Merriman’s in Waimea Makes Yelp’s Top 100 List

April 6, 2019, 11:43 AM HST (Updated April 6, 2019, 11:43 AM)
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Food served at the event. Courtesy photo.

(L–R) Richard Ha, Duane Kanuha, Peter Merriman, Annie Kokobun, Russell Kokobun, 2018. Courtesy photo.

Kamuela vine-ripened tomatoes with Point Reyes Bleu Cheese, crispy capers and baby arugula and fennel in chili citrus vinaigrette at Merriman’s Wailea, 2018. PC: Karen Rose

Merriman’s Waimea Caesar Salad, 2018. PC: Karen Rose

Merriman’s Waimea Caesar Salad, 2018. PC: Karen Rose

Merriman’s in Waimea is one of four Hawai‘i restaurants to earn a spot on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Treat Yourself for 2019 list, which was released on April 2.

To generate the ranking, Yelp’s data science team looked at restaurants that have price ranges of three dollar signs ($31 to $60) and four dollar signs ($61 and above). They compared the rating and volume of reviews for each restaurant, while considering the overall volume of reviews in each city. For the full list, click here.

Lahaina Grill on Maui comes in at No. 12 on the nationwide list, Merriman’s on Hawai‘i Island and Senia in Honolulu follow at No. 47 and No. 56, respectively. JO2 in Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i, made the cut at No. 80.

Nestled within the charming paniolo town of Waimea, Chef Peter Merriman shares his culinary talents and authentic flavors of Hawaiʻi Regional Cuisine with locals and visitors from around the world. A pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, Merriman’s utilizes the freshest local food products available.

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“I wanted to be a chef from the time I was a young teenager,” said Merriman. “Thirty years ago, dining in Hawaiʻi was limited to continental cuisine and imported agriculture. Shortly after moving to the Big Island in the early 1980s, I discovered the most exciting cuisine was not found in the resort hotels and restaurants—it was found at potlucks on the beach and in the employee cafeteria. I realized with some personal enhancements to these recipes, this was the cuisine I wanted to cook, using only the freshest ingredients that are close at hand. An added benefit is that if you buy locally, you help keep farmers, ranchers, and fishermen in business and you’re perpetuating an agricultural lifestyle in Hawaiʻi.”

Merriman is considered the original “locavore,” with his restaurants focusing on locally grown foods that showcase the unique and varied flavors of the islands.

​“The premise from the beginning was to use locally sourced products,” said Merriman. “In 1988, we were still an export economy with plantations and large scale agriculture meant to export. There wasn’t a big opportunity for buying locally grown caught and raised food. Through guerilla purchasing efforts, advertisements in newspapers and word-of-mouth, I went out to the farms, ranches and docks and said, ‘If you grow it or catch it, I’ll buy it.’”

Merriman instills his values of respecting the land with his staff, as well as the importance of taking responsibility to ensure all customers receive exemplary service and a positive dining experience. Being in business for 30 years is evidence of his success and within that span of years, many memories are made.

“One of my favorite food memories from the last 30 years is when we did a meal that was 100% Hawai‘i-produced meal, including the cooking oils, flowers, coffee all the way down to the butter, salt and pepper,” he said. “To this day, this was one of my favorite food memories and meals.”
As far as the future goes, Merriman wants to continue on his path of success.

“We want to continue to do things we have done over the past 30 years, be an active part of the community in Waimea, provide jobs for people and create an experience that people will remember for the rest of their lives.”

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