The Big Island has restaurants that cater to all tastes and budgets, so whether you’ve spent the day relaxing at the beach or daytripping in the mountains, you’ll definitely want to enjoy the dinner meal. Here are some of our favorite options on the largest of the Hawaiian islands.
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.
If you’re happy with your meal, tag us @HawaiiIslander on Instagram to share the love.
Feature Photo: Merriman’s Facebook
Big Island Dinner Map
Brown’s Beach House
Located inside the Fairmont Orchid Hotel north of Kailua-Kona, Brown’s Beach House boasts spectacular views and live Hawaiian music. The restaurant can accommodate small groups as well as larger parties. The menu features fresh seafood and also specialties like Big Island venison. We recommend bringing a large group so you can sample as much of the menu as possible. Open daily for dinner from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. Reservations recommended.
Hilo Bay Cafe
Hilo Bay Cafe’s second-floor deck is a wonderful place to enjoy a dinner of contemporary comfort food. The hamakua mushroom pot pie is a good choice to follow a bowl of the French onion soup and bread du jour. There are plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as well. Hilo Bay also has a sushi bar with a master sushi chef. Open daily for lunch from 11am to 2:30pm and for dinner 5pm to 8:30pm.
You really can’t beat the location — right on the water in downtown Kona. The menu features tasty entrees like seared and sesame crusted ahi and Molokai sweet potato ricotta gnocchi, and also includes a raw bar section. Vegetarian and gluten-free menus are available too. Huggo’s is open daily 5pm to 9pm. Reservations recommended.
Kona Brew Co.
This popular, casual pub is serving up hand-tossed pizzas and a wide selection of pupus (appetizers) in addition to standard pub fare. Kona Brew Co. has so many handcrafted beer flavors on tap that it’s probably best to start with a flight for the taste-testing purposes. Open daily from 11am to 9pm.
Umeke's Fish Market Bar & Grill
It’s certainly not the fanciest spot in Kona, but if you’re craving good poke, Umeke’s is the place to go. All poke is made with freshly caught Hawaiian ahi; on any given day there will be a half-dozen poke varieties to choose from including Hottie, with spicy aioli, onions, and Hawaiian sea salt, and Sweetie, with sweet shoyu glaze, onions, and furikake flakes. Non-poke people have plenty of options including Kalua Pork, fish tacos, a burger, and French fires slathered with garlic aioli, kukui nuts, furikake and green onions. You’ll be smiling even when the check arrives — in an empty Spam can. Open daily from 11am to 9pm.
Chef Peter Merriman is one of the godfathers of Hawaii’s farm to table movement, and Merriman’s is leading the way for culinary excellence on the islands. Their lunch menu has all the fixings of a great midday meal — we recommend the Caesar salad to start, followed by the fresh-catch fish sandwich and accompanied by a couple glasses of chardonnay. Currently open Wednesday through Saturday for lunch from 11:30am to 2pm, Saturday and Sunday for brunch from 10:30am to 1pm, and daily for their “Taste of Waimea” Prix Fixe dinner from 5pm to 8:30pm. Reservations required and Merriman’s has multiple locations, so double check your reservation to make sure it’s at the right place.
Moon and Turtle
Open by a husband and wife team in 2013, this stylish neighborhood spot in Hilo uses locally sourced ingredients to create an internationally inspired and continually changing menu. Reservations recommended. Moon and Turtle is open Tuesday through Saturday 5:30pm to 9pm.