We stumbled upon Merriman’s Merrimanshawaii
, the best farm to table on the Big Island, on our first trip to Hawaii. It sits in an unassuming shopping center in Waimea. We were bowled over by the flavors and have made it a must do each time we return.
The Chef – Peter Merriman
Peter Merriman is the head chef of Merriman’s the best farm to table on the Big Island. Merriman, originally from Pittsburgh, arrived on the Big Island in 1985. He started at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. Within 2 years he had been offered a position as head chef of their Gallery Restaurant. When asked what kind of food he wanted to cook, he said local cuisine. Peter was stunned to learn that there was no ready supply for local meat, fish and vegetables. Everything was shipped in. He took ads in papers and went out and met ranchers, fishermen, and farmers. He shared his ideas and told them “together we will both succeed.” Soon he had a ready supply of whatever he needed.
The Flagship Restaurant
Merriman’s the best farm to table on the Big Island opened in Waimea in 1988. We particularly love its focus on the food. The restaurant is open air with large windows down each side. I have to admit, being from Florida, I was dubious at first, but it is cool, comfortable and refreshing. The walls are covered with pictures of farms and farmers. Merriman’s dedication to locally sourced food is apparent. The staff is friendly and committed as well. We have had the same waitress our last three trips. Those trips spanned five years.
Here is where Merriman’s the best farm to table on the Big Island really shines!
The starters are light and fresh. Many are vegetable centered. No mozzarella sticks or queso and chips here. There are sesame soy sprouts from a local farm, house made kim chee, a soup of the day (in this case tomato bisque), Kaula pig and sweet onion quesadilla, or ahi poke with crushed avocado, maui onion and Molokai potato chips. Each dish is centered around and showcases a locally sourced ingredient.
The salads are creative, simple and delightful. I had the vine ripened tomatoes, avocado, arugula salad with Maytag blue cheese and spicy corn vinaigrette. It was a tough choice between that and the Big Island Chèvre, burnt pineapple, Hirabarra farms baby lettuce, and shallot vinaigrette. I enjoyed every bite of my choice and even shared a few small tastes with my husband. I will definitely try the burnt pineapple salad on our next trip. Spring Green and Caesar offerings with a Merrimen’s spin are available as well.
We were there for lunch. Main course offerings include sandwiches (fish, pork and burger) and entrees such as fish tacos served with avocado, vine ripened tomatoes, Yuzu Kosho aioli and cilantro, taro enchiladas with taro from the Waipio Valley, aged cheddar and cilantro, Bulgogi spiced Kauai Prawns with local spinach and cabbage slaw and jasmine rice, and Chinese braised short ribs with Kimchee, pineapple salsa, baby bok chow and jasmine rice. On this trip we had the prawns and the fish tacos. It was hard for me to pass up the burger made with grass fed beef from a local ranch served with housemate pickles. I had the burger on a prior trip and have not found one to beat it yet. That being said, my tacos were finger licking good. Each bite was perfectly spiced so that the fresh flavor of the fish came through. My husband loved the sweet and spicy heat of the prawns and while spinach is not his favorite vegetable, he ate every bite of his slaw. .
We are not usually dessert eaters, but Merriman’s is definitely a exception to this rule. On this occasion we had the Waialua Molten Chocolate Purse with Red Alea Hawaiian Salted Carmel Sauce and Vanilla Bean ice cream. Other offerings include Hanaoka Farms Lilikoi Mousse with Macadamia Nut Shortbread cookies. We had this on a previous visit. The empty bowl is what was left. We used remarkable restraint not to lick the bowl. On our next visit we want to try the Maui Gold Pineapple and Toasted Macadamia Nut bread pudding. Crazy to be planning a meal for a restaurant over 4500 miles from home but that is how amazing Merriman’s the best farm to table on the Big Island restaurant is.