Cafe 100 is a beacon of Hilo's old diner scene. A dim beacon, perhaps, but one, if the line of patrons we saw was representative, whose light will never completely fade out. There's not much to Cafe 100. It looks like a boardwalk diner that was pushed inland a couple miles by the two tsunamis that hit Hilo last century. And the prices are so low that they seem to have come from the same era. This alone may explain the popularity of the place; however, as other Internet reviews attest, over the years many locals have clearly developed a fierce loyalty to Cafe 100's menu, which is not for the weak of heart (medically speaking, that is). Before I go on, understand that I love big, hearty breakfasts as much as anyone. But I also try not to throw my health out the window when I eat.
My wife made me come here. She was gung-ho on loco moco, the prospect of which -- the name, after all, means "crazy mucous" in Spanish -- scared the hell out of me. The reason I went along was because of Cafe 100's history. It's been around since 1946 and, as I said above, survived two tsunamis. What's more, many people support its claim as the creator of loco moco, a signature Island dish. Besides, how many times do I get to the Big Island? Not often enough, unfortunately. As expected, my wife ordered the classic loco moco -- rice, a hamburger patty drowned in gravy, and a fried egg on top -- for $1.99. She ooh-ed and aah-ed over the first bite or two, but it quickly became too much for her. Lending her my support, I nibbled on her order a little, but I suddenly flashed back thirty years to the hamburger lunches I sometimes ordered at my elementary school cafeteria, which I suspect sickened every student at least once. Swallowing down my soft, mushy forkful, I wished my wife good luck finishing her meal. With my fingers on her wrist to test her pulse as she ate, I went back to my own breakfast, an English muffin that hugged a huge, thin slice of ham, fried egg, and slice of American cheese, and quickly lost myself in its greasy goodness. I could have easily eaten two. I probably ought to add that Cafe 100's coffee was insanely cheap, too...and tasted like it. If your taste buds are shot, it's a great deal.
Even if you're not a fan of loco moco -- and many people are -- for $1.99 you really can't complain. If nothing else, you can eat around the hamburger, then take it home, wash it off, set it aside with a bun, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, a slice of pineapple, and whatever condiments you like, and eat it later. Two meals for $1.99? For me, that's what would make me come back for loco moco. I'm sure Cafe 100 diehards would love to punch me in the face for saying these things, but maybe they'll take solace in the fact that I loved the Big Island's best-known pancake house.
Cafe 100 does have a fairly wide-ranging menu, and customers can order various mixed plate lunches that come with generous portions and sides of macaroni or potato salad, one or two scoops of rice, and even kim chee. If you really want to try loco moco, I might recommend other places. Although it's a signature Island dish, there's a lot of variety in loco moco recipes, and if you're hungry, there's sure to be one to satisfy you.
Cafe 100 is located at 969 Kilauea Avenue in Hilo. Call (808) 935-8683 or (808) 935-6368 for takeout orders and catering. Cash only.
Sunday-Thursday: 6 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 6 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.