For the ultimate in haute “food-truck” cuisine and hands-down the best BBQ on the Big Island, you have to go to TJ’s BBQ By the Beach. This nondescript walk-up storefront with its green clapboard siding and peaceful outdoor tables topped with umbrellas doing their best to battle the warm Hawaiian sun may not look by much, but don’t be fooled. TJ’s is all about the food and does it ever deliver. Run by a local husband and wife team who get up to start smoking meat at 6am every morning, the food here is a decadent mix of savory, smoky meats, tangy sauces, huge portions, and sumptuous sides.
Big Island Meets Baby Backs
Tim and Joanna, the couple behind TJ’s BBQ by the Beach, left a successful restaurant business in Washington when they fell in love with Hawai’i and relocated in 2013. Their dream to sell their special BBQ sauce and steak rubs blossomed into the delicious lunch café and its famous Baby Back Ribs, and the people of Kona are grateful for it. Located on the main drag of Ali`i Drive, TJ’s is just a short drive from any of the area beaches and is the perfect spot to refuel after a day in the water. The friendly couple and their stuff love doting on their customers and always there with a smile (and an extra napkin).
In fact, smiles abound at TJ’s thanks to the delicious food. The menu is a selection of fall-off-the-bone slow-cooked ribs slathered in delicious BBQ sauce and served with rice, coleslaw, and a slice of fresh pineapple, plus epic half-pound burgers like the Kona Cowboy (with a secret coffee rub and choice of cheese), the Volcano (cowboy rub with jalapenos and BBQ sauce), and the BBQ (sauce with your choice of cheese). BBQ chicken, hot dogs, and veggie burgers are also available, but the real star here is the Baby Back Ribs plate. At only $16, it is more than big enough for 2, but it’s tasty enough to keep to yourself.
Be sure to stop by TJ’s BBQ and try the tastiest, tenderest BBQ on the island. You can pre-order ribs for your own get together, stock up on their secret sauce and spice rubs, and enjoy a cool drink under a shady umbrella while you lounge in their casual patio. Then, retire to your comfortable vacation rental home and prepare for the next day’s activities.