Since Terri, our on-the-go flight attendant, was back in town from her worldly travels, Mei suggested Kona Inn’s fabulous oceanfront view as a place to meet for lunch. Located in the Kona Inn Shopping Village, this popular venue is ideally situated on the ocean, next door to the Hulihe’e Palace and across from Mokuaikaua Church – two beautifully maintained historical centerpieces of Kailua Village. Unfortunately, the Kona Inn Shopping Village is shabby and rundown in appearance and in need of serious maintenance, or at least paint and replacement of missing roof shingles. Understandably, with the sagging economy, costs run high, especially with tenants vacating leases like their house is on fire.
However, the owners have also enjoyed many good years and did little (in my view) to improve the appearance of the property at that time. Walking through the mall on my way to Kona Inn Restaurant, I passed a taped off corridor that led to the former entrance of Fisherman’s Landing – long ago a premier restaurant in town. I don’t think that anything has been done in the way of improvements, and it appears to be unsafe for foot traffic. I took some photos, but decided not to post them here as it may affect the upbeat disposition of the lunch review.
Upon entering the rotunda which houses a display of assorted taxidermied behemoths caught in Big Island waters at one time or another along with Hobie Shop’s display of historical surfboards, I made a mental note to myself to bring my extension-handled duster on my next visit in order to tickle the scary looking trophies hanging high above us.
Seated on the lanai, just below the restaurant’s bar afforded us a wonderful view of Kailua Bay, complete with cruise ship anchored just offshore, assorted fishing vessels, and the relaxing sounds of breaking surf beyond the rock wall. I could have easily taken my lunch over to the grassy lawn, spread out a lauhala mat, and napped under the palm tree – every touristas dream, right?
I recognized our perky waitress as someone I’d seen around Kona a few times – a phenomenon of living in a small town. Whenever you enjoy a meal at a local restaurant, you will undoubtedly recognize the staff as either a friend, neighbor, or a longtime resident. While waiting for our orders to be taken, Terri noticed something quirky about the saltshaker – that it contained more rice kernels than salt. This seems to be a common solution of most local eateries to combat the effects of humidity on susceptible condiments.
We started off with either iced tea or an Arnold Palmer, which is iced tea with lemonade – quite refreshing. Our waitress – sorry but I did not get her name – recited her mantra of “ahi and marlin fresh catch of the day”. Mei suggested the calamari, which she says is the best anywhere because it is tender and moist, even though it is fried. Sue, who was in from Seattle for a bit to visit her grandbaby and daughter (and us, of course), agreed with her and ordered the Caesar salad with Calamari strips for $12.95.
Mei settled on the Calamari appetizer which is served with two dipping sauces for $7.95. Always minding her figure so that she can shimmy into those hot looking Jam’s World outfits that she manages to always find on sale somewhere, Mei claimed that the appetizer portion was “just right”. Both gals raved about the tenderness and flavor, noting that most other restaurants serve the squid “rings” rather than the steak.
Without needing a lookie at the menu, Terri, a hard-core fish-n-chips enthusiast, purchased – what else – Fish and Chips! Our pleasant waitress offered that the mahi used was not fresh-catch, but as everyone who lives in Hawaii knows, mahimahi is one of the few fish that can be frozen successfully and still retain it’s texture and taste. For $13.95, Terri’s meal was accompanied by still smokin’ steak fries, tartar sauce and coleslaw. We normally offer a taste to our tablemates, however I didn’t hear any offers from the diner on my left!
Carolyn’s choice was – surprise- not Mexican or Southwestern with lots of salsa, but a “Hawaiian Chicken Sandwich” for $12.95 – a piece of boneless breast meat, marinated in a secret sauce (do all restaurants have a secret sauce??), broiled to perfection on a hamburger-style bun and blanketed with melted swiss cheese and crowned with a broiled pineapple slice. She opted for a bag of Hawaiian-style potato chips, one of three selections offered.
Last but not late, and disappointed that I could not indulge on freshly-caught blackened ono sandwich (Kona Inn’s best in my humble opinion), I spotted an item that I’d not tried there before: Tuna Melt ($9.95).
Back in the day, a tuna melt at any island coffee shop (ie: Kau Kau Corner, Coco’s, Ranch House) consisted of Coral (the brand) tuna salad made with tons of minced onions (not Maui!), sweet pickle relish and pimento, spooned onto thin slices of white bread and topped with Kraft processed cheese, then stuck under a broiler and garnished with parsley, black olives and carrot curls. Truly gourmet for the 1950’s.
Today’s Tuna Melt comprised mounds of bland tuna salad concealed with avocado slices which were thoughtfully blanketed by a blancmange of melted cheddar cheese, all perched on (thankfully) toasted English muffins. I know that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it was actually quite delicious. And what made it even better was the scoop of house-made potato salad. That is Kona Inn’s little secret weapon – and they do a nice job with it!
When it’s all said and done, you cannot go wrong with lunch or sunset dinner on the patio at Kona Inn (808-329-4455). The view alone is worth the trouble of finding that free parking space behind Uncle Billy’s and walking through town to get here. The ambiance is unhurried and very relaxing. Our server did try to sell us the ten-foot tall (just kidding!) Mud Pie but we were content with our meals and girlfriend conversation. Some of the Babes made the decision to have crepes on Sunday at Peaberry & Galette (a future review!) and take in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”.
As mentioned in my last bloglett, I sauntered over to the loo for a visit, which turned out to be a bit embarrassing! The two stalls were occupied, so I took a snapshot of the sink and trash receptacle; the only view possible in the small bathroom. I had to use a flash, which seemed to bounce off the mirror and fill the room with an unbelievable glow, albeit momentary. A woman exited her cubicle and gave me such a strange look as I quickly took her place to hide behind the stall door. I can’t imagine what went through her mind – but I promise, lady, that I am not a perv, and am just trying to present our readers with pertinent information about a possible place to dine! The other person never did leave her stall, and probably wondered just what the *^%# was out there waiting for her….