Say Aloha to North Georgia’s Newest Eatery, Hello Hilo in Gainesville

Written By: Hannah Lemay

When you round the curve on the bustling Jesse Jewell Parkway, your eyes will be drawn to the unexpected oasis of Hello Hilo. The landscape brings a surprisingly tropical vibe to the busy intersection with greenery galore, bright architecture and a covered patio filled with colorful seating options that seem to sing “Welcome to the island.” With bamboo-paneled ceilings and walls adorned with a tropical mural hand-painted by Hawaiian artist Brandy-Alia Serikaku, the interior of Hello Hilo is just as alluring as the exterior. Don’t let the counter service-style fool you; the outdoor space is begging you to grab a Hawaiian Rainbow lemonade and stay awhile. No time to chill in the swinging chairs on the patio? No problem! Swing through the drive thru to get your tropical fix on the go.  

Photos courtesy of Hello Hilo

Infused with History and Tradition
Hello Hilo is the product of the Taira family, who brought the world the beloved King’s Hawaiian Rolls. In the 1950s, Robert Taira was living on the Big Island of Hawaii when his love of baking became a business with the opening of his first bakery in the small town of Hilo. This bakery is where the first (unofficial) King’s Hawaiian Roll was born. After the Hilo bakery took off, Robert relocated to Honolulu and opened King’s Bakery, where the business eventually turned into a family-style restaurant. News spread to the mainland about the magic of Taira’s baked goods, and in the 1970s, King’s Hawaiian Bakery and Restaurant opened its doors in Torrance, California, where the King’s Hawaiian Rolls you know and love made their way into grocery stores.  In order to better serve the east coast, the Taira family opened a bakery facility in our very own Oakwood, Georgia in 2010. But the family envisioned more for its North Georgia neighbors, according to Courtney Taira, granddaughter of Robert and Hello Hilo’s Chief Culinary Officer and Brand Advisor.“Although we’ve been in North Georgia since 2010 when our King’s Hawaiian Roll baking facility opened, we wanted a way to be more engaged with the community,” Courtney said. “The concept for Hello Hilo has been on our minds for a few years now, and we were so excited to open the doors in 2023.”  Courtney went on to say that the family’s mission has always been to be the global leader of the Hawaiian-inspired food category. And while the main goal is to focus on Hello Hilo right now, more Hello Hilo locations (or other Hawaiian-inspired restaurants) are not out of the question for the future. In order to keep the menu as authentic as possible, many ingredients are sourced from Hawaiian-owned small businesses, including some of the fruit, like the li hing mui, made from dried plums and used in some of the pastry items and flavored syrups for beverages. Noodles are sourced from Sun Noodle, in Honolulu, a business operated by a friend of the Taira family.  

Photos courtesy of Hello Hilo

What to Savor
When asked how the Hello Hilo team developed the menu, Courtney answered with a laugh.“A lifetime of eating in Hawaii,” she said. “Hawaiian-inspired food is basically in our DNA. We wanted to create a menu that takes ingredients that are authentic to Hawaii and gives them a modern and approachable twist.” Hello Hilo boasts a diverse menu that can satisfy everyone from the picky eater to the one wanting to try a more authentic Hawaiian meal. If you’re feeding the whole crew, try one of the “Ohana Packs,” with options for either a tray of sliders, called the Longboard Tray, or a family-style platter, called Mana Mains, which comes with two entrées of your choice. For Mana Mains, choose between crispy mochiko chicken, huli huli chicken, kalua pork and spicy bulgogi steak. For the Longboard Tray, you have the option of teriyaki steak, spicy bulgogi steak, kalua pork or ham and swiss for your sliders. You can also customize your Longboard Tray to be hot-and-ready or to take-and-bake at home. The menu also offers sandwiches and an array of bowls with either rice, udon, or somen noodles as a base. My favorite was the crispy chicken mochiko bowl, which is loaded with rice, tropical fruit salsa, yuzu lime aioli and more. It was the perfect combination of fresh flavors and crunchy goodness. Make sure to pair your meal with a fun beverage. Our recommendation is either the Hawaiian Lemonade with the Strawberry Guava Rainbow flavor or the POG, which is a refreshing blend of passionfruit, orange and guava juice made in house.  Want something on the sweeter side? We recommend a slice of the Paradise Cake, which is a three-layer guava, passionfruit, and lime chiffon cake topped with whipped cream, or a malasada, which is a fluffy Hawaiian-style donut rolled in sugar and filled with the rainbow flavor of your choosing—try the chocolate dobash or the strawberry guava. All of Hello Hilo’s baked goods are made in-house throughout the day, so your dessert will be as fresh as possible.  For an early bite, try the Breakfast Bowl or Sunrise Burrito, both featuring the Hawaiian staple of Spam. 

Hello Hilo is open seven days a week 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., so stop by and get your tropical fix no matter when your craving hits!


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