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I don't really consider myself to be a foodie, but the food in Hilo is SO good that it's one of the things I most look forward to every time I visit. I've been to the major Hawaiian islands and have had great food on all of them, but Hilo is definitely in a league of it's own.
Hilo is the rainiest city in the US, which provides a natural buffer against tourism. If you're going to book a weeklong vacation in advance, you might not want to choose somewhere where it may rain for several of those days. But this same rain, along with the size and geography of the Big Island, means that just about everything can be grown or raised right on the island.
In general the food in Hilo is defined by extremely high quality (usually local) ingredients, and chefs who are obsessive about making great food. Here are some of my favorite places.
Poke Market is so good that my friends and I literally go here every single day for lunch, except for Sundays when they're closed. Sometimes we get two bowls on Saturday so that we can have it on Sunday too. The owner, Ernie, was a chef at Nobu, and he brought that level of refinement to Poke. The fish is perfectly cut, and his sauces and sides are incredible. I always get the "Rainbowl" which is a little bit of everything. It's so good that as soon as I finish my bowl I always consider going back to get another (and I've actually done that a few times).
I also go to Kula Shave Ice every single day. Unlike normal shave ice, which uses gross artificial syrups, Kula uses local organic fruit to make theirs. The ice is perfectly shaved and all of the toppings are amazing too. I always get two flavors with coconut haupia cream on top. The lilikoi and lime are probably my favorite flavors, but they're all great so I get something different every day. The owner, Tiffany, also makes homemade ice cream which is sometimes available and is also amazing. I get mine with light syrup, which sometimes leaves some unflavored patches inside but makes it much less sweet when it's all melted at the end.
Mohala's is usually the first place I go for dinner, and most likely to be repeated if I'm there for long enough. That's saying a lot because it's also probably the least healthy place I go, so I'm biased against it. They deep fry fresh fish and it's essentially the perfect fish and chips. The variety changes every day, but all of their fish are great. I didn't get ahi for a long time because I thought it might be dry like canned tuna, but it's actually the best one. Portions here are enormous, which is almost too bad because the fried smoked mozzarella is the best fried cheese I've ever had but I just can't eat more than their normal fish portion.
Pineapples is the most touristy looking restaurant in Hilo, which still doesn't make it all that touristy, but it was enough for me to avoid it for a long time. I finally went with my brother, and after that he wanted to eat there every single night. Not everything is excellent, but most items are. The Local Plate, Kalbi Ribs, Kabocha Curry, and Skirt Steak are all perfect tens for me. The desserts are too sweet and the coconut crusted fish wasn't very good, but everything else is great.
You wouldn't guess that the best sushi I've ever had would be from a random guy selling it out of his mom's house where he lives... but it is. To get the sushi you have to DM him on instagram and then go pick up your plastic platter of sushi at a specific time from his driveway. My friends ordered it and I was too skeptical to join in, but I tried a few of their pieces and was so blown away that I ordered my own on the next trip. It's expensive (~$100/person) but there's zero filler and you get a lot of sushi. He even does weird innovative stuff like dry age toro and put it into nigiri.
This bakery is really hit or miss. The cookies, which you'd think would be pretty easy to make good, are pretty mediocre. However-- their cream pies are as good as a cream pie could possibly be. They make lilikoi (passionfruit), key lime, and coconut. The lilikoi is my go-to pie, but the others are equally good.
Mom's is a new Japanese place and I've only been once but I thought it was excellent. I haven't eaten enough there to make specific recommendations, but I look forward to going back and trying more. The best thing I had so far was the Ahi carpaccio. I sat at the bar and watched the chefs prepare the food and you could tell that they really cared about making it great.
I'd give the average burger at Hilo Burger Joint an 8, but the Green Chile Burger is a 10. You can substitute salad for fries to make it healthier and they're open late.
This restaurant looks so generic and boring from the outside that I didn't go for years, assuming that it was an overpriced tourist trap. I finally went (after spending so much money on food in Maui that the sticker shock had disappeared) and was very pleasantly surprised. I got the seafood plate that had two of the best shrimp I've ever eaten, a crab cake, grilled fish, and mashed okinawan sweet potato, all over a Thai coconut cream sauce. It's a little bit expensive for what you get compared to other places, but I still look forward to going back.
This tiny Mochi spot always has a line. I've eaten most of their flavors (mainly because I didn't realize how huge they would be the first time I ordered a dozen), and I honestly find most pretty lackluster. However, there are three flavors that are SO good that I go every time I visit Hilo. The best is the strawberry shortcake mochi, butter mochi is a close second, and the seasonal pumpkin pie mochi is really good too. You can't leave Hawaii with fresh fruit, so butter mochi is the only one you can bring back to your friends.
In Japan, where this chain is based, Tetsumen would merely be average or slightly above. Outside of Japan, though, it's as good as it gets. Everything I've ever ordered there has been great, and a big bowl of ramen is the perfect escape from the inevitable rainy day in Hilo.
This new Lebanese food truck turned a parking lot into a fairly delightful place to eat. I've tried a bunch of their pitas and plates and all of them were excellent. I really like the kebab plate because you get to try so many different things and you get a lot of pickled vegetables.
Hilo is really an awesome place to visit. It really shocked me just how good the food was, especially considering what a small sleepy town it is. If you get the chance to visit, let me know what you think of the places I listed here.
Photo is a picture of the Rainbowl from Poke Market
Tea Time with Tynan #5 is coming Sunday at 10am PST! In case you haven't been before, I do a live stream where I answer questions and tell stories. The readers who show up are awesome and we can all chat together.
By strange coincidence, I know a lot of people starting restaurants. Some are friends, some are family members, and some I've just gotten to know because I eat at their restaurants all the time. One is a world class chocolate company, another is a pizza place, another is a shave ice stand, and another is a sushi chef.
They all have two things in common. First is that they are absolutely world class. I travel enough and eat enough food that I know what's good and what isn't, and all of them are literally as good as it gets within their field. The second thing that they all have in common is that they didn't have backgrounds in food.
Once or twice is a fluke, but to see so many world class food companies start from inexperienced people really got me thinking.
I noticed that they all had the exact same approach. They all sourced the very best ingredients possible. The shave ice is all organic fruit and sugar, with no flavors or dyes. The pizza place cold-called the most famous meat supplier and got them to make them a special pepperoni blend. The sushi chef, who operates out of his mom's house, flies in the best ingredients from around the world.
We're all looking for the next thing that we should be doing or paying attention to. Maybe that's even part of why you read this blog. This is a good pursuit of course, but it often seems to me that people don't spend enough time figuring out what they shouldn't be paying attention to. I find that most people actually know what they should be doing, but they cram their lives so full of so much other stuff that they bury the needle within the haystack.
It's important to create a very strong filter, one that catches 99% of the stuff that you're exposed to, especially the useless stuff that masquerades as important stuff.
You need to know what you want to come out of the end of the filter. It's not enough to think about what's "bad", but rather you must know what matters to you. For me it's quality time with friends and family and trying to do and learn about stuff that others don't (so that I can bring it to you and my friends in a usable way). You could pick apart my life and find some other stuff too, but the vast majority of what I do is aimed towards those goals.
When you encounter something vying for your attention, ask if it is aligned with what you want to come out of your filter and whether it is actionable or not. If it meets these two criteria, go for it. If not, ignore it and move on. If you find that you are frequently filtering something out that you wish you didn't have to filter out, that may mean that you need to change to a different filter, maybe because you're at a different place in your life.
In just about any way I can think of, I have an amazing life. But of all of the aspects of my life that bring me happiness, the most important one is the relationships I have with my friends and family. This is probably true for almost everyone, but it's odd to me how most people will manage their financial life meticulously but manage their social life haphazardly. Most people should invest more in friendships.
Just like financial investments, you want to choose your investments wisely. If you diligently save your money but invest it in random penny stocks, you won't get much of a return. If you invest your time and effort into the wrong people, you won't end up with the social group that you want.
It's easy to say yes to an invitation to a party or to hang out, but it's important to remember that you have limited time and limited focus. Even if you have nothing else going on today and you decide to spend time with someone you're not crazy about, you may be less motivated to seek out a friend the next day.
A good rule of thumb is to think about whether you are interested in deepening a friendship. If you are, you should spend time with that person. If you're not, you shouldn't. If you're not sure, you might as well hang out with them once or twice more to figure it out. The upside of a great friendship is high enough that it's worth taking the risk.
I used to say that Vegas was the best place in the US to live (with a few caveats), as long as you didn't have to be here the whole year and could travel. And then 2020 came, I couldn't travel, and I was stuck here for the entire year. To my surprise, I love the city even more and am even more convinced it's the place to be.
When people ask why I like Vegas, the first thing that comes to my mind is that it has the highest quality of life and the lowest friction of any city I've been to. In other words, there is a huge range of great stuff to do and experience here, and all of it is very easily accessible, so you actually do it.
There is no traffic, you can park anywhere (usually for free), and almost everything that isn't on the strip is reasonably priced. Because of the city's unique geography and surplus of space, there are things you can do here that you just can't do in most cities this size.
When we moved from an apartment to a house recently, I saw it as an opportunity to explore energy efficiency. I knew that switching to more efficient alternatives usually doesn't pay off for a period of time, so I figured we should start immediately and reap the benefits for as long as possible.
I was very surprised to learn just how quickly some things pay for themselves and how much of a no-brainer certain things are. The government as well as local utilities also have a bunch of rebates, making things an ever better deal. Here is some of what I've learned
Solar in Las Vegas is a complete no-brainer as the city has more hours of sunshine per year than any other major city in the US. The payback period varies, but it's around 7 years. However, panels do add some value to your house for resale, so the payback period is shorter than that in reality.
I'm a white male who was born into a loving and smart middle class family with a big support network of extended family. My family prioritized good schools, even when it was a financial stretch to afford them, and as a result I had the opportunity to be around great teachers, all of whom I remember to this day, as well as peers with similar situations. I may not exactly be the poster boy of privilege, but I'm probably not that far off either.
Everything I write comes from this privileged background. There's absolutely nothing I can do about that, since it is my reality. Several people brought up privilege in my recent survey, though, so I wanted to address it and also share what I think are some productive ways to think about it.
First, I think that privilege is a great thing. My grandparents grew up dirt poor (and first generation immigrants on one side), and through two generations they were able to get where we are today. America (and the world) had MORE problems then, but even so, that sort of mobility was possible. (And yes, I understand that there are some key things that are worse today).
When thinking about privilege I think we should focus on how to get more privilege to people who don't have it rather than demonizing those who do. For example, billionaires are very unpopular these days, but I love them. My life has unambiguously become better due to many of the billionaires. Rather than pick at their faults, which they all certainly have, we should be focusing on how we can create an easier path for less privileged people to get to that same level.
Everyone always asks me for more posts about buying property with friends, but I never really knew what they wanted to know. Last week on my new YouTube Live show, Tea Time with Tynan, I asked people for their questions about buying property with friends. People asked some great questions, so I figured I'd collect the best of them and answer them here as well.
How do you choose where to buy a place?
The way we've chosen each place has been different. We chose the island because we desperately wanted to buy an island, and the Halifax, Canada area was the only place to buy a cheap island that looked good and was accessible. In retrospect I think we got really lucky here, because Halifax is great. Budapest was chosen because I went there a couple times and loved it. It was the first place in Europe that I really wanted to get to know on a deeper level. Its central location also made it an easy sell as a European home base. Hawaii came when we realized that all of our properties were better suited for the summer than the winter, so we started looking for tropical places. I originally chose San Juan, Puerto Rico, but after visiting it again I wasn't convinced it was a slam dunk. Japan has been on the list forever as it's the one place that all of my friends and I keep going back to year after year. The only reason it was the last one purchased was because it was so hard to find a good place.
Within each city (island excluded), we try to buy as centrally as possible. Budapest and Hilo (Hawaii) are right downtown. Tokyo is 4 minutes from a station that servers two major subway lines, and a 15 minute walk to Shinjuku.
One of the best compliments I ever received was when a friend told me that I was a leader of leaders. He was also a leader, so it meant a lot coming from him. I've had this topic on my "to write" list for years now, but every time I attempt to write it I'm worried that it will come off as conceited. So first, a disclaimer.
This post does not mean that I think I am THE leader of my friends. I think that most or all of my friends are leaders and that we all take turns leading or lead simultaneously in different ways. So this post is just as much from the perspective of leading friends as it is from the perspective of being led by friends.
When I talk about leading, I am mostly talking about serving. I've led my friends on many trips around the world, I've orchestrated a lot of group property purchases, and I've gotten many of my friends into things like tea, living in RVs, crypto, my style of personal finance, etc. I like to go off and figure something out that can benefit everyone, and then bring it back to the group and guide them through it. And, of course, my friends have also done the same for me countless times. My friend Nick got me into art, it was my friend Todd's idea to travel minimally (I wanted to get a huge backpack at first!), and my friend Jesse led me to love tea.
The biggest difference in leading leaders is that they don't need you. If you do a poor job leading or lead them astray, they'll just go off on their own and figure it out. For this reason, trust is the most important factor. A leader will not follow someone that they don't trust. For example, what's the point of friends following me on a 1 week trip around Japan if they think I might waste their time and they could have just gone and done their own trip? If I tell them that I've discovered a better way to manage finances, but they don't trust that I've actually done enough research, they'd be better off figuring out it out themselves.
Wow! Almost 300 people replied to the survey, most pretty thoroughly, and gave me tons to think about. I'll be digesting and acting on the feedback for a long time, but I wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways that I think readers will be most interested in.
First of all, I won't be taking a break from blogging. I was feeling a bit burnt out on it, but having read everything that you sent me totally reinvigorated my drive to blog. It reminded me of both who I'm writing for and why I'm writing. I have about ten posts ideas that I'm now very excited to write, and I'm excited about the people who will be reading them.
Maybe the biggest thing I learned was the importance of community. I built Sett from the ground up specifically because I wanted more connection with my audience, but over time the spammers became relentless and I just didn't want to spend my life fighting spammers, so I shut comments and the community section down. Many people said that they missed the community and comments, and many said that they wished they could connect more with other readers. At my live events people consistently rave about the other people they meet.
I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do, but I will create a subreddit, discord, slack, facebook group, or forum for everyone to meet in. It will either be free or very cheap and may be invite only. I'm going to think more about the best format and how to implement it, because my goal is for it to be a perpetual thing. If anyone has experience and strong suggestions, please get in touch.