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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
A popular local hangout, and not just because the kava makes you mellow. Their pupu (appetizers) rock! Fresh poke, smoky, tender bowls of pulled kalua pork, and healthy organic greens are available in fairly large portions for less than you'll pay elsewhere. The restaurant also offers fresh-fish plates, vegetarian options, and even traditional Hawaiian lau lau (pork and butterfish wrapped in taro leaves and steamed). Seating is at a premium, but don't be afraid to share a table and make friends. www.kanakakava.com.
For a restaurant that faces Keauhou Bay, Kai doesn't fully take advantage of the view (there's no outdoor seating to speak of), but there are nice views through the large accordian windows depending on where you sit. Best bets include the poke, as well as the tender and flavorful filet mignon, and Kona coffee-crusted lamb. The risotto with truffle-oil infusion won't disappoint, and all seafood is freshly caught. On Sunday, the Pacific-to-Your Plate three-course menu is a standout. After dinner, head to the Manta Ray Bar and Grill to see manta rays swimming in the spotlights below the balcony. New hotel management plans to upgrade in 2012, so look for a new and improved venue in the near future. www.sheratonkeauhou.com. Credit cards accepted.
The little yellow café near Kealakekua Bay is a great place to stop after a morning of kayaking or swimming with spinner dolphins. The Kauai-born proprietors serve up excellent Hawaiian offerings like the popular laulau burger made with cured pork, or complete entrées like grilled ahi or teriyaki short ribs. Be sure to try the mahimahi burger—it's might be the best mahimahi you'll ever eat. For the kids, Kalama's offers shave ice, musubi, hot deli sandwiches, hot dogs, and burgers grilled on the barbecue and served on a soft potato bun. Everything is cooked to order, so grab a table, change your watch to island time, relax, and enjoy the view.
This brightly decorated, open-air restaurant is a favorite lunch destination and popular for dinner as well, thanks to the chef's chicken and angel hair pasta, nicely prepared local seafood dishes, and a few juicy meat standouts, including six bone rack of lamb. Be sure to pair your meal with a selection from Jackie Rey's well-rounded wine list. At lunchtime, the fresh-fish sandwiches with wasabi mayo are excellent, and the fries are crisped to perfection. On the lighter side, inventive salads keep it healthy but flavorful. www.jackiereys.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch weekends.
This elegant restaurant, complete with waterfalls and a teahouse, serves sukiyaki and tempura aimed to please mainland tastes. Beyond the impressive display of Imari porcelain at the entrance, you can find teppanyaki (beef or shrimp cooked table-side), washoku (a traditional Japanese dining experience that allows you to enjoy new-wave and classical cuisine), and a sushi-sashimi bar. The restaurant can get loud. www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
This place is always busy, especially on weekends. Order your food at the counter then sit outside at one of the wooden, umbrella-shaded tables where you can sip 100% Kona coffee and take in the ocean view. The variety-filled menu includes island-style pancakes for breakfast, fresh-fish tacos for lunch, and braised lamb shanks for dinner, plus towering, fresh bistro salads. There are also pizzas, sandwiches, and plenty of choices for both vegetarians and meat eaters. The giant cinnamon rolls are hugely popular. Portions are large and most of the menu is fresh, local, and organic. www.islandlavajava.com. Credit cards accepted.
Huli Sue's serves large portions of updated Hawaiian classics in a casual little restaurant along the highway in Waimea. The barbecue menu, which includes your choice of meat (classics like ribs, pork roast, brisket) with one of four sauces, is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The menu includes many other options, including a baked potato stuffed with your choice of meat, cilantro sour cream, and Fontina cheese, a variety of curry dishes, and a handful of fantastic appetizers. www.hulisues.com. Credit cards accepted.
This is one of the only restaurants in town with prices and atmosphere comparable to the splurge restaurants at the Kohala Coast resorts. The dinner offerings sometimes fall short, considering the high prices, but lunch is usually a good bet. Windows open out over the rocks at the ocean's edge, and at night you can almost touch the marine life swimming below. Relax with cocktails for two and feast on fresh local seafood; the nightly chef's special is always changing. If you're on a budget, try Huggo's happy hour: pupus are half price from 5:30 to 6 pm and drink specials run from 4 to 6 pm daily.
What this eatery lacks in setting—it's in a strip mall that contains Office Max and Wal-Mart—it makes up for with modern decor and fantastic food. It's a popular restaurant among locals for "special" occasions like birthdays and anniversaries due to the high quality of food, but truth be told, the prices are reasonable enough you can come just to celebrate a Tuesday. Highly recommended are the roasted eggplant-Parmesan custard and the peppered local beef carpaccio with horseradish cream. The vegan offerings, like potpie, are good enough to seduce meat eaters. Daily specials always include a vegetarian, meat, and fish choice, and the menu changes twice a year to keep things fresh. The chef tries to use organic and local products wherever possible. www.hilobaycafe.com. Credit cards accepted. No dinner Sun.
Featuring al fresco dining near the sand, Honu's on the Beach is one of the only true beachfront restaurants in Kailua Village. Part of Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, the newly transformed open-air venue offers prime views of Kailua Pier and Kamakahonu Bay. Steak and seafood dominate the menu, highlighted by the rib-eye, fresh catch, and the delicious seafood chowder made with fish, clams, scallops, and shrimp. For lighter fare, there's an excellent selection of entrée salads, including the grilled chicken and papaya salad. A prime rib seafood buffet is available Friday and Saturday nights. www.konabeachhotel.com/dining.htm.
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Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House