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Sep 27, 2007 09:34 AM

Dining on the Big Island (Recommendations Please!)

I will be taking my first trip to the big island this christmas with my family and we are very excited! We've been to Oahu and Maui many times before and know exactly where to go but not for big island since this is our first time. Could you please recommend us good dining spots around the island? We are interested in all types of food as long as they are tasty and worth the money. Cost is also not a problem so anywhere from $5/person meal to $300/person would be fine. Our favorite part of traveling is discovering great places to eat so it would be great if someone out there can help us! Thanks!

*We are staying near the fairmont orchid hotel just as a reference for location*

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  1. Some recent reviews and threads on Big Island dining:

    There are many, many more, that you might find interesting. I searched for my reviews of several Big Island restaurants, but it seems that much was purged by CH, when they re-did the site a year, or so ago.

    It’s been far too long, since I dined in Hilo, to comment, but there are some recent threads on that too. For the Kona side, my first picks are, as follows:

    Alan Wong’s Hualalai Grille (4 Seasons):

    Pahu i`a (4 Seasons):

    Daniel Thiebaut’s (upcountry, Kamuela):

    Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill:

    I’ve pretty much ranked them in order, though the first two are interchangeable, in my estimation. Others have recommended the Canoe House, at the Mauna Lani Resort, but my last visit was anything but good for a recommendation. I have been told that the GM, the chef and the sommelier have all been replaced, but cannot vouch for it. I might try them on another trip, as the setting is very lovely and the potential certainly exists.

    I have not done Merriman’s, but Chef Mavro (Honolulu) Bev Gannon (Mau`I) and Alan Wong urged me to do so. Chef Merriman is one of the originators of the new Hawaiian cuisine, along with the above three, Roy Yamaguchi and Sam Choy. With recs. like those, I feel bad, that we never made it to his restaurant. I will rectify that in the future, if for no other reason, than I can face the three listed chefs and not be shamed by them for missing Merriman’s.

    With the exception of the Roy’s (which used to be better, when their exec. chef was from Santa Fe and used some interesting twists on Roy Yamaguchi’s cuisine), the other spots are higher-end. Pahu i`a is #1, Alan Wong’s Hualalai Grille is #2 and Daniel Thiebaut’s is #3. Roy’s close to Daniel Thiebaut’s in price, and is a more “happening” place, along with the requisite noise level. I felt that the db’s had increased 5x, between my last two visits, but maybe that’s what diners want nowadays. I still like to be able to talk to my wife, even if she’s across a 2-top.

    For mid and lower-end fare, a search of the Elsewhere in America board will yield tons of results.


    7 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Bill, before I go digging, I had a similar question but a lot more vague =) I'm trying to pick the hotel for a honeymoon on the big island (she picked the Maui hotel) so, going vague... what section of the Big Island would you recommend in *general* for quality of restaurants of all levels... I know *everyplace* has good restaurants, so I'll accept 'Any' but, if you had to pick one for food.... =)

      1. re: jaydeflix

        I loved Hilo, when we were last there. Very "old school" Hawai`i. It was like a time capsule, BUT, for restaurants, Kona and its environs cannot be matched on the Big Island. If it was MY honeymoon, I think I might do Hawai`i kitch and go for the romance of Hilo. Holding hands and running from a shower, ducking into storefronts, and some good dining, albeit limited, compared to Kona. Cafe Pesto was very good, as were a few other spots. Kona is a bit more beautiful people, lotsa' sun and better golf. Historically, Hilo probably has proximity to more neat spots, but the weather can be a problem. When we were there, they were rationing water in Hilo, and it rained on us in Kona. That is the opposite of what normally happens.

        For pure food (and golf), I'd go Kona, but a few nights in Hilo would not be out of the question. We did a B&B, that was a working orchid farm, closer to Volcano, but well worth the lazy days and lounging around a million orchids.


        [EDIT] Wife says that she'll not stay anyplace except for the 4 Seasons on Kona-side. After some fits n' starts with Hilton Wiakoloa, I tend to agree with her. She demanded that I add this. Since I have 1.5M Hilton points, it hurts my pocketbook, but when wife speaks, I listen. That's why we've been happily married for 37 years!

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          I spent my honeymoon at the Four Seasons and in Volcano. I know what your wife means about the Four Seasons, but for quality of restaurants at all levels, not sure you can choose just one area. I'd do what we did and spend some time in both!

          1. re: susancinsf

            That was what we did on our first trip to the Big Island and it was great. It's not called the Big Island for no good reason. I still have fond memories of Hilo and hope to spend some time next trip there. As I stated, it's a bit of a time capsule and really different.

            Thanks for the validation,

            PS - a question awaits you on the SF-Area board, re: Half Moon Bay

          2. re: Bill Hunt

            "Holding hands and running from a shower"

            We live in Seattle. We don't run from rain =)

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              And alas, I think the four seasons is a bit out of our price range for January. =)

              1. re: jaydeflix

                You might be surprised at the value found at the AW's restaurant there. It's not "cheap," but a great value. Check out their menu at:

                The setting is great, and our dining was fabulous - food, service and ambiance.


        2. for a vintage Hawaii meal go to the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook. The pork chops are famous with good reason. I know it seems odd to eat pork chops in Hawaii, but trust me it is a nice experience. The Coffee Shack also in Cap. Hook has a great breakfast and jaw dropping view. Both are inexpensive and tasty. Teshima's Restaurant in Honalo for a Japanese Breakfast (the lunch/dinner menu looke dgreat too)

          2 Replies
          1. re: lyn

            Not at all odd about pork chops in Hawaii. Pork is prevalent in the islands from linguica to Kahlua pig and all the other wonderful things in between!

            1. re: lyn

              Funny enough, we were hoping to get one of the japanese rooms at the Manago but it's booked, so now I'm on the (non-chowhound related) hunt for a similar cool hotel to stay at.

            2. Local food/cheap eats.

              Big Island Grill -
              Here's my review:

              Nori's Saimin & Snacks
              Here's my review:

              Splasher's Grill - Stick with the basics like pancakes, burgers, wraps.

              Manago Hotel - Famous for their pork chops and very reasonably priced.

              Teshima's - Home style Japanese food, also affordable.

              Punalu'u Bake Shop - Great malasadas and other bakery items.

              Upscale/Higher End

              Hualalai Grille -
              My review:

              Merriman's Restaurant -
              My review:

              Coast Grille - Sit on the terrace and watch the sunset if you can. I've read mixed reviews about the place, but I had a wonderful meal there.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Vegasbuff

                The Merriman's Restaurant review link is a bad one for me.

              2. Your Fairmont Orchid Hotel has an outdoor cafe attached to the beach bar that has good food (the fish sandwich special was mahi mahi when we ate there), your feet are in the sand, and just on the other side of the sea wall are sea turtles.

                In Weimea there are the upscale places mentioned, but there is also Charley's Thai in a strip mall where we had Thai food as good as any my sister and I have ever had (I've had a lot and she visited Thailand earlier this year).

                In Honokaa, on the way to Hilo, is Tex Drive In, very popular with very good and fresh malasadas and an ahi sandwich I really liked.

                If you're in Kailua-Kona and in the mood for a brewpub, the food at the Kona Brewing Company is better than normal brewpub food, including their seared ahi.

                Already mentioned, the Coffee Shack in Captain Cook, south of Kailua-Kona, has a view not to be missed. I thought the food was just OK but didn't care.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                  Stayed at the Orchid when it was Ritz-Calton, second your recommendation of the outdoor cafe (Brown's, I believe.)

                  1. re: dude

                    Brown's is a separate, higher-end cafe with an outdoor section "next door" to the beach bar cafe I was talking about.