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Oct 2, 2009 08:03 AM

Hilo Vacation help

I am so excited about my upcoming vacation, and checking out the farmers market. It looks beautiful! I plan to do a lot cooking at home, we'll have a full kitchen, but want to do a few restaurants. I would love recs for sushi, great ahi, breakfast..or anyplace that rocked your world recently, and should not be missed.

Thank you!

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  1. Hilo Bay Cafe, in the mall just south of downtown. The food was really excellent. They made a great ahi poke, served with sweet potato chips. also hamakua mushroom pot pie. Yummy!!

    Right down the street from the farmers market, Cafe Pesto makes one of the best mai tais we had on our trip. And their real hawaiian pizza, with kailua pork, fresh Maui pineapple, and sweet Maui onions puts all pretenders to shame (and I don't generally like Hawaiian pizza with the canadian bacon, and gloppy too-sweet canned pineapple chunks).

    1. Ditto Hilo Bay Cafe, though the prices seemed a little Honolulu to us. Same owners have a wineshop acrss the parking lot with some very good selections (not just the usual stuff).

      We've liked Cafe Pesto, too, though can't comment on the mai tai.

      Ask locals what they like -- cannot recall the name but had a very good Thai dinner in a spot in the old part of downtown.

      Have yet to find a sushi spot that was worth it in Hilo, we stuck to ahi sashimi blocks and poke' found in local stores.

      We've had the best luck asking servers (and when you can get a chance, the chef) to recommend other restaurants and sources for local foods. Hilo Bay Cafe makes a point of local sourcing.

      Check the small fish market at the fish auction location for local seafood.

      Other than the rain, Hilo is one of our favorite spots in the islands. Enjoy the Volcano Park and the Hamakua Coast.

      And see if you can find Tropical Dreams ice was going through some ownership changes and production moved to the north end of the island but they had a small stand in the building where the old town theater is located, in an old 5&10 building now housing an alternate school. Haupia (coconu puddingt) ice cream to swoon over.

      1. For breakfast you should check out Ken's Pancake House. Can't miss it on the way from the airport to the hotels, at the intersection of Kamehameha and Kanoelehua. It is an old fashioned 24hour coffee shop/pancake house/diner, has been there forever and hopefully will continue to be.

        Ken's House of Pancakes
        1730 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

        1. Going back too far to be relevant, we enjoyed our meals at Cafe Pesto. Had planned on only one meal, but added a second. My other fav. is no longer there.

          Enjoy, as Hilo is a special place and a bit of a time-warp.


          1. Welcome to the island! I live in Hilo and I am a food writer who has lived in Chicago and San Francisco. Our food scene is not quite up to the standards of either of those cities, but there are some good places. In general I advise people to get a vacation rental and go to the farmer's markets, making at least some of your meals with our fantastic local produce, fresh caught Ahi and grass fed beef. Sounds like you are already on that track!

            When you get to the island, find a Natural Foods Store there are several in Hilo and Island Naturals is in Pahoa. They have a free magazine that I write for, Edible Hawaiian Islands. There is a great Farmer's Market section and lots of good articles about the local food scene.

            Kuhio Grille or their sister restaurant, Encore are the place to go for Lau Lau.

            In Pahoa: One of my favorite restaurants on the whole island is Kaleo's ! Paolos Bistro is good Fresh pasta, Ning's Thai and Sukithai are both decent Thai restaurants. STAY away from Luquins even if you are craving a margarita. Black Rock has good burgers and even better Bloody Mary's. We like to eat lunch in the bar and chat with the owner who also moved here from Chicago.

            Ocean Sushi has very good sushi, but the atmosphere lacks and it is dirty, not what I want for a sushi restaurant. One of the best sushi restaurants is tiny Hime 14 Furneaux. Godo prices and excellent sushi served limited hours. Also HCE Sushi on Kamehameha has really great sushi, they supply most of the grocery stores as well as some hotels and restaurants that do not have a sushi chef. This might be better for a take out, since it is not really a restaurant. Take your sushi to the park!

            Foodland makes excellent Poke and there is a stand on the highway near the Hilo Airport called Poke your way, that makes custom Poke for you while you wait.

            I love Thai food and have dined at most of the area Thai restaurants several times. My personal favorite is across from the East Hawaiian Cultural Center, New Chang Mai is the best. Also hard to find, but ever so delicious is the Garden Snack Club. All fresh, local produce used to make Thai Inspired dishes. Huge portions, BYOB and slow service.

            Hilo Bay Cafe is awesome. REALLY Great food, good service and a very yucky location. It is in the Walmart Shopping center. Expect to pay $$$, but worth every bite.

            Ken'sPancake House is an icon. It is decent food available 24/7. BIG portions. The same owners have a great steak house called Ponds Hilo on the ice pond. Nice views of the water and really excellent service. Kind of pricey, but very good.

            Cafe Pesto downtown is great food, mostly local and fresh and a bit pricey. Good lunch spot by the farmer's market. They do wood oven pizzas. Salads are usually great. Nice wine list too.

            Craving good Cali Mexican food or a margarita? I really like Ruben's next to the Hilo Farmer's Market. I have heard some bad reviews, but I eat there weekly and I am a serious lover of good Mexican Food. It is the only place on the island where I will go for Mexican.

            Miwa is not one of my favorites. Instead I suggest Miyo's and reserve a window table. You will be over looking the Hilo Lagoon... lovely. Prices are quite fair and this is a place that mostly only people who live here know about. Great Japanese food, but this is not a sushi restaurant.

            What's Shakin' is a great place for a fresh local smoothie (not cheap, but wonderful) and it is on the scenic drive double score!

            In Waimea, Merriman's is awesome. Another one of my favorite island restaurants. Not open for lunch on weekends though. Same goes for another Waimea favorite, Daniel Thiebaut. Both are a little on the high end price and foodwise. Both are dedicated to serving local produce, fish and meats.

            Have a great trip and you can contact me through my blog, if you have any questions.

            1 Reply
            1. re: East Bay Foodie

              Mahalo for the Hilo report!

              All too often, folk miss Hilo completely, and I am glad to see people seeking it out, and also someone to write about it. Pahoa Town is not to be missed, but I doubt that the places that I dined at are still there - same for much of the dining scene in Hilo.

              Again, a mahalo nui,