KONA, HAWAII — Huggo’s opened in 1969 as a casual, gathering spot where you could get a good steak, a slab of fresh fish and pile it on at the salad bar. With its waterfront location, it proved to be a favorite haunt for local fisherman who gathered to share a salty tale or two. In the 35 years since, it has earned a reputation as Kona’s premiere restaurant for fresh seafood, oceanfront ambiance and casual elegance.
Steering Huggo’s on its course were founders Hugo and Shirley von Platen Luder who ran the restaurant with the motto “good food and good fun”. The couple introduced Huggo’s now famous Teriyaki Steak and was one of the first local restaurants to set up daily communications with the fleet of boat captains in the area to insure they served only the freshest fish available. With the use of cell phones, this practice is continued today. More often then not the fish you are having for dinner may have been caught just hours before being served. Huggo’s practices the farm to table philosophy of procurement and sources as many products as possible form local farmers and fishermen.
Eric credits his parents for instilling in him the foundation for success in the restaurant industry. The goal at Huggo’s has been and continues to be “to provide a memorable evening and dining experience rather than simply a meal.” The menu shares the limelight with Huggo’s open-air location that “seems to suspend over the ocean” and is a stage for seaside diversions.
The surf at high tide swirls and foams just a few feet below diners who gaze out at a never-ending horizon, hoping to catch the elusive green flash. Anglers fish almost nightly off the rocks fronting the restaurant and every catch gets a rousing applause from diners. Bus boys join in the fun by hurling soft dinner rolls into the surf to cause a frenzy among awaiting fish and eels. After dusk, Huggo’s brightly lit facade sometimes attracts graceful manta rays that glide in and out of the reef.
While menu items like Teriyaki Steak die hard, Eric and Huggo’s Chef are continually updating Huggo’s menu to reap the best of the local harvest, whether from the sea or the shore. Huggo’s focuses on just-caught fish using a Pacific Rim style of preparation, innovative chicken fare, salad offerings that utilize the Big Isle’s fresh bounty and desserts that offer a grand finale to a satisfying repast.
With a never-ending sea breeze, it makes sense that fresh fish definitely headlines the menu at Huggo’s. The Kona Poke appetizer is to-die-for with its zesty Chili Marinade. Entrees like the Crab-Crusted Ono and the Maui Onion Crusted Ahi wow both ka’amaina and visitors alike. Huggo’s continues to garner accolades from readers of local publications where it has been voted to have the “Best Dining Atmosphere,” “Best Desserts,” “Best Fish/Seafood” and declared “A Best Restaurant in the Islands.”
Creative contemporary fare like the Grilled Chicken with Tamarind-Orange Glaze was featured in Bon Appetit magazine when Huggo’s was named “One of the Nation’s Top Neighborhood Restaurants.”
The Ginger Creme Brulee is becoming a favorite Huggo’s dessert choice, especially when accompanied by a 100 percent French-pressed Kona Coffee. Huggo’s features a new boutique Kona Coffee every few weeks. Also popular is our Hualalai Ice Cream Pie made with Kona Coffee Ice Cream and Chocolate Cookie Crust. It’s topped with Fudge and Whipped Cream.
Living up to its original reputation as “a favorite watering hole for fishermen,” Huggo’s has a separate lounge that spills out to the outdoor dining deck. Open until midnight, the bar dispenses a slew of tropical-themed drinks like Da Green Flash, Manta Ray and the newly popular Mojito. Served in a bowl for two or four is the Kilauea-a flaming experience for those who dare. Huggo’s ample wine list presents 80 wines, 18 by the glass.
Also enjoy lunch and dinner next door at Huggo’s on the Rocks, where the menu focuses on lighter fare and cocktails. It’s where you can munch barefoot in the sand and enjoy live Hawaiian music and hula. The Rocks also has its own horseshoe-shaped bar.
Whether looking for a romantic rendezvous or a place to schmooze a business buddy, Huggo’s has it all ~ seaside location, balmy breezes, expert service and cuisine that refuses to compromise.
For a complete Huggo’s dinner menu, open the Menus bookmark on this website.
About our founder – Hugo von Platen Luder
Hugo von Platen Luder BioHuggo’s founder and Hawaii native, Hugo von Platen Luder’s path to becoming Hawaii Island restaurateur extraordinaire was circuitous literally and figuratively speaking! When he was 14, Punahou School sponsored a summer travel program called “The Rover Boys”, that took 30 students, via buses, to tour 36 of the 48 States. Then at the age of 16, his parents allowed him a break from the prestigious Punahou School on Oahu for an adventure of a lifetime. They sent him off to circle the globe on a Merchant Steamer, out of Honolulu, under the close watch of the ship’s captain and doctor.
Upon his return Oahu, he set out again! This time leaving Punahou for the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico. He went on from there to study briefly at the University of Houston before enlisting in the United State Marine Corps for a three year tour. After serving his country, Hugo, using the G.I. Bill, continued his studies in Ranch Management at CalPoly Technical Institute in San Luis Obispo, California.
After spending several years away from the Islands, Hugo returned home upon his father’s death in December 1957. He had worked for Standard Oil Company on Oahu in the downtown office for several years when he turned down a promotion. What was the deal breaker?? The promotion came with a transfer to San Francisco tied to it — he was back in the Islands to stay!!
Moving from big oil to fashion, he took his growing management skills to Hawaii’s prominent clothing manufacturer, Kahala Sportswear, before making the move back to his beloved Hawaii Island. Back home, he put his impressive background and experience to work in sales, retail, and construction. From selling jeeps, assisting his mother at her popular Kailua-Kona dress shop, to being a “labor pusher” on the Mauna Kea Beach Resort Project in the early 60’s. Hugo was on his way to establishing a well-earned reputation for doing just about everything and doing it with great success.
No one was surprised, then, when he left the construction industry in the late 60’s to build and operate the now legendary Huggo’s Restaurant with his equally entrepreneurial wife, Shirley, on a prime waterfront property in the heart of Kailua-Kona. To ensure their chefs had the freshest of fish possible, Huggo and Shirley also owned and operated a sports fishing charter boat, the “Chiripa”. Today, some 45 years later, Huggo’s is still family owned with son, Eric von Platen Luder at the helm since 1982.
With one eye always on the restaurant business, Huggo was ready for more adventures — one that included one of his most enduring passions – horses. As a young boy, he spent much time on and working at the Shipman ranches on the slopes of Mauna Kea - riding the open grasslands up mauka. At this time, he and Shirley began acquiring and breeding a band of running Quarter Horse broodmares on the Mainland. According to Huggo, “A few of the foals did quite well running in the AA and AAA classes worldwide.” One in particular, Ali’i Bar, became the Champion of Champions in Brazil. During this 1980’s timeframe, the couple also ventured into oil. During that decade’s infamous oil crisis, they established an oil drilling business at “Four Corners” on the Mainland with wells that produced more than 300 barrels a day going for $40 to $50 a barrel.
With more energy to burn, and ranching still alive and well in their veins, they made the move into the cattle business on the Big Island. Having been brought up on island ranches Hugo was always looking at cows and Shirley being of Texas with ranching in her blood it was a natural venture for both. For 25 years, they marketed 400 to 500 feeder cattle a year. Most recently, they have assisted Eric, who has been at the helm of the company since 1982, with consulting on and financing his latest venture Lava Lava Beach Club at Waikoloa Beach Resort. Opening in 2012, Lava Lava Beach Club is a boutique resort and restaurant situated on 19 acres of pristine beachfront on Hawaii Island’s spectacular Kohala Coast.