On the occasion of date night, it’s always worth the hour long drive to Hilo to eat at some my favorite places. In addition, I also look forward to having a date night (or lunch) in Hilo with my lovely girlfriends. In the spirit of frugality, I often suggest meeting for a ladies’ lunch at places that let you bring your own alcohol. It saves so much money to bring your own wine or sake, and if you want, it frees you up to splurge on a dessert. One of my favorite places to meet up with friends for lunch or dinner, is a Japanese restaurant in Hilo named Miyo’s. It’s a no-frills, easy-breezy environment with an open kitchen and a handful of outside tables. If you bring your own booze, they will graciously bring you teacups and something for uncorking your libations. They often have live acoustic music which is perfectly mellow and not too loud for soft conversation.
My favorite part about Miyo’s is certainly the amazing food and they are consistent with their overall presentation and quality. Service has been a little slow at times, but I imagine it has much to do with their being non-stop busy from open to close. My favorite dishes include: tempura and sashimi combination plate, broiled salmon, squid and eggplant entrée, or any of their delicious box bentos. The combination plates and entrees are all served with miso soup, a side of rice and a fresh local salad with house sesame dressing. There is definitely a good amount of bang for your buck here and all of the food has a very home style taste to it. Miyo’s is quite a popular place, so reservations should be made for both lunch and dinner, especially if you have a group of four or more.
When I’m not with the girls, one romantic place that I could eat at every night of the week, is Moon and Turtle. This place is truly a priceless little Hilo gem and my only regret is that they aren’t open for lunch. My menu faves are the absurdly delicious crispy-fried Brussel sprouts, and the smokey sashimi. The sashimi is fresh, locally caught fish served with smoked soy sauce, olive oil and Hawaiian chili pepper water. I enjoy both of these dishes served with either a Maui Brewing Co. Big Swell IPA, or I’ll order a mind-blowing espresso martini from the impressive bar. It is fun to order three or four appetizers and share them with another person, as they are often filling enough on their own without ordering an actual entrée. Be advised, that the menu is limited; but fresh, local ingredients are used and it changes with whatever is available or in-season. This establishment is a cozy little place of approximately forty seats and reservations are a must. I often try to get a table reserved for earlier in the evening as the nearby parking spaces are limited and can be harder to find on a weekend night.
If you guessed that fish is kind of a theme in the island dining scene, you’d be right, but we sure love our Big Island beef and locally grown vegetables as well. I have a special place in my heart for one of the vegetarian dishes at the classy Hilo Bay Café, made with locally grown Hamakua mushrooms. Hilo Bay Café makes a Mushroom Curry Pot Pie served with organic, local mixed greens that is a perfect bowl of heaven with it’s silky curry sauce and puff pastry top. The Kona Brewing Co. beer battered fish and chips are as equally amazing. For an appetizer, I like to indulge in the Peppered Beef Carpaccio made with fresh, grass-fed local beef and horseradish cream. It’s melts in your mouth, just like eating the finest sushi. Mmmmm. I also recommend trying the homemade lillikoi (passion fruit) iced tea or a bottle of the easy drinking Hitachino white ale. If you’d like to check out the rest of their menu and drink selection go to: http://hilobaycafe.com/
Hilo Bay Café offers a one-of-a-kind setting right on Hilo Bay. Almost every table in the house has a great view, as it sits perched atop large pillars, giving you the advantage of being elevated above the bay. The stairs leading up to the entrance may be a little daunting for those with an unsteady gait, especially on a slick, rainy day, but there is an elevator near the parking stalls for those who aren’t up to it. Although it is a fairly spacious restaurant, I would recommend making a reservation just in case, and if you go during the day, you can walk around the adjoining Queen Liliu’okalani park and check out the huge banyan trees and Japanese gardens.