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Oahu: Cheap 'n Tasty

m
Megan Mar 12, 2005 05:35 PM

We are going to Oahu from March 21-25. We're staying in Honolulu but we'll have a rental car. I've poured over the posts and several websites to get some options for where we can eat and I'm so excited! My fiance and I (as well as two friends that will be joining us) love cheap, local & tasty foods and restaurants.

I'm not expecting a comment on each place (and I realise we will be stuffed before we even get a few restaurants into the list) but if there is something *amazing* that should be eaten at a particular place, or a great restaurant that we've missed that fits the Asian-Hawaiian-cheap-delicious list I compiled, please fill us in!

In addition, I'd love input on any markets to get local food treats to snack on (and to bring home as souvineers). My fiance wants to stock up on Li Hing Mui dried fruit. Good sources?

I want to stuff myself with fresh fruit (I've been freezing in still-snowy upstate NY for months); is it best to just buy from grocery stores?

Any local festivals happening during our stay? Also, advice on whether or not to go to a luau (with great food, of course) would be appreciated. They are so expensive- is it a hopelessly touristy experience or something fun you really should do in Hawaii?

Thanks!
Megan

Matsumoto's
Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy. (North Shore)

Champion Malasada
malasadas
1926 S. Beretania St.

Leonard's
malasadas
933 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu

Liliha Bakery
Liliha Bakery coco puff
515 N. Kuakini St.

Char Hung Sut Restaurant
manapua (Hawaiian steamed buns)
64 N. Pauahi St.

Royal Kitchen
manapua (Hawaiian steamed buns)
100 N Beretania St #175

Kwon-On
manapua, noodles, Chinese treats
3620-A Wai‘alae Avenue

Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory
dim sum
505 Kalihi St or 98-040 Kamehameha Highway

Ba-Le Sandwich Shops
banh mi
150 North King Street

Gina's Korean BBQ
2919 Kapi'olani Blvd

Fukuya
okazu-ya (japanese style take out)
2710 S. King St.

Gulik Deli
okazu-ya (japanese style take out)
1512 Gulick Ave.

Palace Saimin
saimin
1256 N. King St.

Shiro's Saimin Haven
saimin
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy

Kaka‘ako Kitchen
Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd.
breakfast/Hawaiian

Boots and Kimo's on Hekili
pulehu (grilled short ribs)
131 Hekili St., Kailua

Ono Hawaiian Foods
Hawaiian
726 Kapahulu Avenue

Kua ‘Aina Sandwich Shop
burgers
66-214 Kamehameha Highway.
Ward Village (across Ward Centre), 1116 Auahi

Romy's Shrimp Shack
56-781 Kamehameha Highway

  1. t
    torta basilica Mar 13, 2005 10:44 AM

    Be aware - the shrimp shacks are tasty, but by no means cheap - $11 per serving with a scoop of rice. Worth the experience, though - we preferred the next one up with the Italian name to Romy's, though - sorry, haven't had my coffee yet this am & can't think of it...

    I wouldn't do a luau - you're right, they're expensive, the one out by the Ihilani is with hoards of people & you're captive for hours before they bus you back... and the food isn't all that good.

    If you'd like the experience of a luau, without the food or cost, every evening right before sunset on the beach below the Hyatt Regency, there's a local show put on for the tourists.

    Don't miss boba or bubble tea if you haven't tried it yet - an acquired taste, but we're all now addicts & search for it here in SoCal!

    Enjoy! Hopefully, the weather will keep up - it was in the mid-80's last week when my husband was there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: torta basilica
      s
      sarah Mar 14, 2005 01:22 PM

      how is hawaiian boba different from the kind widely available in SoCal?

      1. re: sarah
        t
        torta basilica Mar 14, 2005 05:45 PM

        No - it's exactly the same - in 'liquidy' or snow types - probably not as large of a choice of flavors, but it's where we first tried & loved it!

        1. re: torta basilica
          b
          bibi rose Mar 18, 2005 06:49 PM

          At Long's or similar, I suggest you pick up some "alaea" pink sea salt. I'm not a collector of designer salts by any means; the only one I keep in the house is Maldon. The alaea salt is good and inexpensive, and it adds a lot of sparkle to poke or other seafood dishes. I also just got some blends made with that salt (found nearby on the shelves) and have been able to put them to good use. (At local restaurants they serve it in dishes and you dip slices of onion in.)

    2. s
      spotty Mar 18, 2005 05:00 PM

      These all look like solid picks where the locals actually eat.

      I think the shrimp truck torta basilica has in mind is Giovanni’s. If you go, only order the spicy if you really like spicy stuff. I’m not sure if it’s the same owners/recipe, but I had it once and it was so hot I couldn’t eat it.

      Fresh fruit – I’d recommend a farmer’s market if you can find one on a weekday. You might want to check out Chinatown and kill a few birds with one stone—easy to find fruits, li hing mui, and several of the picks on your list including Char Hung Sut, Royal Kitchen, and Ba-Le. A couple of my favorites in the area are Little Village on Smith St. (although I’ve heard their prices have gone up a bit recently), and Malee (in a food court at the Maunakea Marketplace, 1120 Maunakea St).

      Manapua: Note that Royal Kitchen has baked, not steamed, manapua. They are smallish and have several different fillings. Char Hung Sut has huge steamed ones (one is pretty filling) with a very lean pork. Chun Wah Kam has a variety of fillings, and tends to run a little on the sweet side. Parking is difficult at the Kalihi St location.

      Just up Kalihi St from Chun Wah Kam is Monarch Seafood (515 Kalihi St). It’s also got tough parking but you could park at the bank across the street and run in for a couple of minutes. They are a fish store that has fancy plate lunches like nori-wrapped ahi katsu, crab cakes, etc. It’s under $10. Oddly enough, they have a really good banana cream pie.

      You can also check out most grocery stores, Longs Drugs, or Wholesale Unlimited for a good variety of the li hing and other goodies. I’ve sent li hing mango to some mainland friends and they seemed to like it.

      You can go to Liliha Bakery until all hours for the coco puff…if you’re out late, you can have pancakes at the counter. IIRC they are 24 hr.

      Another good value for Thai is Bangkok Chef, 1627 Nuuanu Ave. It’s a real hole in the wall that does a thriving neighborhood business. I went there a few weeks ago; a friend and I shared pad thai, curry/rice, and spring rolls, gorged ourselves for around $8 each, and had enough leftovers for a decent-sized snack.

      IMO I’d forgo the Kua Aina burger (since you can get good burgers on the mainland) and luau (you can go to Ono’s or Helena’s instead). You’ve got limited time and have plenty of other good choices.

      Have a good time and report back if you can!

      1. g
        GoalieJeff Mar 19, 2005 12:01 AM

        By all means , try the prawns at Romy's . One of the best things on an island full of great food things . Fresh steamed prawns with brown brain head goo as sauce ? Sounds gross to the non-believer , but oh lord is it good . Don't miss Chinatown , damn near everything there is good . Enjoy the sun , and say hi to the waves for me ...

        1. s
          Steve R. Mar 20, 2005 10:27 AM

          There are a couple of things that you have to do to:

          1- go to the Farmers Market (indoors) behind Ward's Warehouse Shopping Center. It's 10 minutes toward Hon. from the Waikiki area but hidden behind the small mall (Ala Moani is the big mall). Inside, you will see stall upon stall selling Poke. It's all fresh seafood, raw & marinated in various ways, some spicy some not, all good. If you want stuff not available anywhere in NY State (including NYC area), spend time buying food here and experiencing as many varieties as possible. Additionally, on the Hon. side of the market, there's a separate grocery store that has the best variety of dried fruits, "cracked seed" and other interesting local stuff. We bring pounds home in 8oz plastic bags.

          2- yes, go to Chinatown. If you're familiar with Chinatowns in general, it doesnt look very different (and isnt). Lots of small restaurants, fruit/veg stores, etc. However, there are many small dim sum items not readily available in other cities and, in general, the same is true with several dinner places. I'm not up on what's good right now, having not been there for a year, but I really advise finding a small cheap (hopefully recommended) place and getting (steamed/boiled?) chicken with fresh chopped ginger & garlic. The list you have includes several places unknown to me (King & Beretainia Sts are in Chinatown), so you may already be on track. The markets have lots of local fresh produce and this may well be a good time to get good ripe pineapples cheap.

          Please bring back some of everything for me in Brooklyn. What I'd give for poke in NYC, but my friends in Hon. insist that raw fish doesnt ship well. Thank you.

          1. c
            CA Mar 25, 2005 02:14 PM

            I just got back from Oahu...sorry I missed you! Maybe these notes will help someone else.

            Leonard's for Malasadas - I like the plain ones best, but haupia filled ones are yummmy too, but rich.

            Bogart's Cafe - Diamond Head area, can't remember the road name. Nice place for breakfast or lunch...good omelets. Next door is a healthy eats kinda plce (can't remember the name) but they sell my favorite purple treat - acai! The cove bowl is good. Also, good fish tacos (but really a wrap)

            Ruffage - another healthy hole, on Kuhio Ave. I like their smoothies.

            Tiki's - Nobody else seems to like this place but me. Weak mai-tias, but I dig their poke! among other menu offerings. Dukes still reigns supreme for mai-tais, but the food is ick, IMO.

            Boots n Kimos in Kailua - mac nut pancakes, baby! There must be crack in the sauce for sure...

            Shrimp Trucks - Is Romy's on the makai side just after G's? That's the one I go to and it's fine by me.

            Ted's Bakery north shore - chocolate, haupia pie!

            Aoki's north shore for shave ice, or stand in line at matsumoto's.

            There's a good Thai restaurant in Haleiwa, very yummy Padang.

            My favorite food experience this trip was the sushi place in Haleiwa, run by a Brazilian woman, sorry I don't recall the name. Outdoor seating, very chill at night...loved the poke as well as the other sushi offerings we had that night (spider roll, spicey tuna roll)

            Aloha!

            1 Reply
            1. re: CA
              c
              CA Mar 25, 2005 02:20 PM

              Nice Farmer's Market on sat mornings on the backside of Diamondhead, near the entrance to the crater.

            2. c
              cheapeater Mar 25, 2005 09:00 PM

              Champion malasadas are the best. Any malasadas MUST be fresh and hot. If they’re sitting in a case, you should pass.

              Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp Wagon is the one we like. It’s the original. Look for the truck covered with graffiti.

              Nuuanu Snack Shop. 1613 Nuuanu Ave. between downtown and Waikiki. Doesn’t have the history and funkiness of Matsumoto’s, but has great shave ice without the drive. $1.50 plus 50 cents for ice cream in the bottom.

              Like-Like Drive In. 745 Keeaumoku St., near Ala Moana mall. A true local’s coffee shop, with terrific fried rice for breakfast.

              Bubbie’s Homemade Ice Cream and Deserts. In Hawaii Kai, in Koko Marine Shopping Center and 1010 University Ave. Several other locations. Wonderful unique mochi ice cream (pounded sweet rice paste wrapped around a ball of ice cream). Flavors like tiramisu, and others.

              Wholesale Unlimited. This is the place for every kind of cracked seed or sembei or local cookie or dried squid, you could think of. 960 Ahua St. is their main distribution center across from an L&L Drive-In…in the midst of an industrial area.

              The Sheraton Moana Surfrider for afternoon tea on the Banyan Terrace. A beautiful setting. Make reservations.

              Kozo Sushi. Many Honolulu locations. Nothing gourmet, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive sushi fix, this is surprisingly good and quite inexpensive.

              Le Bistro. 5730 Kalaniana’ole Hwy, in the Niu Valley Shopping Center a little west of Hawaii Kai. In a strip mall, but a great little intimate restaurant with terrific food. Not cheap, but not real pricey for a nice dinner. Spotted Roy Yamaguchi eating there, so it must be good.

              1. KaimukiMan Aug 27, 2007 10:37 AM

                You have a GREAT list.

                as one of the other posting said, get the baked maunapua at Royal Kitchen, their specialty. If you want dim sum (as opposed to manapua) you might consider Mei Sum at the corner of Pauahi and Maunakea, very good and less expensive than Legends over in the cultural plaza.

                if you want some of the freshest, best tasting fish then I really recommend Nico's at Pier 38. Try not to go right at lunch time, it is packed. They did have to raise the price on the Ahi due to the increased price at the fishmarket, but with dishes ranging from $8 - $11 you are not going to do much better anywhere. Monarch seafood, mentioned in another post is also excellent, but no place to sit down and eat.

                1. m
                  mberniker Aug 27, 2007 12:11 PM

                  Really good list. Definitely add Nico's. Shiro's is a hoot! (And is often omitted from other lists because it is out of the way.) Just three more adds: 1) Hukilau Cafe in Laie...if you're planning a drive to the North Shore, leave early and stop here for breakfast. Pancakes are good, good atmosphere. 2) Poke Stop not to be missed (especially if you're going to the outlets at Waikele.) They're really friendly and will let you taste whatever poke you want for free! 3) La Mariana...Sand Island Access Road (near the airport.) Some people hate this place. But you come here for the atmosphere, really, not the food.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mberniker
                    KaimukiMan Aug 27, 2007 02:12 PM

                    I had forgotten La Mariana, definately a one of a kind back to the 60s Tiki Bar Giligan's Island experience. A friend had his 50th birthday party there a few years ago, it was fun. Food more than passable, the setting is what makes it. It is not easy to find, while it has a Sand Island Access Road address it is not actually on the road, but there is a sign...hahahah. It is definately "elsewhere in america"

                    For shave ice, as long as you are going around the island either matsumoto's (the true "classic") or Aoki's are both good. If you want to stay in town, Waiola's (either location) is at least as good. The one on Kapahulu is so much easier to find.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan
                      s
                      Stan Wright Aug 27, 2007 06:08 PM

                      Great list... I'd like to add Rainbow Drive In for the "boneless chicken" plate lunch. (not for you Weight Watchers.) On Wed., Sat. & Sun.... check out the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. Lot of professional sellers. Great place to get T-shirts, crack seeds, fresh fruit. Try the chilled coconut. Drink the juce and eat the meat.
                      Aloha,
                      Stan

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