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Restaurants & Bars 1

Hilo Sweets

sku | Aug 19, 2010 08:29 PM

A wrap up of some of the great sweets I had in Hilo.


Wilson's By the Bay aka Wilson's Ice Shave

That most popular of Hawaii frozen treats, the shave ice, is referred to in Hilo as ice shave. Wilson's, located in the touristy strip of Kamehameha Avenue, had fabulous shave ice, certainly comparable to the best I've had on Oahu. Wilson's had everything you want in great shave ice: soft ice with the texture of fresh snow, strong flavors and goodly portions of ice cream and sweet azuki beans. Like most shave ice places, it takes its time but is definitely worth the wait.

Wilson's By the Bay
224 Kamehameha Ave.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 969-9191

Kawate Seed Shop

Kawate Seed Shop, for some inexplicable reason, seems to have a better reputation for shave ice than Wilson's. I thought it was just okay. The ice was more coarse than I like and the flavors were lacking, with the exception of their li hing mui, the sour/salty/sweet dried plum that is probably the most popular variety of the Hawaiian snack known as "crackseed." My standard shave ice flavors are strawberry, coconut and li hing mui. While most li hing mui syrups are sweet with a vague saltiness, Kawate's version was boldly sweet, sour and salty with little bits of li hing mui in it; it gave you the true flavor of the real LHM. You would expect that, I suppose, from a crackseed shop with such a wide variety of plums and powders. Now if I could only get their li hing mui on a Wilson's ice shave...that would be icy heaven.

Kawate Seed Shop
1990 Kinoole St
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 959-8313


Mauna Loa Visitor Center

I don't tend to frequent tourist traps or factory tours, and I didn't have much in the way of expectations for the Hershey-owned Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center, but it's actually fairly unobtrusive. The Visitor Center is a three mile drive through the Mac Nut fileds off Highway 11, south of Hilo. The Visitor Center experience is a fairly simple affair, including (1) a self-guided factory tour in which you get to look through the factory windows and watch videos narrated by an animated, talking Mac Nut; (2) a small garden of unlabeled tropical plants and Mac Nut trees; and (3) a large store stocked with every imaginable flavor of Mac Nuts and a few choice samples. The whole experience takes only 15 to 20 minutes, so if you love Mac Nuts, why not do it.

Mauna Loa Visitor Center
16-701 Macadamia Road (off Hwy 11 - you'll see the sign)
Keaau, Hawaii 96749
(888) 628-6256

Big Island Candies

Big Island Candies is sort of a local version of the Mauna Loa Center. Big Island Candies specializes in shortbread and assorted chocolate dipped snacks. The factory includes a large store with a window onto the factory floor where you can see workers dipping all manner of things in chocolate. The store is as big as Mauna Loa's, but Big Island Candies is more generous with the samples. The shortbread is excellent, sweet and vanillay with that melt-in-your-mouth quality that great shortbread has. They have it in a variety of flavors, such as guava, ginger and olive oil, all of which were good, but I think I liked the plain shortbread the best. Oh, and when I said they have chocolate dipped snack, did I mention the chocolate dipped dried squid? Sorry folks, I left it on the shelf for brave souls than I.

Big Island Candies
585 Hinano Street
Hilo, HI 96720
(800) 935-5510


Puff City

One of my favorite Hilo finds was Puff City, a downtown pastry shop specializing in cream puffs. Their standard puff is a chocoalte custard with a chantilly topping. Hawaii locals and frequent visitors will immediately recognize this as a direct challenge to the famous Liliha Bakery and their famous coco puffs. So how did Puff City compare? Well, their pastry was excellent. Liliha is so big now that most of their puffs come out of the fridge and the pastry gets soggy, but Puff City's pastry was fresh and had more flavor than the Liliha standard. The Puff City chocolate filling was good but a bit too sweet for me, and while I liked Puff City's chantilly topping, it didn't have the complex sweet/salty flavor that makes Liliha's chantilly so compelling, but hey, you're in Hilo so it's not like you're going to fly out to Lilhia, so you should enjoy these puffs. Puff City also makes an excellent lilikoi puff with a fabulous lilikoi cream filling and a nice mini-chocolate silk pie with a well made, sweet pie crust filled with chocolate cream and whipped cream. Puff City has some lunch items as well, but I stuck to the sweets.

Puff City
187 Kilauea Ave.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 961-6964

Kawate Seed Shop
1990 Kinoole St, Hilo, HI 96720

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