This is part 3 of a series about Kyle's quest to find the best burgers Hawaii has to offer. Check out the other parts of ths series here.

UP NORTH ON THE BIG ISLAND

Recently, my wife and I took a long weekend getaway to the Big Island. And, though we were staying on the Kohala Coast, one of the first things we did was jump in the car and head to Tex Drive In for lunch. 

First up, no, I didn’t misspell the name of the place. It really is “Tex Drive In.” Why? No idea. Maybe it’s like “ice shave?” 

LOCATION & ATMOSPHERE

Tex Drive In is a local institution in Honokaa, which is about 50 minutes away from Hilo and an hour and eleven minutes outside of Kona. You’ll find the restaurant on Pakalana Street, right off of Hawaii Belt Road. Interestingly, the main entrance to the restaurant and parking lot is around back. You can park on the other side of the building closest to the street as we did, but you’ll need to walk through a hallway past the gift shop to get to the restaurant. 

Tex Drive In

As is implied in the name, Tex Drive In is more of a takeout kind of place. There’s limited seating inside, with more tables on a covered outdoor area overlooking the parking lot. There’s also another dining room in the back by the gift shop.  

Speaking of, although there are lots of locals at Tex, it has a bit of a touristy vibe to it. Yes, there are tourists, which isn’t a bad thing, but the gift shop and what not is a bit odd.

WHAT WE ORDERED

Tex Drive In has a really diverse menu, including loco moco, saimin, salads, burgers, wraps, dogs, local favorites, breakfast items, and their famous malasadas. Prices, by the way, are a little steep. A simple hot dog runs over $5, while a basic cheeseburger runs $7.25 and doesn’t come with any sides.

I love malasadas, so my main reason for visiting Tex is to give their malasadas a try. But, since it was noon, we decided to order lunch too. This being the Big Island, I decided to give the Gravy Cheeseburger ($7.75) a try. Mrs. Island Miler wanted something lighter and got the China Wrap ($12.55).

Tex Drive In
Gravy Cheeseburger and China Wrap

The Gravy Cheeseburger was HUGE. Interestingly, though, the thing came on a rectangular bun swimming in a shallow pool of gravy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really a fan of this burger, and the bun overpowers the beef. The patty itself has very little flavor, and the gravy added almost nothing to the dish. I was really disappointed.

Tex Drive In
Gravy cheeseburger ($7.75)

The China Wrap was equally disappointing too. In the menu, its described as chicken with plum sauce and veggies, so we were expecting something with hoisin. But, no, the sauce was some vaguely sweet-savory and not like hoisin at all. The chicken, being breast meat, was dry, and the veggies were a medley of stir-fried carrot, onion, and celery. That’s it.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better with the malasadas. I ordered a plain one ($1.30), while Mrs. Island Miler got a mango malasadas ($2.10). Both Malasadas are the same, with the exception of a filling. My problem with the malasadas, though, is they’re too bready. In fact, I thought they tasted like regular old white bread that’s been fried instead of baked and coated with sugar. Heck, I think the burger buns and the malasadas are the same thing! Only, the malasadas are fried, and the buns are baked.

Tex Drive In
The mango filling was disappointing, too, as it tastes super artificial.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really wanted to like Tex Drive In. But, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Especially since malasadas are supposed to be rich Portuguese doughnuts made with eggs, butter, and sometimes even milk. To each their own, though. If you like a breadier malasada, then you’ll like these. Otherwise, skip and head to Hilo for lunch instead.

Tex Drive In

Tex Drive In
45-690 Pakalana Street
Honokaa, HI 96727
Ph: 808-775-0598
www.texdriveinhawaii.com