If you visit the Big Island make a stop to have breakfast at Ken's Pancake House. Ok I think it is actually Ken's House of Pancakes. I think there are many restaurants in cities all over the world that give you a glimpse into the local culture. Ken's is one of those for Hilo and in a sense the entire Big Island. I will tell you straight away I have been to Ken's many times over the last few years and my first time was over 12 years ago. I don't think it has changed much at all. Being stuck in time is not a bad thing sometimes and it isn't for Ken's. I could handle being stuck on the same day over and over with Andie Macdowell freaking Murray has all the luck.
Ken's is a 24 hour Diner. It's a 24 hour Diner. Let me say it again it's a 24 hour diner. As American as you can get the 24 hour Diner right. Right. That is why it should be a stop for breakfast, there is something very comfortable for me to slide into a both with outdated waitresses and outdated tables and outdated coffee ( fresh coffee, from the Island which by the way happens to be Kona!). Non of it at Ken's is outdated in a bad way just different. Good Different. Outdated in like your mom or dad should not be saying words like Sic or Shiznit to be cool but that you still love them being outdated. So it is a diner and it is in Hawaii so it looks like a diner in Hawaii. The hostess staff is very quick and efficient even when they are hopping which is pretty much all the time. They usually make sure you have coffee or water to start with. Service is usually pretty quick but I have hit a few times where there is a wait. I have only once hit a grumpy waitress while here and I was semi thrown back till I figured she must have been a hold over from Mel's.
The Food: I love their "Loco Moco" a local dish that is served in a bowl. It is steamed white rice with a hamburger patty topped with brown gravy with two eggs served any style on top. That said, that is the typical or traditional style there are then as many varieties as you could possibly imagine available through out the Island and particularly at Ken's. It's great. I know to some it sounds as bad as that chicken gravy bowl with corn from Kentucky Fried Chicken but I assure you it is freaking killer. My favorite is the Corned Beef Hash Moco. Ken's make's a home made corn beef hash and 9 times out of ten that is what I order. In fact outside of the breakfast menu I can not claim to be a subject matter expert because I have not had anything outside of the breakfast menu. I have had the home made corn beef hash from Ken's in the moco, which is great and in the standard eggs and corned beef hash which is great, but the best way to have it is in their Eggs Benedict. One of the best Benedict's I have ever had. The english muffin is right, the corned beef hash is perfect and the hollandaise is spot on. They really do it well and they are consistently preparing it the same way every time. That is actually one of the other important comforts of good diners they are consistent. Ok so I digressed to the corned beef hash and I didn't finish on the Moco. One of the local favorites is a Spam moco but I couldn't go there. I am sure it's cool but not going to do it. Ken's also has Mahi, Teriyaki Beef, Chili Cheese, Pocho ( a Portuguese sausage), Kalua ( homemade pork often found at lua's), and they ever popular SUMO MOCO which is 6 scoops of rice, your choice of Spam, beef or Mahi Mahi and 3 eggs your style and of course the gravy. When unsuspecting customer's orders are up there are gong's rung and the whole restaurant servers, hostess, bus boys, cooks and even customers yell out "SUMO" and this happens at a regular clip. They even have whole t shirts dedicated to the SUMO loco.
The More Food: Ok I am still on the breakfast menu I know right. BTW loco's are kind of any time day or night type food and obviously Ken's has them 24/7. So back to breakfast Ken's has all the usual diner fair like bacon, eggs, pancakes and omelets. Two more notes need to be mentioned on breakfast for sure. The pancakes obviously it is a "House" of pancakes so you can expect great pancakes better yet they are localized. You can get several variations like coconut or banana pancakes. Surely Jack Johnson was here. I know that many of my breakfast going companions dig the coconut and banana pancakes and they have many syrups to choose from. Second the Omelets are excellent. I have to tell you up front I am a inside omelet guy. My omelets have to have all the ingredients inside the egg so the egg is cooked up and the stuff is put in the middle and then you can add sauces to the top if you like etc, but you can't cook the ingredients in the omelet. Well I was surprised and at first disappointed to find that the omelet I ordered Da' Bradah had all the ingredient embedded in the egg. I kept quiet, cause my kids don't like it when I get to bitching about food. I took a bite and I was even more surprised. It was freaking great. The egg was not overdone or dry and the ingredients where very generous ( you don't typically go hungry here, ever). It was definitely in my top omelets ever category. The menu has many choices of omelets and they are very creative and all of them I have had are "ono" Including the ON'y EASY which features, Snow Crab and Lup Cheong, a chinese sweet sausage.
The Still More Food: I really didn't get to cover the other aspects of the very extensive menu but perhaps that will be Ken's part two. I do know the burgers and fries are good and they have great nightly specials, such as Taco Tuesday... I know but here you get all you can eat Taco's. They even have an all you can eat spaghetti night on Sunday. Look them up on the web for the full gamut.
Ken's is good food at a fair price ( it is an Island and things cost a little more here and there) and the service is generally pretty quick. Ken's is a good experience, it is a diner, you really can't go wrong slipping on a little something comfortable like Ken's House of Pancakes.
A note: parking is tight but you can usually find a spot.