We ate out 42 times in May and spent about $1425 between the two of us. Sure, this is a little over double of our normal monthly food spend, but we spent 10 days on the Big Island of Hawaii eating our way around the island. And we ate some really good food.
Here are the highs and lows from our Hawaii trip:
Best Overall: Hilo Bay Cafe
Spiciest Food: Thai Thai
Best Pie: Lilikoi Pie at Hana Hou
Best Appetizer: Ahi Roll at Kaleo’s Grill
Worst Meal: Manago Hotel
We called around to a few places to see who was open on Memorial Day and ended up at Georgie Boy Restaurant in Clearwater.
They have a big menu with lots of choices. We both ordered off of the specials menu with came with bread, soup or salad, and dessert.
Loren got a salad & and I got the cream of chicken soup.
The soup was very flavorful. Definitely homemade.
Bread baskets always make me happy. For our entrees, Loren ordered the roast beef dinner which came with mashed potatoes and corn.
Down home goodness on a plate. Nothing fancy, just good food and lots of it. I ordered the fettucine with meatballs.
Gotta love a place that actually gives you a bunch of meatballs. The sauce was really good, very similar to my grandmother’s recipe. The meatballs were also very tasty and had a nice consistency. I ended up taking half of it home for leftovers.
For dessert, we both decided to get cheesecake. There were some options that came with dinner or you could substitute cheesecake for half price.
This was a decandent NY style cheesecake. Very thick and rich with a delicate flavor. There were a few other desserts in the dessert case that looked amazing.
Total dinner was $25. Great value, and lots of tasty food. This is definitely a place we’ll try again.
Georgie Boy Restaurant
1101 S Missouri Ave
Tio Pepe on Gulf to Bay is another one of those restaurants that we’ve driven by countless times, but never stopped in for dinner. We finally made it over there tonight. It was actually good timing since they’re getting ready to close for renovations for a few weeks.
We were seated and given menus, but had to wait for a while before our waiter showed up. Never a good way to start a dining experience. I then got the impression that our being there was somewhat of an inconvenience for him.
He took our drink order, an iced tea and a water with lime, and when he returned to our table he gave me a very small glass of water and no lime. Now, it’s not that he didn’t hear me because he said, “oh, I’ll bring you some lime”, but never did.
We did, however, get the bread basket.
Two loaves of bread with whipped butter. I actually liked the brown bread better than the other one. The white bread had a distinct taste to it, maybe buttermilk.
Then came the salad which was tossed at the table.
I watched another waiter toss the salad for a different table and he had brought out a tray and tossed the salad with some Worchestershire sauce and some oil/dressing, then mixed it all together. Our waiter brought the bowl to the table and tossed it around and put it on plates. Now, I don’t know if he mixed in the other ingredients in the kitchen or just decided not to bother with them.
Loren liked the salad more than I did. It was very garlicy and had way too much romano and parmesean cheese on it for me. Plus it had olives, of which I’m not a fan.
While we were waiting for our entrees, I realized the edge of the table where I was sitting had a gooey layer of caramel on it. Just what every patron wants from their dining experience, a nice sticky table.
Then came the entrees. Loren ordered the Puntas De Solomillo Salteado (Tips of Tenderloin, Mushrooms, Serrano Ham and Chorizo) served with Saffron Rice.
He liked it. It didn’t have any intense flavors, but a nice flavor overall. I liked the flavor of it but thought the steak was dry. The other odd thing is that I would have expected a separate dinner plate to be provided instead of having to eat directly out of the pan it was cooked in.
I ordered the Arroz con Pollo.
It was a beautiful presentation, but there was a flavor in it that neither of us could identify and that I didn’t like. Everything was cooked well, but whatever that flavor was just completely ruined it for me.
Of course I looked at the dessert menu and couldn’t pass up the Tarta de Chocolate (14 layers of thin Cookie Crust filled in between with Chocolate Mousse Cream and Raspberry Sauce)
Loren said it was one of his favorite desserts. I didn’t like it at all. As far as I’m concerned chocolate and cinnamon should never meet. The mousse had cinnamon in it and there was no raspberry sauce, instead it was a hardened drizzle of chocolate and caramel on the plate. I will say, the hardened pieces on the plate were tasty, much better than the dessert itself.
Total bill was $45. Loren enjoyed it much more than I did. Our waiter had an attitude from start to finish and that put me off more than the food.
Tio Pepe Restaurante
2930 Gulf to Bay Blvd
We drive by the Monte Cristo Family Restaurant any time we go into Dunedin and I keep saying I want to try it. We were finally there early enough in the day to check it out. They only serve breakfast and lunch.
They had a bunch of breakfast specials today and I ordered the Eggs Benedict Florentine.
Two poached eggs over English muffins with spinach, tomatoes, and Hollandaise sauce plus a side of hash browns. The eggs were a little overcooked, but the tomatoes were definitely fresh. It’s always nice to actually taste a tomato. The hashbrowns were pretty bad. Shaved potato slices with no seasoning whatsoever.
Loren ordered a burger with everything.
The waitress heard “plain burger”, so it came out with nothing. Another waitress heard the conversation as our waitress started to take the plate away & told her to just get a side of lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.
Overall service was pretty bad. We had to ask for silverware and for the most part, our waitress was no where to be found. The other waitress in the restaurant cleared the plates and brought our check. Total bill with a glass of OJ was $13. We both agreed that it’s unlikely that we’ll be back.
Monte Cristo Family Restaurant
1617 Main St
Ever wake up at the crack of 10:30 on a Saturday morning and just need a good sub? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, Cathy’s off playing in Orlando with her sister today, so I headed over to Jersey Mike’s. Mike’s is a small nationwide chain that recently opened a shop in Oldsmar. Now, Subway may claim to be “fresh” (and I like a good Subway sub), but Mike’s is fresher. At Mike’s, your meats are all sliced to order right in front of you, and probably the best part is that they sprinkle it with some good herbs and douse it with vinegar and oil before wrapping it up. Makes for a good, slightly sloppy sandwich!
I love a good club sandwich, and I haven’t had any bacon all week (and a man needs bacon!), so I opted for their “Club Supreme”, which adds delicious roast beef to everything that’s on their regular club: Turkey, ham, provolone, bacon, and mayo. Oh, and they switch the provalone for swiss, which I didn’t really notice. (should have had them omit the cheese to save the calories, I wouldn’t have noticed with all the other flavors!)
Not a great photo, but, I already scarfed the sub, so it will have to do!
Jersey Mike’s Subs
3860 Tampa Rd Unit A
My sister and I meet up every year for the Fringe Festival in Orlando and Brian’s Restaurant is our stop for breakfast.
It’s a little diner on Orange Ave near the festival and I found it a few years ago because it claimed to have the best sweet buns in town.
These are pretty good, but I have to say, they were better when we first started coming here a few years ago. The last couple times I’ve been, the buns were a lot drier and didn’t seem as fresh.
We ordered some breakfast, I got some eggs with toast & hashbrowns, she got an order of hashbrowns and my niece and her boyfriend shared some eggs and a Belgium waffle. I had sweet bun frosting on my fingers so I didn’t take any other photos. Everything was cooked well and the total bill was $16, so it’s definitely a cost effective place to eat breakfast. Our waitress was nice, in fact I think we’ve had the same waitress every time we’ve been there.
It’s a good little restaurant to get a quick, inexpensive breakfast.
1409 North Orange Ave
It’s located in a strip mall that I didn’t even realize was there on US 19 N. It’s set back from the road, so I’ve never seen the restaurant from the highway. The decor is like many of the Thai restaurants in town. I even commented that it looked just like the Thai restaurant close to our house.
We started with the Fried Thai Spring Rolls.
They were nice and crispy with a good pork flavor. They also had sort of a sour flavor which could have been from the dried mushrooms. The dipping sauce was very sweet. The only issue was that some of the ends were burnt. They should have been taken out of the fryer a little quicker.
We both decided to get some soup. Loren got the Chicken Rice soup and I got the Tom Kha Gai (chicken in cream of coconut soup with straw mushrooms, onions, scallions, and flavored with galangal, lemon grass, and ma-goot leaf).
The chicken rice soup was similar to other restaurants. Completely mild, but had a nice flavor.
The Tom Kha Gai had a strong lemon flavor, almost a sweetness, but it had a little spiciness too. I didn’t like the onions in it though. They were too large to scoop on the spoon and also had too strong of a flavor. It just didn’t meld well with the lemon/coconut.
Loren ordered the Nam Sod salad which had ground pork mixed with ginger, peanuts, onions, and bell peppers with a spicy lemon dressing.
He said it was good, definitely had some spice, but that the onions were too strong. I think they were the same onions that were in my soup.
I ordered the Mud Sa Mon (yellow curry, coconut milk, potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, peanuts and onions), served with Jasmine rice.
This is the same type of dish I ordered at the Thai Thai restaurant in Hawaii, but luckily this one wasn’t as spicy. It had some complex flavors in it and was quite enjoyable. I should have ordered it without the peanuts though. I just don’t like the crunch of peanuts in an otherwise smooth dish.
For $32, it was a great way to start our weekend.
Tum Rub Thai Restaurant
32716 US Highway 19 North
Palm Harbor, FL
On the bayou!
Another Friday meeting at one of our favorite “conference rooms”, Cajun Cafe on the Bayou.
I remembered to take a picture today, partly because my plate just looked pretty. I wanted a light lunch, so I ordered the “Baby greens and a cup” for lunch with a cup of Gumbo. The other guys ordered either a bowl of Jambalaya or Cajun burritos. I’ve had both and they’re really good… the Jambalaya is notably spicier than the Gumbo, however.
Great food and service, as usual. Cajun Cafe rarely disappoints!
Cajun Cafe on the Bayou
8101 Park Blvd N
Pinellas Park, FL
We’ve been to Johnny’s Italian Restaurant a few times before. We were a little worried tonight when we placed our drink order for water with lime and an unsweet iced tea and the waitress brought us both water with lemon. Luckily, the service got better after that.
“Home of Famous Johnny Bread” is written right on the front window and I have to agree, their bread is awesome.
Little fresh baked loaves, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and served up with some of the most garlicy oil I’ve ever tasted. We ended up asking for a second loaf because it was just that good.
Both of our entress came with soup or salad and we both went for the Manhattan Clam Chowder.
Loren liked it more than I did. It had a nice flavor, but I thought it was overly salty. There were a few pieces of clam that were really tough, but the rest of the veggies were cooked well.
For his entree, Loren ordered the grouper piccata which came with a side of fettucine alfredo.
He said it was very good. Surprisingly, he even liked the fettucine alfredo. He normally doesn’t eat it and had he known it came with his dinner, he would have tried to substitute it for something else, but after he tasted it, he ended up eating quite a bit. It was nice and creamy. The grouper was cooked well and had a tasty picatta sauce.
I ordered the cheese lasagne.
I thought the sauce on this dish had too much salt in it as well, but overall, it was a good lasagne. The cheese filling was very tasty and the noodles were cooked just right.
We both ended up with leftovers for tomorrow and the total bill was $29.
Johnny’s Italian Restaurant
2907 SR 590 #1
We headed over to Poblanos for a quick lunch today. We’ve been on vacation in Hawaii for the past 10 days and even though we hiked all over the Big Island, we both managed to gain weight, so we decided to split an order of chicken fajitas.
Ok, rather we thought we were going to split an order of chicken fajitas, instead our waitress brought us out steak fajitas. Personally, I don’t think chicken and steak sound anything alike, but since we were in a hurry, we just ate what she brought.
I ended up only eating one fajita because the steak was really tough. Luckily, it came with rice and beans, so I ate some of that instead.
And Loren was happy with chips and salsa.
Total bill was $16 and next time I’ll just have to make sure the waitress reads back our order so we actually get what we ordered.
Poblanos Mexican Grill & Bar
2451 McMullen Booth Road
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We emptied out the fridge in preparation for our vacation, and Loren was craving a steak so we headed to Longhorn Steakhouse in Palm Harbor.
I’m always happy when fresh, warm bread is brought to the table.
Loren started off with a salad, I just kept munching on bread.
I ordered the Citrus Grilled chicken with a baked potato. It was one of the items on their specials menu.
The chicken was cooked a little too much on the outside, but the inside was perfect. It had a slight citrus flavor to it, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Loren got the bacon scallops with a 7 oz filet.
He was a very happy guy. The steak and scallops were both cooked just right. Plus, how can you go wrong with anything wrapped in bacon?
And then came the dessert sampler.
This had a lot of awesome going on. Strawberry cheesecake, a caramel apple cobbler with ice cream and chocolate cake. I was in heaven. The cheesecake was light and fluffy with sweetened strawberries and whipped cream. We both dove into that one. Loren finished off the caramel apple cobbler and the chocolate cake was soft, fresh and yummy.
From start to finish, this was a really good experience. Our waiter was really good. Kept drinks filled and cleared away dishes quickly. Total bill was $48 and worth every penny.
35645 US Highway 19
Palm Harbor, FL
When I was driving home from work today, I noticed Suro had finally opened in Oldsmar. It’s in the space that used to be the Twisted Bamboo.
They weren’t very busy, but then again, not too many places are on a Monday night. One of the owners stopped by our table and said they’d been open a few weeks and were doing more of a soft opening to make sure everything was ready to go before they started doing a lot of advertising.
It’s a nice looking restaurant with the sushi bar in the back. They have a big dining room plus outdoor seating and a bar. It strikes me as the type of place that’s catering to the yuppie nightlife kind of crowd. Whether or not Oldsmar has enough of that type of crowd to support it remains to be seen.
We started off with some seafood chowder.
The chowder had lots of fish and roasted corn in it. It was very creamy, had a nice flavor and was quite enjoyable. The bowl was definitely big enough for two to share.
We tried four sushi rolls and some salmon nigiri.
This is the Kani Su roll. It had Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail, Crab, and Daikon Sprouts, wrapped in Cucumber. It was very fresh and light and had a delicate flavor.
From left to right, we got the Rainbow roll, the Shrimp Tempura Roll, California roll and Salmon Nigiri. Overall, the sushi was just ok. The rice was bland and didn’t keep its shape on the rolls. The fish was fresh, but I’ve had sushi at other places where the fish was incredible. The sushi chef was a young, nice looking caucasian guy who I’m sure entertains the customers well. My best sushi experiences have always been when there’s an older Japanese sushi chef who’s spent many years perfecting his craft.
We also tried the chocolate tart for dessert.
Beautiful presentation, great flavors, but the crust was undercooked and tough. I had to use a knife to cut through it. It should have been light and flaky, but instead it was hard and doughy. The chocolate was rich and the raspberry sauce was tart, but they made a good combination.
The service was good and they definitely had an eye for detail. Before our sushi came out, I saw one of the managers wiping down the side of the plate. Dinner ran us $60. A bit overpriced I thought for what we got. We may go back again after they’ve been open a few months to try something else on the menu.
3687 Tampa Rd
Had lunch with my buddy Steve today, we opted for a convenient Mexican lunch at Estela’s on Roosevelt Boulevard. It was a really nice day, but not hot, so we grabbed a table outside. It was nice and quiet, and we were well-served. (sometimes when you opt for outdoor seating you get forgotten, not today) Our drinks came quickly along with a complimentary basket of chips and salsa.
I grabbed a quick bite from the lunch menu, Steve “splurged” on the cerviche. And… I remembered to take a photo! Not a great photo. Not a great looking plate. But, it was tasty and quick.
My “Burrito Diablo” was not as devilish as it sounded. Just a pork burrito topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese and a big ol’ glob of fresh guacamole and a side of rice. Good stuff. Steve’s cerviche was not what either of us expected it to be, it was more of a spicy cold soup kind of thing. (Our waitress corrected our “say-vee-chay” pronunciation to “saveesh”, maybe that had something to do with it?) But, it was chock full of fresh shrimp, and Steve was pleased with it.
The guacamole was pretty good, but the salsa was a little disappointing. Not bad, just not up to my usual standard. Seemed like it either spent way too much time in a blender, or had a tomato paste base. The taste leaned toward tomato paste.
Overall, this is a decent cheap Mexican joint. I’ve been there a few times and it’s consistently good. Sort of like Poblano’s near home, if it’s close and you want cheap Mexican, you can’t go wrong. We got out for less than $15 each after the tip.
Estela’s Mexican Restaurant
10478 Roosevelt Blvd N
St Petersburg, FL 33716
It’s a cozy little restaurant with a big menu of Italian dishes.
Loren ordered one of the dinners which came with a homemade three bean salad, a tossed salad, bowl of Minestrone soup, and garlic bread. I ordered a cup of the pasta e fagioli soup and a side of meatballs.
The meatballs and tomato sauce were really tasty. They were definitely homemade with a good Italian recipe. Loren liked the three bean salad and said the house salad dressing was really good too. Same goes for both soups and the garlic bread. We hadn’t even gotten our entrees and our tastebuds were already quite happy.
Any restaurant that brings me a big ol’ basket of garlic bread gets a high rating in my book. The bread was soft with a nice garlic taste.
Then came the entress. Loren ordered the Cannelloni a la Joseph.
Homemade cannelloni stuffed with a sausage and cheese filling, then covered in mozzarella cheese and sauce. It had a nice texture and the sausage and cheese blended well together. The sausage wasn’t overpowering.
I ordered the fettucini alfredo.
The sauce had mushrooms and prosciutto in it but it wasn’t as light and creamy as I prefer my alfredo sauce. This was a thicker sauce and just didn’t have the flavors I was looking for.
But, then came the 3D Chocolate Cake.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to share. The cake was soft and fudgy with layers of chocolate mousse and whipped cream on the side. Good stuff.
Total bill was $40 and this is definitely a place we’ll go back to. The food was authentic and the atmosphere was pleasant.
And here’s that sunset…
Joseph’s Little Italy
916-A Patricia Ave
We went to the 9am IMAX showing of Iron Man 2 this morning (good movie) and needed a place to go for lunch that we hoped wouldn’t be too crowded since it was Mother’s Day. We hopped out on 19 and headed north. I remembered seeing an Indian restaurant when we went to Aunt Chilada’s the other night and they had just opened up for lunch when we got there.
We were the first customers of the day at Bawarchi and went for the lunch buffet. This is only the 2nd time we’ve eaten Indian food, so the buffet gave us a chance to try a bunch of different dishes.
Loren and I tried a little bit of everything including Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Tandoori, Goat Curry, Bombay Aloo, Chicken Madras, Channa Masala, Novrattan Korma, Daal Makhani, Vegetable Samosa, Gulab Jamun, and Naan bread.
The Naan bread was really good and buttery. Everything else was fresh and had some interesting flavors. Nothing was overly spicy, but for the rest of the day, I did feel a warmth in my throat. There’s some spice in Indian food that just sticks with me.
For $25, the buffet was a great way for us to get more familiar with different Indian dishes.
34832 US Hwy 19
Palm Harbor, FL
We drove over to Brandon today for some Spanish food at La Septima Cafe. The restaurant’s been there since 1995 and the menu is filled with traditional dishes.
Loren decided to get a taste of a few of them with the “Walk Around La Septima” dish.
This had Ropa Vieja, which is a shredded tender flank steak simmered in a burgandy wine sauce, Picadillo, which is ground beef, olives and capers in a tomato sauce, and Lechon Asado, which is marinated pork, plus yellow rice and black beans. It was a lot of food. He liked the pork and beans the best. I liked the taste of the Ropa Vieja.
I ordered the Arroz Con Pollo with black beans and some Cuban bread.
The dish had a wing and a chicken breast. The wing was great. The flavors in the chicken were really incredible. The breast, however, was really dry. All of the flavor was in the chicken skin. The rice and beans were ok and the bread was good.
We got a piece of their caramel chocolate cheesecake for dessert.
The “chocolate” consisted of a few chocolate chips tossed on top. The caramel sauce was good, but there wasn’t much of it. The cheesecake was very thick. This wasn’t a creamy cheesecake. It was made with ricotta cheese and had an almost grainy texture. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, just not a very smooth cheesecake.
Lunch ran us $29. The food was ok, but I doubt we’d drive back to Brandon to visit again.
La Septima Cafe
140 N Parsons Ave