There are a lot of different types of local food in Hawaii. I'll go over the most popular items that you will see on the menu in Kailua-Kona restaurants.
What is referred to as a "plate lunch" or "mixed plate" consists of 2 scoops of white rice, 1 or 2 scoops of macaroni or potato salad, sometimes it's a combination of both, and then Kalbi barbeque beef, Teriyaki Beef or Teriyaki Chicken just to name a few. You can order just one or all of the different meats to go with your rice and salad. Hence the name "mixed plate".
It would be a crime not to mention the Loco Moco, In case you're wondering just what is a Loco Moco, its two scoops of rice, topped by a hamburger patty with two fried eggs on the very top and smothered in gravy, and then one scoop of potato mac salad.
One other thing about local food, white rice comes with everything. It's like the mashed potatoes of the Pacific. The locals will most always order rice with a steak instead of a baked potato for example.
Now that you know what local food is, where can you get it in Kailua-Kona? Two places come to mind.
U-Top-ItMy favorite Kailua-Kona restaurant for breakfast and lunch is U-Top-It. They're located at 75-5799 Alii Dr. behind Lava Java. Their teriyaki beef plate is to die for, but they specialize in pan crepes. You can pick from the wide variety of toppings they have available and design your own meal, hence their name "U Top It" or you can pick from one of their specialties like "Kanak Attack" which is Portuguese sausage, spam & onions grilled in a pan crepe and topped with fried rice and two eggs.
What's interesting about this place is it's the typical "hole in the wall" out of the way place, but the food rivals any restaurant in Hawaii. U Top It is a small mom and pop operation run by Curtis and Leslie Masuda. Curtis has been a chef at some of the most famous resorts here on the big island, before setting out on his own he was at Kona Village Resort for 10 years. If you're not familiar with Kona Village, you have to be at the top of your game to work there.
Another interesting fact about this restaurant is there were two other eateries that tried to make a go of it in this location and couldn't. Just goes to show that if you have the best local food in Kona, no matter where you are people will find you. Plus they're super nice folks to boot!
Big Island GrillThe Big Island Grill is another good place for great local food in Kailua-Kona. It is run by Bruce and Maile Goold - another mom and pop operation.
Located on the corner of Hanama Place and the Kuakini Highway. it's very easy to find. The Big Island Grill tends to specialize in more main stream local food like Loco Moco's for example. They don't take reservations and there is always a line to get in. You won't leave this place hungry, the portions are very large and the prices are reasonable.
Big Island Grill is another one that took over a building where two other eateries couldn't make it. Once again proving if you have the "right stuff" in the restaurant business people will flock to you.
There are other places here that serve local food, but I like U Top It and Big Island Grill for the best local food in Kailua-Kona.