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Oahu and Big Island Meals

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Ok we're going to be in Oahu and the big island for about a week. I totally trust this board for suggestions. I'm looking for a couple of things in 4 distinct categories.

1.) General place I definitely should go to for good Hawaiian food that is regularly priced both for Lunch and Dinner - I won't be busting the bank most of the time.

2.) A good steak place. I'd shell out some money, but I don't want to have to fly back home with chickens on my lap. I've read suggestions Hy's Steak, but are there any others?

3.) A good sushi place. Again I'd spend money, but even in NYC, I feel like there are places that are half/a third/a fifth of the price of the best places yet they are only a little lower in quality. The truth is I'm not rich so I'd favor that place over Nobu typically.

4.) A divy place or truck or whatever that I just need to try, but it's greasy, it's glutonous, but oh so good.

I don't need a huge description, just a list of names will do, with a little blurb or something, I'll use the good old google [maps] to do the trick.

I'll be in Oahu most of the time but I'll spend about 3 days on the Big Island. Thanks for the help, I know you guys won't steer me wrong.

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  1. For Oahu:

    1a) "Traditional" Hawaiian: Ono's on Kapahulu, lunch is probably a better time, the lines can get long at dinner time.

    1b) "Contemporary Hawaiian/Fusion (mostly $$$): Alan Wongs, Roy's, Chef Mavro, Sam Choy's, Pineapple Room by Alan Wong. More Asian inspired E&O Trading Co.

    2) Steak: Hy's, Buzz's, Chart House at the Ilikai, Ruth Chris at Restaurant Row, or if you want to really spend Morton's at Ala Moana.

    3) Sushi: Zippy's Kahala is a good value, good sushi. Kats on King St. is a local favorite as well, or try Genki Sushi on Kapahulu (conveyor belt sushi)

    4. Plate Lunch: Rainbow Drive In on Kapahulu (Boneless Chicken, Gravy on the Rice, or if you really want to die soon - Mixed Plate), Gracies Kaimuki Ave or Beretania St. (Chicken Katsu Curry), Tsukenjo's on Queen St. (Roast Pork). If any of them have the Kalua Pork or Kalua&Cabbage as one of the daily specials, I recommend you get that.

    5. Burger Kine Places: Kua Aina (Haleiwa or Ward), Teddy's Bigger Burgers (Kapahulu Ave in Waikiki)

    6. Local Diners (local "Denny's" kind of place: Big City Diner (4 or 5 locations), Likelike Drive-in (Keeaumoku St), Zippy's (numerous locations, 24 hrs), Wailana Coffee Shop (Waikiki, 24 hrs)

    9 Replies
    1. re: KaimukiMan

      #4.) AGREE!!!! I was going to say Tsukenjo the minute I read your post. It is a red truck at the corner of Queen St. & Ward Ave. in the parking lot of a furniture store DeZign? or something like that. I have loved their roast pork plate (lots of gravy) or meatloaf sandwiches since 1985, man every time I drive into town and go by I want to stop and eat 2 sandwiches or the whole pork plate, it's pure will power that keep me from coming to a screeching halt and pull over. I hate Zippy's, yuck. Teddy's would be my choice I think Kua Aina lost it a long time ago, popularity went to their heads. E & O is a chain, they're o.k., but I'd go with one of the others mentioned for local flavors.

      1. re: manomin

        Tsukenjos also has a storefront kitchen (really can't call it a restaurant) at queen and cooke (?) old grey wooden building on the corner.... not quite the same experience as a lunchwagon (how local can you get), but the food is just as good.

        I agree with your assessment of E&O, didn't know it was a chain.... but it is less expensive than the other contemporary fusion places, and way better than PF Changs (ugh).

      2. re: KaimukiMan

        Wailana Coffee Shop (Waikiki, 24 hrs) is a favorite and is consistent......My favorite breakfast The international marketplace is fun cheap eats

        1. re: coastie

          In April... I was there for a week on business... and ate 5 meals there.... pretty mediocre but edible.... similiar to denny's imo.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I hope you ate 5 meals of breakfast - because it is a glorified denny's just done with a little local flav. Total diner - but good breakfast...

            1. re: coastie

              Unfortunately... I did have at least one sad attempt at Chili & Fries... and some other dinner. If I remember correctly their Shrimp entrees aren't bad.

              Some Breakfast items were pretty good... but the standard items with local flavors were a bit misleading.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                Next time, walk around the corner to Eggs 'n Things on Kalakaua (but keep in mind they're closed from 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm).

                1. re: Debbie M

                  Thanks... as decent as it is... I am starting to get tired of the Embassy's breakfast buffet. We were planning on breaking the monotony with a visit to Leonard's but we will also check Eggs'n Things out of it has something good & less mainland-ish.

        2. re: KaimukiMan

          haha i feel bad 'cause i go the same places... so pretty much u hit em all =) i been on the mainland too long... oh fyi, itz da ROW bar! =)

          i like pupus at oceans.. and if u not into da club, u can go for da new jazz happy hour =) haven't tried it yet though. and there's a new place called pearl?

          i like that one cafe lounge over on the mauka side of ala moana... but i forget what it's called. i like the tonkatsu curry there.. poke wasn't that flavorful though... needed more shoyu (aka soy sauce)....

          i share the mix plate at rainbow and i like the fried siamin at hk's... ALL PAU!!! =)

        3. Besides Ono Hawaiian Food, there is Helena's on School Street, another old time hawaiian food restaurant. Young's Fish Market in Kapalama is another good place to get hawaiian food.

          I like Hy's for steaks, there is also a DK Steakhouse in Waikiki, same owner as Sansei Restaurant, heard it's pretty good although I have never been myself.

          Sushi at Imana's Tei, just off King Street near the University area, or at Maguro-ya in Kaimuki. Good quality and while not cheap, not break the bank kind of high end sushi places either.

          Divey place? Maybe Sidestreet Inn near Ala Moana Shopping Center, a real locals bar that serves a nice variety of local fare, pork chops, fish, fried rice, etc., which all go great with some cold beer. Have a great trip and enjoy.

          3 Replies
          1. re: curiousgeo

            Great rec's from curiousgeo!

            1) Hawaiian:
            glad to see Helena's and Young's getting some mention (Mahalos for that curiousgeo). Need to add Yama's and Haili's to the list. Back to Young's... deadseasquirrels, if you enjoy roasted fatty goodness, get the turkey tails there, worth every clogged artery. And don't forget the Okinawan (purple) sweet potato.

            4) Greasy deliciousness:
            Sugoi (near Young's); Spicy Garlic Chicken (with habanero flakes)- finish the plate then find a spot to nap. Be sure anyone who rides in the same car (or will be within a 15' perimeter of you) likes garlic.

            4a) Not quite as greasy deliciousness:
            Spot's Inn (across the canal from Young's); tasty, excellent quality, great fried rice, the guys really care about what they put on the plate.

            There's a slew of great little places in the Kapalama area (used to work there),
            Check out Reid's excellent site: http://onokinegrindz.com/

            One last thing- you didn't mention Korean but here's one anyway:
            O-Bok in Manoa Marketplace; one of the few places that do the butterflied kalbi instead of the usual gristly, chewy, 3-bone crosscuts.

            Good luck and post a report when you return home. Aloha!

            1. re: sambrada

              Oh, and we can't forget about Nico's at Pier 38. I am so looking forward to another lunch there this Friday, and it's Hawaiian Plate day, theirs is really really good.
              I get daily emails about their specials from their website. I'm sure others will agree you should definitely try there.

            2. re: curiousgeo

              I'm surprised I don't see more recommendations for Helena's. You know they mean business when you're served sliced Maui Onion w/ Red Alea Sea Salt right when you're seated.

            3. Which side of the Big Island will you be on?

              On the Hilo side, stop at Cafe Pesto. They use local greens, meats, & cheeses and you can get the local Mehana microbrew on draft. Excellent food for the money. I used to really talk up Restaurant Kaikodo but I think they've slipped a bit -- the bar is worth a visit, though, or if you're just in a noshing/cocktail mood they're still great for that.

              I asked around for the best saimin in town and was sent to Ken's Pancake house, and it was damn good. Qualifies for your divey spot.

              If you spend a day at Volcanoes Nat'l Park, don't eat at the park, retreat to Volcano Village. There's a great wood-fired pizza place, can't remember the name. Good local food can be found at the golf course, oddly.

              On the Kona side I feel like Merriman's in Waimea, up Kohala way, is the end-all and be-all for steaks. I had a veal chop there last month where I had to pick up the bone and chew on it, decorum be damned. It's on the spendy side, so if you just want local ingredients done right, stop at Merriman's Cafe in the Waikoloa Shopping center. Their Portuguese Bean Soup, or anything else really, is very good.

              9 Replies
              1. re: themis

                I didn't think that the saimin at Ken's House of Pancakes was all that great. Their only saving grace is that they use noodles made by Maebo.

                My pick for best saimin goes to Nori's.

                http://vegasbuff.blogspot.com/2007/06...

                1. re: themis

                  Keawe grill has the pizza at Volcano Village - very very good. In Kona a friend directed me to Huggos for lunch...right on the water, and I thought the food was pretty good, not fantastic, but a big step up from Buba Gump down the beach. Ken's house of pancakes has some really good banana pancakes - never had the saimin. Ken's is a local landmark (but what do I know, I'm just a townie from Oahu).

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    KaimukaMan,

                    Who do you think has the best saimin on Oahu? I heard it's very good at Shige's.

                    1. re: Vegasbuff

                      Shige's is real good, but I am rarely up that way (far by local standards...LOL), Shiros is pretty good as well, although some of their combinations just too strange, hard to focus on the shiro (broth) and the noodles. I like Boulevard and I even admit to liking Zippy's for saimin - I know I'm gonna get shot down for that! A friend recently told me about a place called Palace Saimin, someplace in Liliha/Kalihi, but I haven't tried it yet. Some people really like the saimin at Likelike drive in, its OK i guess. Sure miss the old Washington Saimin and King's bakery. It is becoming harder and harder to find saimin, the ramen places are taking over.... oh well, time marches on.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        Yeah, I heard the same thing about Shiro's. I hear the saimin at Palace and Nancy's Kitchen are also pretty good.

                        Just looking for some good info since I may be going to Oahu in December.

                        That's sad to hear that saimin is getting harder to find. Being in California, it's hard to get good saimin. My best bet is in Vegas at the Cal, LOL.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          I like Zippy's wun tun saimin.

                          If the photo upload was working, I could have posted my pictures of the combination plate at Ono Hawaiian Foods (man, that was a lot of food) and my plate of Giovanni's shrimp.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            Palace Saimin is one of a dying breed of saimin houses. A hole in the wall kind of place in Kapalama, across from the post office on N. King Street. Don't blink or you will miss it, but well worth seeking out. Boulevard is not bad, air conditioned too. I like the hamburger steak plate at Shige's, but like KaimukiMan, it is a bit far, unless we are out in Mililani for something.

                            1. re: curiousgeo

                              Wow, my haole butt grew up in Mililani back in the early 90s. I don't remember any places to eat other than Zippys (and Fernandos Fun Factory & Video City in Wahiawa for video games) but your mention of Mililani really took me back - mahalo :)

                      2. re: themis

                        I'm on both sides actually, Kona and Hilo, so thanks for the suggestions.

                      3. Does anybody know anything about the proper attire for Hy's or any of those other fancy steakhouses? I will be on vacation so I'd rather leave dress shoes at home (one less thing to bring for one night of use), but if it would be inappropriate otherwise I would like to know.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: deadseasquirrels

                          You can use a nice pair of dress sandals anywhere. I have never been to Hy's and don't know if they have a website that says what might be a dress code for them. It's pretty easy to be dressed nicely in "resort" or as is often said here "aloha attire/aloha casual"
                          even for the many food events that is standard in the notices. My husband only wears long pants if it is highly air-conditioned otherwise nice dress shorts with sandals and a silk shirt or nice aloha shirt.

                          1. re: deadseasquirrels

                            Wear a decent aloha shirt and you are properly dressed no matter where you go. Slacks are ok, but not necessary,and even jeans are OK most places. Casual shoes will be fine.

                          2. for #4 I agree Rainbow Drive In (oahu) for mixed plate lunch (make sure and get the short ribs as part of the plate. On the big Island the restaurant in the Manago Hotel. It is "down home" local food. The Pork Chops are the best, and the fish can be great too! love it.

                            Hilo- Ocean Deli for affordable, fresh Sushi. It is very casual l-ike a diner.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: lyn

                              I forgot about Rainbow - how could I??????? Boneless with gravy all over! YUM!!!!!!

                              1. re: manomin

                                Always a big decision.... do you get gravy on the chicken and rice, or "all over" which includes over the macaroni salad....hehehehe... feel the arteries closing!

                                And somehow I left out Byrons by the airport... when get special... "auntie, i like da roas turkey wit stuffing, gravy all ovah... can get one side order fries wit dat too? no, no, wit da mac salad an rice yeah, an can get gravy on da fries too?... tanks yah! oh, an one large slush float.... yeah, fo eat here, mahalo. oh da ono kine grinz!

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  gravy ALL OVER!!! GRAVY OVER FRIES! =)

                                  and re the attire question... VERY laid back.. just don't come in your wet bathing suit... =)

                                  i like fried saimin... *sigh* where can i get good mochiko chicken?!?!?! sometimes it's too hard and it hurts my teeth and my gums.. hahahah there's a place in that kokohead plaza that i like.. but i forgot what it's called.. and i don't want to drive too far... hahahaha

                                  1. re: kinipela

                                    Yeah, and rinse off the sand too......

                                    I always like the mochiko at Gracies when they get as a special. i can't remember the name of the place out in hawaii kai, they also have broke the mouth garlic chicken - almost as good as Mitsuken.

                                    Sheesh...and some people think we only talk about expensive kine stuffs in here.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      hahahah I KNOW =) best meals are: mixed plate (surf pac or zip pac will do) , OR poke, OR loco moco, etc and a can of POG while cruisin' sandys.... =) my cuzins and i like to go at nite (after 9pm) with our slippers and cruise the back of the truck... with our food... (and maybe some other non-POG drinks... if u know what i mean... hahahah)

                                      oh and i love when it's ho'olauelea time... all the good food and u don't have to drive out there... haah just walk up and down the street =)

                            2. Big Island, West Side:
                              Be sure to try Teshima's Restaurant in Honalo [about 8 mi south of Kailua-Kona]! The place is an institution on the Big Island and they served us the best meals we had during our week stay there in December. Fast, friendly service, reasonably priced and most importantly, terrific food. Teshima's seem to fill up awfully fast during the dinner hour. As I recall, they open the doors for dinner at around 5 PM, so getting there just before that is a good idea. It ain't fancy, but who eats decor and atmosphere anyway? My only regret is that we didn't try it earlier in the week, else we might have eaten there many more times!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Spamsushi

                                Teshima's has a nice Japanese breakfast. They are open all day. i could not even tell you 1/2 the items on there but it was great. loved the miso soup fish, rice, salads and not sure what else! Homestyle Japanese . mmm .

                              2. Leonard's on Kapahulu for malasadas! Just moved back to the mainland from Honolulu and I miss them dearly.

                                1. if you've already been, sorry for the late post.
                                  Big Island: Merriman's is a must! There is also a Cafe Pesto just down the hill (15 minutes at most). Alan Wong's and Pahui 'a at the Four Seasons are outstanding. Malasadas at Tex's are pretty darn good.

                                  1. On the Big Island, I'd recommend Cafe Pesto. The chili grilled shrimp pizza is excellent. For some local grease, I'd recommend the fish and chips or fish sandwich at Quinn's in Kailua-Kona, though I think they have some healthier items as well. The Kona Brewery was another good spot in Kailua-Kona. The coconut ice cream was great with a pipeline porter. The pizza and humus are also very good.