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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
The food is authentic, and the prices are reasonable at this little Volcano Village find. A steaming hot plate of curry is the perfect antidote to a chilly day on the volcano. The chicken satay is excellent—the peanut dipping sauce the perfect match of sweet and spicy. Be careful when you order, as "medium" is more than spicy enough even for hard-core chili addicts. The service is warm and friendly and the dining room is pleasant, with white tablecloths, Thai art, and a couple of silk wall hangings. Credit cards accepted. No lunch Wed.
This dependable restaurant adjacent to Island Lava Java on Alii Drive offers an excellent selection of Thai food at decent prices. Everything is cooked to order, and the menu is brimming with choices, including five curries, a green-papaya salad, and a popular platter that combines spring rolls, satay, beef salad, and tom yum (lemongrass soup). For a real treat, try the deep-fried fish. Piña colada fans will appreciate the excellent cocktails served here, and you can't beat the beautiful ocean view. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. www.aliisunsetplaza.com. Credit cards accepted.
Locals gather at this small, historic restaurant 15 minutes south of Kailua-Kona whenever they're in the mood for fresh sashimi, puffy shrimp tempura, or hekka (beef and vegetables cooked in an iron pot) at a reasonable price. Teshima's doesn't look like much, inside or out, but it's been a kamaaina (local) favorite since 1929 for a reason. You might want to try teishoku (tray) No. 3, featuring sashimi, tempura, sukiyaki beef, rice, miso soup, sunomono, and more. Or order the popular bento box lunch. The service is laid-back and friendly, and the restaurant has been family owned and operated by five generations of Teshimas. No credit cards.
An array of authentic soft-taco choices (beef and chicken, among others), burritos, quesadillas, and excellent homemade tamales are served up at this local hideway in Kailua Village. Breakfast entrées include traditional rancheros and more. Order at the counter, take a seat outside at one of a dozen yellow tables with blue umbrellas, and enjoy all the good flavors served up in those red plastic baskets.
In the funky Without Boundaries gift shop in Hawi, Sushi Rock isn't big on size—its narrow dining room is brightly painted and casually decorated with various Hawaiian and Japanese knickknacks—but discerning locals and akamai (in the know) visitors come here for some of the island's best sushi. The restaurant prides itself on using fresh local ingredients like grass-fed beef tenderloin, goat cheese, macadamia nuts, and mango in their Island-inspired sushi rolls. They also serve up a variety of cooked seafood, chicken, noodle dishes, and salads for lunch and dinner. Everything is plated beautifully and served either at the sushi bar, at one of the handful of indoor tables in the restaurant's small dining room, or on the covered front patio. There's also a full bar. sushirockrestaurant.net. Credit cards accepted.
The name says it all. Fresh local ingredients highlight proprietor Sombat Parente's menu (many of the herbs come from her own garden) to create authentic and tasty Thai treats like coconut curries, fresh basil rolls, eggplant stir-fry, and green papaya salad. You can have most dishes prepared with your choice of tofu, pork, beef, chicken, or fish. The weekday lunch plate special is a steal ($7-$9). And if you can't leave the island without it, Sombat's famous pad thai sauce is available to take home in jars. www.sombats.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun., no lunch Sat.
The Nakagawa family has been running this eatery since the early 1920s. The latest son to manage the restaurant has transformed both the menu and the decor, and that, paired with the setting (the restaurant sits on a 30-acre natural brackish water fishpond) makes this one of the most romantic and interesting places to eat in Hilo. You can't get fish fresher than this. Islanders travel great distances for the fried aholehole (young Hawaiian flagtail) and talapia that's raised on the aqua-farm. Other great dishes from the sea include furikake salmon, miso butterfish, and macadamia nut-crusted mahimahi. The Pacific Rim menu includes plenty of selections for landlubbers, too. Arrive before sunset and request a table by the window for a view of the egrets roosting around the fishponds. www.seasiderestaurant.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Mon. No lunch.
This restaurant serves heavenly interpretations of sushi and contemporary Asian cuisine. More than a few dishes have won awards, including the shrimp dynamite in a creamy garlic masago aioli and unagi glaze, and the Dungeness crab ramen with Asian truffle broth. There are tried-and-true favorites that are mainstays, however, the menu is consistently updated to include new and exciting options such as the Hawaiian moi sashimi rolls and the Japanese yellowtail nori aioli poke. You can certainly make a meal out of the appetizers and sushi rolls, or try some of Sansei's great entrées from both land and sea. Go for an early dinner on Sunday and Monday when menu items are half off from 5 to 6 pm (limited seating; first come, first served). Or opt for a late-night meal on Friday and Saturday when sushi and appetizers are half off from 9:30 pm until midnight (you just have to put up with the karaoke singers; 21 and older). www.sanseihawaii.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Located at the Shops at Mauna Lani, the Hawaii location of the popular Louisiana steak-house chain serves the same sizzling steaks and heaping sides the restaurant is known for throughout the country. Ask about early evening "Prime Time" specials that include a salad, entrée, side, and dessert for a fraction of the price. They also have vegetarian options, but Ruth's Chris is a true steakhouse in every way and as such is best suited to meat lovers. Steaks come sizzling; tasty, classic sides, which are à la carte, include creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and potatoes au gratin. www.ruthschris.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
A downtown Hilo fixture, this authentic Thai eatery keeps things simple in the ambience department. But you don't need a dramatic view when you can choose from a menu that includes five kinds of curries and plenty of stir-fried meals. The tangy stir-fried garlic shrimp with coconut milk and wild mushrooms is particularly good. Don't leave Hawaii without sampling some green papaya salad. www.royalsiamthai.com. Credit cards accepted.
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Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House