The Flavors of the Big Island

The biggest reason that Jen and I so enjoy visiting new places is the opportunity to enjoy the local cuisine, and this trip was no exception. We made it our goal to eat, when eating out, only at places that we can’t in St. Louis. So make an impromptu bib from a napkin, and come along with us on our culinary journey across the island of Hawaii.

Our first stop was on the night we arrived. We had been traveling all day and were basically famished. Sam had two performances of Rocky Horror that night, but we had called ahead to find a local fast-food option that would give us some sustenance before we zoned out for the evening. Sam recommended Blazin’ Steaks, a local franchise. We got some of the $6 Teriyaki Steak combos and wolfed them down before going back to Sam’s condo to crash for the evening. Simple, good food for cheap turned out to be the theme for the week.

The next day, we went to Sumo Deli for breakfast. Don’t be confused by the word “deli” in the name, this place is more like a diner, except without the counter and stools. This place serves up classic hangover-cure food with a Hawaiian twist. We ordered musubi (rice, grilled meat (our favorite was spam) and sauce wrapped in seaweed), spare ribs, tempura, and a loco plate (eggs, hambuger patty, rice with gravy over the top) to split between the three of us and the total was, like, $12. So awesome.

Monday morning, Jen and I made a repeat visit to Sumo Deli to get some grub before we got underway for our trip to the Hilo side. More of the same from yesterday and just as good as we remembered. We also stocked up with some snacks and juices for our road trip. Most notably, we got a bag of Maui Style Salt and Vinegar chips. I’m salivating just thinking about these again.

That night, Jen and I hit Ocean Sushi in downtown Hilo. It had been recommended by The Big Island Revealed (the only guidebook to the island of Hawaii that you will ever need) and we would be crazy to come all the way and not eat some sushi. The book prepared us to be underwhelmed by how the place looked and it definitely looked sketchy (especially with the neighborhood it was in), but it was packed and we were looking for adventure. Put simply: this place is awesome. The miso soup we ordered to start it off was probably the best miso I’ve ever had. The broth was flavorful and it set the tone for a great meal. We each got a couple rolls to share, as well as the obligatory unagi, and I got a sashimi plate that was really good — Jen’s not a big sashimi fan. It was all very good, the flavors were clean and distinct, and the fish tasted very fresh. Highly recommended.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the inn, overlooking the waterfall. Farm fresh eggs, waffles, Kona coffee, fresh squeezed juice, Punalu’u Bread for toast (sooooooo goooood!), and fresh fruit. Just about the perfect way to start off a morning.

Lunch that day was at the Black Rock Cafe in Pahoa. Pretty mediocre American food, but it was the only thing really convenient since we were in the middle of nowhere, making our way back to Kailua-Kona. Probably would have been better served to grab some McDonald’s on the road, but not the end of the world either.

Lunch one day in Kailua-Kona was at Splasher’s, a bar and grill down by the pier that targets the cruise ship crowd. Its outdoor seating overlooked the ocean and lent a laid-back vibe to the place. The burgers there were hella tasty, and I’m a big fan of the waffle fries.

Another lunch was at You Make The Roll, a sushi stand near Sam’s condo where you can make your own roll. The sushi there was really good and we tried a “sushi taco”, which is basically an oversized sushi roll in an egg wrapper. Good, but a lot of rice — it ended up being a lot of food.

Another memorable meal was at Bite Me Fish Market, famous for its fish tacos. Really delicious. They served whatever they caught that morning so you never know what type of fish is on the menu. Also, we had shave ice from a local stand. It’s pretty much a ginormous sno-cone with your choice of toppings or ice cream in the center. Jen got the red beans in the center of it, which was a nice touch.

We did manage to cook a few meals as well, most notably steaks grilled out by the pool in Sam’s complex, and pulled pork pizzas. It was a very delicious week all around.

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