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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
A surprising find in the corner of Keauhou Shopping Center adjacent to the movie theater, Habaneros serves up fast Mexican food for low prices. Favorites are usually combos, which can be anything from enchilada plates to homemade sopes and chiles rellenos. The burritos are a solid pick, stuffed with meat, beans, cheese, and all the fixings. Wash it down with imported beer from Mexico. Credit cards accepted.
This gem of a café is tucked away in the back of the Parker Ranch Shopping Center. Locals love that it's hard to find because they want to keep Lilikoi Café's delicious breakfast crepes, freshly made soups, and croissants Waimea's best-kept secret. Owner and chef John Lorda puts out an impressive display of salad choices daily, including chicken curry, beet, fava bean, chicken pesto, and Mediterranean pasta. The Israeli couscous with tomato, red onion, cranberry, and basil is a hit, as is the half avocado stuffed with tuna salad. There's also a nice selection of sandwiches and hot entrées. The food is fresh, many of the ingredients are organic, and everything is homemade. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun. No dinner.
This best-kept secret in Kailua-Kona occupies a small but tasteful venue across from the library near the Kona Inn Shopping Village. The Asian-fusion menu ranges from Thai and Vietnamese to Japanese, Laotian, and Filipino. Dishes are presented with a resort flair, yet most entrées average an afforable $14, with appetizers between $5 and $7. Best bets are the ono sashimi or the grilled marinated chicken salad with crispy wonton. Everything is made to order, plus it's one of the few restaurants in town open until 11 pm. lemongrass-bistro.webs.com.
This is an affordable place to grab a sandwich or a coffee and check your email (Wi-Fi is free with purchase of meal) before heading to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The homey, sit-down diner caters to families, serving up heaping plates of pancakes and French toast for breakfast. For lunch, burgers highlight the menu—everything from bacon-cheese to turkey to Paniolo burgers made with Hawaii grass-fed beef. There are also generous-sized sandwiches, loco moco, and soups, plus beef or chicken teriyaki. Try the haupia cake for dessert. The venue now has a full bar where draft beer is served. Credit cards accepted. No dinner Sun. and Mon.
A genial husband-and-wife team owns this quiet, country-style bistro with dark-wood walls and private booths (no windows; it's located in a nondescript office building). The traditional French cuisine might not impress visitors from France, but the average guest can enjoy classics such as escargots, beef with a cabernet sauvignon sauce, rack of lamb with roasted garlic and rosemary, and the less traditional venison with a pomegranate glaze. Call well in advance for reservations. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch.
There's no atmosphere to speak of, and water is served in unbreakable plastic, but if you're searching for local fare—that eclectic and undefinable fusion of ethnic cuisines—Kuhio Grille is a must. Sam Araki serves a 1-pound laulau (a steamed bundle of taro leaves and pork) that is worth the trip. Other grindz include loco moco, oxtail soup, plate lunch specialties, pork chops, steaks, saimin, stir-fry, and daily specials. This local diner opens at 6 am, and is at the edge of Hilo's largest mall, Prince Kuhio Plaza, above the parking lot near Longs. www.kuhiogrill.com. Credit cards accepted.
The breezy lanai with a sweeping view of the Kohala Coast is the perfect accompaniment to the elegant yet down-to-earth Hawaii regional cuisine. The lanai offers the best seats in the house—get there by 5:30 if you want to score a seat for the sunset, because KPC offers a more spectacular view of the leeward coast than any other restaurant on the Big Island. The specialty cocktails are some of the best on the island, as well; ask for the mango martini. Entrées are on the pricy side, but the ginger-steamed monchong (a deep-water Hawaiian fish) is a winner. If you're in the mood for appetizers, the Kona lobster and Hokkaido pumpkin bisque tastes as good as it sounds. The restaurant's number one seller is the Kona Coffee Mud Slide; don't miss it. The Baked Mauna Kea (KPC's take on a Baked Alaska) is equally decadent. www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
This vintage open-air restaurant offers a beautiful, oceanfront setting on Kailua Bay. It's a great place to have a mai tai and some appetizers while watching the sunset, or to enjoy a calamari or ono sandwich and a salad at lunch. Dinner is also available, but the entrées are less than stellar and for the prices there are better options once the sun disappears. www.windandsearestaurants.com. Credit cards accepted.
As suggested by our Facebook fans:
Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House