The largest of the Hawaiian islands and the youngest piece of land on Earth, the Big Island is something special. The same goes for the local cuisine — while you’re here, you should try plate lunches, hand-pounded poi and kalua pork. Here’s our list of places serving up tasty local-style dishes.
But wait, there’s more. We’re here to help demystify some of the unusual words you might see on menus like furikake, laulau and lilikoi — and explain which meat is being served and why. And possibly most importantly of all, provide the fun facts on the origins of local dishes.
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Feature Photo: Umekes Facebook
Big Island Grill
If you’re in the mood for a hearty Hawaiian home-cooked meal then Big Island Grill is where you’ll want to take a seat. They’re cooking up local favorites with friendly service. It’s plate lunch style, but there’s a nice range of menu items, as well as daily specials. Their teriyaki chicken with rice and mac salad is always a good choice, but if you’re really hungry, go for the super loco moco. Big Island Grill is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8am to 2pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Richard Miyashiro began his restaurant career on the Big Island back in 1946. A WWII veteran, he named his Hilo eatery as a tribute to his 100th Infantry Battalion. Cafe 100 claims to be the “Home of the Original Loco Moco,” and there’s an entire section of the menu dedicated specifically to the uniquely Hawaiian dish. If you’re in Hilo, this is the best place to sample the local cuisine. Monday through Friday 9am to 7pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Lava Lava Beach Club
This casual beachfront restaurant offers “Low & Slow Baby Back Ribs” served with a hoisin-guava BBQ sauce and coconut coleslaw on the side. The Lava Lava Beach Club serves farm to table food for diners with their toes in the sand and mai tais in hand. There’s a liquid happy hour every day from 3pm to 5pm. Open 12pm to 9pm daily.
Punalu’u Bake Shop
This popular bakery is halfway between Kailua-Kona and Volcanoes National Park. It sits on four acres of tropical gardens, so it’s an ideal place for stretching your legs or relax on the lanai and enjoy some shoyu pork or the baked fish plate lunch. Punalu‘u is open daily from 8:30am to 5pm.
Umekes Ali’i Plaza
Umekes serves traditional Hawaiian cuisine using locally-sourced ingredients — as their saying goes, “so fresh it’s off da hook!” They’ve got lau lau (steamed tender pork wrapped in taro leaves and slow cooked) served over rice or you can try the “Next Level Lau Lau” which combines lau lau with the rice, gravy and egg of a loco moco. Make sure you schedule a few moments for the food coma that’ll follow your meal. Umekes is open daily 11am to 9pm.