We stayed near Pahoa, Southeast of Hilo, during one of the rainiest weeks imaginable all over the island. That limited our roaming, including driving the almost-30 miles back into Hilo for dinner. But it resulted in a couple of amazing finds.
--The amazing Sunday farmer's market outside of Pahoa, heading towards Hilo. (8 a.m.-2 p.m.) The Hilo market (on Wednesday) has a couple of gems, like better baked goods, but in variety and especially in on-site cooked foods, plus just plain old homespun characters, this market can't be beat.
I had a green papaya salad made right before my eyes, and a gao/gau New Year's treat. Plus a sugar cane/ginger/lime juice drink.
The market is huge and it's definitely the spot people go to meet their neighbors. You wondered where the counterculture went? Pahoa.
On our way out with a bag of fruit & vegetables for our cottage, we picked up a cooked huli-huli chicken for dinner. Ate half; the other half went for lunch sandwiches.
--Poke from the Suisan fish market in Hilo. Poke is the Hawaiian version of cerviche. All manner of concoctions; ask for tastes especially of the incendiary Korean-style ones. Wooo-eee!
--I suppose everyone should try an island breakfast. Once. My husband has to have one each trip. We stumbled on Island Ohana, a throwback lunch counter just down the street from the Hilo market. He actually had Spam and eggs. No comment.
--Low's International for mahi-mahi burger, $3.70. Fresh fish, house-baked bun. Funky place. The rainbow bread is an adventure in and of itself: Guava, Mango & Sweet bread batters swirled. Makes a not-bad toast.
--Pahoa proper, a Wild West gone tropical village, has two amazing restaurants.
Paolo's Bistro is run by a tempramental guy who hails from near Pisa. I had an amazing inkfish pasta with ono one night; the best rabbit of my life another. My husband had a seafood pasta & the inkfish pasta. It's BYOB. Eight tables. Gnocchi's on the menu but he didn't feel like making it either night.
Ning's Thai was also plate-licking great. We shared a fried fish and calamari dishes. The preparations equaled anything we've had elsewhere, and there are Thai places on just about every corner here in Portland.
We also got huli huli chicken again from a roadside place; OK but not as cosmic as the stand at the Pahoa market.