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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
This megapopular destination with a huge outdoor patio features an excellent and varied menu, including pulled-pork quesadillas, gourmet pizzas, and a killer spinach salad with Gorgonzola cheese, macadamia nuts, and strawberries. Your best bet for lunch or dinner is the veggie slice and salad for under $8—the garden salad is generous and the pizza is the best in town. Go for the beer-tasting menu—your choice of four of the eight available microbrews in miniature glasses that add up to about two regular-size mugs for the price of one. The Hefeweizen is excellent. If you're staying in town, purchase beer to go in a half-gallon jug ("growler") filled on-site from the brewery's own taps. The Growler Shack also sells beer by the keg. www.konabrewingco.com. Credit cards accepted.
Chef and owner Albert Jeyte combines contemporary trends with traditional cooking styles from the mainland, France, and his native Hamburg, Germany. The menu changes daily, and features such entrées as venison, duck à lorange with an apricot-mustard glaze, and authentic hasenpfeffer (braised rabbit). The coconut-crusted Brie appetizer is huge, melty, and absolutely delicious, as are the chef's made-from-scratch soups and breads. Built in 1937 as a YMCA camp, the restaurant still has the original "Friendship Fireplace" embedded with coins and plaques from around the world. The roaring fire, koa-wood tables, and warm lighting make the dining room feel like a cozy lodge. www.kilauealodge.com. Credit cards accepted.
With its black-lacquer tables and lipstick-red banquettes, Kenichi provides one of the few upscale choices in town. Its location at Keauhou Shopping Center might feel like a secret, but visitors should seek it out. This is where residents go when they feel like splurging on top-notch sushi. It's a little on the pricey side, but you'll leave feeling satisfied. The signature rolls are inventive and tasty, especially the always-popular Dynamite Shrimp. If you're looking to save a buck or two, go early for happy hour (5 to 6:30 pm daily) when all sushi rolls are half price, or hang out in the cocktail lounge where menu items average $6. www.kenichirestaurants.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch. Closed Mon.
For years, this 24-hour diner on Banyan Drive between the airport and the hotels has been a gathering place for Hilo residents and visitors. Breakfast is the main attraction: Ken's serves more than 11 different types pancakes, plus all kinds of fruit waffles (banana, peach), and popular omelets, like "Da Bradda," teeming with a variety of meats. The menu features 180 other tasty local specialties (loco moco, tripe stew, oxtail soup) and American-diner-inspired items from which to choose. Sunday is all-you-can-eat spaghetti night, Tuesday is all-you-can-eat tacos, and Wednesday is prime rib night. kenshouseofpancakes.com. Credit cards accepted.
This beautiful restaurant, perched above the highway just 15 minutes south of Kailua-Kona, serves delicious dinners with Brazilian, Asian, and European flavors highlighting fresh ingredients from local farmers. Favorites are the Brazilian seafood chowder or peanut-miso salad, followed by pasta primavera smothered with a basil-pesto sauce. There's an extensive wine list. Bob Miyashiro, the owner, is a Kona native, and his wife, Gina, is Brazilian. A husband-and-wife cooking team are also from Brazil, and have been with the restaurant since its humble beginnings at its previous location in Honaunau. Toast your friendly hosts with a refreshing mojito before dinner. www.keeicafe.net. Reservations essential. No credit cards. Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch Sat.
Upstairs in a structure that dates from the 1850s, this seafood bar has been a hot spot since it opened in 2003, serving up a dynamite and well-priced bar menu with tasty pupu (appetizers), and an always expanding dinner menu that includes at least four fresh-fish specials daily. There's fare for landlubbers, too, including boneless braised short ribs, rib-eye steak, specialty pizza and lots of salad options. Don't miss their escargot, oysters Rockefeller, and ginger steamed clams. At lunch, the menu ranges from sandwiches and burgers to sashimi and poke. Breakfast is served only on Sunday, and happy hour runs daily from 3 to 5:30 pm, and again from 10:30 pm until close (2 am). If you've got the late-night munchies, this is a great spot—they serve food until 11:30 pm. www.seafoodbargrill.com. Credit cards accepted.
This is a popular local hangout, and not just because the kava makes you mellow; their Hawaiian food rocks! Fresh poke; bowls of smoky, 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). Used for relaxation, organic kava root is harvested on the Hamakua Coast and transformed into a traditional slightly bitter brew. Seating is at a premium, but don't be afraid to share a table and make friends. www.kanakakava.com.
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.
Unveiled in late 2012, the new Rays on the Bay oceanfront restaurant has transformed the once-mediocre culinary offerings at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa into one of the must-eat destinations in Kona. Overlooking Keauhou Bay, the venue takes full advantage of its proximity to native manta rays that appear nightly beneath the balcony. The excellent, yet affordable dinner menu includes artisan pizza, poke, miso shrimp salad, tender braised short ribs, burgers, rib eye steak, and catch of the day. All meats and seafood are grilled over kiawe wood for a smoky flavor. www.raysonthebay.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
This brightly decorated, open-air restaurant is a favorite lunch and dinner destination of visitors and residents, thanks to generous portions and a nice variety of chef's specials, steaks, and seafood dishes. 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.
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