The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Busy Brunch


Since our breakfast outing last weekend didn’t quite satisfy, we headed over to Nicki’s Omelette & Grill on Hillsborough today.  There was quite the crowd in the restaurant, but it didn’t take long for them to clear a table and seat us. 

Loren’s not much of a breakfast person, so he ordered the California burger with fries.

Just take a look at the layers in that burger!  Burger, bacon, guacamole, sour cream, jack cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomato.  It was quite the yummy mouthful.  The fries were nice and crispy too. 

I wanted breakfast, but they didn’t really have a combo that had what I wanted, so I had to order everything separately.

Pancakes, hashbrowns, and scrambled eggs with cheese.  The pancakes were perfectly cooked and the hashbrowns were good.  When I order scrambled eggs with cheese, it’s rare that they come out the way I like.  I expect the cheese to be completely melted and gooey inside the eggs.  These were ok, but the cheese wasn’t cooked in quite enough.

Total meal cost us $17.  It was more than enough food for both of us.  The guy at the table next to us ordered the “Biscuit Debris”.  It looked like a heart attack waiting to happen.  😉

Nicki’s Omelette & Grill
6805 W Hillsborough Ave
Tampa, FL
(813) 888-9365

Nicki's Omelette & Grill on Urbanspoon

Food3/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value4/5
3.2/5

Eggstyle Breakfast just opened up in Oldsmar in the space that used to be Winners and then Kuzina.  It looks like a good location for a breakfast place since there are several hotels right behind it.  Based on our experience today though, they may get the one time through crowd, but I know we won’t be repeat visitors.

The bar area when you first walk in has been turned into a juice bar and the interior has been repainted in bright colors.  The floor is no longer carpeted and I think that may have had a big influence on how loud it was in there today.  You could barely hear yourself think, and this was at breakfast. 

Loren ordered a western omelette which came with potatoes, toast, and cinnamon apples.

He said it was more like scrambled eggs with stuff in it than an omelette.  The cinnamon apples were really good though.   I ordered the two eggs and pancakes meal which also came with potatoes, toast, and cinnamon apples.

The cinnamon apples and the potatoes were the only things on the plate at the right temperature.  The eggs were lukewarm at best and I couldn’t even eat the pancakes because they were cold and spongy. 

Total breakfast was $18.  Most items on their menu seemed high priced for breakfast.  Service wasn’t very good either.  Our waitress never returned to our table to check on us until we were finished.  When she noticed my uneaten pancakes, she said “oh, it’s a lot of food” and I said, “no, the pancakes were cold”.  Then she just walked off and brought us our check.  This was also the first place I’ve seen the credit card machines brought to the table.  I get that it helps prevent people from stealing your credit card number, but I wasn’t too keen on her standing there waiting for us to put in the tip. 

So, if you’re looking for cinnamon apples, the ones here are pretty tasty, but if you want breakfast, I’d recommend heading down the street to Cracker Barrel.

Eggstyle Breakfast
3980 Tampa Road, #105
Oldsmar, FL
(813) 562-5278

Eggstyle Breakfast on Urbanspoon

Food1/5
Service2/5
Atmosphere2/5
Value1/5
1.5/5

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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Food0/5
Service0/5
Atmosphere0/5
Value0/5
0.0/5

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

Food0/5
Service0/5
Atmosphere0/5
Value0/5
0.0/5

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

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

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

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

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

Eastlake Cafe
3430 Eastlake Rd
Palm Harbor, FL
727-772-0707

East Lake Cafe on Urbanspoon

Food0/5
Service0/5
Atmosphere0/5
Value0/5
0.0/5