38 Best New Dishes and Drinks You Must Try in Hawai‘i
The best new dishes and drinks around the state.
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Cow Pig Bun
Cow Pig Bun’s fancy burgers are worth a detour up to the non-descript Kīhei Tech Park, where the new little gastropub tries hard to evoke a big-city feel. The house burger combines a few perfect elements, starting with the bun: lightly toasted focaccia slathered in garlic aioli and melted Gruyere. It’s heaped with spicy arugula leaves, caramelized onions and a lean but flavorful beef patty. The sweet balsamic reduction drizzled on top knocks this burger out of the park. Instead of fries, pork cracklins come on the side, along with a small tin of bacon jam—a thick mash of bacon, fig, maple syrup, and bourbon.
Cow Pig Bun also hosts riotous late-night “Knife Fights” on the second Saturday of each month. The island’s best chefs stop in after closing their own restaurants for the night to engage in fierce, entertaining cooking competitions with audience participation.
$14, 535 Lipoa Parkway, Suite #100, Kīhei, (808) 875-8100, cowpigbun.com
Chef Isaac Bancaco first served this delectable dish during one of his “chefbloc” dinners—monthly collaborations between the chef and his favorite culinary pals. The evening’s theme was Haleakalā lamb, and Bancaco created this local twist on kilawín, the Philippine version of ceviche. The rare lamb meat, marinated in Maui olive oil, lime juice and rice wine vinegar, is meltingly tender. Bancaco serves it with a few slivers of Serrano chili and a delicate scallion flower, atop a kaffir lime and black pepper granita. This icy component rockets the dish to another dimension, sending hot, frozen, sweet, salty and savory sparks simultaneously across the tongue.
$16, 3550 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, (808) 573-1234, maui.andaz.hyatt.com
Aloha e Ka La Garden to Glass Cocktail
Banyan Tree at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
Newly reopened, the elegant Banyan Tree restaurant in Kapalua has a terrific craft cocktail menu, accented by savory herbs grown in the resort’s organic garden. The Aloha e Ka La is an unexpected favorite: fresh grapefruit juice spiked with dry rosé and Ciroc peach vodka. Served on the rocks in a highball glass, it’s garnished with sweet Hawaiian lehua honey and ripe strawberry. The recipe sounds like something that 1950s housewives might’ve drunk by the pool, until the addition of a transformative ingredient: muddled sage. The aromatic, slightly pungent green leaves turn June Cleaver’s polite adult beverage into a sultry siren’s song.
$16, One Ritz-Carlton Drive, Kapalua, (808) 665-7096, ritzcarlton.com
Julio’s Beach Burritos
Describing the heat of his signature Machaca burrito, Julio Calisher says, “It should slowly warm the lips but not burn the mouth and palate.” He should know. He’s been making his grandmother’s recipe of pulled-pork burritos with green chilies, jalapeños, tomatoes and onions since he was 12 years old and working in the kitchen of the family matriarch’s East L.A. restaurant. “It’s slow-cooked for 15 hours,” he explains through the screen of his newly opened food truck in Kīlauea on Kaua‘i’s North Shore. But when pressed for what gives the tender meat that extra special flavor, he admits it’s his family recipe of 10 spices. “In particular, the fajita seasoning,” he adds in a whisper.
$10, 4244 Kīlauea Road, Kīlauea, 634-3218
Just about everything is delicious at Maka, the new vegan café operated by the folks who run Mana Foods, the beloved natural grocery store a few doors down in Pā‘ia. Maka’s juice menu reads like a recipe for longevity. Ingredients are organic and locally sourced. The 16-ounce Golden Goddess is a sweet and tangy mix of golden beets and celery enhanced with pear, green apple, three citrus fruits and turmeric—a spicy root renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The juice’s saffron-orange color alone is guaranteed to boost your vitality. Drinking it down feels like sipping pure sunlight.
$6.95, 115 Baldwin Ave., Pā‘ia, (808) 579-9125, makabymana.com
The Best Breakfast
Kaua‘i Juice Co.
Breakfast on the go doesn’t have to mean fast-food drive-thru lanes and plastic-wrapped, processed foods. With Kaua‘i Juice Co. on the Garden Island, the approach to juice is local (when possible) and cold-processed, with no pasteurization or additives. When planning their menu, husband-and-wife owners Kristal Muhich and Dylan Scott went all-out on their juices, basing their creations on what local growers could provide. But they also wanted to incorporate cold-pressed coffee. “The Best Breakfast is perfect for someone who wants to substitute breakfast and taste the most amazing cold-brewed coffee drink ever,” Muhich says of the concoction, which includes macadamia nuts, cashews, agave, Hawaiian sea salt and Tahitian vanilla, in addition to the coffee. The result? “It’s to die for,” she says, “and it’s turned into one of our best sellers. If not the best.”
$11, 4-1384 Kūhiō Highway, Kapa‘a, (808) 634-0886
Ni’ihau Lamb Sausage and Warabi
You can’t get more sustainable than the Ni‘ihau Lamb Sausage and Warabi appetizer at Hukilau Lanai. The lambs range free on the small island southwest of Kaua‘i—on the westernmost ranch in the United States. The meat is processed at Makaweli Meat Co. on Kaua‘i’s West Side, and then owner/executive chef of the Wailua restaurant, Ron Miller, makes the sausage himself, adding dried mango. “It’s lamb for all people,” Miller’s wife and business partner, Krissi, says. “It’s mild, not gamey.” To top off the local experience, the Millers pair the snap of the sausage with a bright surprise of pickled vegetables, featuring warabi, locally grown fiddlehead ferns from Ueunten Farms in Lāwa‘i. Layering more flavors, the dish is dressed with micro greens and finished with chile oil.
$10, 520 Aleka Loop, Wailua, (808) 822-0600
Liliko‘i Opera Cake
Daylight Mind & Coffee Co.
Daylight Mind, a café, restaurant, bakery and coffee school in Kona, is really into coffee. Like, really into coffee. Here, you can take cupping classes (how coffee experts taste coffee) and even order a coffee flight, brewed by centrifuge. But if you want to just get a good espresso or a cup of coffee, you can do that, too. Just make sure to pair it with one of Daylight Mind’s superlative desserts. Our favorite: the liliko‘i opera cake, a take on the classic opera cake, traditionally flavored with chocolate and coffee. This one swaps out the coffee (after all, you can get coffee in many other forms at Daylight Mind) for tangy and sweet liliko‘i buttercream and the layered cake is finished with a liliko‘i glaze.
$7, 75-5770 Ali‘i Drive, Kona, (808) 339-7824, daylightmind.com
Moon and Turtle
At Moon and Turtle, chef Mark Pomaski seasons his clean, spare and fresh cooking with Japanese and local influences. Take the sashimi salad: Big Island-caught fish, usually ono or ‘ahi, sliced and drenched in a soy-onion dressing. Crisp greens from Kekela Farms in Waimea pile on top of the raw fish. Pomaski calls the dressing Tetsuya Ozaki sauce, a nod to his mentor, a third-generation sushi chef from Osaka, with whom he worked for five years in Eugene, Ore.
$15, 51 Kalākaua St., Hilo, (808) 961-0599
About a year ago, James Babian, former executive chef at the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, opened this inviting Italian restaurant in the Waikoloa Highlands Shopping Center, not exactly a culinary destination. Regulars fill all the bar seats and exclaim, “We’ve lived here for nine years, and we haven’t had a restaurant here until now!” So it’d be easy to be grateful for anything, anything at all—that maybe Pueo’s doesn’t have to be this good, when there’s so little competition nearby. But it is good. It could stand up to Honolulu’s best. There’s a lot that’s excellent here, but every regular starts with the kale salad—tender curly kale softened with lemon and garlic and tossed with sweet currants, toasted almonds and lots of salty pecorino romano.
$12, 68-1845 Waikoloa Road, Waikoloa Village, (808) 339-7566
Conscious Culture Café
Conscious Culture Café, a new café in Hilo, was described to us once as “a freaky vegan Jawaiian breakfast place.” So, yes, we were a bit trepidatious. But the urge for something fresh and revitalizing drew us in—the Big Island, with its healing vibes, can do that to you—and we loved it. Kela’s breakfast starts with fluffy, scrambled eggs on a bed of sautéed greens and veggies. Then the fixins get piled on: a spicy ginger kim chee made in house, a dab of fresh Puna goat cheese, avocado and a fresh tomato salsa. Get a side of ginger beet kraut for an extra delicious dose of fermented goodness.
$10, 100 Keawe St., Hilo, (808) 498-4779