Y'know, I looked in the boards for Hawaii before we left; I didn't think to look in "elsewhere in America", though. Ah, well. I was forced to go with The Thrill Of Discovery. We ate at some upscale places, some down-homey places, some "mid-scale" places, and some dumps.
All breakfasts were at the buffet at The Orchid Court, Orchid at Mauna Lani. The best thing about the buffet is the pastries, from Mamane's in Honoka'a (I asked). The little sticky buns are outrageously good; the other pastries are just great. The rest of the buffet is a breakfast buffet; seen one, seen 'em all. The Portuguese sausage is pretty good, though.
Lunch at the Grill at Hilton Waikoloa. Good deli food. 2 turkey wraps, each one could have served 2 people. Excellent fries! Very crispy, reminded me of what McDonalds fries used to be like. Good burger, hand pressed with quality meat. Excellent smoothies (one peach, one pina colada); my wife said they were the best on the island.
Dinner at Subway in Kona. Oh well. We went looking for Bianelli's, and couldn't find them; later we found out that they moved. I wanted to go to Ooodles Of Noodles, right next to Subway, but it was getting late, close to 9PM (I was determined to find Bianelli's! More on them later). Sometimes the 11-year old has to win. Same as Subway everywhere else, as if you didn't know. Lay's Maui-style chips are pretty good, though.
Lunch at the Koa Grill in Waimea. Nice place. "Chowy". The "prime rib" sammies are a decent local variation of Philly cheesesteak. I wouldn't push it off the plate. The macaroni & potato salad (not macaroni salad & potato salad, but macaroniandpotato salad) is killer foodie food. As is the bbq pork sammie, with liliko'i bbq sauce. The rolls are excellent, soft on the inside and chewy/crusty on the outside.
Ice Cream at Tropical Dreams in Hawi. Ooooooh, good. Hawi is cool, too, kinda funky.
Dinner (for 3) at the Orchid Court. Expensive, and not good value. Decent enough food, though. Kind of "overthought" on the combination of flavors, close but not quite right. Everything is ala carte, so 2 chicken/sausage pastas, a pork chop dish, 3 salads, ice tea and 2 beers equalled $132. OUCH! No dessert that night!
Lunch at the Food Court in King's Road Shopping Plaza, in Waikoloa. Tip: the pizza at the pizza stand is awful, but the Plate Lunch at the pizza stand kicks donkey. Get the pork adobo, with sticky rice and macaroniandpotato salad. It's like mama made, yes it is. People here really know what to do with pork.
Snacks at the Kailua Candy Co. The chocolate coffee swirls are a world class treat, as are the dark chocolate Honus (turtles), made with macadamia nuts of course.
Dinner was appetizer buffet at The Orchid (part of the trip was an incentive from work, with some organized functions). The previous night notwithstanding, there is some real talent in the kitchen at The Orchid. Drinks were included this night, so I only remember that everything was really good. Kona Brewing makes some fine beers. My favorite is the Red Ale, but the Pale Ale and the Golden Ale are also super. Liliko'i cheesecake rocks.
(As a side note, I was starting to feel pretty doggone big right about this time. The next morning I walked for an hour, and kept that up each morning for the rest of the trip. I came home without gaining anything, which is a miracle!)
Breakfast: Raisin bran. Yuck. What a waste of a free buffet.
We ate lunch in Kona at Lulus, across the street from the waterfront. Funky mix of touristy/local, probably more touristy. I had a lavaburger: a hamburger with cayenne pepper, pepperjack cheese, and jalapenos. I'd get it again. The girls both had Hungry Hogs, which were bbq pork sammies. Another liliko'i bbq sauce here, different but just as good as the Koa Grill's. Nice view, friendly staff. The ubiquitous macaroniandpotato salad. Liliko'i iced tea is everywhere, too. Yum.
(Another side note: the service at restaurants that we went to was by and large outstanding, much better than here in Northeast Pennsylvania and at other tourist destinations. I noticed none of what I call "smoldering third world resentment", or tourist aversion, like you sometimes get in Orlando and NYC. Sure, we were outsiders, but everyone looked us in the eye and smiled genuine smiles. I'd invite anyone I met there to visit my family on the mainland, happily.)
Coffee at the Greenfied Plantation. Oh My cod was it good. I purchased 4 pounds of the private reserve and two pounds of the peaberry. It's the best coffee I've ever tasted, better than Fike's IMO. It was also close to the least expensive 100% Kona coffee I saw anywhere, at $23/lb for the reserve and $21/lb for the Peaberry. Expensive AND a good value, at the same time!
After a day at Kiluea, we had dinner at Cafe Pesto in Hilo (see link to menu). Damn, was that good. MJ says her wok-fired shrimp and scallops was the best she's ever had, maybe the best restaurant meal she's ever had. Two people we were with had a beef & pasta dish they raved about. I had a "four seasons" pizza: 1/4 each of artichoke hearts, oriental mushrooms, mixed peppers, and prosciutto. Be careful, the wok-fired shrimp and scallops are prepared differently at the location in Kawaihae, as we were to find out. Compare the menus in the link for the differences. The prices were very reasonable. This is the best value of the places we ate at.
I hate raisin bran. We ate a late breakfast at Brown's Beach House (the Orchid buffet was moved to Browns that day); I had a small mushroom omelet and a couple pastries, and we skipped lunch.
Dinner at Roy's Waikoloa Grill in the King's Road shops: absolutely outstanding, expensive and worth it IMO. I had a tomato/arugula/goat cheese salad, and a grilled filet in a mushroom/green pepper sauce; Mary Joan had scallops (again; she loves scallops). Mary Jeanne had the grilled wood cured pork roast. All were absolutely first rate. I had a fruit cobbler for dessert, the girls have a soft spot for the liliko'i cheesecake now. A word about the service here; this was probably the finest waitstaff I've ever seen. It felt like a friendly marine drill team, if that makes any sense. I told the waiter how good I thought they all were, and he was very proud to say that they are trained well, and that they love what they do. In his own words, they have it all; "We surf all day and serve all night." It was a 25% night on a $165 bill for him that night, and IMO he was worth it. A good waiter can make all the difference in a dining experience. More Kona beer.
Raisin Bran again.
Lunch at Cafe Pesto in Hilo again. We were looking for the Woodshop Gallery Cafe, and didn't realize it was not on Rt19 but off on a side road a bit, and drove all the way to Hilo. I had a southwestern calzone (chipotle chicken & cilantro, essentially) which was very good and not at all like I expected, in a good way. The girls had a Toscana calzone (prosciutto, mushroom and dijon) and a chicken fajita sandwich. We talked a while with the waiter, who it turns out is a Steeler fan (Pittsburgh is my home town). Another gold star for Cafe Pesto.
Dinner buffet at the beach next to Brown's Beach House (another organized affair), and all I can say is WOW! Mounds of shrimp, crab claws, mahimahi, ribeyes, pilafs, crisp sautee'd vegetables... and instead of a typical buffet where the food sits all night, the kitchen was set up outside next to the buffet table and the chefs prepared the platters as they were depleted. Outstanding, again.
My wife skipped lunch, and I took my daughter shopping for clothes in Kona (ain't I a great dad?). We ate at Lulu's, where I got the Hog this time and she got a burger. Great, friendly service. The Steelers lost, and looked bad doing it on tape delay.
Dinner at Cafe Pesto in Kawaihae. I had a coconut curry carrot soup that was outrageous and sublime, all at once, and the chicken over jasmine rice. Awesome. My wife had the wok-fired shrimp and scallops, which she liked but thought was not as good as it was in Hilo; the preparation and presentation is different at each location. My daughter had something else that she liked, I don't remember what. Pork in a sweet sauce, I think, teriyaki maybe. (Another side note: thank the good lord she eats something other than chicken fingers, finally.) Great desserts, liliko'i cheesecake (AGAIN!) but this time in a macadamia nut cookie crust, a nice touch!
We're leaving today, and moving 5 time zones, so I buffet'd for breakfast again.
Lunch at Brown's; burgers. But, burgers made with a blend of Kobe and Angus beef. can you say, "yum"? Of course you can, you're a chowhound! Oh, uh, these are 'spensive burgers, by the way, at $14.95 EACH. At least you get waffle fries with 'em.
Dinner at Bianelli's, finally. On one of our trips to Kona, we finally found their new location. Wifey had chicken parm, same as chicken parm everywhere. I had spaghetti & meatballs (not very adventurous, I know; but this is my test dish for any Italian restaurant, You gotta be able to get S&M right) in a pink sauce which is not a vodka sauce but a mixture of marinara and white wine/wild mushroom sauce. I'm sad to say that the pasta was overcooked like it had been prepared well in advance, the meatballs were overspiced and underflavored at the same time if you can imagine that (hardly any meaty flavor), and the sauce was "eh". The waitress was great, though, young and overflowing with friendliness and enthusiasm. They were only re-opened at the new location a week, I think we have to give them the benefit of the doubt here. Yeah, the meal was average; it was also pretty inexpensive, the service was super, and the portions are big. And, my daughter had a cheeseburger. SHE'S FINALLY PUTTING CHEESE ON HER BURGERS!
Days 9 and 10: airplane food. Yuck.
Bon Appetit from the Pennsylvania Chowhound board,