Big Island Guide: Where to Eat and Drink
Where HONOLULU’s dining editor eats when on the Big Island.
Da Poke Shack is Kailua-Kona’s latest claim to fame.
Photo: Jack Wolford
Exploring a Neighbor Island can be a good excuse to indulge your foodie impulses. We’ve got you a headstart with a peek into food and dining editor Martha Cheng’s travel journal.
One of my favorite places in the state for a burger—juicy, thick, perfectly packed patties formed with Hawai‘i-Island beef, ground fresh daily. Pair it with the impeccable fries and a thick strawberry shake, blended with fresh strawberries.
67-1185 Hawai‘i Belt Road, Waimea, (808) 885-7319
Moon and Turtle
TEDD AND MARK POMASKI OF MOON & TURTLE CAFE.
PHOTO: JACK WOLFORD
This is the darling of the Big Island food scene. Only a few years old, the restaurant captures loyal diners for fresh, clean cooking, focused on seafood, influenced by Japanese flavors. The signature dish: the smoky sashimi, lightly dressed with ‘ōhi‘a smoked soy, Hawaiian chili-pepper water and extra-virgin olive oil.
51 Kalākaua St., Hilo, (808) 961-0599
Two Ladies Kitchen
Photo: James Rubio
Two Ladies Kitchen is a misnomer. It’s more like a 10-lady church social, where women spanning three generations gossip in the center of the kitchen while shaping hundreds of soft mochi. The giant strawberry mochi from here are legendary.
274 Kīlauea Ave., Hilo, (808) 961-4766
50s Highway Fountain
There’s a ’50s diner in Laupāhoehoe. It feels authentic, complete with jukeboxes, booths and black-and-white checkered floors. So who cares that it only opened about a decade ago? It’s got at least one thing over a diner in Anytown, USA: The back dining room looks straight out over the Pacific. And the fish ’n’ chips are killer. Order a side of nostalgia with a vanilla malted shake.
35-2704 Old Māmalahoa Highway, Laupāhoehoe, (808) 962-0808
Tex Drive In
If I’m driving up the Hāmākua coast, I always always stop here for malassadas. Hot and fresh from the fryer, lighter and airier than Leonard’s eggy variety.
5-690 Pakalana St., #19, Honoka‘a, (808) 775-0598
Here, European cakes are remade for Asian palates—resulting in lighter, less-sweet versions of the original inspiration. My favorite slice: the Soprano, a take on the classic opera cake, with three layers of chocolate sponge cake, alternating with chocolate mousse and Bailey’s Irish Cream mousse, sealed off with chocolate ganache. Each bite feels like a cloud suffused with chocolate.
16 Furneaux Lane, Hilo, (808) 933-6868
Short ’n’ Sweet
It baffles me that Hilo appears to have better bakeries and pastries than Honolulu. Here, I always walk out with the Kohala crunch bar, with layers of crushed macadamia nut brittle, milk and dark chocolate, and a slice of banana cream pie, topped with fresh, whipped cream.
374 Kino‘ole St., Hilo, (808) 935-4446
Daylight Mind Coffee Co.
Daylight Mind, Kailua-Kona.
Photo: Megan Spelman
The best setting in all of Kona, with a lānai that juts out over the ocean—taking your morning cup of coffee and pastry here makes you feel like you’ve set sail, standing on the bow of a ship. All dishes here are terrific, from savory (a lobster BLT) to sweet (a liliko‘i opera gateau).
75-5770 Ali‘i Drive, Kailua-Kona, (808) 339-7824
A restaurant that embraces the source-local ethos better than most. And to stunning effect—a soft, soft braised brisket in caramelized
onion jus, or a smoked pork shoulder that melts into risotto.
76-5900 Old Government Road, Hōlualoa, (808) 322-2233
Simple and perfect Italian in the unlikeliest of places. And serving food until midnight! It’s the best thing to have happened to this Waikoloa strip mall. Some good dishes to start with: a kale salad, bresaola (shaved, air-dried beef with arugula and Parmesan) and a hearty calzone. Then there’s the chef’s favorite: the taglioni colatura di alici, a shockingly simple plate of housemade pasta, tossed with Amalfi Coast fish sauce, garlic, hot pepper, parsley, Parmesan and breadcrumbs.
68-1845 Waikoloa Road, Waikoloa Village, (808) 339-7566
Old-school Japanese: Teshima’s in Hōlualoa.
Photo: Jack Wolford
South of Kona? Circle these on your map: Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers, 79-7460 Hawai‘i Belt Road, (808) 324-6000 and The Strawberry Patch for American-Euro-Thai dishes, 79-7491 Māmalahoa Highway, (808) 322-9060. And don’t forget Manago Hotel’s pork chops!
Best okazuya or bento in Hilo? Kawamoto Store, 784 Kīlauea Ave., (808) 935-8209; or Hilo Lunch Shop, 421 Kalanikoa St., (808) 935-8273. Hint: Go early. As in before breakfast.
For More food finds, go to bit.ly/bigislefood
This story is part of The Holoholo Guide to the Big Island in our June 2015 issue. Check back next week for more.
READ MORE STORIES BY MARTHA CHENG