Max holds up a tray full of tofu sandwiches at Bale resturant in Kona for a cameraphone photo by me. We were actually teasing Maile who has been dying for a tofu sandwich while in Dalian, China. Max said, “Why doesn’t she just make her own?” I explained the difficulty of obtaining all the correct ingredients when you don’t speak Chinese in order to buy the parts. It’ll be up to Max to supply her with the recipe anyway. These sandwiches are yummy as many vegetarians in town can tell you, they’re hooked. Besides her cravings for Bale tofu sandwiches Maile also said she can’t find refried beans there. So I guess she’s going through Mexican food withdrawal too.
Bale is a chain of very popular Vietnamese restaurants in Hawaii that show the French colonial influences of fresh baked rolls and croissants. But they also have such things as Pho (pronounced like “Fah”) which is a popular Vietnamese soup, green papaya salads but they also cater to local flavors with Korean style Kal-Bi shortribs, teriyaki and other plate lunches along with a myriad of tapioca desserts. Their tapioca is excellent and you might be able to have a different one each day, from my not-so-good memory: taro, pineapple, mango, papaya, chocolate, vanilla and probably more. If Max reads this he can comment and correct the list. Not that you’ll always find all flavors in as the favorites sell out early.
Kona still isn’t the big city with a huge selection of places to eat, it’s no Honolulu, but things have gotten better and worse through the years. We’ve got a spate of Thai food places now though I do have my favorites. We have a few Mexican food places, some authenic enough to have a big following amongst the local Hispanic community, Tacos El Unico comes to mind, is it any wonder why Taco Bell closed their dinning room and only allows drive through service? You can also get surfer tacos at places like Killer Tacos or Tako Taco in Waimea. I’m still trying to convince my cousin to have his in-laws open a Garcia’s in Kona, the Garcia family owns at least five of their family restaurants in Albuquerque, New Mexico and they’re all popular and packed. We also have a bunch of plate lunch joints but coming from the plate lunch capital of the world, Honolulu, I haven’t really found plates to compare.
If you want to open an eatery in Kona here’s where we’re lacking:
- A good, local style Japanese resturant – people keep telling me to get my family to open a Sekiya’s Restaurant here. Even Fred Duerr the GM at Kona Village Resort says he loves the potato/macaroni salad there…the secret is lots of Best Foods mayonaise and super big macaroni.
- A good Greek resturant – We had a couple of good ones, but they either didin’t stay in business or got transformed into something unusual…”oh, you’d like some pita bread with that hummus?” our waitress told us once.
- A Zippy’s resturant with Napolean’s Bakery open 24/7 – There aren’t many places to eat when you’ve got the late night munchies. Plus where do those hard-working cops go to eat when they work that graveyard shift? Sure Zippy’s isn’t high cuisine, but it’s a baseline standard of plate lunches, kind of like McDonalds with hamburgers. No matter which Zippy’s you go to you can be assured that the ZipPac will taste the same at each and every one.
- A good, solid Mexican resturant that doesn’t charge an arm+leg – Didn’t I mention Garcia’s? We’ve got avocados year-round here in Kona, a perfect match.
- A real Honolulu type lunchwagon – The kind of lunchwagon where the line snakes down the block with students, construction workers, doctors and lawyers standing in the same line hoping that the curry stew doesn’t run out. Not sure where they should park it though, maybe in the WHT parking lot.
- Popeye’s Fried Chicken – Yeah, I know, why the hell am I asking for a Popeye’s? Their spicy chicken, though I’m sure fattening, is tasty and they always seem to serve fairly quickly. I must admit that I haven’t eaten at Popeye’s in ages. I’ve always said if I wanted to open a successful business I’d open a Popeye’s Fried Chicken on the Pohakuloa Training Area base on the center of the island. I passed this idea through a group of U.S. Marines and sailors training there, they said I’d be a millionaire. Hmmm…I wonder how much for a Popeye’s franchise?
- Leonard’s Bakery – Okay, this is purely for the malasadas. If you’ve grown-up eating Tex’s Drive Inn malasadas (in Honokaa and now also in Pahala) you probably like these Portugese doughnuts. If you’ve grown up on Oahu you know that Leonard’s malasadas are the bomb, accept no substitutes.
That’s it, whew. I’m probably gonna hear from Karen about this long post but all this food talk has no end. Once you start talking about food you can’t stop.