Lava Rock Cafe & Its American Faves

Comfy eatery at gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The Big Island of Hawaii provides more national park with less gateway community than you find at most major mainland national parks. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a compelling natural wonder — most dramatically two active volcanoes that are reshaping the land, not in geologic time but before our eyes. The park draws more than 1.3 million visitors. With the current closure of the Volcano House, hotel and food service, in the park itself places to eat are limited. That means visitors spending a day in the park to hike on their own or following a naturalist, or just gaze at the volcanic wonders have to leave the park for supper and return it they wish to return after dark to see the volcanic glow in the dark.

Hawaii Forest & Trail, an outfitter specializing in excellent eco-oriented, naturalist-led backcountry tours, includes  an evening meal in Volcano. Lava Rock Cafe is one of the places they take their clients. This retro spot has ’50s-style knotty-pine paneling, simple painted walls and otherwise  minimal adornment — but not a modern minimalist look. A group of us sat down at a long table and ordered from a menu heavy on dishes popular throughout the US and some particular to Hawaii. You won’t find culinary magic in this familiar-feeling spot, whether or not we have ever been there before. It serves decent affordable food in a family-friendly and senior-friendly environment — just what people en route to or from a natural park are often looking for. The wine and beer selection, and the dessert choices too, are limited. I got the impression that it built its menu to appeal primarily to people in a hurry to eat both on the front end when they  arrive hungry and when they are ready to leave and get back to nature’s show in the park.

Lava Rock Cafe is a no-frills eatery serving no-frills fare.

I’m not captioning every one of the images below. They are pretty self-explanatory: salads, sandwiches, entrees including ribs and ribs-plus combos with a choice of rice, various kinfs of potatoes. Cole slaw comes with some items, mixed veggies with others.

Price check: Appeterizers, soups and salads, $4.25-$9.95; “mini meals,” $4.25-%10.50; burgers, $8.95-$10.50; entrees, $11.95-$16.95; desserts, $4.95-$5.50.

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