For about $5 you too can indulge in Kona's best snack: pretzels!
When you think about Hawaiian food, what comes to mind? Chances are, you envision beautiful fresh fish, flavorful tropical fruits, and maybe evenexquisite coffee - three of my favourite things! Hawaiian food is all of those things and much more; hand pounded poi, savory roasted breadfruit, and gooey, sugary malasadas are also on my list of Hawaiian loves. But when I'm on Hawaii's Big Island, it's a prosaic pretzel I'm after - and only one place will do.
Metal Mike's Twisted Pretzels may just be the smallest food shop in all of Hawaii. The bright yellow and turquoise wood and metal shanty is no bigger than a farmer's market stand (in fact, it might be smaller than most). It has just enough room for gourmet pretzels, sweet and savory dipping sauces, and - of course - Metal Mike himself. (In case you're wondering how such a tiny spot could possibly bake so many pretzels- they're baked off site in a professional kitchen.)
Tucked away just behind Kona's main drag of Ali'i Drive, it's easy to miss if you don't know what you're looking for. The tiny lean-to looks like it could be felled by a strong wind, but the jaunty store has a long and colorful history in the community, as an activity desk, a florist, a skateboard shop, a glassblower, and a hot dog vendor. I think this fun, varied history suits Mike perfectly, as he's a fun, varied kind of guy.
Mike's background is as a welder - and also a pinball enthusiast and a champion at X-box Battlezone! But his interest in food and especially pretzels dates back to his uncle in 1979, who had him selling pretzels for $.15 cents each (or 10 for $1!).
His passion for life and zest for good food translates perfectly to his huge pretzels. Mike's pretzels are delicious. They're soft, chewy, and crunchy in all the right spots and the flavors and dips combine perfectly. And at $4-$5, they're also one of the best deals on the island. They make the perfect light lunch or hearty snack after a morning of whale watching, snorkeling, or surfing.
On our last visit, he was nearly sold out and we happily took what was left, stuffed cheddar and jalapeno pretzels. In the past, we've also had the classic style with cinnamon sugar dip and traditional mustard (nope, we didn't mix them!) (If you're visiting - and you totally should - keep in mind the posted hours of 'noon til close' are a suggestion at best. An early afternoon visit will probably work out.)
It might sound a bit strange that my favourite Hawaiian food destination is a humble pretzel shack. There's nothing distinctly "Hawaiian" about the flavors or even pretzels themselves. But it's one of my favourite spots and I look forward to visiting every time I'm in town - and I think you'll love it too!
Check out our other articles about the Big Island!
The Big Island's Best Splurges
Visiting Lava Tree State Monument
The Big Island's Kilauea Lodge