Ken's House of Pancakes is hands down THE BEST restaurant in Hilo. It is one of the only places that doesn't close down at 10pm with the rest of the city. Ken's is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week so whenever you need a fix, head on down there. They have a great menu that caters mostly to breakfast which is their trademark. You may order anything any time of the day though! Spaghetti for breakfast? no problem! The restaurant has been in operation from the 70's I believe, long before my time. Upon walking in, you will notice that it is a bit dated meaning they still have those old vinyl seats and same decor from 20 years ago. They've done minor upgrades here and there, mostly to the outside. I do not suggest going there in the mornings, especially on Sunday... You will be sitting in the wait area for a good half hour before they call your name for a table. The best time to go is mid day or in the wee hours of the morning. For such a busy restaurant, they have very limited parking so you may end up parking next door at Wiki Wiki Mart. The food is great, the staff is friendly, and you leave satisfied!
On top of that, their menu is very diverse and you have lots to choose from.
Favorite Dish: I recommend any omlette on the menu as it is their house specialty. My favorite is the Chef's Choice Omlette or #36. Three eggs stuffed with Italian sausage, spinnach, and mushrooms topped with their delicious mushroom gravy. This comes with your choice of pancakes or toast and hashbrowns, rice, or frenchfries. Have it with pancakes and hashbrowns with their lilikoi syrup. Oh.... to die for.
I also suggest their Mushroom Burger... all homemade patties.
Their french fry basket is well worth the price of $3 as they serve it in a real basket! Large order. Have it with mushroom gravy poured all over.
We entered into a romantic, Tuscan style ambience and greeted warmly. Our waiter made fantastic recommendations. Everything was the most delicious ever. We both wanted to kiss the chef.
This restaurant offers romance in spirit and taste. Extremely recommended. I suggest reservations. This is not a large restaurant and fills quickly.
Favorite Dish: The stuffed mushrooms were melt in your mouth magnificent. I had scallopini marsala that was divine. My husband ordered a pork special that he hasn't stopped praising yet. And YOU MUST try the double chocolate truffle cake. Their specialty, and incredibly rich.
This pancake house is a local favorite, with good, quick food. At gets busy quick, but it keeps moving. Great value for the money. The have an extensive breakfast menu to fit almost any size appetite and offer local favorites too.
Favorite Dish: I had macadamia nut waffles. Not bad. And probably the least we spent for breakfast in a while.
Nori's has been a local favorite since it's start. It had its humble beginings in a small hole in the wall that went through a big renovation a few years back. Now, Nori's operates two outlets in Hilo and in Waimea on the Big Island. The restaurant is known for its Saimin specialties to numerous to name! Stop in on a rainy day and I'm sure it will satisfy your soul. They are also known for their terriyaki chicken and mochi cakes. Nori's also has a mini store inside with loads of merchandise and snacks for the road or to ship home.
Favorite Dish: My favorite dish is the Hamburger Steak with terriyaki sauce. It's served with rice (big in Hawaii) and macaroni salad (also big here). Have it with their hot mustard and shoyu and your sinus' will be singing! If you need to clear it out, that will do it.
The terri-chicken sticks are awesome as well as their Won-Ton-Min dish loaded with udon.
Ocean Sushi Deli and Tsunami Grille are in seperate buildings across the street from each other. Both establishments operate under the same owner. The odd thing about this place is that the waitress will take your order and run it across the street if they don't have it on their menu. What I mean is, they use both menus and if you order from the otherside, they don't make it so they have to run across a busy street... dangerous. The restaurants are smack dab in the middle of the old downtown area and on a one way zone making it hard to turn around. What's worse is that you need to parallel park on this busy road to get to either place. However, the place is still busy daily and the food is good.
Both restaurants are in need of a make-over as the decor is anything but inviting (mismatched chairs/tables, old carpet, etc). They have one waitress working the whole floor which means a long wait to take your order and receive it. They prepare everything fresh which is a plus! but adds to the wait. All in all it's a nice little diner but nothing worth visiting if you're on vacation.
Favorite Dish: Veggie-Ten Roll (six or ten piece) - This is great served with the spicy mayo sauce. All vegetable sushi roll with tofu skin, carrots, cucumber.
Uptown (six or ten piece) - The uptown is a terri-chicken wrap encased in rice and lettuce with terriyaki sauce.
Downtown (six or ten piece) - The downtown is breaded white meat chicken wrapped in rice and nori (seaweed wrap) served katsu style with tongkatsu sauce.
They have several seafood choices but I HATE seafood!! lol.
This is a tiny little place sort of in the middle of nowhere but well worth a stop as their food is outstanding. Their smoothies are pure fresh fruit and juice. They freeze the fruit so there is no ice or sugar added. They also grow a lot of their own fruits and vegetables right on their What's Shakin' Farm. As we ate lunch we could see some of the bananas and other fruits growing nearby. The place is small roadside place where you go to the window to order and then hope you can find a spot as the seating is limited to the surrounding porch.
Favorite Dish: The smoothies are indeed wonderful as are the sandwiches. I had an excellent salad of their locally grown greens, avacado, tomatoes and albacore tuna. Their guacamole is the best I have eaten. They also bake banana nut bread which is excellent.
This is simple lunch or light fare but you will not find better tasting or fresher food anywhere.
Hilo Homemade Ice Cream started off in the Keokaha area South Hilo. Keokaha is along the beach/coastline area of Hilo and home to many ghetto locals (hehehe). Pass Onekahakaha Beach Park on the way to King's Landing and there is a little stop off with a small store, flower shop, and HHIC. This is the original store. Before it became a surf/snorkle rental store/ice cream shop, the store was run by two old men. Fred and BJ came from two varying backgrounds and cultures but came together in the interest of business. I don't know what happened to the two but last I went in there, the interior was totally different and a younger local guy was there. They have a great variety of flavors using local flavors as well as tasty non-traditional stuff. At one time they served pita style sandwhiches and soups. They now have lots of novelty stuff and souveniers.
Favorite Dish: Their business focus may have changed but they still have the same great ice cream! My favorite as a kid was the blueberry cheesecake or coconut flavor. They make milkshakes and shaved ice now too. You can have your ice cream in a regular cone, bowl, or waffle cone.
Our first day in Hilo and my brother and his wife took us to Cafe Pesto for lunch and I was surprised to find a place with this name. The cuisine is "ethnically diverse Island cuisine" and is very fresh and tasty.
Favorite Dish: I had Linguini al Pesto which was came with grilled smoked chicken-apple sausage vine-ripened tomatoes, and a roasted tomato-basil marinara. My wife had a Mililii sandwich which had garlic basted shrimp, pacific crab, sliced mushrooms,
blended cheeses on French bread. Both were very filling and delicious.
I highly recommend Pesto's and suggest you allow some time for your meal as it may be crowded. We had about a 15 minute wait to be seated.
This is a pretty much no frills kind of burger and milkshake kind of place. It bills itself as the place where locals eat and has a menu of deli items, stir fries and desserts with a good reputation. They offer live entertainment on weekend nights and Internet access all the time
Favorite Dish: Had a very tasty Reuben sandwich, cole slaw and a beer. Very basic and very good.
Okay, my outlook is still very provincial but finding this combination of an Italian cafe serving belgian waffles in Hilo surprised me. However, it is a lovely place with a lot of pleasant woodwork and traditional but very nice art work on the walls. You can see part of a fox hunt scene behind our table. BTW most of my restaurant tips on these pages will feature the same 3 or 4 people (my wife, brother & sister-in-law) - hope you don't get too tired of us.
Favorite Dish: As we frequently do at breakfast my wife and I shared our orders - a Belgian waffle with strawberries and cream and a fritatta with Italian sausage anc cheese. Both were very delicious and the combination cannot be beat.
Blanes Drive In is a popular local diner most noted for their boneless chicken plate and slush floats. Blanes is owned by two brothers... Blane and... the other guy who rhymes with Blane... Shane! Prices are resonable though some menu items are a little over priced for a diner. They frequently renovate the restaurant to keep it clean and shiny.
Here, you'll find a myriad of local cuisine which normally includes a heaping scoop of rice and a side of macaroni salad on a bed of lettuce. Local favorites are of course, the deep fried bonless chicken plate, hamburger steak, grilled pork chops, milkshakes, and other diner foods. They also have a nice breakfast menu that can be likened to truck stop cuisine in the mainland US. Blanes also offers family dinner packs.
Favorite Dish: y favorite would have to be their hamburger steak plate. You can get this in either teriyaki style (sweet) or regular (with brown gravy). I'd go with the regular as their teri style tastes very dry.
I also love their strawberry slush floats! These are excellent on a hot day and are not expensive. I read somewhere that many non-Americans have never heard of a float. I was flabbergasted! Floats are basically vanilla ice cream topped off with the cola of your choice - Coke, Pepsi, Root Beer. A&W brand root beer is the best in floats. Blanes does business with Pepsi so you won't get Coke here.
Cafe 100 was founded by a man named Mr. Miyashiro who served in the famed 100th Infantry Army Battallion during World War II. Miyashiro and his wife had originally opened the diner in 1945 and renamed it to what it is now in honor of his battallion. Though the original owners pasted away, the restaurant still stands as a land mark here in Hawaii.
Cafe 100 lays claim to the invention of the "loco moco" which is served in mostly all of Hawaii's restaurants nowadays. A loco moco is a simply made dish in a saimin bowl. Loco moco is made up of a bed of hot rice, a hamburger patty, and topped with an over easy egg with brown gravy. There are many different combinations now especially if you go to Ken's. There are many different meat choices and ways the eggs are prepared as well as kinds of rice.
Aside from that, they serve all kinds of stuff. For you budget travellers, they have this thing called stew gravy and rice. It's supposed to be less than a dollar and satisfying.
Favorite Dish: It's been a while since I've been here but from what I can remember, they've got really good beef stew.
You are usually given the option of taking macaroni salad or tossed salad with most of your dishes.
Kaiko'o Seeds N Things is one of the few remaining mom and pop establishments that still thrive in Hilo. Owned by Betty Kosora and her husband Harry, the seed shop was once located in the old Kaiko'o mall. This is not a restaurant but I wouldn't really put this under places to shop. All budget travellers will fall in love with this place because it's so freakin' cheap! NOTHING is over $3.00USD which is an extreme rarety.
Betty and her husband prepare all their products from their home and in the little shop. There are several local Japanese themed snacks such as ling hi mui seeds, lemon peel, arare/kakemochi, cinamin toast, and other on the go stuff. Her husband bakes homemade pizza pockets every morning and pops colored and sweetened popcorn.
Favorite Dish: Their chili bowls are basic but very satisfying on a cold day! Other food items include hot dogs, chili dogs, and chili dog and rice.
A local Hawaiian favorite for years, the Icee is still available here! I remember these as a little kid and you could get them in any small store. They're hard to find now. You can get this in Coke or Strawberry. It's basically slushed ice mixed with flavored soda. Another place you can get this at is the Prince Kuhio Theaters.
Low's International is hard to miss when you're in downtown Hilo since it's right at a busy corner. This is another family owned diner passed down. The insides are a little obscure and needs a good remodeling. It looks very 70s with its colors and bolted down chairs. The messy appearance looks a lot like a crowded street in China or Japan with lots of oriental references in the photos and decor. The food items available are posted up on the walls in full color photographs which makes it easier if you don't know what you want.
They serve foods from all over hence the "international" part of the name. They really specialize in local cuisine though. Their trademark is obvious when you walk up to the order window, sweetbread! They have a wide variety of flavors and colors to choose from. These would make a great gift to send home. My favorite is the guava bread.
Favorite Dish: Their version of the loco moco is excellent and BIG. Order a small because their large will feed you for two more meals seriously. If you're like me, I hate to reheat food because its too much work and doesn't taste the same. The brown gravy used is very tasty but doesn't hide the flavor of the food itself. If you're ordering a beef type entree, they normally cook it medium rare. I like my meat burnt and crispy. Tell them how you like yours, they'll do it.
Kawate Seed Shop has been a local stop for many many years. Growing up just around the corner from the store, we frequented the little "ice shave" corner all the time. The surrounding businesses changed many times most notably from Food Fair (I used to play Street Fighter 2 here all the time!) which was a popular local super market. After the store closed as a victim of competition, another teetering market chain opened up with little success of its own closing a few years after as well. The restaurant opposite Kawate's had changed over many times as well. The one constant in the building is Kawate Seed Shop! FYI the building is now home to the Hawaii State Work Force Development.
My sixth grade teacher's family actually owns the business but haven't seen here in the store for years.
Favorite Dish: In Hawaii, we don't call them "snow cones", we call them shaved ice. In Hilo, it's turned into "ice shave". Call them what you want but this is their signature creation. They also have a variety of ice creams that are much cheaper than Baskin and Robins. My favorite is their coconut flavored shaved ice with condensed milk. This is what they call a Cherry Blossom. Try it! You'll love it :).
Kawate's also has the odd snack food choices like chips, cookies, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. They also have local favorites like pork hash, manapua (usually stuffed with char sui pork), ling hi mui seeds, dried lemon, dried squid, ect.