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.
Local Expert tip: Pad Thai and spring rolls are always a good bet.
Restauranteur Roy Yamaguchi has garnered quite a reputation for himself, both in the Paradise State and on the mainland, and it's little wonder. Specializing in Pacific Rim cuisine, the Kohala Coast edition of his culinary empire dazzles diners with Szechuan-style baby back ribs, a kiawe-grilled rib-eye, and curry seared ahi tuna. Despite the shopping center locale, the restaurant offers an upscale scene that tends to get noisy during peak hours. The best tables offer clears views of either an adjacent golf course or a nearby lake.
Local Expert tip: Just go, it's amazing.
Traditional tempura and sashimi are specialties at this friendly joint, tucked away in the Honalo community. A family affair that's been around since the 1920s, Teshima's also earns high marks for terrific miso soup and sukiyaki. If you're savvy enough, a teishoku platter (an entree served with fresh vegetable sides, a bowl of rice, miso soup, and house salad) will certainly do the trick. Meanwhile, early risers can stop in and enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast of soup, rice, and fish before hitting nearby sites and beaches. Dinner reservations are accepted and are suggested for large parties.
Local Expert tip: Try the Japanese breakfast, it's very different than American breakfasts.
Home to some of the Big Island's more inventive sushi (how does a mustard cabbage roll sound?), this out-of-the-way joint has been a closely guarded secret among locals and savvy travelers for quite a while now. Located across from a bowling alley and little more than a proverbial hole-in-the-wall eatery, Nori's constantly thrills regulars with special furikake scallops wrapped in nori strips, chicken and beef sticks, homemade soups, and, of course, superb fried noodles.
Local Expert tip: Try the furikake scallops.
Sushi and fusion cuisine – presented in an elegant, relaxed setting – don't get any better than this. Of course, only the freshest seafood is used, so the sushi is impeccable. Even so, the wide-ranging menu includes such an intriguing array of Japanese-inspired dishes that you may not get around to sushi. Starters include crab cakes, lobster rolls, and broiled black cod. Entrees range from seared ono with mashed yams to roasted duck with orange hoisin sauce and lamb in a macadamia nut crust. The molten flourless chocolate cake is achieving legendary status, so save room for it.
Local Expert tip: Reservations are essential.
Sometimes, nothing but Thai food will do, and woe to anyone visiting Volcanoes National Park when that craving hits. Or so you might think. One of the best Thai restaurants on the Big Island sits right inside the park, adjacent to the hardware store. Thai food is known for its vibrant flavors and textures, and that's exactly what you'll find here. Whether you're looking for chicken satay, pad Thai, or taypoh curry, you can't go wrong with virtually anything on the menu. The restaurant is popular, so if you plan to go during peak dinner time, consider making a reservation. Hours often vary too, so call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Local Expert tip: Enjoy after a day exploring volcano park.
Despite a distinctly American-sounding moniker, Charley's has become a Big Island favorite for luscious, flavorful Thai fare. While there might not be a lot of attention given to ambience, 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. Thai plate lunches are an added bonus.
Local Expert tip: Go for the pad Thai.
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.
Recommended for Asian because: As one of Hilo's newest Asian fustion restaurants, Full Moon Cafe offers delicious and fresh gourmet food.
Local Expert tip: Live music is offered Thursday through Sunday and you can bring you're own wine or beer.