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Mar 12, 2005 05:35 PM

Oahu: Cheap 'n Tasty

  • m

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?


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

Champion Malasada
1926 S. Beretania St.

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

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

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

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

Palace Saimin
1256 N. King St.

Shiro's Saimin Haven
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy

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

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

Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Avenue

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

Romy's Shrimp Shack
56-781 Kamehameha Highway

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  1. t
    torta basilica

    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

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

      1. re: sarah
        torta basilica

        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

          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. 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. 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. 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. 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)


            1 Reply
            1. re: CA

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