RESTAURATEUR LISA VANN’S POPU- LAR EATERY THE FISH AND THE HOG (A.K.A. HULI SUE’S) IN HAWAI‘I ISLAND’S UPCOUNTRY WAIMEA CONTINUES THE TRADITION OF DOWN-HOME, TEXAS-STYLE BARBECUE THAT STARTED IN THIS SAME LOCATION 13 YEARS AGO.
“The initial plan was simply for a roadside, pick-up-and-go barbecue spot–but things quickly took off, and we moved on to a full, dine-in restaurant,” she says.
Prior to their move to Hawai‘i, Vann and her late husband, Chef Mark Vann of Lubbock, Texas, spent more than 20 years in Japan operating fine dining establishments, including the acclaimed Fujimama’s Tokyo. Having visited Hawai‘i for years, when the couple made the move here, they wanted to open a more casual, family-style venue.
“Recognizing the popularity of Korean and Asian barbecue here, we decided Mark’s beloved Texas-style barbecue could fill another niche, and he was thrilled to get back to his earliest culinary roots,” Vann says.
“Today, everything’s been brought up to an even higher level of excellence,” she says.
Of course, that includes the enhanced–and abundant–menu offerings, with nearly 100% of the ingredients sourced locally, as well as the charming, rustic ambiance of the space that is in perfect harmony with the Waimea Town vibe. Steeped in ranching and paniolo (cowboy) culture, this area in North Kohala lies at an elevation of more than 2,500 feet with rolling green hills and broad open spaces–perfectly suited to ranching.
It’s also home to many of the island’s foremost boutique farms committed to organic and sustainably grown fruits and vegetables, including sweet corn, tomatoes, baby greens, Brussel sprouts, Hawaiian chilies and cabbage–all featured in the restaurant’s dishes.
While the menu is undeniably skewed toward meat, Hawai‘i’s abundant variety of fish is also showcased. “We are committed to sourcing fish only from sources that use sustainable fishing practices,” Vann says. This commitment to sustainability goes beyond food sourcing, most of the restaurants furnishings–tables, chairs and more–are re-purposed, according to Vann.
Equally important to Vann is giving back to the community, a commitment that began in Japan by providing meals to the homeless and continues here, with the restaurant providing meals to senior citizen centers twice weekly.
Meanwhile, back to feeding restaurant guests–first-timers are well-advised to order the barbecue sample platter–a generous portion of ribs, house-made sausage, pulled pork and beef brisket. This sumptuous meat-lovers feast is offered with a choice of two side dishes, among them deliciously-seasoned roast- ed Brussel sprouts, grilled pineapple, coleslaw and soul-satisfying potato salad.
While you might be tempted to skip a starter, given the large entrée portions, that would be a big mistake! The cheesy jalapeño cornbread is mouthwatering: moist, flavorful and the perfect accompaniment with any one of mains. Topped with Vann’s honey candy butter, it is beyond delicious.
“The secret to our cornbread? We use creamed corn and, of course, locally sourced corn and peppers,” Vann shares.
And, if only a burger will do, the offerings here will more than satisfy with 100% beef brisket, ground daily in-house and served on homemade brioche buns.
The cozy, friendly atmosphere invites lingering … all the better to slow down, take your time and enjoy. The service staff is more than happy to pack up left-overs, encouraging you to save room for the irresistible dessert offerings!
“It’s all scratch cooking here, including our not-to-be-missed, house-made desserts,” Vann discloses.
Sinfully delicious picks include: banana cream pie, chocolate cake, liliko‘i cheesecake and coconut layer cake. Word to the wise, each slice is big enough for two-three dessert lovers to share!
The Fish and The Hog; 64-957 Mamalohoa Highway, Waimea; (808) 885-6268; fishandthehog.com