Reliable, delicious and casual, with great views (kid friendly, too):
On the Rocks (http://huggosontherocks.com/): Great for lunch, happy hour and dinner. It's casual, right on the water at the South end of Alii Dr., and half of the tables are in the sand, under an awning. As I mentioned, they have live music nearly every evening, but note that they don't take reservations. Beachy feel. Great for a meal, or just drinks and appetizers.
Splasher's: It's nothing fancy, but the food (fresh fish, burgers, etc) is always fresh and reliably delicious, and the view is wonderful, and prices reasonable. The clam chowder and the fish and chips are stellar, as are the fish tacos, FYI. Upstairs, open air, right across from the ocean on Alii Dr, and great for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Nice island feel.
Kamana Kitchen: Fantastic Indian food with a great view. It's lunch specials are well-priced with large portions (dinner is a bit over-priced; lunch is best). Service is a bit slow, but the view and food are worth the wait. It's right on Alii Dr, in "Waterfront Row."
Foster's Kitchen: Lunch and Dinner. This is a relatively new place, next to the outdoor volleyball court on Alii Dr., and is upstairs above a coffee place and a few other things; closer to the south end of town, but not as far as Bongo Ben's. The view is wonderful, and there is ample space for larger groups. Very broad menu, all made from fresh ingredients. Take a look at their site for location and menu (www.fosterskitchen.com/).
Frenchman's Cafe: Just off Alii Drive, between Boss Frog's and Sunglasses Hut, up the blue sidewalk. You'll pass a tattoo parlor, a lash place and another restaurant on your left. You won't miss it. An actual French couple owns and runs this place (Flo and Gil), and it's fun for breakfast, a snack or lunch. Outstandingly beautiful (and delicious) omelettes, crepes, gallettes (i.e. savory crepes), along with croissants, quiches, and amazing coffee. Breakfast and lunch. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Mercadito Rincon: Super delicious and inexpensive Mexican food. Lunch only. It's a food stall in the International Market. The food is fresh and delicious. The ceviche tostada (we love a combo of fish and shrimp) is to die for - fresh every day - if you like ceviche that is. But everything is superb. Great for a super casual, Mexican-style low cost lunch!
Bale: In the same plaza at the KTA in downtown Kona. Vietnamese sandwiches and pho. Very casual with almost no atmosphere, but totally worth the visit every time. The food is very affordable for Kona and it's delicious (and thus the place is usually packed with locals and tourists alike). For their pho, they have a mini-menu (on some paper on the wall, behind and to the right of where you order), and this is even big enough for the appetite of Uncle Dude, so consider the mini-menu when you order. The lemongrass chicken sandwich is our number one recommended sandwich. The bread is always fresh and they do an amazing job. Take out or eat in. Just don't expect beautiful surroundings.
Rebel Kitchen: In Kealakua (South Kona). Worth the drive. Interesting burgers, sandwiches, salads and wraps, tons of local beers on tap, wine, too. All of their rolls are fresh daily. They have a curry-catsup that is to die for, and a special spicy sauce as well. Lunch or Casual Dinner.
Holy Donuts: Amazingly huge, crazy and delicious donuts, just further up the blue pathway! Think the craziest things you can think on a donut, and you've got it.
Chill'n on the Bay: This is a little beachfront bar, which also serves pretty good food. Frequented by tourists and locals alike. Open air, perfect for chilling with a drink and catching a reasonably-priced, pretty tasty meal. North end of Alii Drive, right across the street from the splash wall. Note that their menu has been changed from the one on their website (http://www.chillnhawaii.com/). They now have fish tacos, delicious wraps, poke, and a good variety of pretty tasty food.
Dan-o's Döner: In Waimea. Although listed as a "German" restaurant, this is actually the German take on Middle Eastern food, along with a whole slew of other interesting items; I am not even sure how to categorize it, since they serve such a broad range of items, but it's great for a super casual lunch when up in the Waimea area. Check out their Yelp! page for the best run-down on what they have by going here: www.yelp.com/biz/dan-os-doner-waimea
Umeke's: It's fresh poke (and some other awesome dishes) with fish straight from the docks that morning, with awesome, unique sides. There are now two locations. There is a sit-down place that is still in town (more expensive, loud and with some different food, but still good), near the public pool, and there is an in-town location, close to the Farmer's Market, which is the original - straight-forward menu and picnic tables outside, but there is really no ambience. Lunch or Dinner.
Shimaichi: Right next door to a place called Lemongrass (which is no longer recommended; the prices went up and the quality went down). Shimaichi is AWESOME, however. Super casual, super affordable, and super delicious. Tables are almost all in their screened in porch. Highly recommended for lunch or a casual dinner. Family friendly. Closed Mondays.
Hayashi's You Make the Roll: This is literally a hole in the wall place, and is up that blue alley, right off of Alii Drive, and around the bend to the left. It's hands down the best sushi you will ever have. However, like the Soup Nazi from "Seinfeld," they will close without warning to fulfill phone orders, and reopen when they have the capacity to take more. There is zero atmosphere, although there are picnic tables (some with shade) to eat at, or you can take it away and enjoy somewhere prettier. Lunch only.
Ultimate Burger: In the plaza across the street from Target, close to downtown. Organic, grass fed beef, all local fresh toppings. A step up from a typical fast-food joint, but still quite casual. Nontheless, the BEST when you are just craving a REALLY good burger. Original atmosphere, that can be loud at times. No view. Surf competitions are usually on the two TVs inside. Good fries as well. Lunch or Dinner.
Coffee (or wine or drinks for happy hour) AND "Nice" Dining with a View:
Daylight Mind Coffee Company: It's gorgeous, right next to Kamana Kitchen in Waterfront Row, right on Alii Dr. It is AMAZING for a cup of coffee (or even wine or a drink at happy hour); just order your local Kona coffee at the counter when you come in, and head upstairs to the outdoor deck, overlooking the water. It's heavenly. After 3pm, the bar is active as well upstairs. The restaurant itself is gorgeous and great for breakfast, lunch or dinner (higher end, price-wise for food). A good option for post-service dinner or reception.
The Best "Nice" Places in and around this Side of the Island are:
In addition to Daylight Mind (above):
Ulu at the Four Seasons: http://www.UluOceanGrill.com. Romantic. Food and view (right on the water, and in a GORGEOUS setting) are to die for; drinks are ridiculously expensive, but the food is AMAZING, and reasonably priced for a fine dining experience, and totally worth every penny. Dinner.
Merriman's: This is in Waimea; farm to table experience. No view; spectacular, fresh food with imagination. Excellent service. Great for a special, white table cloth kind of dinner.
Brown's Beach House: At the Fairmont Orchid. This is further north than most of the restaurants on this list, but if you are staying up in that area, it is a wonderful choice, with beautiful views and great food. It comes highly recommended by many of my couples. Dinner. http://www.fairmont.com/orchid-hawaii/dining/brownsbeachhouse/
Huggos: www.huggos.com - Waterfront, right on Alii Drive, next door to the Royal Kona. This was off my list for years, but they've recently renovated and it's just lovely now! They have an open air bar (which used to be closed in), and waterfront dining with very friendly staff and excellent food. Dinner.
Jackie Rey's: The atmosphere is on the more casual side of a table cloth restaurant. It's a great local restaurant with really solid food on the nicer (and more pricey) end. Locals and tourists alike frequent this spot for a treat night out. No view, and it can be warm inside at times. You will definitely need reservations. www.jackiereys.com/
Foster's Kitchen: (See above)
Daylight Mind Coffee Company: (See above)
Don the Beachcomber: This is in the Royal Kona Resort, which is close in to town. You can actually see it from Huggo's on the Rocks. I don't believe they have live entertainment, but the atmosphere is stunning. The food can be spectacular, although it can also occasionally leave something to be desired if you are a true foodie. (Here's their website: http://www.royalkona.com/Dining.cfm; you can pull up the dinner menu from there). Dinner.
Avoid at All Costs:
Fish Hopper. TERRIBLE food and bad service. It's always crowded with people who get trapped by their free samples on the sidewalk, and excellent view. DON'T GO.
Habeneros. The WORST and MOST EXPENSIVE Mexican food ever, anywhere. Don't waste your time or your money here.
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