If you are hankering for good, local-style comfort food, there’s a hidden gem in Kona that will satisfy your cravings.
Nephi’s Smoke House, tucked in the corner of Kaiwi Square on Luhia Street, opened in October and owner Nephi Agustin has been delighting diners with his family recipes.
Agustin has been cooking and smoking meat for as long as he can remember.
“Our family has been hunting all their lives,” he said. “I use old family recipes passed down.”
Agustin started in the food business straight out of high school as a dishwasher, moving up to a cook. He continued to hone his cooking skills and learned about the business aspect at the former Keauhou Beach Hotel.
After leaving the hotel, he was part of the opening team at the Regency Hualalai and Big Island Grill as well as the original Umeke’s location, providing smoked meat, lau lau and Hawaiian food.
Agustin said all of the boys on his father’s side of the family can cook, and they have been catering local gatherings throughout the years.
“Our family helped out a lot of other families with parties, weddings, funerals. We would just volunteer to help them cook, doing it all for love,” said Agustin.
“All my friends and family kept telling me to go out on my own because all my life we’ve been cooking and catering for parties,” he said. “I decided to take a chance and just do it.”
Once he found a location and, with help from family, he renovated the space to his specifications. He began by offering a simple breakfast and lunch menu including his homemade lau lau, smoked meat, smoked marlin, sweet sausage and Portuguese sausage.
He decided to rotate three- to four-item lunch offerings daily, serving up favorites such as pork and peas, chicken papaya, pork chops, pork adobo, Korean chicken and much more. Items are available ala carte and by the plate, which includes sides of rice and mac salad.
The prices are reasonable, too. A two-choice breakfast plate runs $9.95 and a two-choice lunch plate is $11.95. Smoked pork goes for $10 per pound and smoked sweet Portuguese sausage are priced at $5 each.
“We wanted it that way to make food affordable for working people,” said Agustin.
He uses social media to advertise the specials, posting on the restaurant’s Facebook page so customers know what’s available for the day.
But soon, he will be adding a set menu featuring chicken katsu, Korean chicken, chicken cutlet, roast pork, burgers and fries, sandwiches and salads along with the daily specials.
He is also expanding his breakfast menu to include omelettes and other goodies.
Catering is also offered through the establishment and pans can be ordered ahead and picked up at the restaurant.
Family is a constant theme at Nephi’s.
”My mom, sister, cousins, aunties, uncles, friends are all involved. Everybody plays a role,” he said. “This is a true family business. I couldn’t do it by myself.”
Nephi’s Smoke House is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Delivery is available from Kona International Airport to Keauhou.