Bongo Ben’s Island Cafe Restaurant Review

Bongo Ben's Island Cafe Entrance

This morning we are enjoying the Ali’i Drive front row view from Bongo Ben’s Island Cafe in downtown Kona. I ordered coffee, Leise ordered a mango smoothie. Both are tasty but not great. The cynic inside me asks if the entire meal will be this unimpressive. Having said that, the menu has so many great choices: eggs Benedict; huevos rancheros;  steak & eggs; catch of the day & eggs; loco moco; chorizo scrambled eggs; omelets with pulled pork; buttermilk or banana macadamia nut pancakes and more. It is difficult to decide what to order.

Leise is on noise overload. Between the loud music designed to create ambience and drown out the noise of the cars passing in front, the people talking over the sound of the music, the noise of the kitchen and wait staff, there is quite a cacophony which is unpleasant if you are conscious of it.

View from Bongo Ben's

I settle on the Catch of the Day and Eggs. The catch is Ahi tuna. The eggs are over easy. With fresh fruit and a biscuit it makes my meal complete. Seasoned and sliced thin, 1/4 inch, the fish is good size and served on a bed of cabbage. The flavor is good. Leise orders the breakfast burrito, loves it and says it is really good. She says that next time she will ask for potatoes added inside the burrito. She loves potato and egg breakfast burritos.

With the light breeze gently caressing your skin, the sparrows chirping all around, and the good food and drink we are enjoying ourselves.  Because of the selection of dishes and the good food we will come back again. For ambience I give Bongo Ben’s Island Cafe 3.5 out of 5 surfboards. For food quality I give 3 out of 5 surfboards. For service I give 3.5 out of 5 surfboards. Overall I give it a 3.5 surfboards.

p.s. The service rating just went up a bit. The server noticed I left the detail of my receipt and he handed it to me pointing out the the following. They have a brilliant marketing offer. On your receipt, at the top, it reads “Free short stack pancakes next day with this receipt!!!!!! With entree purchase”. I love good marketing. I love this offer. Maybe we will be back tomorrow to sample some of those other choices.

3 days later… Ok we didn’t make it the next day!

We are back to Bongo Ben’s and we are excited to see the consistency in the food and ambience. Today is Sunday morning and the place is even noisier than midweek. The skies are filled with a thick blanket of clouds with thunderheads off shore in the distance. Even though this late lazy morning looks peaceful this place is hopping and has a very busy vibe.

The coffee is good today. Since they have no organic sugar I am grateful that the coffee is good. It’s Mountain Thunder label. They have usually had consistently good coffee over the years.

Leise ordered Breakfast Burrito again. This time she chose to food combine and did not order the ham with it. She said that it was good, but not super flavorful. The potatoes lacked any spice or onions. She did say that the salsa was very flavorful though.

Breakfast Burrito

I threw health caution to the wind and ordered the Loco Moco: a bed of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, topped with 2 eggs (cooked as you like), topped with brown gravy and a biscuit on the side. The gravy is good but uninteresting beyond the fact I was expecting to be saltier. It’s good. I would order it again. But it is simply comfort food devoid of anything spectacular. I would love to taste the same dishes with organic ingredients instead of processed ingredients with limited flavor. Try adding some flair, jasmine or lavender rice. Bring in a saucier and create a signature gravy from scratch.

Loco Moco

The jams they use for the biscuits are cheap flavorless Smucker’s made with high fructose corn syrup (poison). There is so much potential here. I am sadly disappointed. I feel like I am at a noisy version of an upgraded Denny’s restaurant but with a better view (of the ocean).

For noisy ambience I give Bongo Ben’s 3.5 out of 5 surfboards. For food quality I give 3 out of 5 surfboards. For service I give 3.5 out of 5 surfboards. Overall I give it a 3 surfboards. Good to acceptable. Just not that impressive.


James Christopher

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