Nestled in Honokaa, in a quiet area on Hawaii’s North Shore, the unassuming Tex Drive-In can be easy to miss. Yet, somehow, they’ve been thriving since 1969. Word of mouth keeps tourists and locals alike trekking to the restaurant from all corners of the Big Island. Once we stopped in, we instantly understood why. One word: malasadas.
For the uninitiated, malasadas are a Hawaiian dessert staple with Portuguese roots. More or less, they are fluffy, square donuts, minus the hole. They are typically served warm and coated in sugar, or stuffed with a variety of fillings. There’s a lot of variation in size and flavors – it seems like every malasada outpost in Hawaii has their signature recipe – but they’re all fried, sweet, and oh, so tasty.
Driving up to Tex Drive-In, you wouldn’t necessarily expect the deliciousness waiting for you inside. The simple green building is unremarkable and starting to show its age. Out front is a covered patio with tables and chairs, and a window where you can place your order. There’s also a drive-through, which is especially convenient if you don’t want to unload little ones from the car.
The inside features simple tables and benches, a small gift shop, and a counter. The coolest thing inside, if we do say so ourselves, is the glass-enclosed bakery. Here, you can watch bakers making hot, fresh malasadas as you wait for your order to be ready.
Tex Drive-In does offer a full breakfast and lunch menu, including egg and meat platters, omelets, pancakes, French toast, salads, burgers, Hawaiian lunch plates, and several types of loco moco. We’ll be honest, though, the real draw is the malasadas. They offer several different filling options, and they’re all delectable.
Here are a few things we think are worth trying when you stop into Tex Drive-In:
Yes, we know we’ve possibly gone off the deep end praising these malasadas, but once you try them, we think you’ll get it. Our favorite flavor is the haupia filled. This creamy, coconut filling is just the right blend of silky, sweet, and decadent. Combined with the crispy, fluffy, and absolutely huge malasada, every bite packs a flavorful punch. We can’t recommend this enough.
Mahi Loco Moco
Tex offers several creative spins on the traditional loco moco. We liked this one, featuring mahi-mahi instead of the more common hamburger variation. The Mahi was light and fresh, and the rice and gravy complimented it well.
Another popular Hawaiian food, musubi is usually spam and teriyaki sauce on a block of ice, held together by nori. Here, they serve a sandwich-style musubi, meaning the spam is layered in between two rice blocks. It’s a little non-traditional, and might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we liked the variation.
Overall, we found the food menu to be serviceable, but the malasadas to be exceptional. Whatever you order, don’t leave without trying a malasada… or several. We think you’ll become a fan as fast as we did!
-The location is somewhat remote, especially if you’re coming from another part of the island. It might be best to schedule a stop here on a day you’re already out and about exploring, so the drive doesn’t feel quite as long.
-Because the malasadas are made fresh, there’s often a line. Be sure to give yourself a minimum of 20 minutes from ordering to receive your food.