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Hilo Eats

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My thoughts after a few nice days in Hilof are below. I'm a frequent Oahu visitor but hadn't been to Hilo in a long while. More commentary and some pictures at http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2010/0.... On Friday I'll post some write ups of the sweets I enjoyed there,

Ken's House of Pancakes
Ken's is a classic local diner, and it's open 24 hours which is a huge boon to the jetlagged mainlander waking up at 4:00 am. I actually didn't think the pancakes were that great, but Ken's is a haven for great local food. The loco moco (pictured above) really hit the spot. The Hawaiian breakfast classic of two eggs over a hamburger patty and rice smothered in brown sauce is the kind of thing that lasts several meals. The Ken's version has a well charred burger and a meaty brown sauce. Ken's also does a great Saimin, the Hawaiian ramen with a shrimp-based broth, and I enjoyed the blood sausage breakfast, with two nicely seasoned blood sausages, eggs, and hash browns.

Ken's House of Pancakes
1730 Kamehameha Ave,
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-8711

Cafe 100
Cafe 100 is an bustling lunch spot that specializes in loco mocos, but I found it lacking. We got two mocos, a traditiona and a Kalua Pig version. At $1.99, it's hard to beat the value on the loco moco, and the burger patty had a nice peppery flavor to it, but the sauce was disappointing, tasting like it came out of a packet. The Kalua Pig was bland and unexciting. A regular hamburger at Cafe 100 tasted remarkably similar to a McDonald's burger, paper thin patty and all. Given its popularity, I was disappointed that Cafe 100 just didn't measure up.

Cafe 100
969 Kilauea Ave
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-8683

Verna's III
Verna's is a small plate lunch chain that has the advantage of being open 24 hours on weekends. The Kalua Pig with cabbage is ultra-smoky and mixes well with the cabbage, and the shoyu chicken, lean chicken marinated in soy sauce, was also excellent. Not the best plate lunch in Hawaii, but good stuff, and you have to love the motto: If no can, no can...if can, Verna's.

Verna's III
1765 Kamehameha Ave
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-2776

Asami's Kitchen
Asami's Kitchen is an okazuya in downtown Hilo, just a few blocks from the farmers' market. Most of the choices will be familiar to any fan of okazu (spam musubi, shoyu chicken, tempura shrimp, hash patties, etc.), but my favorite thing was the shoyu pork, same as shoyu chicken, but pork. The pork was moist and full of ginger/garlic/soy/pork flavor. They also did a great nori chicken, fried chicken wrapped in seaweed. Asami's was the best okazu I had in Hilo, and I liked it better than the more popular Hilo Lunch Shop on Kalanikoa.

Asami's Kitchen
308 Kilauea Ave.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-2242

Suisan Fish Market
What's a Hawaiian vacation without poke? I loved the poke variety at Suisan Company. The ahi in the shoyu poke was fresh and clean tasting; the salmon chunks in the smoked salmon poke tasted like chunks of fresh lox, and the kimchee mussel poke had a great flavor with a bit of spice from the kimchee. The fish market is right on the water and most of the poke is super-fresh, but watch the signage as some of their dishes are previously frozen.

Suisan Fish Market
96 Lihiwai St.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-9349

Queen's Court Seafood Buffet
I wouldn't necessarily recommend the seafood buffet which is weekends only at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel on beautiful Banyan Drive. Most of it is pretty standard hotel buffet fare, but it's notable for two things. First, the centerpieces of the mostly Hawaiian food hot side of the buffet is a whole roasted suckling pig stuffed with Kalua Pig. You can tear into the glistening red skin to reach the tender, white roast pork or you can dip some tongs into the space where its rib cage would be, which has been hollowed out and filled with the Kalua Pig. Mmmm, pork stuffed pig, and the Kalua pig is nicely done, salty and light on the smoke; take a bowl of poi and enjoy. Oh, and the second thing of note, the buffet comes with a bottomless pitcher of beer. What's not to like?

Queen's Court Restaurant at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
71 Banyan Dr
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-9361

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Cafe 100
969 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

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  1. I really appreciate your write up. We will be visiting the Island of Hawai'i in December. Flying in to Hilo but staying in VNP so we'll be looking to do some dining while we are in town. Your reviews will be quite helpful. Really appreciate your including the addresses!