Volcano House (Big Island, Summer 2022)


Our first afternoon and evening on the Big Island saw us eat lunch at Kona Grill House, do some grocery shopping and settle into our rental. The next morning we woke up bright and early (being on Los Angeles time) and headed out to Volcanoes National Park. It was about an hour and a half drive and we arrived shortly after the park opened. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but the park is utterly amazing. We spent the morning and afternoon walking along several trails and in between we got lunch at the Volcano House. The Volcano House is a historic hotel situated not too far from the Kilauea crater—the crater rim trail passes the restaurant in the rear—and has a restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (closing in between—check hours before going). It’s located very close to the Visitor Center. Reservations are required for dinner but lunch—at least going by our experience—is far less busy. The view can’t be beat and the food is quite creditable too.

If you do get to the restaurant before they open for lunch—as we did—you can hang out in the comfortable lobby and enjoy the view, and maybe get a cup of coffee from the counter as you wait. We were the first party seated and so had our choice of table but if you’re making a reservation see if you can get a table by the windows for a good view of the crater.

The menu is not expansive and covers many of the genres you’ll find at most restaurants on the Big Island. You can get poke—plated more fancily here than at more casual restaurants; you can get grilled pork with rice and mac salad; you can get fish or tofu with rice and mac salad; you can get a burger or fish sandwich; you can get pizza; and so on. We got a bit of each.

Despite my saying last week that we discourage our boys from eating burgers when we travel, the younger convinced us at this meal to let him have the Volcano House burger, reasoning that the name made it local. He enjoyed it. The younger—who is an aficionado of what goes by the name of Hawaiian pizza on the mainland—was thrilled to get what seemed like a version of it in a pizza topped with kalua pork and pineapple. (He was disappointed to learn that what he thinks of as Hawaiian pizza is not Hawaiian at all; and we were amused to see some of the local names for that set of toppings at a couple of places over the next two weeks.) The missus and her mother both got versions of the “Taste of Hawaii”—the missus with kalua pork, her mother with crispy tofu. Both plates came with mac salad, rice and sauteed vegetables. I got the poke stack from the appetizers section: a big pile of poke served atop and underneath slaw and seaweed salad. Everything was tasty and I thought my poke was the pick of the bunch.

For a look at the space and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it cost and what else we did at Volcanoes National Park.

With tax and tip the total came to just above $115, which was generally par for the course in Hawaii.

Chances are that if you go to the Big Island you will go to Volcanoes National Park, so you don’t need me to tell you to do that. I can recommend spending as much time as you can there. On this day we walked some easy trails before our early lunch and after walked some slightly longer trails and drove the Chain of Craters Road all the way down to the sea, stopping at many points along the way. A few days later we came back sans my mother-in-law and hiked the Kilauea Iki trail, going about 400 increasingly steep feet down the hillside, walking 3 miles across what was not-so-very long ago a lake of lava and then going back up a steep 400 feet. It was one of the highlights of our time in Hawaii. We would have all been happy spending even more time at the park, if we’d been able, and doing one of the longer hikes.

Alright, next Sunday’s Big Island meal report will involve a very informal lunch eaten on the side of the road. Before that I will have a report on Filipino dinner in St. Paul (on Tuesday) and sushi lunch in Los Angeles (on Saturday. And, of course, whisky reviews and a recipe in between.


 

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