On the Big Island of Hawaii, tucked into a strip mall in Hilo, lies the Hilo Bay Cafe. This little paradise is only a stone throw from a Wal-Mart but should not be overlooked. We stopped in for lunch after our half hour flight from Honolulu as it was less than 10 minutes from the Hilo airport. Once inside, my eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness after being in the bright Hawaiian sun. And, I was met with a large, yet manageable, lunch crowd. Rather than wait, we opted to sit at the bar. The service was prompt, friendly and helpful.
This restaurant came highly recommended from the fine folks we stayed with. When we mentioned that we were vegetarian, this was their first, enthusiastic, suggestion. They did not steer us wrong. The menu featured several fresh vegetarian options – most featuring locally grown produce. I knew immediately that I wanted the veggie burger while the In-House Taste Tester claimed that the pot pie was “his”. I let him get his way. The menu does indicate that it takes 20 minutes to prep the pot pie as they make them from scratch.
First up was the vegetarian sweet potato flax burger with dill havarti cheese, roasted tomato, arugula and horseradish cream.
The hamakua mushroom pot pie was both modern cuisine while keeping the flavors that your grandma would put in her pot pie. It was homey and comforting with the crust maintaining a nice lightness and flakiness. And, it was huge.
Bottom line: If you make it to Hilo, and have time in between hiking a Kilauea crater, paddle boarding or snorkeling, stop by this lovely cafe for dinner or lunch. Just ignore the “lovely” strip mall surroundings as you walk up to it…
Hilo Bay Cafe
315 Makaala Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720