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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
To experience island history first-hand, take a seat at one of Hawaii's ubiquitous "plate lunch" eateries, and order a segmented Styrofoam plate piled with rice, macaroni salad, and maybe some fiery pickled vegetable condiment. On the sugar plantations, native Hawaiians and immigrant workers from many different countries ate together in the fields, sharing food from their kaukau kits, the utilitarian version of the Japanese bento lunchbox. From this melting pot came the vibrant language of pidgin and its equivalent in food: the plate lunch.
This fine-dining restaurant occupies a quaint yellow building that once housed the historic Chock Inn Store, which catered to the Waimea ranching community beginning in 1900. Collectibles abound, such as antique porcelain pieces. Previously Daniel Thiebaut's restaurant, and now under new ownership, the revamped establishment has unveiled an all-organic, locally sourced, sustainable menu that includes everything from handmade pastas to eggplant napoleon with hamakua mushrooms to Cajun-style ahi nicoise, pan-seared scallops, and a variety of sautéed seafood options. The place to be in Waimea on a Sunday afternoon, Saffron offers a popular Sunday brunch from 10 to 2, featuring live local music and slack-key players. www.saffronhawaii.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Mon. No dinner Sun. No lunch.
The history of the trees lining Hilo's Banyan Drive is one of the Big Island's most interesting and least-known stories. Banyan Drive was named for these trees, which were planted by VIP visitors to Hilo. Altogether, some 50 or so banyans were planted between 1933 and 1972.
Perched on the bluff above Keauhou Shopping Center, the relatively new Sam Choy's Kai Lanai is already a Kona classic. Celebrity-chef Sam Choy has transformed an old Wendy's into a beautiful open-air restaurant complete with a bar, The Short Bait, designed to look like a charter-fishing boat. Granite-topped tables offer ocean views from every seat in the house. Open for lunch and dinner (and breakfast on weekends only), the venue presents reasonably priced entrées, highlighted by the macadamia-nut-crusted chicken, Oriental lamb chops, or Sam's trio of fish served with shiitake-mushroom cream sauce. The ahi salad (served in a deep-fried flour tortilla bowl) is a great deal for $14. Keiki (children's) menus accommodate families. Parking is at a premium, so you might have to park in the shopping center below. The restaurant can be noisy. Arrive at 5 pm to nab the best patio seating. www.samchoy.com.
It figures that the best laulau (meat wrapped in taro leaves and ti) in West Hawaii can be found at a roadside hole-in-the-wall rather than at an expensive resort luau. In fact, this humble family-run eatery was featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." Plate lunches to go include tender chicken or pork laulau, steamed for up to 10 hours. The kalua pig and cabbage is delicious, and the lomilomi salmon features vine-ripened tomatoes. Proprietors John and Janice Kaaloa also grind their own poi. No credit cards.
Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens
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