Big Island Restaurants in Waimea

Small Town, Big Flavors: In Big Island’s little Waimea, it’s a short distance from farm (or ranch) to table.


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Pau Pizza

65-1227 Opelo Road, Waimea, (808) 885-6325, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
paupizza.com

Salads, pizzas and pasta make up the reasonably priced menu at Pau Pizza.

I asked Red Water’s Abrahamson where he ate in town. “I eat at Pau Pizza,” he said. “You can cook complicated food all day, but sometimes you just feel like a pizza.”

Pau Pizza is a stylish little order-at-the-counter place in a strip mall. It’s hardly a conventional pizzeria, or maybe it’s just the kind of pizzeria that Waimea would have.

“We’re Slow Food,” says its owner, Ted Fulmer, “except we’re pretty quick.”

Fulmer sold a pair of Chico, Calif., restaurants and decided to try out Waimea. His concept is simple: “We wanted to do fresh food, at an affordable price, so people could eat it more than once a month.”

For $9 here, you can get a slice of four-cheese pizza with artichoke hearts and arugula. Or one with Hamakua mushrooms, bacon, roast garlic and white sauce. Or the wonderfully named Whole Hog special (Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, prosciutto & bacon).

By a “slice,” Pau Pizza means three slices, a quarter of a pizza, served with a mound of organic greens from Robb Farm—which is a mile and a quarter from the restaurant.

“What’s cool about Waimea is that we can get everything within five miles,” says Fulmer. “Eggs, butter, broccoli, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, 150 pounds of lettuce a week.”

One reason Pau goes through so much lettuce is that its five different salads come in two sizes, large and larger. The “Vinter’s Special” supplements the mound of greens with apples, Gorgonzola and spiced pecans, with a champagne vinaigrette. “Some times of year, we even get local pecans,” says Fulmer. “It’s wild what will grow in Waimea."

If you crave noodles, there’s a salad of chopped Robb Farm organic vegetables with soba, in perhaps too much of a gingery dressing.

Or pasta with local tomatoes and broccoli, topped with a nicely seared wild-caught ono fresh from Kawaihae Harbor. The pasta’s tossed in vibrantly green pesto full of local basil—although, like the salad dressing, less would be more.

Still, almost everything here is $9 and the pastas are $15 or less. Pau Pizza is an appealing stop, especially if you’re staying at one of the glittering resorts along the Kohala Coast, and looking for a place that doesn’t ask you to dress “resort casual” or make inordinate demands on your pocketbook.


Sam Kaoo and Kalani Guerrero man the kitchen at Hawaiian Style Café.

Hawaiian Style Café

65-1290 Kawaihae Road, Waimea, (808) 885-4295, Daily 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sundays until noon. Free parking, major credit cards.

Where’s the ultimate local-style eatery? Kapahulu? Kalihi? Iwilei? My vote goes to the Hawaiian Style Café in Waimea.

Sometimes when you tell people on the Big Island that you’ve eaten at Hawaiian Style, a look of concern crosses their faces, as if to say, “Are you all right? Did you survive the portions?”

Hawaiian Style doesn’t have plates. It has plastic platters.

“That’s what we do,” says owner Guy Kaoo. “Good portions, good price.”


A gargantuan meal: the mixed plate with teri burger.

For $7.95, you get Hawaiian Style’s loco moco—two beef patties, a platter of white rice, grilled onions and plenty of gravy. Plus, of course, a fried egg.

That’s the regular, you can order larger, or even get some Spam and Portuguese sausage added.

I remembered Hawaiian Style’s loco moco as the best I’d ever had. This time, I was disappointed. The burger patties were premade, tough, obviously not local beef.

Here’s the deal.

With the increase in business, the café uses premade patties for its loco mocos and hamburgers on a bun. If you want local beef, you have to order the stew or, better yet, the teri burger plate. The difference is amazing; the local hamburger is plumper, tenderer, better tasting.

You might as well have a two-item mixed plate, combining the teri burger with, say, Hawaiian Style’s spicy and moist chicken cutlet.

The $9.95 mixed plate comes with a double scoop of white rice, a softball-size portion of mac salad with tuna and, again, gravy. It makes the loco moco look like the dieter’s special.

You could order it with brown rice and a green salad, but that would somehow defy the spirit of the place.

There were two of us at the counter, neither of us light eaters, but we couldn’t finish our plates—possibly because I’d gotten carried away and ordered a short stack of pancakes topped with fresh berries and whipped cream. The stack may have been short, but it was certainly wide. We didn’t finish that, either.

I regretted not having an infinite appetite. Kaoo bought Hawaiian Style four years ago, and has, with the exception of the premade beef patties, improved the food. For instance, the kitchen turns out housemade Portuguese sausage, chunky like the traditional Portuguese linguiça, and kalua pork hash.

I would have ordered the hash on top of everything else except (perhaps fortunately) it was sold out when I arrived. “We can’t make enough of that hash,” says Kaoo. “No matter how much we make, we sell every bit.”

A week or two after my Waimea trip, Cat Toth, who blogs as The Daily Dish and on HawaiiMagazine.com, traveled the Big Island. She got lost on the way to Hawaiian Style; admittedly, the place is smaller than its reputation. I had to text her directions while sitting at my desk in Honolulu.

Then, a twisting of the knife, she sent me a picture of the kalua pork hash. “Mouthwatering good,” she said.

Damn.

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