We had a AAA coupon for Olive Garden, so that was our destination for lunch today. Luckily we just missed the Sunday lunch crowd. We started off with salad & breadsticks and one of their new appetizers, the Fried Cheese Risotto.
These were very cheesy, but the risotto inside was complete mush. Other than the outside crust, there was no texture whatsoever. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t like them, because I did, but they were more like fried cheese, than fried rice balls.
Olive Garden was having a two for $25 deal that included dessert, so Loren & I both ordered off of it. He got the Parmesan Potato Crusted chicken.
He thought it was pretty good. The chicken was tender with a nice crunchy exterior. I ordered the bucatini formaggio.
It didn’t do much for me. It was just a fairly plain bowl of pasta and I didn’t really care for the taste of the sauce. The special also came with dessert. Loren got the dark chocolate with caramel dolcini and I got the chocolate mousse cake.
These were both yummy. My mousse cake was thick and creamy and had little chocolate covered krispie balls on top that added an interesting texture. I think Loren scooped every last morsel out of his plate. Good stuff. Total bill was $27 after our coupon.
29461 Us-19 N
After lunch, our friend took us over to Sweet Caroline’s and treated us to dessert. Loren got a chocolate salted caramel cupcake.
He made those nom nom noises that indicated that I wasn’t going to get more than one little taste of it. The cupcake was moist and the the frosting was thick and creamy without being overly sweet. He was in cupcake heaven. I couldn’t resist the French eclair.
Yeah, I made those same nom nom noises too. It was decadent and delicious, filled with a custard and whipped cream. Might have to make Sweet Caroline’s a more frequent stop on our travels through Palm Harbor. Yum!
3347 Tampa Road
Palm Harbor, FL
Johnny’s Italian Restaurant on a Friday night is a very crowded place. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. Salads and bread started off the meal while we waited for our calamari.
The Johnny bread is one of the best things about this restaurant. The oil & garlic dipping sauce will have you warding off vampires for a week. The bread is just perfect and we ended up getting a second loaf. It’s hard to resist. Next up, calamari.
It was very tender and had a nice crunch. The dipping sauce that came with it was rather spicy with lots of red pepper flakes. I was feeling the heat for a while. Loren ordered the Tuscan Steak with Portabella Sauce.
The interesting thing was that he actually tried to order something else, but the waitress talked him out of it. I can’t remember what the other item was, but she said it didn’t have a lot of flavor and that he’d enjoy this one more. And he did. I went for the chicken marsala with a side of fettucine alfredo.
The chicken was tender and the marsala sauce had a really nice flavor to it. When they get their alfredo sauce right, it’s really good here. Tonight was one of those nights. I could have eaten an entire bowl of just that. I felt the need for chocolate tonight so we ordered the chocolate cake.
This was an incredibly rich and chocolately cake. It had thick ganache layers and just melted in your mouth. Perfect ending to a very good meal. Total bill with a drink was $45.75.
Johnny’s Italian Restaurant
2907 SR 590 #1
Hot Tuna Sushi Bar & Grille just opened up in Oldsmar, so we headed over there for dinner tonight. We went early and were the only ones there for a while. It’s an elegant looking space, but the thumping music they had playing just didn’t do it for us. I admit, I’m not a twenty-something looking for a party atmosphere. I just wanted a nice, quiet, tasty dinner. They did deliver on the tasty part. We started off with a salad and some dumplings.
Loren liked the dressing on the salad and we both enjoyed the dumplings. They were a little crispier than I had expected, but the filling was flavorful. For our sushi order we decided to try the fresh salmon nigiri, a California roll, a Mexican roll, a Gator roll, a Rainbow roll, and a Lollipop roll.
Though I loved the way the Rainbow roll looked with it’s rainbow colored fish eggs, the crawfish salad inside of it was a bit too spicy for me. I didn’t eat the Gator roll since it was also spicy, but Loren said it was good. The other rolls were also fresh and tasty. I did find the sushi rice to be a little colder in temperature than what I’m used to. Loren didn’t notice it, but it was the first thing that hit me about my first bite. We both enjoyed the freshness of the lollipop roll. The crunch of cucumber instead of rice is just such a nice change of pace. I also couldn’t pass up a dessert called the chocolate trilogy.
It was beautiful to look at and tasted wonderful; however, it was frozen solid. It absolutely needed to be thawed out for a while before serving so that it would have had more of a mousse like texture instead of ice cream like. Besides the annoying music, I also found the use of brown butcher block paper on the tables to be less than appealing. Every drink or cool dish left a mark on the paper. It just seemed inconsistent with the vibe of the rest of the restaurant. Total bill with a drink was $66.
Hot Tuna Sushi Bar & Grille
3689 Tampa Road #302B
After going to see SkyFall at the movies, we went over to Smokey Bones on Gulf to Bay for a late lunch. From the moment, we walked in the door, the smell of BBQ surrounded us. It smells so good in there. We decided to start off with the Southwest spring rolls.
They had some heat, but were pretty tasty. The only issue was that our entrees came out almost immediately after the appetizer did. They definitely lose some points for timing. Loren ordered the 1/3 rack of ribs with a side salad and baked potato.
He ordered the St Louis ribs, but the bill says he got baby back ribs. He couldn’t seem to tell the difference, but he said they were very good. He cleaned his plate and started eyeing mine. I went for a combo of baby back ribs and pulled pork with onion rings and mac & cheese.
The baby back ribs were delicious. The sauce was sweet and the ribs were very tender. Before I ordered, I had planned on taking the pulled pork home as leftovers, so I didn’t eat much of it. I did find the pulled pork kind of dry though. The onion rings were the big disappointment on the plate. They just weren’t crunchy. The mac & cheese was like lava when it came to the table and still steaming when I put part of it in the leftover box. It had a good flavor and was really creamy. Loren had talked about chocolate cake the night before, so we couldn’t resist ordering a slice.
It was delicious. Moist and chocolatety and perfect with the scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum! Total bill with a drink was $56.
2693 Gulf to Bay Blvd
We left Las Vegas this morning on our way to the mountains in Utah. We stopped in St George for lunch and ate at Cappelettis Italian Restaurant. We started off with the spinach artichoke dip.
This was very fresh and tasty. The chips were warm and the dip just had a wonderful flavor and texture. There was also a lot of it which made it difficult to finish our entrees. Loren ordered the half sandwich and soup.
He got the French onion soup and chicken salad sandwich. I really liked the sandwich. Besides the chicken, it had grapes, apples, dried cranberries, and lettuce. The bread was thick and soft an overall just very tasty. I ordered the fettucine alfredo.
Although it had way too much cheese sprinkled on top, the rest of it was creamy and delicious. No separating of the sauce here which was a wonderful thing. There was way too much of it for me to finish though. And yet, I still managed to save room for dessert.
I don’t remember what this was called, just that it was amazingly chocolatety. Thick and rich with some different textural layers in it. Something I’d most definitely order again. Yum! Total bill with a drink was $36.
36 E Tabernacle
Saint George, UT
Jack Willies recently reopened in Oldsmar under new management so we decided to check it out. We had stopped coming here because the quality of the food had gone way down. The outside patio bar area was full, but we wanted air conditioning anyway so inside we went. The restaurant still looks the same inside and out, but the menu has changed. We started off with some fried stuffed mushroom caps.
These were surprisingly good. We’ve had stuffed mushrooms before, but I don’t know that we’ve ever had them deep fried. They were crunchy and had good flavor and went well with the ranch dressing served with them. It was also a big portion and we were wondering if we were going to be able to eat our entrees.
Loren ordered the Cobb salad, but the waitress was a bit unfamiliar with the menu and kept asking what he wanted on it. The menu said chicken, but she seemed confused.
It was a huge, nice looking salad, but Loren didn’t quite like the fact that the chicken was cold and flavorless. At least the guacamole and ranch dressing helped with the lack of seasoning. I ordered the fried grouper sandwich with fries.
I’m going to have to call this “grouper” because I’m not quite sure that it was actual grouper. If it was, it was definitely frozen. It was dry and overcooked and just not good, especially compared to the fish we had at Grindhouse the other night. I won’t be ordering it again. I couldn’t resist the Tuxedo Bomb dessert though.
This is the same one we’ve gotten at other restaurants in town. I’d order them by the case if I could. It’s got a small cake layer on bottom and then a layer of chocolate mousse and a layer of vanilla mousse covered in a chocolate shell. Mmm… Overall, though, the experience at the new Jack Willies wasn’t much better than the old. The food wasn’t great and our waitress seemed a bit inexperienced, not knowing the menu and not refilling drinks. We may give them another try just because they’re close, but I don’t think either of us would order the entrees we had tonight again. Total bill with a drink was $39.
Jack Willie’s Tiki Bar and Grill
1013 St Petersburg Dr
I’ve been craving German food for a while so we headed off to the German Restaurant in Holiday. They were pretty busy when we got there and as it turned out, I think all the tables showed up right before us, so it took quite a while to get our food tonight. This definitely isn’t a place you go for a quick meal. We both started out with bread and the potato sausage soup.
The sausage took over the flavor of the soup, but it was yummy. There’s nothing quite like fresh, home made soup. From here the long wait began. We were beginning to think they had lost our order when they finally brought it out. Loren got the Rinder Roulade.
He said it had some interesting flavors. There was a pickle in the middle, which they actually warned him about, saying it gets really hot and doesn’t cool down quickly. The only thing he really didn’t care for was the cabbage. He thinks it’s too tart. I’m pretty predictable when it comes to food here. The Jaegerschnitzel and spaetzel were the two things I was looking forward to.
The portions are huge and I ended up taking half of it home. I did find it a little on the salty side, but overall it just has such a nice flavor and texture. Comfort food at its best. And there’s no coming here without a slice of the Black Forest cake.
Cream filled chocolate cake goodness. Delicious! Total bill with a drink was $46.
The German Restaurant
2616 US Hwy 19
We were looking for a quick dinner tonight, so we went down to Greek City Cafe over by the mall. Ok, so maybe it was because I had a chocolate craving and wanted one of the Chocolate Bomb desserts they sell, but we’ll get to that later.
I went for a gyro with Greek potatoes and a Greek salad.
The gyro was good. The meat was flavorful and the tzatziki was tasty without being overwhelming. The overwhelming part were the potatoes. I found them to be rather inedible. They were so sour as though they had been drenched in vinegar. Loren actually liked them and said they tasted more German than Greek. They just made my mouth pucker.
Loren decided to try one of their specials, the portobello flatbread with a Greek salad.
The flatbread had a nice crunch and really good flavors. It’s something I’d order again. You’ll notice a slight difference between our two Greek salads. I remembered how much stuff they put on them and they dice up everything, so I had them build mine without the onions and peppers.
And then there’s the thing that keeps me coming back to this restaurant.
This is just one delicious dessert. It’s got layers of mousse inside and it’s so creamy and decadent. They brought over two forks and I tried to hide Loren’s, but he still managed to grab a few bites. Yum! Total bill was $24 with a drink. Speaking of that drink, it’s not something that I mention often, but most places do such a horrible job with their soda fountain mixture that it’s such a wonderful treat to actually go to a place that does it right. I’ve never had a bad soft drink here. Whoever sets up their machine actually knows what they’re doing.
Greek City Cafe
2518 SR 580, Ste C
We ate dinner at Panos Kouzina tonight and found out the restaurant has been sold to the guy who used to own Alberto’s in Oldsmar. Tonight was the original owner Nick’s last night in the restaurant. He came over and chatted with us for a while when he noticed me taking photos and said he’d been reading my blog.
Tonight we tried the Mediterranean hand tossed pizza.
It was really good with a very fresh taste to it. It had chicken, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, feta, and garlic. I’m usually a fan of a deep dish crust pizza, but I enjoyed the hand tossed crust on this one. The last time we had pizza here we both got personal pizzas and the crust seemed a lot thinner on that one.
Since we’re not sure what’s going to change with the new owner, I figured I better get a piece of the chocolate cake while it’s still there.
It’s got the fudgey goodness. It’s such a thick, rich yummy chocolate cake. Total bill was $23. The name of the restaurant will likely change in the next few months so we’ll have to go back and check it out under the new owner.
3101 SR 580
Safety Harbor, FL
On the way home from dinner, we stopped at Greek City Cafe for some take out dessert.
It’s called “The Bomb” and it’s delicious. Chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, vanilla mousse all covered in more chocolate. Mmmm….
Greek City Cafe
2518 SR 580, Ste C
We had tickets to Young Frankenstein at Ruth Eckerd Hall tonight (great show), so wanted to eat dinner somewhere close. We tried Johnny’s, but they were mobbed, so we ended up at Grind House.
Service was a bit lacking tonight, but the food was good. We started out with the shrimp and lobster bisque.
This is one of those soups that left a lasting impression since the first time I had. It’s rich and creamy with a wonderful flavor. Definitely a must order if you eat here. Loren decided on a burger with mushrooms and provolone.
It also came with home made chips. He said it was cooked just right and tasty. The chips were crunchy and not like anything you get out of a bag.
I ordered some bangers and mash.
The sausages had a nice flavor. You could definitely taste the fennel. Homemade mashed potatoes with an onion mushroom gravy went great with it, though more gravy would have been better. And for dessert, I got a slice of chocolate cheesecake to go.
It wasn’t a very big slice, but it was rich with chocolately goodness. I’d definitely order it again. Total bill was $28.
Grind House Bar & Grill
1500 McMullen Booth Rd
In our ongoing quest to try all sushi restaurants around, we headed over to Zen Bistro in Westchase for dinner. Parking was a bit of a nightmare. There are a bunch of restaurants in the same plaza and not nearly enough parking. Note to self, don’t even try to go here on the weekend.
I had some very mixed feelings on the atmosphere in the restaurant. The lights were dim, they had a neat looking bamboo wall and some glass enclosed Zen sand gardens in the floor that gave you vertigo to walk over them. The temperature in the restaurant was too cold. I was shivering through most of the meal. What turned us off the most though was the pounding techno music playing in the background. For a place called Zen Bistro, I would have expected something a little more soothing.
Our food took quite a while to come out, but overall the sushi was very good. We got some salmon nigiri and a Tao roll.
I think the Tao roll was both our favorite. It was baked scallop over snow crab with avocado, cucumber and masago. It was a little bit spicy, but had a wonderful texture and flavor. The salmon was very fresh and tasty too.
We also got a Rainbow Roll, a Mexican Roll, a California Roll, and a Zen Crunch Roll.
We liked them all except for the Zen Crunch roll. That one didn’t do much for either of us. It had yellowtail, sesame aioli, and tempura onion and was served with garlic ponzu sauce. The tempura onion was the part that really didn’t work. The shrimp in the Mexican roll was cooked perfectly. You know it’s good when Loren eats some of it. And for dessert, we had to try the Ying Yang.
It was a chocolate and vanilla mousse shooter. The waitress said it was enough for two, but I could have eaten another one without any hesitation at all. The chocolate was dark and rich and the vanilla and whipped cream added a nice balance to it. Total bill including an iced tea was $52.
9620 W Linebaugh
Not too many people in Cuban Breezes tonight. I figured it’d be crowded since the football playoffs were tonight, but since they close at 8pm on Sunday, it makes sense that people wouldn’t want to have to leave halfway through the game.
Loren got the masitas with some ultimate black beans and a salad.
He said the pork was very tender and flavorful. He even had a little left over for tomorrow. I ordered the fricase de pollo with beans.
This is one of my favorite dishes here. It’s got some wonderful flavors and textures with just a little bit of spice. I kept telling myself to save some for tomorrow, but I ended up eating the entire thing.
And yet, I still managed to save room for the chocolate lava cake.
Thick, rich, chocolately oozing warmth with some vanilla ice cream. It was yummy. We had a $10 Restaurant.com coupon, so the total bill after the coupon was $18.
13980 W Hillsborough Ave
Greek City Cafe just opened up in Clearwater near Kohls and Countryside Mall so that was our destination for dinner. It’s a very casual restaurant, you order at the counter and they bring the food out to you.
Loren ordered a blackened grouper sandwich with fries and a Greek salad.
This was probably one of the smallest grouper sandwiches we’ve seen, but he said it was very good. It came with a spicy spread, he thought it may have had some horseradish in it.
The fries were hot, fresh, and crisp. They had some seasoning on them, maybe oregano, that made them very flavorful. I got the potato salad with my meal. It was different. It had a little bit of something spicy in it that you didn’t really taste until the end of a bite.
We both got Greek salads with our meals. You name it, it was in this salad. I had to deconstruct mine to take off the peppers, onions, and green peppers. It also had cucumbers, tomatoes, potato salad, feta, an olive, and somewhere in there was a little bit of lettuce. The dressing was tangy and tasty.
I ordered the pastitsio.
It was pretty good. It had a brown sauce on it which was different. I’m used to it having some sort of marinara red sauce. It had a good overall flavor and texture.
The dessert counter is always my downfall. We got a piece of chocolate cake and something called a Bomb to take home.
The cake, pictured on the right was good. It had chocolate cake with chocolate mousse layers inside, covered with a chocolate shell. The Bomb, however, was awesome. Wow! It had a white creamy filling with a fudgey cake bottom and the same dark chocolate shell. I could have eaten a few of these and still wanted more. It’s a dessert to go back for.
Total bill ran us $30. Loren thought it would have been better if they just made it into an actual order at your table and bring out the food in phases kind of restaurant instead of everything coming out at once. Overall though, the food was very fresh and flavorful. This is certainly a place we’d go back to for some quick Greek food.
Greek City Cafe
2518 SR 580, Ste C
Since we weren’t able to get dessert at dinner, we stopped off at Cheddars to see what they had.
Four words… hot fudge cake sundae.
This is another one of those instances where the photo doesn’t do it justice. It was a really big piece of moist, fudgey chocolate cake, smothered in hot fudge sauce, plus vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Soooo goooodd!
The hot fudge sauce was a little gritty, it was either undissolved sugar or maybe even salt, but it wasn’t enough to distract from the overall goodness of the dessert. And we even had some leftovers! Total bill was $7.50 for the cake and a Coke.
Cheddar’s Casual Cafe
2655 Roosevelt Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33760
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
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!
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.