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Tex Drive In

July 15, 2014

After our trip to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company, I was stuffed!  I know we only signed up for a tasting experience and presentation, but it felt more like lunch.  However, we were already on the northern tip of the Big Island and only a few miles away from another famous malasada hot spot.  I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity.  So, I convinced my husband to make a stop, pick up some malasadas and then we’d take them to our next stop, the gorgeous Akaka Falls and enjoy our malasadas then.  Perhaps, at that point, we will have worked up an appetite again.

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Tex Drive In, located in the former sugar plantation town of Honoka’a on the beautiful Hamakua Coast has been serving up traditional Hawaiian plate lunches as other Hawaiian favorites known as “ono Kine grindz” for over 40 years.  Situated right off the highway, it’s a popular stop as people drive along the coast to order up a plate lunch and enjoy it on their covered, open-air patio, or to stop at pick up a box of malasadas for the road.

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Tex has been well documented in magazines such as Bon Apetit and Sunset Magazine for their wonderful hot malasadas.  Unlike Punalu’u Bake Shop which we visited 2 days prior, Tex Drive In makes their malasadas hot and made to order.  When you walk out of the store with your box of malasadas, you can feel how hot the box is and you know your malasadas are fresh.  In fact, when you walk into the shop, the first thing you’re greeted with is a huge, glass-fronted kitchen where you can watch your malasadas being made – from mixing the dough to rolling it out to cutting the dough to deep-frying the dough to filling the malasada.  You can watch the whole process from start to finish.

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When you step up the counter, there’s a post taped to the counter with the various malasada filling flavors being offered on that particular day.  Of course, there’s also the traditional malasada that’s just covered in sugar as well.  On the day we were there, they were offering Bavarian crème, chocolate, apricot, raspberry, strawberry, guava, mango and apple.  After talking it over, my husband and I each decided to order 2 malasadas.  We agreed that we’d get different flavors so that we could try them out.  I chose Bavarian crème and chocolate and my husband went with guava and mango.  Not surprisingly, he took the more tropical local flavors and I went with the more traditional sweet flavors.

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As you can already see, one thing different about Tex Drive In’s malasadas versus Punalu’u Bake Shop’s malasadas is that with the exception of the traditional malasada, at Tex Drive In all of their malasadas are filled with a flavored glaze or crème.  So, it’s like a filled donut or a Bismark that you’d find here on the Mainland.  Whereas, at Punalu’u, with the exception of the traditional and the vanilla that I got, neither the lilikoi or the taro was filled.  The lilikoi had a glaze over the top on the outside of the malasada and the taro had the taro incorporated into the dough and fried.  At Tex Drive In, your malasadas aren’t filled (if you ordered them that way), until you order them.  The hot, out of the fryer malasadas are rolled in sugar and then are filled with the flavors you’ve chosen and then packed in a box for you to take with you.  Here you can see our box with our order is written out on the top corner of the box – 1 Bavarian crème, 1 chocolate, 1 guava and 1 mango.

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When we arrived at our next stop, about 15-20 minutes down the road at Akaka Falls State Park, we found some picnic tables, took out our box of malasadas from Tex Drive In and enjoyed them.  You can see, when you open the box, the malasadas are stacked filling side up so you can tell what is what.  From left to right, you’ve got chocolate, Bavarian crème, guava and mango.  Truth be told, I could only barely finish my chocolate malasada at Akaka Falls, and had to save my Bavarian crème until we got back to the hotel later in the evening.  My husband actually finished both his guava and mango at the picnic tables.  Believe me though, when we got back to our hotel that night, I thoroughly enjoyed eating my Bavarian crème malasada.  The cream was outstanding!

The verdict?  My husband liked Tex Drive In’s malasadas better than the ones we had at Punalu’u Bake Shop.  For him, he appreciated that the malasadas from Tex were made to order and hot out of the fryer and into the pastry box.  He said he could taste the freshness and he liked his malasadas warm.  The warmth heated up the filling and everything just came together beautifully.  Whereas, at Punalu’u, the malasadas are chosen from a chilled display case and who knows when they were made.  For me, I went the other way.  I appreciated the flavors of the filling of the malasadas at Tex, but I definitely enjoyed my malasada from Punalu’u more.  I felt like the malasadas at Tex were huge and therefore it was hard to finish more than one – that’s a lot of dough and a lot of filling to try to put down.  At Punalu’u the size was much more manageable and made me feel like I could sample a couple of different varieties.  I also liked dough at Punalu’u better, as I felt it was lighter and airier and the ones at Tex were much heavier and denser, which made trying to finish the malasada difficult.  In the end though, can you really go wrong with either?  No.  Bottom line, my husband and I were picking at straws to choose which one was better than the other.  If you gave us an option to eat at malasada at either place, we’d definitely not say no to an opportunity like that.  Tex Drive In is an old standby, a favorite among locals, and their hot malasadas, made day and night are good from the first bite to the last.

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