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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
From Peter Merriman, one of Hawaii's star chefs, comes a more affordable alternative to his upscale Waimea, Kauai, and Maui restaurants. The Mediterranean-influenced menu includes a variety of pasta dishes, tasty appetizers, and salads teeming with fresh ingredients from nearby Waimea farms. The venue's outdoor patio beckons locals and visitors alike. It's open daily for lunch, followed by happy hour from 3 pm to 5:30 pm, then dinner until 8:45 pm. merrimanshawaii.com/market_cafe.htm. Credit cards accepted.
Perched on the edge of a bluff overlooking the sparkling waters of Kaunaoa Beach, the resort's flagship restaurant is a compelling spot for a romantic meal at sunset, especially at one of the outside tables. The restaurant's Enomatic wine system allows guests to sample 48 different wines by the glass—everything from rare dessert wines and ports to premier wines from France, Italy and Argentina. Executive Chef Peter Pahk serves up his take on Hawaii Regional Cuisine with dishes such as Kona Kampachi prepared with black sesame miso sauce, Japanese apricot oil and baby arugula salad. Locally grown ingredients highlight the menu include Waimea tomatoes and Puna goat cheese to rainbow chard from a nearby farm. This is also the spot for Sunday brunch, with an impressive spread that includes an omelet station, prime rib, smoked salmon, tempura, lobster bisque, and a build-your-own-sundae bar. www.maunakeabeachhotel.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch. No dinner Sun. and Mon.
By far one of the best restaurants in Waimea, this is the signature restaurant of Peter Merriman, one of the pioneers of Hawaiian regional cuisine. Merriman's is the home of the original wok-charred ahi: it's seared on the outside and sashimi on the inside. If you prefer meat, try the Kahua Ranch braised lamb, raised locally to the restaurant's specifications, or the prime bone-in New York steak, grilled to order. The extensive wine list is impressive and includes many selections poured by the glass. Be forewarned: Merriman's is pricey, so prepare to splurge. www.merrimanshawaii.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. No lunch weekends.
About 20 minutes upcountry of Kailua-Kona in Captain Cook, the historic Manago Hotel is a time-warp experience. A vintage neon sign identifies the hotel, while Formica tables and old photos add to the authentically retro flavor. The T-shirts (which are great souvenirs for friends at home) brag that the hotel's restaurant has the best pork chops in town, and it's not false advertising. The fresh fish is excellent as well, especially the ono and ahi. Meals come with rice for the table and an assortment of side dishes that changes from time to time, but usually includes a macaroni, potato, and tuna salad, and a braised tofu and sautéed veggie dish. www.managohotel.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Mon.
Long an island favorite for tasty, albeit greasy, Mexican grub, Luquin's is still going strong in the funky town of Pahoa. Tacos are great here (go for crispy), especially when stuffed with grilled, seasoned local fish on occasion. Chips are warm and salty, the salsa's got some kick, and the beans are thick with lard and topped with melted cheese. Not something you'd eat before a long swim, but perfect after a long day of exploring. luquinsmexicanrestauranthawaii.com. Credit cards accepted.
Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens
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