It’s Only 20 Minutes Away
Monday Musings by Melinda M.
It’s only 20 minutes away but somehow that’s been too far for me to venture. But this Saturday, my husband and I wanted to find someplace different for lunch and that’s when I remembered the place with the glass bottle rack out front on Highway 11 that always seemed too far away: Honi Wai Cafe.
So. Cute. That was what I thought the minute I walked in. It’s a older house with one large, open room and a wall that cordons off the kitchen. Old bottles line the windowsills, notecards and other locally made knickknacks are for sale along the edges of the room, and centered on every table is a stunning and simple flower arrangement — all of which conspire to make the Honi Way Cafe kind of feel like a Bed and Breakfast without the “bed.”
It feels so much like someone’s home, in fact, that everyone who came in after us stopped in the entryway, unsure if they should enter further on their own or wait for a hostess (you enter on your own). Up at the hotel desk, I mean counter, you’ll stare wide-eyed at the chalkboard menu above, struggling to decide what to eat.
There are several delicious food and drink options to choose from. I was expecting more smoothies and acai bowl offerings because that’s what I remembered seeing on Instagram (@honiwaicafe). However, there was only one acai smoothie on a menu that was dominated by enticing sandwiches like hot pastrami, eggplant panini, a portobello burger and a Hawaiian plate. On that day, garlic shrimp was the special: a plate of 10 garlic shrimp, white rice and salad for $14.95? Say no more! The shrimp were plump, moist and garlicky. The salad was dressed just right in a tangy papaya seed dressing and the hibiscus tea we ordered had a good, iced tea flavor colored a pretty pink from the hibiscus.
My husband ordered the Greek sandwich – slices of chicken basil sausage tucked in a warm flatbread and covered in a zesty yogurt sauce (tzatziki), also accompanied by a salad. The chicken sausage wasn’t really what my mouth wanted for a “Greek” sandwich- it was expecting the traditional lamb I think – but the textures were just right.
I know a true food reviewer would go back multiple times or with a large party so she could describe as many dishes as possible, like at least the ube ice cream shake! Sorry, reader. I am not a true food reviewer (see: A Simple Breakfast Pleasure). But I can tell you that this sweet, roadside stop is worth the short(!) 20-minute drive from Hilo or on your way down from Volcano, which seems like many visitors do on their way out of the national park.
Let us know what you think about Honi Wai in the comments below and let Honi Wai know you read about them on Living Hilo Style :o)!