A Review of Big Island Grill: For those visiting Kona Town and looking for a taste of real Hawaiian comfort food for breakfast or lunch, the macadamia nut pancakes, hot noodle soups and smoked pork plate lunches. Big Island Grill are tasty ways to delve into the islands’ legendary, sometimes-strange local food.

Contemporary Hawaiian cuisine is a curious mixture of dishes from many different cultures; from Portuguese sausages to Japanese noodles to American Spam to traditional Hawaiian raw fish and taro-based staples. Popular local dishes in the islands are usually variations of some traditional or imported food slapped together with ingredients from a oftentimes vastly different cuisine, creating a culinary identity that is distinctly modern Hawaiian.

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Big Island Grill

Few other common dishes illustrate this mash-up better than the ubiquitous Hawaiian Plate Lunch. Everyday in the islands, tens of thousands of these meals are enjoyed, often packed up in cardboard takeout containers by local eateries like Big Island Grill. In its most common form, the plate includes one entree, two scoops of white rice and one scoop of macaroni salad. The pairing of noodles and rice side by side might seem to be a peculiar East-West collision by some food critics, but the locals don’t seem to mind.

Big Island Grill serves up another great example of how contemporary Hawaiian cuisine can throw seemingly incongruent ingredients together into a dish that surprisingly works: the “loco moco”. This is a mound of rice topped with a hamburger patty and fried egg, all drenched in a generous helping of brown gravy and topped with green onions. It’s a combination reportedly thought up by the owner of a handful of restaurants in the city of Hilo who lived half-a-century ago.

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For a plate lunch that resembles traditional Hawaiian food a bit more, Big Island Grill’s “kalua” pork with cabbage is a taste of the old days. Preparing this dish in old-time Hawaii involved cooking a whole pig in an underground earth oven called an “imu”, imparting a strong smoky flavor to the meat. Kalua pork is succulent and tender, similar to the barbeque pulled pork in Southern U.S. cuisine, and is one of the most common plate lunch entrees in the islands, together with chicken katsu (Japanese fried chicken), loco moco, poke (Hawaiian diced raw fish), and teriyaki beef. 

All of these plate lunch options are served up daily at Big Island Grill, in a casual no-frills atmosphere of friendly, easygoing wait staff and modern amenities. Its indoor dining area is roomy and well air-conditioned – a welcome relief for diners seeking refuge from the beating Kona sun. A colorfully painted mural of Hawaiian sea life adorns one corner of the restaurant, while a handful of glittering art installations are slung across the opposite wall. All of this makes for a comfortable, laid-back environment perfect for enjoying a tall glass of iced tea – one of the restaurant’s specialties – or a mimosa or glass of beer from Kona Brewing Company located just down the road.

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Big Island Grill Menu
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Big Island Grill Menu

How To Get There

Big Island Grill is located in downtown Kona along Kuakini Highway roughly two blocks uphill from the seaside commercial strip known as Ali’i Drive, at the corner of Hanama Place. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00am to 2:00pm with options for dine-in, takeout and delivery. Their menu can be found at https://sites.google.com/view/bigislandgrill/menu