10 Best values culinarily wise on the Big Island for great food at a good deal
By Jade Eckardt
Best values are something most of us are always on the lookout for, and it's no different while on vacation. After you've most likely spent a pretty penny on airfare getting to the Big Island, it's a help to find some good deals when it comes to eating and drinking. A broad spectrum of cuisines can be enjoyed all over the Big Island for great deals, so wherever you are you can find affordable places to eat and drink.
For a homes style breakfast with great views of the ocean and lava fields, the Kalapana Village Cafe along the Puna Coast is an affordable morning eatery that delivers satisfying standard fare. Fill up and then take a leisurely hike out to the ocean and see the steam from the lava running into the ocean, an awesome attraction on its own.
In Hilo, Cafe 100 serves up true local food that's served up fast food style, but it's made on the spot. With order at the counter service and outdoor seating, you can take it on the go or eat it there. Local dishes like loco mocos, spam musubi, and mix plates, it's a good venture into local food - at an affordable price.
While wandering Hawaii's biggest island (the rest of the islands scan fit into it, twice), remember that good affordable food isn't hard to find.
Hilo Farmers Market
Over 200 vendors of all kinds frequent the Hilo Farmers Market. This outdoor market is like many restaurants combined into one. Thai food, vegetarian, coffee, desserts, Hawaiian food and other cuisines can be found here. Although it's open daily, the biggest days are Saturdays and Wednesdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every other day. At the market you'll find everything from jewelry, to fresh flowers, to clothing and home decor, to food, ready to eat and to bring home and cook. The market is a bustling place to socialize or window and is a classic Hilo attraction. ((808) 933-1000)
Hilo Homemade Ice Cream
For an affordable dessert, drop by Hilo Homemade Ice Cream. If you're lucky, it will be on the menu at all the restaurants you visit; if not, get your fill of the delicious stuff at this casual location. Favorite flavors include standards like chocolate and vanilla, along with wickedly delicious concoctions like macadamia nut, Kona coffee, passion fruit, and banana-poha (gooseberry). In fact, you may need to visit several times to sample them all! If your sweet tooth is really raging, super-premium Tropical Dreams Ice Cream is available as well. There's one down by the beaches in Keaukaha and one in Downtown Hilo. (808-217-9650)
Island Lava Java
An easy stop with and an affordable menu, Island Lava Java has a broad array of meals and drinks that can be enjoyed out front or on the go. Coffee fans love the Big Island for many reasons, and this place is one of them. You'll find freshly brewed, 100% Kona coffee here, along with an assortment of sweets and sandwiches. A great place to people-watch, it's situated directly across from the beach, where human activity is non-stop. It's a much more affordable meal than a sit down breakfast or lunch, but is just as high quality and any other restaurants around. (808-327-2161)
Thai food can be found in abundance on the Big Island, and luckily for hungry folks it can be enjoyed at an affordable price. Do a bit of exploring in downtown Hilo, and you'll likely find a cornucopia of hidden-away gems, neat little stores and eateries that high-profile travel guides eschew in favor of flashier coastal venues. Royal Siam is one such place. A favorite with the local crowd, the restaurant has earned a strong reputation thanks to friendly service and some of the Big Island's top Thai dishes, from stir-fries to satays to noodle platters. Best of all, prices are more than reasonable. (808-961-6100)
Full Moon Cafe
Full Moon Caf� is a family owned and operated (by two brothers) restaurant that uses much local and organic ingredients in their menu. They call the menu new American and Asian fusion seafood. The international menu has a Pacific emphasis and a strong focus on fresh and raw fish The fish are caught by local fishermen and they use grass fed Big Island beef. A unique menu boasts dishes such as: -Yaki Udon — Sweet shrimp and house cured Kiawe-smoked bacon, sweet cabbage, ali'i mushrooms, brussels petals, chili-garlic sticky sauce. -Crispy Flatbread — Smoked ahi and white bean puree, organic lemon zest-infused olive oil -Market Fish Plate — Pan-roast uku fillet, ripe ulu & wild boar hash, Ka'u sweet corn, farmers' market vegetables, mahi-bone and red miso reduction Just a short drive from the Hilo cruise port, Full Moon is located in Downtown Hilo, an area every visitor should explore while in town. ((808) 961-0599)
Ken's House of Pancakes
As a tried and true Hilo breakfast staple, Ken's stays open 24-7. Breakfast is a serious affair, no matter what time of day, and the waitstaff ensures that patrons stay "well oiled" by leaving a full pot of steaming coffee at each table. Favored fare includes French toast, traditional short stacks smothered in maple syrup, hearty omelets, and waffles. If breakfast isn't your gig, never fear -- they also serve up delicious hamburgers, hot and cold sandwiches, and fried chicken plates. This is where the locals go for a Sunday brunch, or for a late night meal after a nearby bar or movie. (808-935-8711)
Caf-- 100 has been around for years, and it continues to offer great, filling food at unbeatable prices. In fact, it's the ideal place to try Hawaiian comfort food. Take the Loco Moco, for instance -- it's a heap of white rice topped with a hamburger patty and a fried egg, then smothered in gravy. Caf-- 100 invented it back in the early 1950s, and today, they offer several variations, including one made with Spam. Although the Loco Moco is served all day, you may want to sample other dishes, which range from Kalua pork to beef stew and teriyaki beef. (808-935-8683)
Lava Rock Café
Serving three meals a day at an affordable price, volcano-themed Lava Rock Caf� is where locals refuel. Breakfast includes traditional egg dishes and the Big Island's own Loco Moco, a heap of rice with a hamburger patty and fried egg, all doused with gravy. Lunch consists of burgers, salads, and sandwiches. There's also a plate lunch option -- choose up to three meats to accompany rice and a salad. Dinner is a global experience -- the menu includes Asian specialties, Mexican fajitas, Italian pastas, and American grilled steaks. To-go orders are welcome, a boon for hungry hikers exploring the nearby attractions. (808-967-8526)
Charley's Thai Cuisine
Despite a distinctly American-sounding moniker, Charley's has become a Big Island favorite for luscious, flavorful Thai fare - and it's affordable too. While there might not be a lot of attention given to ambiance, the focus is clearly on the food, where authentic, fresh spices make hot dishes really hot! Servings are generous too, so you'll definitely get your fill of offerings like pad thai, pad see ew, and a variety of curries. There's a lot of Thai food on the Big Island and Charley's is known as being one of the tastiest and lowest priced places to eat. Thai plate lunches are an added bonus and the (808-886-0591)
Kalapana Village Cafe
Breakfast, lunch and snack - right across from the lava and the ocean. Nestled in the jungle across from the expansive lava fields at the end of the highway, the Kalapana Village Cafe is a spot for locals and visitors alike for great, affordable and traditional breakfast and lunch fare. Breakfast includes dishes like eggs in various form, home style potatoes, a papaya with yogurt, bacon and sausage - you get the idea. Lunch is fish sandwiches, ham burgers and garden burgers, fries, onion rings and grilled cheese - all fairly priced and good. Seating it outdoors but covered with a roof ((808) 965-0121)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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