Lamb riblets at Merrimans in Waimea, big island of Hawaii

Review: Merriman’s Flagship Restaurant in Waimea

Who would expect the Best Big Island Restaurant to be located in the hills of Waimea’s cowboy country, away from Kona and Hilo? Merriman’s Flagship Restuarant in Waimea has offered authentic Hawaiian cuisine for 30 years like none other. For the last 18 years, they have earned the Gold Hale ‘Aina Award for Best Big Island Restaurant.

Located in an unassuming, bright yellow building, the marvelousness they create is anything but unassuming.

Location: 65-1227 Opelo Road, Kamuela, Hawaii (on the big island of Hawaii).

Menu: Eat, Drink and Enjoy Merriman’s! With 90% of their menu farm to table, you’ll savor the freshest, locally sourced fish, organic meats and farm-raised veggies. The lunch menu offers extensive, lighter fare, along with a daily special and a couple of bigger entrees.

For dinner, your choices are vast, with a full menu to tempt you with fresh seafood, Hawaiian Beef and local Lamb and more. The Shared Dinner meal is a perfect way to sample a variety. Four courses served family style for four or more diners.

Or, drop in for one of the best Happy Hours on the Island. Signature drinks and a variety of Pupus will have you feeling merry!

There is an extensive wine and cocktail list, along with Gluten-free and Vegan options available at all seatings.

Thoughts:  You know you are in Hawaii as the Aloha spirit abounds! When our party of five visited for lunch on a weekday, the restaurant was bustling. We had reservations and were seated quickly. We received the warm, Hawaiian hospitality we’d come to expect from previous visits. Chef Peter Merriman’s single vision is to “Do the right thing” and it spills over to all the employees. Special requests and questions are greeted with a willingness to please.

A nice touch is that most menu selections include the name of the local farm or Island (Maui Onions) the food is sourced from. You almost feel as if you are sitting in someone’s farmhouse where they have ducked out to the garden to make your meal.

For lunch, there are five very different starters, but the most irresistible is the delicious Kalua Pig & Sweet Onion Quesadilla accompanied by house-made Kim Chee and Mango Chili Sauce.

Salad greens are sourced locally so you’ll experience full Hawaiian terroir – no hydroponics here. My favorite is the Kale and Beets Salad from Hirabara Farm combining shaved Waimea sweet onion, Chévre, pineapple, and Miso-citrus vinaigrette is a beautiful and healthy choice.

On our visit, the special of the day was a Lamb Riblet plate with slaw enhanced with passion fruit and rice. It sounded so good, three of us opted for it. I expected the riblets to be small based on the server’s description and was pleasantly surprised at their meatiness. The lamb was perfectly prepared medium-rare, the way I like it, and smothered with a sticky, gooey BBQ sauce that didn’t overpower with green onions and sesame seeds.

Others chose the fresh Ono which was the Catch of the Day. There are few things more wonderful than fresh fish, cooked to perfection when the delicate taste can be enjoyed. Served over the passion-fruit slaw, rice and bright and beautiful (and tasty) vine-ripened local tomatoes, this dish was both beautiful and delicious.

Full from the scrumptious meal, we passed on the more decadent desserts, choosing instead some macadamia nut shortbread cookies.  My favorite dessert from past visits is the oh-so-wonderful Waialua Molten Chocolate Purse with vanilla bean ice cream and red Alae Hawaiian salted caramel sauce. Next time, I shall order that first!

The perfect dessert complement to end the merry meal is the Waimea Coffee with Macadamia nut liqueur, Hawaiian coffee topped with whipped cream and toasted spiced macadamia nuts.

Price Range:  Lunch Starters $3-19, salads $12-14, sandwiches $14-17, entrees $14-19 and larger entrees (more like dinner-sized) $35-39.

Dinner appetizers and soup of the day range from $9-23, salads are mostly $15 and $16 except for the Lobster Salad at $24, entrees $31 for enchiladas to $64 for lobster. A shared dinner option is $79 per person and looks fabulous. Desserts are $13-16.

Happy Hour (2-5 PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday): $5 Happy Beer, $6 Wines and $7 cocktails, Pupu selection $6-10.

Guest review bioJoeann Fossland is a freelance writer at This baby boomer, hippie chick was bitten by the travel bug decades ago and has never recovered. When not at home enjoying Fossland’s Paradise in Tucson, AZ, she spends time adventuring the world. So far visiting over 30 countries and 4 continents and she can often be found on a warm island beach with a cool boat drink in hand. As a member of ITWPA, Joeann loves sharing tips and experiences to inspire others to live their dreams.

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