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Big Island restaurants

As with other Hawaiian islands, fine restaurants on the Big Island often serve "Hawaii regional cuisine," an early-'90s phenomenon pioneered by such chefs as Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi, Sam Choy, Beverly Gannon, and Peter Merriman. Its hallmark is a commitment to fresh, local ingredients, often used in haute or healthy renditions of local favorites—grilled short ribs, poke (marinated raw fish), kalua-style shredded pork—the original (greasier) versions of which are typically sold for $7 a plate at take-out joints. Vegetarians and people watching their cholesterol should proceed with caution: Big Island food tends to be salty and oriented to red-meat eaters. The majority of upscale restaurants on the Big Island are located on the Kohala Coast, many of them in five-star hotels. However, the agricultural area of Waimea (an hour away from Kohala) hosts two of the island's best, the namesake restaurants of Hawaii chefs Thiebaut and Peter Merriman. Along the spectacular scenic drive of the Hamakua Coast, you can find esoteric gems like Tex's Drive-In. Hilo, the largest town on the island, has midrange (and delicious) restaurants, like the Hilo Bay Café.

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Big Island Candies, Hilo

Everything is just right in this happy place—the production area is clean and pristine, the goods are beautifully packaged, and most important, the...more

Editors' Pick
Daniel Thiebaut, Waimea

Formerly a general store and feeding stop for local ranch families, this unlikely venue is one of Waimea's top tables (the other is Merriman's). Just as chef...more

Editors' Pick
Hilo Bay Café, Hilo

This is Hawaii regional cuisine at its most accessible, familiar enough to appeal to locals (the vast majority of diners at Hilo restaurants), and yet inspiring...more

Editors' Pick
Hilo Farmer's Market, Hilo

This bustling little scene of local vendors is a great place to stop and get cheap, tasty snacks such as tamales, Vietnamese spring rolls, bento boxes, and...more

Editors' Pick
Java on the Rock, Kailua-Kona

Alii Drive is pretty insufferable, especially at night when hordes of spring breakers are on the prowl. That's why it's best to experience Kona's oceanfront...more

Editors' Pick
Kona Inn Restaurant, Kailua-Kona

All that's left of the historic hotel built in the early 1900s is this popular open-air oceanfront bar, grill, and restaurant. Adorned with old black-and-white...more

Editors' Pick
Luquin's Mexican Restaurant, Pahoa

Located in Pahoa town—a hippie strip about a 20-minute drive from Hilo—this popular hangout is still a little feral on the edges but wins people over...more

Editors' Pick
Merriman's, Kamuela

It feels like a little place you've discovered, but many have already raved about Peter Merriman, one of 11 top chefs in the state who spearheaded the Hawaii...more

Editors' Pick
Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill, Waikoloa

In the wake of Nobu and Morimoto, fresh seafood punched up with bold Asian flavors and plated in ornamental Japanese style can sound a bit commonplace, but chef...more

Editors' Pick
Tex's Drive-In, Honokaa

It was a tiny shack that put the little town of Honokaa on the map with its irresistible malassadas (fried dough balls rolled in sugar). Now it's a factory and...more

Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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