It’s out of the way, but the food at this spot in the heart of Hawi is good and the service and ambience have a Hawaiian-country flair. Creative entrées feature fresh island fish prepared several ways. The Thai-style fish, for example, combines lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, and coconut milk; it’s best washed down with a passion-fruit margarita or passion-fruit iced tea. Bamboo accents, bold local artwork, and an old unfinished wooden floor make the restaurant cozy. Local musicians entertain on Friday and Saturday night.
Tibetan parasols, strings of Christmas lights and acres of bamboo screens brighten the picturesque century-old building that houses the funky Bamboo Restaurant and Bar in tiny Hawi at the northern tip of the Big Island. The restaurant is so well known locally that diners drive an hour or more for the grilled fish ($15.95), barbecued pork ($9.95) and Thai coconut prawns ($9.95). The building, once a hotel, later a dry goods store, offers an interesting backdrop for the dining room and upstairs art gallery. Dinner prices are too high to be included in our survey ($13.95-$33.95), but lunch will fit your budget. The restaurant makes a good stop on the way to the Pololu Valley Lookout at the end of the highway.
We loved: exploring the upstairs art gallery.
Serving fresh fish and Asian specialties in a historic building, Hawaii’s self-professed “tropical saloon” is a major attraction on the island’s northern coastline. The exotic interior is a nod to nostalgia, with high wicker chairs from Waikiki’s historic Moana Hotel, works by local artists, and old Matson liner menus accenting the bamboo-lined walls. The fare, Island favorites in sophisticated presentations, is a match for all this style: imu-smoked pork quesadillas, fish prepared several ways, sesame-nori-crusted or tequila-lime shrimp, and selections of pork, beef, and chicken. There are even some local faves, such as fried noodles served vegetarian, with chicken, or with shrimp. Produce from nearby gardens and fish fresh off the chef’s own hook are among the highlights. Hawaiian music wafts through Bamboo from 6:30pm to closing on weekends.
Rachael Ray sweeps onto the Big Island of Hawaii with just $40. She starts with breakfast at Maha’s Café. Then lunches at a local favorite – Tex’s Drive-in. Its dinner at Bamboo, a casual spot, and finishes with a kona mud pie after a hula lesson.