Hana Hou (Big Island, Summer 2022)


Back to the Big Island. We spent most of our first full day on the island at Volcanoes National Park. A few days later we went back and hiked the Kilaua Iki trail which is a loop trail that takes you down the hillside to what was once a lake of lava and is now a lake of stone, all the way across it and up the hill again. The total distance is not very impressive—just about 3.3 miles—but it’s a stunning walk as you go through tropical foliage down to the crater and then walk across a barren rocky landscape before ascending once again into tropical green. I recommend it highly. Our plan for after the hike was to grab some lunch and visit the Punalu’u black sand beach before heading back to our rental. As per Google, the closest lunch spot to Punalu’u beach was Hana Hou in Naalehu and rather than eat again at Volcano House it was there we went. Herewith a brief account of the experience.

Hana Hou bills itself as the southernmost restaurant in the United States. It may well be so, though I believe there are other contenders. I can tell you that whether for that reason or no, they are a very popular stop. There were a lot of people there that Saturday afternoon. The restaurant is closed for indoor dining and so your options are to either take the food away or eat it at one of two outdoor areas—one alongside the restaurant and green, the other in front on a repurposed parking lot. There are tables and benches with shades in both areas. There is also a seemingly autonomous take-out taco place on the side but I didn’t pay close attention to that.

Unless they’ve reopened indoor dining since we were there what you are likely to encounter is this: there is a large menu posted outside and you are expected to read it carefully and figure out what you want before you go inside (also read a smaller board of daily specials). Once inside you are expected to not hold things up. Place your order, receive a buzzer and wait outside till it goes off. Between how busy they are and the fact that they seem a bit understaffed, it was no surprise that the food took a while. But when it arrived it was tasty enough.

The menu is more or less standard issue Hawaiian cuisine plus pizza (check out the name of their take on “Hawaiian” pizza). The core of the menu is the section of “House Plates” and it is mostly from there that we ordered. We got a couple of plates of their loco moco, one with roast pork and the other with hamburger. Both featured meat over rice, doused in brown gravy and garnished with fried eggs. We also ordered the chicken teriyaki plate, adding on the optional fried shrimp. We rounded off our order with fried chicken from the specials board. Both chicken dishes came with big portions of mac salad and the fried chicken came with some nice dipping sauces. A few drinks rounded everything off.

For a look at the space and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next.

With tax and tip the total came to $103. Which is par for the course for food of this nature on the Big Island. I won’t make huge claims for that food or for Hana Hou. Neither is anything to plan an outing to. But they are well-located between Volcanoes National Park and the Kona area to the north and if you find yourself in the vicinity it’s worth a look. The food is in that Hawaiian comfort food mode and we enjoyed it all (while feeling grateful that we’d walked 3.3 miles right before eating it).

Alright, only one more formal Big Island review left to post. That’ll be next Sunday. After that it’ll be off to Kauai for a few more reports from there. Before that there’ll be another Los Angeles report on Saturday and a Twin Cities report on Tuesday. And I do hope to restart my whisky reviews again soon.


 

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