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Where to eat after landing in Kona before heading to Pahoa

We land around noon on a Monday and are heading to Pahoa. Assuming all we'll have eaten that day is airline food, any recommendations for lunch before we head off on the long drive. Or are there places along the way? Thanks!

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  1. It kind of depends which way you are heading to Pahoa. If you are going south, there are lots of options in Kailua town, but not many to recommend. The only place I like for lunch there is Bale...one of a number of Vietnamese restaurants around the state franchised by the founder...this one is run by a different family, but the food is cheap and flavorful...pho is the main draw, but they do nice sandwiches on french-style rolls.

    Not sure of the exact address, but turn right off the highway where the main crossroads is that goes down to the Kailua harbor/pier and Bale is in the large strip mall on the right.

    If you go 10 miles north of the airport there is a good choice in the Waikoloa resort at Merrimans in Kings Village...very casual and reasonable (for a resort area) with local fresh ingredients...part of famous local chef Peter Merriman's small group of eateries.

    If you are going around the East side and via Hilo, you have to pass thru Waimea (Kamuela) town and there are several good choices there. The best is Merriman's in Opelu Plaza on Kawaihae Road...fine dining for dinner, but more casual and still excellent for lunch. Waimea Coffee Co. in Parker Square a block back from Merriman's toward town is pretty good for a very limited menu, but great coffees and pastries. Just a block from the main drag on Kawaihae Road is the Paniolo Grill(?) Cafe(?),a local institution heavy on meat and sodium, but a popular spot. If you can hold out another half hour, several good choices in Honokaa, from Tex's Drive In on the highway to some cute cafes in town...can't recall the namesof the places I've tried, but the town is so charming and compact you can easily find something to your taste, but start at the Waipio Valley (north) end of the business district...the best eats are in that first block.

    Several days ago on this board is an LA Times article on 20 places under $20 on the Big Island...most would not appeal to me as they are hotel and tourist-oriented, but some of them are well-liked by locals.

    2 Replies
    1. re: macaraca

      Thanks macaraca. I had just assumed that the most common way to go was via Saddle road, but I've been hearing some not-so-nice things about that road and with your suggetsions, now I have more to think about. The drive is going to be our first experience on the Big Island, so I would like it to kind of set the tone for what we are going to be experiencing. South via hwy 11 or North via hwy 19 may be the better choices. We're spending the last week in Hawi and will be exploring more so your reco's will come in handy - thanks! (Hey, any advice re; Saddle road?!)

      1. re: Rubylake

        If you're going to Pahoa, I wouldn't recommend Saddle Road. It won't save you much (if any) time and the scenery is mostly bleak. Go South on Hwy 11. For lunch in Kailua-Kona, you might try Jackie Reys (see website). Or about 20 minutes farther south Keei Cafe in Captain Cook. Once you get past that point, places to eat will be very few and far between.

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        Keei Cafe
        79-7511 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750

    2. Try the Harbor House. It's in the marina, not far from the airport. The fresh fish sandwich of the day is usually a safe bet. Also, cold schooner's of beer. It's fairly inexpensive and has a view of the harbor and ocean to boot.

      Rental cars are not allowed on Saddle Road.

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      Harbor House Restaurant
      Honokohau Boat Hbr, Kailua Kona, HI 96740

      1. I wouldn't recommend Saddle Road for your journey. ( I do believe they now allow rental cars on the road since the recent upgrades)
        My choice for a delicious bite in Keleakekua (Captain Cook ) area is "Patz Pies"...the best Pizza on the Big island...just a take-out window really.(Small table outside) Fabulous fresh made thin crust New York style pizza. Absolutely amazing flavor ...Thr owner "Pat" is a real friendly character and will cook you pizza to order. Great stop. Not to be missed.Across from Discovery Antiques.We can't resist and usually just eat it in the car.
        If you are flying in from the Mainland that day...you will be beat so proceed to Pahoa while you still have the light (South Route)

        1 Reply
        1. re: easily amused

          Pat is a great guy but his pizza - meh. Best pizza is Pizza Zacchini (sp?) by costco, second Kona Brew Pub if you know how to order it, and a distant third is Patz - I truly wish his was better as I live about 1.5 miles away.

        2. If it were me I'd stop for some local food going south through Kona and Captain Cook, specifically; Manago Hotel, Teshima Restaurant or Sandy's Drive-In.

          Manago is an old roadhouse owned by a old Japanese American family, very homey food but very Hawaiian.

          Teshima is a Japanese restaurant, also owned by an old Japanese American family, serves excellent seafood, any local fish or tempura is excellent.

          Sandy's is a total hole-in-the-wall, the usual high fat local food (that I usually go for) and burgers but they also serve some unbelievable local seafood for cheap. Opakapaka for $6 - $7. I've also had low cost but fresh butterfish. There's something wild about getting chili over rice and super fresh local fish for really cheap.

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          Manago Hotel
          Captain Cook, Kealakekua, HI 96750

          Teshima's Restaurant
          79-7251 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI 96750

          3 Replies
          1. re: ML8000

            Hey, thanks for all your suggestions everyone! The Manago Hotel looks like it would be a great first stop to experience local food.

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            Manago Hotel
            Captain Cook, Kealakekua, HI 96750

            1. re: Rubylake

              Manago Hotel is fun (pork chops a specialty), but maybe a little far if you are hungry when you get off the plane at noon. If you want lunch closer to the airport, I second Harbor House for a fish sandwich and schooner of beer. And if you want to experience local food, try Big Island Grill in town (huge portions, small prices). And Teshima's also has lots of local color for Japanese food (cash only). So many opportunities! I haven't been to Patz Pies, but after the posting above, will certainly try it out.

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              Manago Hotel
              Captain Cook, Kealakekua, HI 96750

              Big Island Grill
              75-5702 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua Kona, HI 96740

              Teshima's Restaurant
              79-7251 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI 96750

              Harbor House Restaurant
              Honokohau Boat Hbr, Kailua Kona, HI 96740

              1. re: BobInSF

                BobinSF,
                Yeah you will love Patz Pies....Check out a couple You tube videos..folks have posted of his friendly neighborhood place. Folks just keep coming back.
                Google Videos"Patz Pies"
                Those pork chops from Manago are hard to beat as well.