2013 Hale Aina Awards: When to eat where

Our readers named the best restaurants in the Islands. To help you navigate the wealth of great dining, we lead you through a year-long itinerary of Hale Aina eating: when to eat where.

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September:


A chocolate purse made of phyllo for dessert.

Photos by Charla Photography

One of my favorite food festivals is Taste of the Hawaiian Range, in its 18th year in Waimea, Big Island, this year. Unlike other grazing events, this one feels more informal, maybe because of the number of cowboy hats and boots corralled into the Hilton Waikoloa Resort. Taste of the Hawaiian Range is a lively reminder that paniolo culture is alive and well in Hawaii, and you can taste it in the Hawaii-raised animals, from pig to deer.

While in Waimea for the weekend, a stop at Merriman’s Waimea (Best Big Island Restaurant, gold), is in order. Merriman’s empire now stretches across almost all the islands, but this restaurant is where it all began 25 years ago. Originals like the wok-charred ahi are still on the menu, though the kitchen culls some of the Big Island’s best ingredients in daily specials. In the past year, highlights included an ahi tartare with garlic blossoms and dandelion-infused oil; wok-charred onaga with Kauai shrimp ravioli, chili broccolini and a smoked tomato jus; and coffee-rubbed lamb over Waipio taro spaetzle, perked up with a poha mint chutney.

Thanks to Anthony Bourdain, everybody, including your Jewish grandmother living in Pennsylvania, knows about the fried pork chops at Side Street Inn (Best Value, gold; Best Restaurant for a Big Group, bronze; Best Gourmet Comfort Food, gold). Lesser known, but more awesome (who knew that was even possible?!), is the pork chop loco moco: the famous fried pork chops topped with egg (put an egg on it!) and gravy. It’s available for breakfast during NFL season, when Side Street Inn on Da Strip opens early to accommodate the rabid football fans and just as crazed, Bloody-Mary-guzzling breakfast eaters.

 


At Merriman's Waimea, find lamb chops.

PHOTOS BY charla photography

See the full list of winners.

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,January

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