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Hawaii (Big) Island
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If you're looking for consistently decent food and you're staying nearby, Roy's fits the bill. The venue overlooks the lake at the Kings' Shops, which, granted, is not an oceanfront setting by any means. If you're simply in the mood for a light meal, you can easily fill up on the enormous selection of great appetizers, and the extensive wine-by-the-glass list offers good pairing options. The three-course meal is a good bet, or try the butterfish or blackend ahi for a melt-in-your mouth encounter. The menu changes nightly, with a lot of specials like the ancho-chili-pepper seared sea scallops or grilled Hawaiian ono taco. www.roysrestaurant.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
It's not the best Mexican food you've ever had, but if you're in Hilo and you're jonesing for some carne asada or chicken flautas, Reuben's has got you pretty well covered. You could make a meal out of their warm chips and salsa alone, and they're known for pouring a stiff margarita in all sorts of interesting flavors like lilikoi (passion fruit), guava, mango, coconut, and watermelon. This is a lively place to spend your afternoon or evening, and it's open all day for lunch and dinner. www.reubensmexican.com. Credit cards accepted.
Chef David Abraham has transformed the former Fujimamas into a place for Hawaiian café food with a twist. They specialize in "multicultural cuisine" like the "Thai Caesar salad" with crispy calamari croutons that is big enough to share. There's a full sushi bar as well. Don't miss the "Fuji" roll with shrimp, ahi, crab, avocado, and cucumber that is tempura-battered and deep-fried. Wash it all down with the signature saketini. Lunch is a great bet here, too, with a build-your-own saimin option (broth with noodles), a huge Cobb salad, and a juicy 8-ounce burger with lots of fixings. This place is popular among locals and is a great spot for the whole family—the kids' menu was developed by Abraham's eight-year-old daughter. www.redwater-cafe.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun.
Tucked into Kopiko Plaza, just below Long's, this local favorite for quality Japanese fare goes beyond sushi. Hayama serves traditional Japanese specialties like tempura, unagi, broiled fish, teriyaki, and udon noodles, all made from fresh local ingredients. Sushi is available as well, but only traditional nigiri, slices of raw fish layered with wasabi and rice, and sashimi. Lunch specials are a great deal, and dinner specials provide a three-course meal for two for $40. Despite its strip mall location, Hayama manages to pull off a Zen vibe that matches the quiet and attentive, albeit "island-time," service. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun.
With the bar in the front and the dining patio in the back, Quinn's may seem like a bit of a dive at first glance, but this venerable restaurant serves up the best darn cheeseburger and fries in town. Appropriate for families, the restaurant stays busy for lunch and dinner, while the bar attracts a cast of colorful regulars. The menu has many tasty options, like fish-and-chips, meat loaf, or beef tenderloin tips. Quinn's stays open until 11 pm, later than almost any other restaurant in Kailua-Kona. If time gets away from you on a drive to the north beaches, Quinn's awaits your return with a cheap beer and a basket of fried calamari. Drinks are strong; there are no watered-down cocktails served here. Park across the street at the Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel and get free one-hour parking with validation. Breakfast is sometimes served during football season. quinnsalmostbythesea.com. Credit cards accepted.
Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens
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