After visits to places like Teshima's, Suisan, and Kawamoto's, you can see there's a kind of a running theme in our visit to the Big Island. With that in mind, I just had to stop at the Manago Hotel.
The hotel was built in 1917 and is still owned by the same family. There's a real "old-time" vibe to this place.
Walking down the hallways is like journey back in time.... You wonder what stories would be told if these walls could talk.
I hadn't stopped in here since the early 90's, but it looks the same to me. Especially the somewhat ramshackle, but charming "lunch room"......yes, they call it a restaurant, but it really reminds me of a plantation lunch room....mismatched furniture and all.
There's no menu handed to you when you are seated.....you read what's being served on the peg board and order. After placing your order, the server returns with your "side dishes", which you eat family style....you serve yourself.
Today, along with the big bowl of rice, there was long rice, macaroni-potato salad, which was well chilled, and blanched and marinated bean sprouts which was sort of like namul. The Missus pretty much whacked the bean sprouts and our server brought us another plate!
The one item I always have to get here are the pork chops. The big dilemma is; whether so get it pan-fried, or smothered in gravy. Seeing that there are kids now in college who weren't even born the last time I had the pork chops here, I went for the straight-up pan fried version.
I've been told that the cooks here use cast iron pans which are....well, older than I am. That's a well-seasoned pan. The bone in chops were a bit thinner than I remembered, but the wonderful crust and simple seasoning, salt, pepper, and maybe granulated garlic was just what I wanted. The chop isn't super-tender, but it has a pleasant chew, and was really moist. Sometimes I wonder if my food memories are a snapshot which has snowballed over time, creating its own reality. I'm glad to say, in terms of flavor, this was as I remembered.
The Missus had the pan fried ahi.
Which She said was simple, but well and honestly prepared.
There's something about a good meal which puts you in a nice frame of mind. There's also that great feeling you get when an old favorite still delivers....it makes everything seem right in the world for that moment. What the Manago hotel serves is good, simple, homey, honest, food, a snapshot of a different time. In this day and age of food fads, gimmicks, slow food - fast-food, farm to table, etc, etc, etc..... There's something almost refreshing about that.
Manago Hotel 82-6155 Mamalahoa Hwy Captain Cook, HI 96704