Travel

Big Island

Establishment neighborhood
Roy’s
69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr., Waikoloa
Chef Roy Yamaguchi is a Hawaiian legend, with a corresponding empire of restaurants scattered across all the islands (Eating House 1849 in Kauai, etc.). This outpost is one of his classics, and is ideal if you're all-in for a tasting menu or have something to celebrate. It's exactly what one would expect from a fancier version of island food: Macadamia nut encrusted fish, baby back ribs done with Szechuan-style sauce, and a famous chocolate soufflé. It can get loud and noisy, so not always the best choice if you want to have an intimate conversation.
Moon & Turtle
51 Kalakaua St., Hilo
Earning rave reviews for its daily changing, farm-to-table, ocean-to-table small plates, this sweet little spot justifies a trip if you're not staying in Hilo (also consider a stop here for dinner on your way back from Volcanos National Park). The plates are truly inventive, blending the best of Hawaiian ingredients with Asian flavors, and they always sell the best of what's available, which translates to only having enough for a few of some plates. (The chef-owner Mark Pomaski got his training from Roy Yamaguchi, so the mastery makes sense.) Make reservations, though you can usually grab seats at the bar.
Two Ladies Kitchen
274 Kilauea Ave., Hilo
People drive from all over the Big Island for the now world famous mochi that have been made here for the past 25 years (keep in mind that they're not open on Sundays or Mondays). Helmed by Nora Uchida and her aunt, Tomi Tokeshi, they make mochi as Uchida's grandmother did, preserving not only the recipe but the culture of the Japanese in Hawaii, too. The treats are delicious and beautiful, and as one would expect, the flavors are a mix of local and far-flung: You'll find lilikoi (passionfruit), pineapple, persimmons, ginger, etc.; they also stuff the traditional white rice flour with fresh strawberries, which sadly can't be transported to the mainland.
The Fish and the Hog
64-957 Mamalahoa Hwy, Waimea
While an excellent barbecue joint might seem unlikely in Hawaii, considering the island's natural predilection for pork, as well as Waimea's reputation as a "paniolo" town (i.e. cowboy), The Fish and the Hog makes perfect sense. What's fun is that you can get pulled pork, beef brisket, and all the requisite sides (their Crackseed, Hawaiian-inspired sauce with Chinese plum is not to be missed), you can also get super fresh poke and delicious, chili dusted calamari.
Tex Drive-In
45-690 Pakalana St., Honokaa
For about 50-odd years, Tex Drive-In has been serving traditional Hawaiian food (loco moco's abound on the menu, which are typically rice, hamburger, fried egg, and gravy), but that's not why tourists flock to this joint. They are famous for their malasadas, the island version of the donut, typically dusted in sugar and filled with anything from coconut cream to guava to Bavarian cream. You can even watch the malasada production through a big window in the cafe.
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