A postcard-perfect sunset, waves crashing against the rocks, live music and drinks with parasols and lots of rum. That's the vibe at Huggo's on the Rocks, an easygoing café and bar in the main tourist area of Kailua-Kona. The name tells it all: The place balances on the black volcanic rocks that jut out over Kailua Bay. On the Rocks is the little sister of Huggo's, the kind of pricey beachfront restaurant that pummels our budget. But you need not dine at the flagship restaurant when you can wiggle your toes in the sand at On the Rocks and pay half as much. The menu includes tasty pupus — the Hawaiian version of appetizers — salads, pizzas, sandwiches and desserts. Our favorites were the chopped salad ($12.95) and seafood tacos ($11.95).
We loved: the $3 well drinks, wines and domestic beers during happy hour.
Huggo's On the Rocks, 75-5828 Kahakai Road, Kailua-Kona; (808) 329-1493, http://www.huggos.com/all/rocksdefault.htm
4--QUINN'S ALMOST BY THE SEA
Under the spreading banyan tree sits Quinn's Almost by the Sea. A local favorite, Quinn's bar and fish house has a nondescript façade, a '70s-era bar and a garden patio shaded by a lush banyan with a 40-foot circumference. Quinn's is a family business; three siblings on staff make sure things run right. The crispy fried fish-and-chips plate ($11.75) draws regulars; it's so popular that the restaurant goes through about 1,000 pounds of fish a week, purchased fresh from local fishermen's boats. Many of the dinner entrees are too pricey for this list ($18.95-$24.25), but sandwiches and salads are good buys, if fish isn't your dish. Night owls note: Quinn's is open until 11 p.m.; you can order a full meal from the restaurant until 10:30 p.m.
We loved: tropical landscaping on the outdoor lanai.
We didn't love: the ambiance inside; the restaurant needs a coat of paint and updating.
Quinn's Almost by the Sea, 75-5655A Palani Road, Kailua-Kona; (808) 329-3822.
5--KONA BREWING CO.
We love this place. If it were easier to find, we'd be ecstatic. When you step into the outdoor patio at Kona Brewing Co., you feel as though you've stepped into a tropical park. Surprise: The restaurant is actually in an industrial park. The management has done a good job camouflaging it, however, and it has a fun atmosphere and good vibe — also, as befits any brewing company, some great beer. But back to food: We tried the daily special, a slice of pizza and a salad ($8) and were suitably impressed with the veggie slice and the strawberry spinach salad, which offered great flavors and hearty portions. Another fave at our table: imu pork sandwich ($10).
We loved: good beer, sizable portions and fun ambiance.
We didn't love: driving in circles trying to find it. Call first and ask for directions.
Kona Brewing Co., 75-5629 Kuakini Highway, Kailua-Kona; (808) 334-2739, http://www.konabrewingco.com
Big Island native Windy Moore left home for culinary school in San Francisco. Now she's back from the Big City with a plan to offer the best burger on the Big Island. Her upscale fast-food restaurant, Ultimate Burger, may have it. To Moore, "best" means healthful and eco-friendly, so she serves grass-fed beef and locally produced ingredients whenever possible. She also offers lots of choices with her burgers: caramelized onions, Cheddar and Gorgonzola cheese, apple-smoked bacon, jalapeños and avocado. The result is the tasty three-quarter-pound Ultimate Burger ($5.95) that fits her restaurant's motto: "Juicy fun on a bun."
We loved: being able to personalize our burgers.
Hawaii: 20 Big Island meals for less than $20
Faced with pricey restaurants, what's a budget-conscious visitor to do? Local food experts dish on the best deals for 'ono kine.'
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