As regular readers know, I don't write much about restaurants here at Local Foods. I couldn't possibly keep reviews updated in any reasonable way, so that's an area of local eating I tend to leave to others. For Hana Hou Cafe in Naalehu on the Big Island of Hawaii
, I need to make an exception. Not to review it, so much as tell you about it because it is the epitome of what makes local eating such a delight. It isn't on the most beaten of tourist tracks. Naalehu is a small town, a far bit south of the hub-bub (such as it is) of Kona. It's on the way to and from South Point and Green Beach and Volcano National Park, and that's how I ended up stopping there.
The Pastry Case Says It All:
The sign proclaiming that Hana Hou is the southernmost restaurant in the U.S. made me a bit nervous; I tend to care more about the quality of the food it serves than the relative location of a restaurant. One look at the pastry case as I walked in, however, assuaged all fears: gorgeous homemade pies littered the shelves. My eye was immediately drawn to the macadamia nut cream pie made with not just with beautiful custard cream filling, pillowy whipped cream, and a generous sprinkle of crushed mac nuts (as they say in local parlance) on top, but complete with a mac nut crust on the bottom. Divine.
Local Ingredients, Local Style:
We ordered off the specials board, although plenty of the regulars around us were getting giant plate lunches that looked tasty, too. My ono chowder and housemade bread, along with a beyond-fresh tossed green salad with housemade papaya seed dressing was fresh, balanced, and hearty. The chicken salad with mac nuts in a papaya half was equally good.
Local Hangout to Boot:
I left plenty of room for the mac nut pie and a cup of coffee. The pie was everything it looked like it would be, from the picture-perfect filling to the rich crust, and the coffee was as rich yet balanced as the rest of our meal. When I complimented the server on the coffee she said I had just missed the man who grew and roasted it: he came in everyday for lunch and had left moments before.
Now that I've had that pie, I would drive out of my way for it. I dislike driving enough that I'm reluctant to cause anyone to do any extra, but if you find yourself south of Kona and needing food, Hana Hou Cafe has your back.
You can learn more About Hawaii Local Foods here, and About Foods on the Bis Island here.