Though choices for where to eat on Moloka‘i are limited, that at least makes it easy to decide. You’re not going to find anything fancy here; laid-back, filling plate lunches and do-it-yourself picnics from the market are Moloka‘i’s culinary speed.
The biggest culinary staple on the topside of the island, Kualapu‘u Cookhouse (102 Farrington Ave., 808/567-9655, 7am-2pm Mon.-Sun., 7am-8pm Tues.-Sat., $8-11) is a plate-lunch institution where the going is easy and life moves nice and slow. Order inside at the drab counter, but go ahead and sit outside on the open-air lanai. When your food is ready, that’s when you’re going to get it. No sooner. No later. No worries. Try the chicken katsu or hamburger steak. Live Hawaiian music on Thursday evenings at 5pm fills out the area’s lone entertainment, and on Thursdays it isn’t uncommon to have a prime rib special suddenly spring on to the menu.
If the banana pancakes happen to be on the menu, don’t even hesitate. Just order them.Although the Coffees of Hawaii plantation used to have a bustling operation that included tours of the plantation and the coffee making process, all that remains now is the Coffees of Hawaii Espresso Bar (1630 Farrington Ave., 6am-5pm Mon.-Fri., 8am-8pm Sat., 9am-5pm Sun.) and the self-guided informative tour on the outdoor deck. By process of elimination this is the happening spot to grab a coffee, mocha, guava pretzel, baked item, ice cream, or any other sort of snack you could possibly be craving. The coffee here is grown right across the street, and the sprawling front porch has been known to host impromptu ukulele jam sessions among the affable island locals.
Maunaloa General Store
The good news when it comes to finding food in western Moloka‘i is that you don’t have to think hard about where you want to go. To be fair, even the Maunaloa General Store (200 Maunaloa Hwy., 808/552-2346, 9am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 9am-12pm Sun.) is a stretch in that it’s just a supermarket. With the Moloka‘i Ranch having shuttered its operations, there’s nothing on this side of the island which could be considered an actual restaurant, but if you want to put together a picnic for the beach, then the general store will more than suffice.
The only restaurant on the east end, the Mana‘e Goods & Grindz (8615 Kamehameha V Hwy aka mile marker 16 on Hwy. 450, 808/558-8498, 6:30am-4pm Mon.-Fri., 7:30am-4:30pm Sat.-Sun., $6-9) takeout window which accompanies the general store serves up everything from chicken katsu plates to freshly made fruit smoothies. If the banana pancakes happen to be on the menu, don’t even hesitate. Just order them.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.