We on the Big Island are Big Eaters, always hungry for a new venue or a new menu to satiate our Big Appetites. This year we’ve said a sad goodbye to many beloved spots. Other eateries have changed location, changed chefs, or just changed names. As our population (and average waistline) keeps growing, new options are always welcome. These are some of our latest greatest.
A steamy bowl of ramen or a plate of carbonara with organic greens? Hope for the indecisive noodle lover comes in the chic side-by-side establishments of Gomaichi Ramen (Ed. note: yes, it’s the same as the trusty 10-year-old standby on Ke’eaumoku Street) and La Pasta Ristorante in Kailua-Kona. Start off at Gomaichi with a tasting of any of the eight sake choices or Iichiko, a Japanese vodka made from barley. Follow it up on the outside patio with the noodles of your choice–shoyu, spicy or spicy-sour ramen (try the famous tender char siu topping) or cold noodle salad at Gomaichi or traditional Italian pasta dishes at La Pasta Ristorante. If your date’s not into noodles, La Pasta Ristorante also offers daily specials and other popular entrees like chicken Parmesan and veal chop. Gomaichi Ramen and La Pasta Ristorante, corner of Kuakini and Hualali, Kailua-Kona, lunch from 11:30am-2pm, dinner from 5:30am-9pm, (808) 329-2772, (808) 329-9111, prices: $6.95-$8.25 (ramen), $12.50 and up (pasta and entrees), credit cards: MC, Visa, (Amex at La Pasta)
Chef-owners Stephen Tabor and David Brown teamed up to open the Waikoloa Grill last March in an airy space overlooking the Waikoloa Beach Golf Course. Their excellent menu of American favorites uses local ingredients expertly and is sprinkled with a sly sense of humor. Try the Dagwood, the traditional New England Clam Dog or a massive hamburger for lunch–the sandwiches are made with tasty house-made or locally baked bread. For comic relief, be sure to read every word of the menu, and don’t dare leave without indulging in a sweet ending: Pastry chef David Brown shows his artistry in each of the eleven delectable desserts. Waikoloa Beach Grill, 69-1022 Keana Pl, Waikoloa Beach Golf Course, Waikoloa Beach, lunch from 11am -4pm, dinner from 5pm-9pm, (808) 886-6131, prices: lunch $5-$14, dinner $5-$37, desserts $6-$10, credit cards: MC, Visa, Amex, Discover
The latest in the persistent revitalization of Honoka’a is the breezy outdoor CafÃƒË† Rendezvous(next to Hula Moon), a cute creperie with a dozen savory thin-pancake offerings. Try the Numbre Quartre, a buckwheat crepe filled with delicately sliced ham and shredded cheddar cheese and topped with a warm cheese bÃƒË†chamel. If you’re a chocolate lover, go with the Chocolat Chantilly, stuffed with molten semi-sweet chocolate, drizzled with milk chocolate sauce, and topped with whipped Chantilly cream. The small cafÃƒË† tables provide an ideal place to sit, relax and watch the world go by with a local Hamakua Long Ears French-pressed coffee or a refreshing glass of ginger iced tea. CafÃƒË† Rendezvous, 45-3490 Mamane St, Honoka’a, Tues through Thu 10am-4pm, Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-2pm, (808) 775-9230, prices: $4-$9, cash only
Mixx Bistro Bar is an intimate, swanky bar space and large outdoor patio offering small plates of Eurasian tapas and drinks. Mixx celebrates its one-year anniversary with an ordained fame for its mojitos and creative martini menu. (Most of the key ingredients–the spirits–and wines conveniently come from the Kona Wine Mart next door.) On most nights, a DJ, salsa or live music adds to the fun social atmosphere. Mixx Bistro Bar, King Kamehameha Mall, Kailua-Kona, 11am-10pm or later, (808) 329-7334, prices: tapas $6-$10, most credit cards accepted
When the small bistro Solimene’s opened in September, it provided a much-needed outlet for affordable Italian food in a family atmosphere. The pastas and salads are generous, and the pizzas–Margherita, pepperoni, supreme, Hawaiian, Greek or Californian–are large enough to take home. Each day Chef Robin creates a pasta special, and her daily soups are consistently excellent. Try an entree with the flavorful homemade marinara sauce. While Solimene’s does a vigorous take-out business, the cozy atmosphere encourages lingering with your family over steaming bowls of pasta. Solimene’s, 65-1158 Mamalahoa Hwy, Waimea Shopping Center, Kamuela, Tues-Sun lunch from 10:30am-3pm, Tue-Sat dinner from 5:30pm-9pm, (808) 887-1313, prices: salads, pastas, pizzas $3-$22, all major credit cards accepted
Yes, Something’s Cookin’ in Paradise. The person who’s doing the cooking is Chef Randie Pung, who opened her small breakfast and lunch spot in October and has been serving up hearty egg platters and plate lunches to local businesses ever since. Offering a selection of house specials, local favorites and healthy sandwiches and salads, the small cafÃƒË† is perfect after a swim at the nearby beaches or a great place to pick up take-out for a picnic or office lunch. The panini sandwiches are tasty, and the loco moco and hamburger steak plate are quickly becoming famous in their own right. Something’s Cookin’ in Paradise, 61 Akoni Pule Hwy, Kawaihae Harbor, Tue-Fri 7:30am-2pm, Sat 9am-2pm, (808) 880-9700, price range: $1.25-$8.50, credit cards: MC and Visa