While on the Big Island, for dinner one evening we stayed close to the hotel and had a meal at Buzz's Sand Trap, a restaurant at the Beach Golf Course which is part of the Waikoloa Beach Resort. We had seen a sign for the place, but figured that it was not much more than a "19th Hole" bar and grill since it was part of the golf course. We soon found out it was far from that.
Buzz's Sand Trap opened in August of 2009 in what was the old Beach Grill restaurant. The owner, Richard "Dickie" Furtado, comes from a long family line of restaurant owners with restaurants on The Big Island, Maui and Oahu. Furtado's father, Dick, ran the famous Big Island restaurant Bobbie's Steak and Lobster that was on the waterfront in Hilo for years. Dick Furtado's daugther, Bobby Lou, opened Buzz's Original Steak House in 1959 on Oahu with her husband, Raymond "Buzz" Schnieder. Dickie Furtado's sister, Julie, also owned a restaurant. And he has a niece and nephew in the restaurant business, as well.
While attending the University of Hawaii, Dickie Furtado worked at Buzz's Original Steak House and decided to head to San Francisco to learn how to become a chef. Dickie Furtado eventually came back to Hawaii and opened three restaurants in Maui. He sold all three just after the turn of the century.
An opportunity arose to open a restaurant in the Waikoloa Beach Resort property and Dickie Furtado decided to capitalize on the popularity and longevity of the "Buzz's" name by naming his new restaurant Buzz's Sand Trap. The restaurant specializes in kiawe (sort of a Hawaiian mesquite) wood-grilled meats and seafood. Although it does have some of the same specialties from Buzz's Original Steak House, Dickie Furtado has a number of his own recipes for Buzz's Sand Trap.
Buzz's Sand Trap was highly recommended by our favorite concierge at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, Rick. I'm tellin' ya - the guy never steered us in a wrong direction when it came to restaurants. He told us that Buzz's Sand Trap was "literally just over there," pointing just to the south and east of the property. Rick said it was walking distance, but a little bit of a hike. We thought we'd just drive over to the place since we really didn't know where we were going. It turned out that Rick was right - it was an easy walk from the Hilton (see map). Buzz's Sand Trap is part of the clubhouse at the Beach Golf Course at the Waikoloa Beach Resort and it has a spacious parking lot.
We got into the place around 7:30 and the hostess met us at her stand just outside the door. She asked if we had reservations and I asked back, "Do we need them?" (That's a minor pet-peeve of mine when it comes to restaurants. I know that their first instinct is to ask if a patron has a reservation if they have some on their books. But why can't they ask, "Two for dinner? Do you have a reservation?") She said we didn't and she went inside to check what sort of seating we could get. She came back and took us past the small bar area up front to a table over in a corner of the restaurant near the front of the dining area and gave us our menus. The restaurant was about 1/3 full.
Buzz's Sand Trap opens at 3:30 each day for happy hour. They feature a number of "pupu's" - the Hawaiian term for appetizer - including hot or cold artichoke hearts, escargot and ahi tuna ceviche (a lime-juice marinated tuna that cooks in the citric acid of the juice). Buzz's Sand Trap also has a short list of beers and wines to choose from, as well as just about any drink you want to order.
The entree menu at Buzz's Sand Trap isn't all that extensive, but it did have some interesting choices. Of course, they had steaks and seafood, but they also featured lobster, rack of lamb, and baby back ribs. They had a light meal menu - the "short course" - that featured clams and meatloaf.
Our waiter came over to let us know the "catch of the day" was mahi mahi and they prepare it three different ways - poached Oriental style with garlic, ginger sauce, green onions and peanut oil; dredged in a panko flour and sauteed; or grilled over kiawe wood. I don't know if Cindy heard him say anything after that. She was getting the kiawe grilled mahi mahi.
I was sort of torn as to what to get. I kept hearing these great stories about the grass-fed ranch beef they grew on the Big Island. And Buzz's Sand Trap featured a ribeye, a strip steak and a tenderloin filet on their menu. And you could get your choice of sauces to go with them, if you want. One sauce was called "Sinatra Style" - a favorite of Frank Sinatra's when he would visit Buzz's Original Steak House on Oahu. It was olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, capers and chopped garlic. It sounded interesting. They also had a peppercorn sauce that was Worcestershire sauce, cognac and whole peppercorns. I'm a sucker for a good peppercorn sauce.
But something caught my eye - the kiawe-grilled rosemary garlic encrusted bone-in pork chop. I don't get to eat pork that much at home - Cindy has some sort of weird thing about grilled pork at home - so I like to get it when we go out to eat. The rosemary encrusted pork chop sounded good for me.
With our meals, we had our choice of soup or Buzz's Sand Trap's salad bar. With her kiawe grilled mahi mahi, Cindy got a bowl of the Portuguese vegetable bean soup. I went with the salad bar. We also decided to get a bottle of the Parducci sauvignon blanc. I got a Big Wave Golden Ale to start off (I'd had a couple mai tai's and a couple beers back at the hotel before we came over).
Our waiter brought out Cindy's soup and she offered me a bite. It was basically a vegetable soup with black beans. And it was pretty tasty. I finished up my beer as the waiter finally brought the bottle of wine to the table. I waited for him to open it before I went to the salad bar. Buzz's Sand Trap's salad bar wasn't overly big, but it did have enough different items to choose from to make a good sized salad plate. One of the homemade dressing choices they had was their Hawaiian dressing - a lilikoi-infused French dressing that was very, very good.
The atmosphere at Buzz's Sand Trap was very relaxed, let sort of elegant. The dress code was not overly casual - you still needed to wear a collared shirt to be seated. But it didn't seem stuffy in the least. The lighting was subdued and conversations didn't carry in the dining area. It was a pretty romantic place, actually.
We did notice, however, that the service was a little spotty. Our waiter was distracted a couple times and didn't get our bottle of wine to our table very quickly. I was just finishing up my salad when our entrees came out. And Cindy needed something after our dinner was served, but we couldn't find our waiter. I don't care for waiters or waitresses who don't check back within five to ten minutes after you've been served. Sometimes they come too soon to ask how the food is and you haven't even taken a bite.
When my plate was placed in front of me, I was surprised to see not one rosemary garlic encrusted pork chops, but TWO! I thought, "How can I finish both of these?" But from the first bite I made up my mind that I was going to give it the old college try. The pork chops were moist and not overcooked. The rosemary was a little overpowering as I really couldn't taste much garlic on the meat. But the kiawe-mesquite flavor was very good. On the side I had a pile of garlic-mashed potatoes and a stir-fried vegetable medley. I had a couple bites of the garlic-mashed potatoes and they were very good. Not as full of garlic that I like, but they were still very good.
Cindy offered me a bite of her grilled mahi mahi. It was very light and flaky, cooked medium-rare and had that good kiawe flavor to it. I liked it very much, as did Cindy. She got a side of steamed cauliflower, broccoli and snow peas along with her meal.
We were enjoying our dinner when another couple was seated at the table next to us. They were looking through the menu and shaking their head somewhat disapprovingly of what they were finding. When our waiter - who was their waiter - came to greet them, the lady asked, "Is this the same as the Buzz's Steak House in Honolulu?"
The waiter said this place was owned by the brother of the owner of Buzz's Steak House, but that was really the only affiliation. The waiter stepped away - not coming to our table, of course - and suddenly the couple fell into a heavy discussion. Suddenly, they both stood up, placed the their napkins on the table and left. I looked at the menu for Buzz's Steak House on line afterward and it didn't seem to be much larger - all that different, for that matter - than Buzz's Sand Trap. But they left anyway.
And, quite honestly, it was their loss. I thought the food at Buzz's Sand Trap was very good. I liked the pork chops and was able to finish the bulk of the meat on the bones. Cindy's mahi mahi was cooked wonderfully and she enjoyed them immensely. Other than the spotty service (the waiter didn't even ask us if we wanted dessert), the whole experience was pretty enjoyable. Rick the concierge had told us that the prices were pretty good at Buzz's Sand Trap and he was spot on with that, as well. It was a lot of food for the money we paid, quite possibly one of the best bargains while we were in Hawaii. Buzz's Sand Trap was a good place to get a meal at a good price on the Big Island.