The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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We had originally planned to hike down to Waipio Valley, but after several other hikes on the island we realized that was way too ambitious for us.   Instead we decided to take a horseback riding tour through the valley which meant we got to ride in a 4WD van both up & down the steep incline road to get there.

On the way to Waipio, we stopped at Tex Drive In for lunch and some malasadas.  I’d heard this was THE place to get the Portuguese doughnuts. 

We both got a cheeseburger and fries for lunch.

The burgers had a nice flavor and were served on Hawaiian rolls.  They were really tasty.  The fries were cooked really well too.

Then came the malasadas.

We got a Bavarian Cream, chocolate, pineapple, and raspberry filled one.  They were good, but I thought they were really doughy.  I was a little disappointed because my expectations had been really high.  Total lunch with the malasadas was $20.

Tex Drive in on Urbanspoon

Speaking of malasadas, we stopped at Baker Tom’s later in the week to try his and I gotta say, it was a much better doughnut.  He talked our ear off when we stopped by and told us all about how he still uses butter and buttermilk and makes them so authentic that he’s had some Portuguese grandmothers come buy from him instead of making them at home.

It was a completely different consistency, texture and taste than the ones at Tex Drive In.  We both preferred Tom’s, especially since he had a lilikoi filled one.  We also got an apple, blackberry, and a strawberry cheesecake one.

Quick stop at the Waipio valley overlook, then off for our horseback ride.

By the time we finished our ride through Waipio and then the visitor center at Mauna Kea, we were ready to head back to Hilo for some sushi at Ocean Sushi Deli.

The sushi was really good and the rolls were huge.  We got some salmon and hamachi as well as a Merrie Monach roll (shrimp tempura, cucumber and unagi), a Big Island roll (ahi, avocado, and macademia nuts), a Sunset Roll (ahi, hamachi, avacado, and tobikko, a Hilo roll (baked mahi, imitation crab, and avocado) and a Rainbow roll (imitation crab, cucumber, ahi, salmon, and avocado). 

My least favorite was the Hilo roll.  I didn’t care for the baked mahi.  The Big Island roll was very interesting.  I’d never had sushi with nuts in it before.  And though I’m not a fan of nuts in general, the macademia nuts were actually pretty good in it.  Prices were really good and they had a lot of items on the menu.  For $38, we were plenty happy with our choice of sushi restaurants.

Ocean Sushi Deli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday was our day to drive around the island.  First stop was the Punalu’u black sand beach to check out the sea turtles.

This was one of my favorites stops on our trip.  We saw quite a few sea turtles in the water and then this one was coming ashore as we were leaving. 

We stopped at the Hana Hou Restaurant for brunch.

By this point in our trip, we realized that the amount of food served everywhere we’ve been is way more than we can eat, so we decided to split a pork loco moco with a side of avocado.

This was definitely a winner in the loco moco category.  The eggs and rice were cooked perfectly and the pork and gravy were both delicious.  

As you walk in the door at Hana Hou, be sure to check out the dessert case.

There it was.  My new favorite dessert, lilikoi pie.  I ate half of it before remembering to take a picture.

Awesome flavor, fresh whipped cream, and a nice crust.  I was in heaven.  I really liked this restaurant.  With a couple of drinks, the total bill was $22. If you’re visiting the south end of the island, this is definitely a great place to stop.

Hana Hou Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We couldn’t drive down to Southpoint due to some road construction, so we headed up the west coast and stopped at some beach parks and the Place of Refuge.  We got into Kona around 4:30pm looking for a place to eat.  Unfortunately, the first place we tried didn’t open until 5pm, so we headed over to the Manago Hotel.  They didn’t open until 5pm either, but we figured we’d wait based on the review we read. 

This was by far the most disappointing meal we ate on the island.  They have a very limited menu which is on the wall in the dining room.  Then they bring you out 4 side dishes before your meal.

Rice, a spaghetti/potato salad, mixed veggies (which tasted like frozen veggies), and black eyed peas which were served cold and tasted like they’d been cooked in sugar.  At this point, I think we both realized we had made a mistake in dinner choices. 

I forgot to even take photos of our entrees.  I ordered the ono and Loren got the ahi.  Both were cooked in some sort of lemon garlic  sauce and the portions were small.  The ono and ahi were both overcooked.  At most, ahi should be seared, but this was cooked through and through.  Blech!  I have a feeling no matter what you ordered, it was going to be prepared the same way.  It was $25 for dinner and this was the night we ended up stopping back at Huli Sue’s BBQ because we needed something else to eat.  Supposedly, Manago is famous for their pork chops, but I know I wouldn’t go back to find out.

Manago Hotel on Urbanspoon


On Saturday, we were heading up to Hawi to go ziplining and drove though Kamuela to eat breakfast at the Hawaiian Style Cafe.  This is a cash-only restaurant that gives you a ton of food for the money.  

I ordered a loco moco, but it wasn’t as good as the other ones I had on the island. 

I didn’t like the hamburger patty and my over-easy eggs were a bit overcooked.  There was plenty of it though.

Loren ordered their Kalua Pork omelet special which came with hashbrowns and pancakes.

This was a breakfast made to be shared.  The pancakes alone were enough to feed at least 2 people and the omelette was stuffed full of pork.  The whole breakfast was under $20 and there were plenty of leftovers.

Hawaiian Style Cafe on Urbanspoon

After ziplining, we hiked down to Pololu Beach.  Beautiful views from the trail as you head down. 

Then we stopped for some Tropical Dreams Ice Cream in Hawi.  Loren had the Coconut cream and the Ginger White Chocolate.  I got the Tahitian Vanilla and chocolate.  They were all wonderful.  The only thing I didn’t like was that my chocolate ice cream had M&M’s in it and ice cream as good as this really didn’t need anything extra.

We stopped to watch the sunset before stopping for dinner.

Huli Sue’s BBQ in Waimea was our dinner stop tonight.

We split the BBQ Sampler which had pork, ribs, chicken, sausage and brisket plus two sides.  We got cole slaw and corn bread pudding and ordered a couple of extra sides as well, an Oriental Bok Choy dish and some black beans. 

Again, lots of food (this seems to be a theme in Hawaii).  The BBQ sauce had a tang to it and all the meats were pretty good.  The black beans were ok, but the other sides were better.  The Bok Choy completely did not go with the meal, but it was still tasty. 

And I had to get a piece of their famous banana cream pie to go. 

I understand why it’s famous.  It was soooo good.  I took it out to take a bite and almost finished it right there.  Smooth and creamy with a nice crust and topping.  Total dinner was $47 and there were plenty of leftovers.

We actually went back to Huli Sue’s later in our vacation after a very disappointing meal at Manago (I’ll get to that later).  We were just going to get dessert, but ended up getting some BBQ nachos as well as a slice of chocolate cake.

The nachos were good, but I just wanted some sweetness. 

Thick, rich, chocolatey goodness, in a moist delicious cake.  Huli Sue’s makes good BBQ, but their desserts are amazing.  Our little snack run cost us $17.

Huli Sue's BBQ and Grill on Urbanspoon

By Sunday, day 5 of our vacation, we were completely whooped.  But that didn’t stop us from doing some spelunking in Kaumana Cave.   It was a very cool walk through an old lava tube. 

For lunch, we headed over to Pahoa to Kaleo’s Bar and Grill.  We ordered the Tempura Ahi roll for our appetizer.

It was absolutely amazing.  This was one of the best things we ate on the island.  Crispy on the outside, with Ahi, rice and veggies on the inside.  I should have just ordered a second one for my entree.

I ordered the Chicken Katsu, but wasn’t too impressed.

The rice wasn’t cooked well, and the chicken was a little dry.  It definitely needed a dipping sauce, but the one that came with it was a bit too spicy and when I asked for a sweeter sauce, I ended up with an even spicier chili Thai sauce.

Loren was much happier with his meal.  He ordered the Mahi BLT and just raved about it.

And, what did they have for dessert?  Lilikoi cheesecake!  My new favorite dessert in the whole wide world.

It was so good.  Light and creamy with a wonderful passionfruit flavor.  I have got to find a recipe for this pie. $46 for lunch and we left with happy tastebuds.

Kaleo's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

We spent the afternoon walking around the Lava Tree Park, McKenzie Park, and East Point, then headed back to Hilo for dinner at Pescatore’s. 

If there’s calamari on the menu, we usually order it.

Normally, the calamari we get is in rings and not quite as thick as these pieces were.  The batter didn’t have a lot of flavor, but the marinara sauce was good.

I’m always happy when they bring out the bread basket.

Loren started with a salad and I got some pasta fagioli.

They were both ok.  The soup had a nice flavor and lots of veggies in it.

I ordered the fettucine alfredo with shrimp for my entree.

It was ok, but there was a flavor in it that I didn’t care for.  I don’t know what it was, but it just wasn’t one of my favorite alfredo dishes.  Loren ordered their mahi ahi fish special. 

He really enjoyed it.  There were two different sauces on the fish and it came with a pesto spaghetti.  I had heard they had a killer chocolate truffle cake here so I got one to go.

Talk about disappointing.  I don’t know how to describe the texture, it wasn’t smooth at all.  Sort of crumbly.  The flavor was ok, but overall, it was not as good as I had been led to believe.  This was our most expensive meal on the island at $72.  We had much better meals for a lot less money elsewhere.

Pescatore on Urbanspoon


We needed a quick breakfast before heading to the movies, so we went over to the East Lake Cafe in Palm Harbor.

They were busy, but we were able to get a table outside without a wait.  Loren ordered the pancakes with a side of bacon.

The pancakes were pretty big and fluffy, Loren only ate about half of them.   I ordered the Texas French toast.

Unfortunately, the execution on the French toast was not very good.  They used a thick bread, which would have been great if they had actually soaked it longer in the batter.  Instead, the middle of the bread was completely dry and tasteless.  Good thing the syrup had a nice flavor to it.  I wouldn’t order this again.

Our waitress told us they were understaffed when we sat down, so it was no surprise that she never came back to check on us.  Total bill was $16 and we did make it out in plenty of time to see our movie. 

Eastlake Cafe
3430 Eastlake Rd
Palm Harbor, FL

East Lake Cafe on Urbanspoon


Come Hungry

I wanted to go walk around Moccasin Lake Nature Park in Clearwater today, so I searched for a restaurant close by.  We’d never been to Lenny’s before, but it sounded like a good ol’ fashioned diner and those are the places I love to eat.  Plus, you gotta love a place that has an “Employee of the Month sh*t list” posted by the front counter. 

The parking lot was full which is always a good sign.  Luckily, it’s a pretty big restaurant, so we didn’t have to wait for a table.  The menu is huge.  I decided on breakfast, Loren went for lunch. 

We started off with the danish basket that came with my breakfast entree.

This  little basket had quite the treats buried inside.  Five different kinds of sweet goodies including a brownie, cream cheese danish, fruit danish, a cinnamon danish and another custard like danish. 

Then came the relish tray that came with Loren’s lunch.  You get two choices and we picked pickles and macaroni salad.  Both were very tasty.

 At this point, we already knew we were going to have a hard time finishing our entrees. 

Loren got the Deli Triple Threat with potato salad.

It’s three half sandwiches, turkey, pastrami and corned beef.  He said the corned beef was pretty mild, but the turkey and pastrami were really good.  And the meat was piled on the sandwiches.  The potato salad was kind of sweet.  I liked it, but it was too sweet for him.

I ordered a country style breakfast with scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon.

Loren used the bacon on his sandwich, and the eggs were very good.  I love it when you order eggs with cheese and they get it right.  The cheese was mixed in and all melted into the eggs.  Good stuff.

My breakfast also came with 4 silver dollar pancakes.

When I read silver dollar pancakes, I figured they’d be small.  These were four regular sized pancakes and they were delicious.  Light and fluffy and I was barely able to eat half of it.  And because I thought the pancakes were going to be small, I also ordered a side of home fries.

This was absolutely not what I imagined when I ordered home fries.  This dish was awesome.  The potatoes were cooked on the grill and then topped with sauteed onions.  I could have just eaten this and been happy.  Way too much food though, I barely made a dent in it. 

Now we know why the place was so crowded.  Good food, large portions, and very friendly service.   Total bill was $23 and well worth it.

Lenny’s Restaurant
21220 US Hwy 19 N
Clearwater, FL

Lenny's on Urbanspoon


One is Plenty

Watched “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” the other night and they were doing a French toast throwdown.   I’ve been craving French toast since then, so I dragged Loren out of bed and we headed over to Yanny’s in Clearwater because the reviews I read said they had the best pancakes and French toast around. 

Yanny’s is a small diner type restaurant.  Looked like a lot of locals in there.  Luckily, we were able to get a table without a wait.  While we looked over the menu, I ordered a Jungle Juice.

It had bananas, strawberries, cranberries, kiwi, and blueberries in it.  It was tasty, but the banana was definitely the overwhelming flavor in it.  I had to add some ice cubes to it because it wasn’t cold enough for me. 

Loren ordered their homemade corned beef hash. 

It also comes with 2 eggs and toast.  The corned beef hash was really good.  Lots of fresh corned beef, not out of a can, onions, peppers, mushrooms, mixed with hashbrowns.  We got scrambled eggs with cheese with it and they were ok.  I admit, I like my scrambled eggs a little mushy with the cheese mixed in, not just melted on top.  He also ordered a pancake. 

Do not adjust your screen.  That’s one pancake.  It’s huge and thick.  Not your typical light and fluffy pancake.  This one definitely has some texture going on.   We had to drench it in syrup, otherwise, it was kind of dry.  It almost had a biscuit-like feel to it. 

And I ordered one piece of French toast.

This was the most bizarre looking French toast I’ve ever had.  They cook extra custard over the piece of French toast to give it a very unique presentation.  The French toast was good, but the extra custard around the outside didn’t do much for me.  This wasn’t my idea of great French toast.  Good flavor, yes, but texture-wise it wasn’t what I was looking for.

The portions are definitely big here.  I couldn’t imagine how anyone could eat more than one of those pancakes.   We don’t drink coffee, but they were constantly stopping by the table next to us with refills.  

 Believe it or not, the whole meal was just $16.  There was enough pancake left over for another meal. 

1258 S Highland Ave
Clearwater, FL

Yanny's on Urbanspoon