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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 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.
Open from 6:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night seven days a week, this outdoor cafe is one of the most popular gathering spots in Kailua Village. 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. Portions are large and most of the menu is fresh, local, and organic. For a quick snack, scones and pastries fill the display case. www.islandlavajava.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 the small plates are usually a good bet. The dining lanai overlooks 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 certified Angus beef is a cut above USDA Choice. If you're on a budget, Huggo's on the Rocks, next door, is a popular outdoor bar in the sand, and the burgers are pretty darn good, too. It's also Kailua-Kona's hot spot for cocktails and live music on Friday nights. www.huggos.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Formerly Huli Sue's, this casual little restaurant along the highway in Waimea serves up large portions of Hawaiian classics and barbecue items. The barbecue menu—which includes your choice of kiawe-smoked meat like ribs, pork ribs, or brisket—is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Additional options range from pulled pork sandwiches, pupu platters and salads made with produce grown in Waimea, to a variety of special curry and risotto dishes. And because the owners are fisherpeople, they also specialize in ceviche and poke featuring fish caught from their boat. The restaurant's on-site market sells fresh fish, homemade sausage, and freshly made salad dressings and sauces. www.thefishandthehog.com. Credit cards accepted.
Featuring al fresco dining near the sand, Honu's on the Beach is one of the only truly beachfront restaurants in Historic Kailua Village. Part of Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel by Marriott, the 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 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. A breakfast buffet is served daily, with à la carte options available. www.konabeachhotel.com/dining.htm. No lunch.
What this eatery lacks in location—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 the Hamakua mushroom 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 lunch Sun.
The only restaurant at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, Hawaii Calls offers a contemporary and fresh menu that changes seasonally. Photos of surf breaks from around the world adorn the walls of this spacious open-air restaurant that has plenty of patio seating with sunset views. The circular bar is a good spot to enjoy a cocktail while watching the tiki torches light up the gardens. www.waikoloabeachmarriott.com. Credit cards accepted.
Don't let the name fool you. Though Hilo's best Chinese restaurant does specialize in seafood (the salt-and-pepper prawns are fantastic), they also offer a wide range of other Cantonese treats, including a sizzling lamb platter, salt-and-pepper pork, Mongolian beef or chicken, and vegetarian specialties like garlic eggplant and crispy green beans. The food is good, portions are large, and the price is right, but don't come here expecting any ambience—this is a funky and cheap Chinese restaurant, with a few random pieces of artwork tacked up here and there. Credit cards accepted.
This open-air restaurant on the docks at Kona's busy harbor is a fun place to grab a beer and a bite after a long day fishing, surfing, or diving. The venue is nothing fancy but Harbor House is a local favorite for fresh-fish sandwiches and a variety of fried fish-and-chip combos. The icy schooners of Kona Brewing Company ale don't hurt, either. harborhouserestaurantkona.com. Credit cards accepted.
This cozy restaurant in a newly renovated downtown Hilo building offers a small American menu of burgers, fish, and steak, but where the eatery truly stands out is in its fresh and tasty traditional Thai fare. The owners grow their own spices, herbs, and papayas organically on their Puna farm. The chefs here also sauté with olive oil to keep things heart-healthy. Try the hot and sour Tom Yum soup that is loaded with fresh veggies, pineapple curry, and the Thai basil eggplant. Sip on a Thai iced tea or coffee as a musician strums relaxing Hawaiian music (weekends from 6 to 8:30). Also look for outdoor seating on the lanai and a new coffee shop next door that serves breakfast. www.fullmooncafe.net. Credit cards accepted.
As suggested by our Facebook fans:
Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House