists?

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I just wanted to add that I just put up some pics of menus from the trip, among them: Merriman's, The Canoe House, and Pahu i'a.

http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?set_al...=view_album.php

If you can't quite read it, try clicking on it again until it doesn't get any bigger. There should be a thumbnail, a large image, and then a full-sized image.

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:biggrin: Oh, the eating memories of the Big Island were vividly brought to mind by reading your

adventures! Great job on the reporting! Three of the more memorable for me are the lobster clubs

at Mauna Kea at their beachside restaurant, to die for. When we were at the Four Seasons and

dining at Pau'h'ia while going over the menu with our server and enjoying complimentary ahi tartare

in martini glasses with chili pepper water shave ice she mentioned that the week prior they'd had

macaroni and cheese with boursin and lobster. This of course made me very hungry and stayed in

the back of my mind. During the meal - can't remember what it was though - chef Ryan came out

and asked how we liked the ahi and I mentioned how sad I was at missing the celebrated macaroni

and cheese, he asked were we coming back to dine during our stay and we said yes we had plans

to the night after next. He said to call him if we were for sure coming and he would arrange to make

us that. Sure enough, 2 nights later we went and had called him that day and the server knew right

away that we were the party who was getting the special meal that night. And special it was, creamy bursting with flavor from the herbs and boursin, the macaroni chewy, cooked just right to

uphold the sauce and atop in a blaze of glory an entire lobster cut into beautiful bite size morsels

the color of the meat contrasting with the white and herbs flecked throughout, freshly ground pepper added on top - that meal, a true triumph!

My third and by no means only one since we go to Big Island quite a bit, is Merriman's. Years and years of dining there have provided many magical meals. I love the gallery of photos of the farmer's

who produce his ingredients. Anyway I don't like sugar/desserts too much and the first time I asked to have another order of their fresh corn as my dessert they were a little surprised, couldn't believe someone wanted a vegetable for dessert, but of course they did it and it came in a beautiful bowl and I savored every bite, to this day I still order that as my dessert. There is something about that corn up there that has flavor unequalled by any other. A hui ho


"You can't miss with a ham 'n' egger......"

Ervin D. Williams 9/1/1921 - 6/8/2004

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Ah - then someday I shall post my memoirs of Maui and Lana'i.......When I return from the Kapalua

Wine and Food Festival I should have plenty of tales to tell! Glad you had such a great vacation!

Nothing like good food for great memories - a hui ho


"You can't miss with a ham 'n' egger......"

Ervin D. Williams 9/1/1921 - 6/8/2004

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I'm heading to the Big Island (mostly staying a bit south of Hilo) next week for work for almost two weeks, and this thread has been really helpful. Can anyone say any more about the various farmer's markets? I found this list:

BI Farmer's Markets

There are so many; are there any besides Hilo that are worth going out of my way for?

Are there any particularly good grocery stores anyone can recommend in or near Hilo as well? I hoping there will be something other than a Safeway-type store.

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Thanks for the Big Island recs. What a great place! Here are a few pictures for what it is worth.

Bayview Farms - I couldn't imagine a better tour and explanation of coffee production with a nicer staff. What a view!

Roasting coffee at Bayview Farms

gallery_8196_1715_405327.jpg

This is the first time we had seen bright red dragon fruit. Sort of tastes like kiwi, but more subtle. Great to make a mess.

Dragon fruit

gallery_8196_1715_54185.jpg

The special at the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea was loco moco with chicken instead of hamburger. I didn't know there would be enough to feed three people.

gallery_8196_1715_21013.jpg

The food at the resorts was as expected...overpriced and underwhelming.

We would also highly recommend Cafe Pesto, organic produce on the pizza and a real world price.

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Just came back from the Big Island, my personal best bets include:

Teshima's - South of Kona in a small town that starts with an H Good quality bento box style lunch with nice sashimi and other tasty treats.

Kuhio Grille - in Hilo in Prince Kuhio Plaza - good plate lunch dishes, esp. the kailua pig

Missing but enjoyed in the past:

Ocean View Diner and Sam Choy's in Kailua-Kona


Lauren

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Jaymes:

"QUOTE (jschyun @ Sep 23 2003, 11:59 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. "

My wife and I were in Kona last March and the Ocean View is no more. :sad: It was being remodeled then, so I'm not sure what it is/will be. We will miss the funky place.

We like Managos-the pork chops and the whole fish- and really like the baby back ribs at Drysdales (Keahou Shopping Center).

We've also enjoyed Cafe Pesto in Hilo. There's also one in Kawaihae.

Michael


Edited by MReichle (log)

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Jaymes: 

"QUOTE (jschyun @ Sep 23 2003, 11:59 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. "

My wife and I were in Kona last March and the Ocean View is no more.  :sad:  It was being remodeled then, so I'm not sure what it is/will be.  We will miss the funky place.

We like Managos-the pork chops and the whole fish- and really like the baby back ribs at Drysdales (Keahou Shopping Center).

We've also enjoyed Cafe Pesto in Hilo.  There's also one in Kawaihae.

Michael

Here's your answer about the Ocean View, I think.

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Jaymes: 

"QUOTE (jschyun @ Sep 23 2003, 11:59 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. "

My wife and I were in Kona last March and the Ocean View is no more.  :sad:  It was being remodeled then, so I'm not sure what it is/will be.  We will miss the funky place.

We like Managos-the pork chops and the whole fish- and really like the baby back ribs at Drysdales (Keahou Shopping Center).

We've also enjoyed Cafe Pesto in Hilo.  There's also one in Kawaihae.

Michael

Here's your answer about the Ocean View, I think.

Thanks for the information on the Ocean View site.

The old restaurant had a lot of local flavor that will be difficult to recapture. And the prices were extraordinary. We started going there in 1983. Kailua has changed a lot since then.

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>>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.

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.

All the Roy's on the mainland are franchised as part of outback but all the Roy's in Hawaii are owned by Roy's Restaurants. They are all incredible. I have never eaten at one on the mainland but heard that they aren't to much. I have eaten at all the Roy's on Oahu and one on Maui. They were my favorite restaurants on both islands. I lived on oahu for a summer and ate around everywhere, Roy's beats them all. I would highly recomend the butter fish, braised short ribs, and a must is their blackned Ahi tuna the best I have eaten. Enjoy.

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This thread was started so long ago I see that many places are no longer here.

OceanView Inn is closed. It's changed hands and is under construction.

Oodles of Noodles is now called "O's". Same owner different name.

Sam Choy's is gone.

The best place in town to eat is a new place called Jackie Ray's. It's off Kuakini Hwy. Great food, reasonable prices, friendly service. I eat there 4 times a week!

Quinn's on Alii Dr. has the best fish sandwich.

I went to the Sand and Stars buffet at the Mauna Lani a few weeks ago. Very pricy, but the food and atmosphere were incredible. They have a telescope set up to view the stars and dinner is on the beach.

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