The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

Day 8 of our vacation we had reservations for lunch at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.  On the way there, we stopped at the World Botanical Gardens to check out Umauma Falls.

What a beautiful 3 tiered waterfall.  We’ve seen numerous waterfalls on our trip, but this one was simply gorgeous.  The actual gardens aren’t as nice or plentiful as the Hawaii Botanical Gardens, but the waterfall is definitely worth the admission price.

The Hawaiian Vanilla Experience Lunch was pretty interesting.

Their vanilla in infused in all of the lunch items.  The vanilla lemonade was really tasty.  Lunch was a chicken sandwich with salad and roasted potatoes and a vanilla bread pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  You also get to hear the story of the vanilla farm and get to visit the shade house where they grow the vanilla plants.  Trust me, after this visit you’ll completely understand why vanilla is so expensive.  Lunch and tour for two was $70, plus we ended up buying a few vanilla souvenirs as well. 

After lunch, we went hiking through another cave and then walked around Kalopa State Park.  The park was beautiful and very serene.  We headed back to Hilo and stopped at the Hilo Bay Cafe for dinner. 

Unfortunately, we hadn’t made reservations, but luckily there was plenty of room at the bar, so we ordered dinner there.  I think this was our best meal of the trip.

I started out with a Thai curry coconut soup that was amazing.

Loads of interesing flavors that were amazingly warm, but not too spicy.  Loren had a salad and really liked the dressing.

I ordered the hamakua mushroom pot pie with chicken which came with a side salad.  This is the way pot pies should always be.

The pastry crust was flaky and perfectly baked.  Chicken and fresh veggies in a creamy sauce inside.  This is comfort food at its best.

Loren ordered their fish special of the night which was ono over a bed of mashed potatoes, spinach and tomatoes in a beurre blanc sauce.

Perfectly cooked, with wonderful flavors.  There was nothing left on his plate when he was finished.  And since our entrees had been so good, I certainly couldn’t pass up their version of chocolate lava cake.

Finally!  A restaurant that understands that lava cake should have a liquid center.  Loren was chatting with another customer at the bar and I had half of this eaten before he even turned around.  Wonderful deep chocolate flavors and the vanilla ice cream was a perfect complement.

The entire experience was great.  This is definitely a restaurant that “gets it”.  The bartender was our waiter and he kept our drinks filled and plates cleared.  It was interesting watching him make bloody mary’s all night.  He must have made 8 of them while we were there.  Total bill was $61 and worth every penny.  If you’re in Hilo, make a reservation and eat here at least once on your trip.

Hilo Bay Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday was our last full day on the island.  We ate breakfast at the B&B and then headed down to the Volcano Park again to see the Jagger Museum and the end of the Chain of Craters road.  We also saw the Holei Sea Arch.

We stopped at Thai Thai Restaurant for dinner in Volcano.  For an appetizer, we ordered the summer roll.

I didn’t like it, but Loren did.  It had mint and cilantro in it that just completely ruined it for me.  Those just aren’t flavors I enjoy. 

I ordered the chicken coconut yellow curry at the mildest setting available.

I admit, I’m wimpy when it comes to spicy, but if this is mild, I’d hate to see what hot is like.  My mouth was on fire.  It had an interesting flavor, chicken and potatoes in the curry sauce, but my lips were tingling after just a few bites.

Loren ordered the ginger chicken.

His was even spicer than mine.  He enjoyed it, but still ordered some coconut ice cream for dessert just to cool off his tongue.

The ice cream had bits of coconut in it.  Total bill was $50 and it took a while for both of us to regain sensation in our tongues and lips.  This is not a restaurant for the meek when it comes to spicy.

Thai Thai on Urbanspoon

Last day on the island and we got up at 3:00am in order to go on the sunrise Lava Ocean Boat Tour.  It was just so amazing during the sunset tour that we had to do it again before we left the island. 

After the tour, we headed back to our B&B for breakfast then over to the Liliuokalani Gardens for awhile.

We ate lunch at the Kuhio Grille in Hilo.  We actually ate breakfast here on our first day on the island.  Pancakes and a Belgium waffle that were huge and way more than one person could eat.

Lunch on our last day also consisted of way too much food.  I ordered the chicken katsu with some corn chowder.  The chowder was really, really thick.  It had the consistency of mashed potatoes. 

The chicken was a little overcooked.  Not the best I’d had on the island.  Loren ordered one of their specials, a Philipino combo which had spare ribs, adobo & pumpkin, long beans, wing beans and pork.

He was a happy guy.  The meat just fell off the bones of the spare ribs.  Wonderful flavors all around.  He had no idea that he was eating pumpkin until he asked the waitress what it was.  Our final meal on the island ran us $28.

Kuhio Grille on Urbanspoon

All in all, we had an amazing vacation in Hawaii.  At every turn we were fascinated by the scenery.  From beautiful waterfalls, to lush green rainforests, to endless lava fields, to flowing glowing lava.  We kept saying “Wow”, only to have a bigger “Wow” uttered at the next stop.  The food was also wonderful.  So many of the restaurants used fresh, local ingredients and it was so apparent in the final dishes. 

If you’re interested in seeing the rest of our photos, you can check them out on my Flickr page.  We’re slowly getting them edited and posted.  Aloha!

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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

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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

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We took a 10 day vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii from May 12-21, 2010.  I had plotted out a bunch of restaurants to visit while we were there based on reviews on Urbanspoon and recommendations in the “Big Island Revealed” book.  For the most part, we had some great local food while we were there. 

Instead of making separate posts for all of the restaurants, I’m going to just break it into a few posts about our trip. 

Our flight left Tampa at 8am and we changed planes in Dallas.  We grabbed a quick bite in the Dallas airport at Dickey’s BBQ. 

For airport food, it wasn’t bad at all.  I got a roast pork sandwich and Loren got the brisket.  The mac & cheese was pretty dry, but I didn’t really expect much from it.  Total bill was $19.  Next stop, Hawaii.

Ok, so it was 7 hours to Honolulu, then an hour in the airport, then an hour connector flight to Hilo.  We arrived around 5pm Hawaii time, which to us, was 11pm Tampa time.  But we were still hungry so headed over to Ken’s House of Pancakes for dinner.

We’d read about Ken’s before our trip and it lived up to its reputation.  Lots of good food, enormous menu, and reasonable prices.  Plus it’s open 24/7 which is why we ended up eating there twice during our trip.  Their parking lot isn’t big enough for the steady flow of customers going through there.

On our first night, I ordered some potato soup to start off.

It was thick and rich and quite filling.  Then we both ordered Loco Mocos because that’s what you do when you go to the Big Island. 

Mine was really good.  Kulua pork over rice with gravy and two eggs over easy.  I can understand why people order these.  It’s a hearty meal and the pork was very tasty.  Both eggs and rice were cooked well too.

Loren got the Keiki moco which had a hamburger patty, rice, gravy & he ordered it with scrambled eggs.

He wasn’t as impressed with his.  The hamburger patty was nothing to write home about.  The pork in mine is what really made it good.

And I just couldn’t pass up dessert.  I said it was because I was on vacation, but anyone who reads this blog knows I rarely pass up dessert. 

Unfortunately, the chocolate pie had nuts on it which I don’t like.  But the chocolate, crust, whipped cream and ice cream were all very good.  For $23, we were completely stuffed. 

We went back to Ken’s two days later after our Lava Ocean Adventures boat tour.  If you go to the Big Island, definitely take this boat tour.  It was absolutely amazing.  We were about 20-30 feet away from the active lava flow.  It’s a 35 minute boat ride out & back and then they spend 45 minutes at the lava just going back & forth across the 1/4 mile field.   We actually took the sunset tour on day 3 of our vacation and we were so amazed that we took a sunrise tour on day 10 before we headed back to Tampa.  Here’s one of about 400 photos I took. 

After the lava tour, we went back to Ken’s and had dinner.  Loren got a bacon cheeseburger and I ordered the honey chicken.

Both were pretty good.  The chicken really didn’t taste like it had much honey on it though.  They do a lot of business at Ken’s and the food is pretty consistent for a diner.  Another $23 meal and we were stuffed.

Ken's House of Pancakes on Urbanspoon

For Day 2 of our trip, we started the morning with a Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour around Hilo.  It was ok, but I wouldn’t do it again.  Seeing Hilo from above was a nice perspective, but overall, I don’t think it was worth the money.  We saw some waterfalls, the volcano crater, and a little of the active lava flow.  The Lava Ocean Adventures boat tour was way better for the money. 

After the helicopter tour, we checked out some of the local beach parks, then had lunch at the Puka Puka Kitchen.

This was a cute little restaurant with only 4 tables and a little counter by the window.  We both ordered off of their specialis menu.  I got the Chicken Katsu Don Burger with fries and Loren got the Japanese Style Chicken Katsu Curry.

This sandwich was so tasty.  The chicken was fried perfectly and had a sweet sauce on it.  I was one happy camper.  And the fresh cut fries were a nice change.

Loren enjoyed the curry as well.  It was the same chicken that was on my sandwich but in a spicy curry sauce with veggies.  For $16, this was one of the most inexpensive, tastier meals we had on the island.

Puka Puka Kitchen on Urbanspoon

We spent the afternoon at the Volcano Park then headed over the ‘Imiloa Planetarium for the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe” show.  We ate dinner at the Sky Garden Restaurant at the Planetarium.  They had a nice buffet with a lot of different choices including shrimp, noodles, rice, salad bar, teriyaki chicken, veggies, as well as some yummy desserts including a lilikoi dessert that I just loved.  Lilikoi is passion fruit and for the rest of the trip anytime I saw anything on the menu with lilikoi in it, I had to have some.

Day 3, we actually ate breakfast at the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at, The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls.  Beautiful B&B with a waterfall on the property and a great view of Hilo Bay.  Because of the time difference, we were up at the crack of dawn most mornings and wanted to get out and about before they started serving breakfast from 8-9am.  The breakfasts we did eat there were good; eggs cooked to order, Belgium waffles, fresh fruit, and local breads. 

We spent the morning at the Hawaii Botanical Gardens then ate lunch at Reuben’s Mexican Restaurant.  Started out with some chips and really spicy salsa.

 Loren ordered the Ono Fish Tacos.

 He liked them.  Lots of veggies and the fish was cooked well.  I ordered the chicken flautas and was quite shocked when the plate came out.

 There was enough food on the plate for two people, maybe three.  The flautas were huge, plus it came with rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, and cheese.  It had a lot of good flavors going on.  I’d definitely order this again, but I’d have to split it with someone. 

And just because I can’t resist, I ordered the chocolate lava cake even though I was so full from lunch.

 It had a good chocolate flavor, but the problem with most lava cakes is that they get cooked too long so the inside isn’t liquid as it should be.  That was the case with this one.  It was solid all the way through. 

Lunch was $42.  Granted we got a lot of food, but I thought the prices were a bit high at Reubens.

Reuben's Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

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