I'm lucky to have a job that allows me to travel to almost all the other islands in the Hawaiian chain. While I go there for work, I do make sure that I make efficient use of my time to know where to eat and make sure it's worth the time and calories (believe it or not, I'm trying to lose weight).
Today, I found myself in Kealakekua, better known to foodies as Kona Coffee Central. For me, being in Kealakekua means only two things (work notwithstanding), coffee and pork chops. Today, I want to introduce some of you to the humble yet fabulous Manago Hotel.
A landmark in this area, it was once a small overnight truck stop for truckers making the trip from Hilo to Kona hauling goods and assorted items. Today, it's a small inn that has about 28 budget, no-frills rooms and one spectacular restaurant. The restaurant here, in my opinion, is what keeps this place afloat. It's always bustling with locals with the occasional tourist on their way back from kayaking in the bay. And while they have a pretty standard greasy spoon menu, any local foodie worth mentioning will tell you that there is only one thing you come here for, the pork chops.
In a throwback to days gone by every order of lunch comes with unlimited bowls of rice, veggies of the day, mac salads, and seaweed salads of the day. Today, I was lucky to get a particularly delicious ogo salad, tossed with Maui onions and grape tomatoes. So delectable was the seaweed salad that I asked for a second serving before my pork chops even arrived at the table. What's I found amazing is that at $7/lb the salad is thrown in with all the other sides at no extra cost and you can eat as much as you like.
As usual, I ordered the locally renowned pork chops. At $9.25 you get two chops (about 4-6 oz each), pan fried with a little salt and pepper. Today I also opted to get a side of grilled onions and a boat of brown gravy, which I ended up not needing because it camouflaged the taste of the pork too much. What makes the pork chops so great is that the owners of the hotel are also owners of a pig farm on the island and therefore use their own product to supply to the restaurant. This does not happen very often in Hawaii.
While this is not a place that I can go to all the time, I am always grateful for the opportunity to eat here. To me, the food is very reminiscent of the food my Grandmother used to serve me back in the mid-70's (particularly the ogo salad). If you like simple, honest food and down-to-earth staff and cooks, please take the time to visit here if you can. It's worth the trip up the mountain from the tourist traps of Kailua-Kona or the posh resort living of Waikoloa.
82-6151 Mamalahoa Hwy
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Thanks for reading!!