Where to Eat in Downtown Hilo

By Katie Young Yamanaka

Downtown Hilo, Hawaii Island.  Photo: daveynin.

Whether easily spotted from Hilo’s main bayfront highway or tucked away on a nearby side street, there are lots of unique and delicious restaurant options in the downtown area that you won’t want to miss.

Cafe Pesto

Café Pesto is just doors down from the Hilo Farmers Market. The spacious, kid-friendly spot serving up Hawaii regional cuisine has an extensive menu brimming with wood-fired pizzas, calzones, soups and organic salads, as well as hearty entrée options like grass-fed beef tenderloin, seared fresh catch and seafood risotto.

Chapter 27

Open seven days a week serving food from 4:30 p.m. until midnight (the lounge stays open until 2 a.m.) Chapter 27 is the latest addition to the food scene. The tapas-style menu in this modern lounge is meant to be eaten “family style” with many Asian-inspired small plates shared between friends. Try the calamari spinach salad or garlic ginger cilantro salmon sashimi. The lounge features live entertainment from 6 to 8 p.m. and a deejay starting at 11 p.m. (216 Kamehameha Avenue).

Moon and Turtle

Open for dinner only, Moon and Turtle is a place you want to stop to eat if you’re in Hilo. The unassuming exterior facade on a downtown Hilo side street masks the inventive flavors within. Chef/owner Mark Pomaski, whose impressive resume boasts stints at Roy’s Restaurants and Nobu 57 in New York City, features a frequently changing menu inspired by the unique local cuisine of Hawaii, with an emphasis on seafood and locally-sourced ingredients. Reservations are recommended (51 Kalakaua Street).

Sweet Cane by the Bay

Sweet Cane by the Bay, the smaller sister restaurant of Sweet Cane Café (also in Hilo) utilizes fresh, local, organic ingredients to create a variety of smoothies, acai bowls, baked goods, vegetarian wraps and salads, served with your choice of taro or ‘ulu (breadfruit) fritter, goat cheese or macadamia nut spread (116 Kamehameha Avenue).

Moonstruck Patisserie

Moonstruck Patisserie offers a little bit of Europe in downtown Hilo. The Swiss, Lebanese and French-trained pasty chef offers everything from flaky pain au chocolat to quiche Florentine to cheesecakes swirled with lilikoi or infused with Bailey’s Irish cream (16 Furneaux Lane).

Loved by the Sun

If you’re craving something fresh and healthy, head a couple doors down to Loved by the Sun for their cold-pressed juices and coffee, as well as vegan and vegetarian cuisine (12 Furneaux Lane).

Saucy Dogs

Also down the lane is a fun kid-friendly option: Saucy Dogs, serving up all-beef hot dogs slathered in all sorts of toppings. Try the kalua pork, Chicago dog or “Mac Attack,” where your hot dog is piled high with house-made macaroni and cheese, and sprinkled with crispy bacon (14 Furneaux Lane).

Puka Puka Kitchen

There are a few tables inside Puka Puka Kitchen to sit and enjoy your meal, or you can grab one of their bentos to go. With fresh options like lamb, ahi or falafel pita bread sandwiches, curries and chicken katsu, this is a favorite stop for locals and visitors alike (270 Kamehameha Avenue).

Cronies Bar & Grill

Recently voted by locals in East Hawaii as the best sports bar serving up the best hamburgers in town is Cronies Bar & Grill. Great for groups, kids and sports-fan friendly, Cronies serves up a full menu of American fare — from burgers to sandwiches to salads — as well as a selection of cocktails and beer-on-tap (11 Waianuenue Avenue).

Chef Ernie Gray’s Poke Market

Chef Ernie Gray’s Poke Market is new to the downtown area and locals were excited to see him up and running with his fresh fish poke bowls. Choose from shitaki salmon, ginger sesame soy marlin, spicy ahi and more, served over rice and accompanied by chef Gray’s signature sides like lomi tomato and purple sweet potato salad (41 Waianuenue Avenue).

Big Island Juice Company

Big Island Juice Company serves up breakfast, lunch, drinks and coffee. This is the spot you head to when you want a delicious (albeit pricey) acai bowl, fruit smoothie, sandwich or a mid-day treat. You can make it as over-the-top or understated as you please (54 Waianuenue Avenue).

Jackie Reys

Jackie Reys brings continental cuisine with island flair to a beautiful spot in downtown Hilo in the Kaikodo building. Serving lunch, dinner and weekday happy hour specials at the bar, this full-service restaurant specializes in fresh seafood, steaks, pasta and salads (64 Keawe Street).

Bears’ Coffee

The quaint Bears’ Coffee is known for its fresh local coffee and all-day breakfast items including waffles and eggs benedict, but also serves up lots of lunch options from deli sandwiches to salads. (106 Keawe Street.)

Conscious Culture Café

Conscious Culture Café is known for their colorful kombuchas — an effervescent fermented green or black tea rich with probiotics, of which there are approximately a dozen on tap at any given time. Those looking for organic, raw, gluten-free or vegan options will find lots to choose from here for breakfast, lunch and dinner (110 Keawe Street).

Ocean Sushi

If you craving sushi, head to Ocean Sushi (235 Keawe Street) for a wide variety of reasonably priced rolls, bento boxes, local favorites and other traditional Japanese fare.

Pineapples Restaurant

The open-air Pineapples Restaurant is a great lunch/dinner spot to kick-back, enjoy a cocktail, watch a game at the bar and enjoy live music in the evenings. Their menu serves up everything from sandwiches to soups to burgers, salads, pasta and island-inspired entrees.

Short N Sweet Bakery and Café

Short N Sweet Bakery and Café has you covered for breakfast and lunch with paninis, artisan breads and all sorts of baked goods from croissants to cookies and cakes. Pick up some homemade marshmallows in a slew of tropical flavors or enjoy Sunday brunch featuring eggs benedict, coconut custard sweet bread French toast, and smoked salmon bagels (374 Kinoole Street).

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