Moon and Turtle has small, shareable plates that balance impeccable sushi-grade seafood with humbler produce and unexpected flavor combinations. The result is a menu that’s pure Hilo, at once homey and refined, with dishes like local striped marlin smoked over a kiawe fire — Hawaii’s answer to mesquite. Or you might tuck into a classic parmesan and truffle-spiked risotto with a slight Japanese twist, thanks to the inclusion of Hamakua and Shiitake mushrooms and Koshihikari rice. Even the cocktails get the same treatment, with a take on a classic French 75 that features butterfly pea syrup.
Other Hilo restaurants take a more straightforward approach that’s directly tied to the city’s history. Cafe 100, for example, has been open since before Hawaii became a state. Named for the battalion in which founder Richard Miyashiro served in World War II, some of the current staff have been working here since the very beginning. Even two tsunamis couldn’t put a damper on their menu of island classics like pupu platters and loco moco, hearty Hawaiian dishes that have been feeding families and curing hangovers at Cafe 100 since 1946.