We didn't love: slow preparation time.
Ultimate Burger, 74-5450 Makala Blvd., Suite E112, Kailua-Kona; (808) 329-2326
Heading for the airport? Get one last fix of teriyaki chicken or kalbi (marinated) short ribs at the Pine Tree Café, a Hawaiian-style fast-food joint near Kona International Airport. The 3-year-old, plain-Jane restaurant is devoid of character, but portions are hearty, ingredients fresh and tasty, and it offers dozens of reasonably priced choices. It's in a strip mall with a walk-up order counter, and service is fast. You can pick up souvenirs on the run at the Kona Mountain Coffee shop in the mall.
We loved: fresh, sizable portions.
We didn't love: the lack of ambiance.
Pine Tree Café, 73-4354 Mamalahoa Highway, Kailua-Kona; (808) 327-1234
8--MERRIMAN'S MARKET CAFE
Peter Merriman, one of the best-known restaurateurs on the Big Island, opened Merriman's in Waimea a couple of decades ago, and it's been winning awards ever since — including being honored 12 years in a row by Honolulu Magazine as the best Big Island restaurant. It's out of our price range, but who needs it, when we can do the next best thing and eat at Merriman's Market Cafe, a casual sister restaurant in the Kings' Shops at Waikoloa. It specializes in Mediterranean dishes. Dine on tapas (we liked the garlic-truffle fries for $5.95), salads (our favorite is strawberry, tomatoes and smoked bacon for $11.95), pastas, pizzas and meat dishes. The restaurant also has a busy bar and a nice indoor-outdoor ambiance.
We loved: the convenient location.
We didn't love: the mai tais, which were so strong we had to send them back, believe it or not.
Merriman's Market Cafe, Kings' Shops, Waikoloa; (808) 886-1760, http://www.merrimansmarketcafe.com
Tee up for an inexpensive breakfast or lunch overlooking the 18th hole of the Kings' Course at Waikoloa. The Scottish-themed Kings' Grille offers a great view of the landscaped course, with volcanic mountains rising in the distance. The menu isn't terribly varied, but breakfast and lunch staples are available: omelets, sandwiches and salads. We tried a ham, spinach and mushroom omelet ($11.25) and a loco moco, an island favorite that has white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg and brown gravy ($10.95). The prices were a far cry from the $30 brunches at nearby Waikoloa resort hotels.
We loved: watching golfers struggle to make par.
We didn't love: some of the overly salty dishes.
Kings' Grille, 800 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa; (808)886-7600, http://www.waikoloabeachgolf.com
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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