More diner than cafe, the Hawaiian Style Cafe has worn booths, pies near the cashier, and syrup dispensers on every table. The menu includes diner classics, but the best of it is Hawaiian-style plate lunch and other island favorites. A separate daily menu lists poke bowls made with seasonal fish.
Hearty breakfast is a signature, primarily for the pancakes. They are enormous, nearly the size of a pizza. While they don’t have a particularly fluffy rise, they are moist and perfectly golden, with just the right amount of sweetness. Crucially, they are served with whipped butter instead of margarine. Any Hawaiian Style meal should include a stack for the table to share.
For a taste of the other two “P’s,” we get a surf and turf bowl that puts half portions of ahi poke and grilled kalbi short ribs over rice. The poke is made with tender chunks of raw ahi that are minimally dressed with a wasabi mayo, furikake seaweed, and a lonely slice of wafer-thin avocado. The kalbi is the opposite, heavily marinated and a flavor bomb. The two proteins complement each other nicely. This meat and fish is trimmed and cut into perfect bite-sized pieces. Over a bed of four full scoops of rice, this is surfer fuel.
Although it’s not advertised on the front of the menu as are grilled meats, poke, and pancakes, Hawaiian noodle soup — saimin — is exceptional, one of the best we’ve had. Chewy, raggedy egg noodles carry a good amount of broth up with them when you slurp. The broth, in the typical manner of saimin, is mild and slightly fishy, but it gets intensified when you add the recommended dose of shoyu (soy sauce) and Japanese mustard (they call it wasabi, but it certainly isn’t). Like all the food here, a bowl of saimin is enormous, but not overly dressed. A few pieces of bok choi, fish cake, and char-sui pork are all that are required to turn the noodles into a meal.
In the manner of a diner, the menu has a little bit of everything, but what makes this place famous is that everything is good … and enormous. Every plate that comes out from the kitchen turns heads. There are a couple of of locations on the Big Island, and also one in Tokyo. We trekked out to the Hilo location, which is oddly placed in an industrial park.