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Jul 16, 2007 02:07 PM

Best hole-in-the-wall (Honolulu)

i was born and raised here in Hawaii and this is constantly a topic of conversation.... what is the best "hole in the wall" place to eat on Oahu?


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  1. OK... I'll bite. I would like a little more info on what defines a "hole in the wall"... but...

    For Pizza I really like Pizzarina on South King just DH of Keeamoku. In addition to the pizza they have a few pasta dishes, some good "Italian" subs, and the salad (antipasto or italian) are good, but the pizza really is good.

    When it comes to Mexican I like Azteca on Waialae near Koko Head in Kaimuki. Much more like the Mexican food I grew up with in CA, and much better in my opinion than that better known place around the corner.

    The other night I was out for a walk before dinner and it started to pour. I was on South King in Moiliili, and stopped in at Pho South King, just ewa of Kahoaloha Street. Perhaps it was the wet weather outside, or the walk, or maybe I was just hungry...but I thought it was really good Pho.

    I could write paragraph after paragraph about places that have disappeared (like Washington Saimin), places that are no longer a hole in the wall (like Keo's), places that got so popular I don't go any more (like Irifune) or places that used to be really good - but aren't any more (, not gonna name names).

    6 Replies
    1. re: KaimukiMan

      those ARE some good places.... should have wrote more - i would have liked to read it.

      good to know there are actually other people from hawaii on here. i love this website!

      1. re: kimcheesoup

        Would like to hear your fav's too.

        Forgot to include for Japanese that Place just ewa of Longs in Moiliili on S. King, where you sit outside under the totun roof... can't remember the name.

        For Thai I like Pae Thai on S. King down near Zippys, a block or so DH of Piikoi - although it is hardly a hole in the wall any more, been interesting to watch it slowly "upgrade" over the years.

        For Hawaii style Korean take-out Gina's in Market City has it all over that chain that specializes in MSG.

        There are actually a few contributors here in Honolulu. Hope to hear from them too. Has anyone been to the recently re-opened 49er fountain by PearlRidge...was always curious about that place.

        1. re: KaimukiMan

          KM, the place you're thinking about is Yamagen. I prefer Jimbo further ewa on S. King St., and you can find parking there now in the evening since Makino Chaya moved out and Gulick moved in.

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            haha yeah i like Gina's too, but my absolute favorite korean restaurant (here anyway) Is Jang Su Jang.... i dont know that this would classify as a "hole in the wall" but its a GREAT restaurant. better than Sorabol i think....

            for burgers, i like W&M..... i used to like Bigway burger, but unfortunately they closed, for okazuya i like Mistuken (esp. the garlic chicken) and for late nights theres either Taiyo ramen near ala moana or Mickeys in pearl city.....

            i've also been curious about 49er..... i always pass by, but never have a chance to check it out.....

          2. re: KaimukiMan

            its been a while, but im trying something... links to a place as follows

          3. Ah yes, Yamagen, thanks! I also like Jimbo, its just something about sitting "out in the garage" atmosphere about Yamagen that I like. Almost like a step down from a hole in the wall but good food.

            I was at W&M last week tuesday, got the Hank's special, with bbq meat on top the ono (but not cheap). I also miss the KimChee burger at Big Way. It was a featurre of my "eat your way around Oahu" tour when I was younger. Sort of a counterpoint to the original hole-in-the-wall Kua Aina.

            I haven't been to Ono's or People's cafe in years for Hawaiian Food, not usually downtown to go Peoples, and Ono's always has such a line.

            What is the best hole-in-the-wall for Chinese? I used to love Helen's in Kapahulu, but they finally closed, can't remember what went in there.

            For shave ice I still like the original Waiola store, the one in Pawaa, but the one on Kapahulu is almost as good - parking sucks for both. Of course there is always the Slush Float at Byrons by the airport.

            11 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              i like the shave ice at Waiola to - but, i've found a place that has a simililar texture, and gives way more than Waiola does. the Shave ice is HUGE - but i dont know the name.... because its not a shop. its actually a shave ice and snack cart right outside of Sports Authority in Waikele. weird spot, but the shave ice is really good and the woman who owns it is so nice!

              "You Hungry" near Ala Moana is good too for local plate lunches and hawaiian food and the portions are really big - i've heard Helena's is good, but havent had the chance to go yet.

              for chinese food, theres a great restaurant called Pahke's in Kaneohe - sorry, its not really a hole in the wall, but they do have the best chinese food i've ever had.

              rainbows drive inn has a pretty good slush float too - i guess i have to try Byrons now......

              1. re: kimcheesoup

                so excited to find hawai people on this board! :)

                - andy's in manoa is my favorite for sandwiches (esp the mushroom medley)
                - i second yamagen's...was just there last week!
                - minato's right off king st (curry udon, agedashi tofu...all good). right across the street is ohta wafer factor (i like to pick up green tea and chocolate senbei/fortune cookies there)
                - Karen's Kitchen (near ward)
                - Iyasume in Kapahlu (simple bentos, my favorite japanese curry in town)
                - I didn't enjoy Pahke's very much...maybe we ordered the wrong items? I feel like much better chinese food can be found in town
                - Covenant Cafe in Kaimuki for their soups
                - love going to Bankok Chef on Nuuanu for any noodles or curries...then a quick drive to liliha for chantilly cake (i think i've overdosed on cocopuffs)

                i keep a local food blog: :)

                1. re: kathyyl

                  I've always liked Andy's and his freshly roasted turkey sandwiches. He does a good bran muffin too.

                  1. re: kathyyl

                    Very nice blog! You were correct about Town, they have a menu that rocks and we just love their mussels. We went to the mock lunch at Downtown and it was truly delicious, I need to get out of the house and eat there again soon!

                    1. re: manomin

                      thanks for the compliment! :) I've haven't yet visited Downtown...trying to find parking there drives me crazy, hehe, but I've heard it's pretty darn good!

                      1. re: manomin

                        Please: what is a mock lunch?

                      2. re: kathyyl

                        I agree with manomin... great blog. a few places listed Ive been meaning to try and a few I'm glad to have concurrence on.

                        I have a feeling more than a few places will miss you when you move back to NYC. In the meantime look forward to continuing comments.

                        So where to go for hole-in-the-wall chinese? I used to like it when HeeHing was a HITW, and I still like it...but my wallet doesn't like it as much.

                        I am not at all convinced it is possilbe to OD on cocopuffs, at least not long term. For you mainland people, Liliha Bakery has these "cream puffs" filled with chocolate custard and topped with... uhhhh... anyhow, its sweet, delicious, and oh so habit forming. WE are NOT talking about the cereal here folks!

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          Liliha Bakery has an excellent mahi mahi plate too. I love sitting at the counter and watch the fry cook work it out.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            Thanks for the compliment! :) I'm excited about nyc, but there are many place I will miss here. I didn't really appreciate all Oahu has to offer till I went away for college...and man, we got a lot of good stuff!

                            Have you vistied Pineland before? (1236 Keeaumoku Street) - it's a super dinky looking place, and there's usually someone asleep at one of the tables. But go for the garlic eggplant, a generous order of rich with wok fried eggplant, lots of garlic in a savory gravy (I usually do takeout)'s far from healthy, it's so gooood over a hot bowl of steaming rice!!

                            If you're looking for dim sum, make sure you check out Tai Pan in the Chinese Cultural Center. It's a small place (no room for dim sum carts, just point and order from the shelf), and there are always lines, but the turnover is quick and food is always fresh.

                            I'm really liking this thread...keep all the hole in the wall suggestion coming! :)

                            1. re: kathyyl

                              Tai Pan is great! Is Yamagen the same as Yama's? I've always just called it Yama's and never even thought to check out what the real name was.

                              For Garlic Eggplant I love Maple Gardens (also in the Yama's neighborhood) across from Stadium Park on Isenberg. It's no longer a hole in the wall, but is still reasonable and, to keep some of the old spirit going, there are usually mop buckets blocking the way to the bathroom. Their Chinaman's Hat is also out of this world. Another great one at Maple Gardens is their Scallops with Various Kinds of Fungus - scallops and lots of different kinds of mushrooms - that doesn't show up on all their menus all the time but is worth asking for. Unfortunately Robert, the owner, died within the past year of the cancer he'd been fighting for so long. His widow is keeping it going, but I miss seeing Robert sitting at his table and making the rounds.

                              Another place that used to be a real hole in the wall (you had to go out in a dark parking lot to find the toilet) is Sanoya Ramen on King St. Now it's much larger, has ghastly fluorescent lighting and parking is almost impossible, but the food is really good and tastes like the ramen you get in Osaka. Their gyoza are really good, and the cold ramen comes with wakame and other goodies. Great food for a warm day.

                              Hee Hing still has great take out baked maunapua. I was hospitalized for a few months a couple of years ago (had to have my right leg amputated below the knee) and, as we all know, hospital food sucks big time. Friends would come by with boiled peanuts (Ruger Market's are the best!) and other local foods. I finally asked one of my friends to get me some baked maunapua from Hee Hing. He decided to bring me a tasting menu of the best maunapua and pork hash he knew of, told some other mutual friends, they split up to do the shopping, and all met up in my hospital room for a MAJOR pig out! Good fun! The dietitian used to come up to my room at lunch just to see what I was eating and share in the goodies. She knew the food they served sucked, and she could always find good backyard bananas etc. in my room :-)

                              Speaking of Ruger Market, their lau lau are fantastic with a good ratio of luau leaf to fish and pork, with just a small chunk of fat thrown in. They also make poke to order. You just tell them what grade of which fish you want, and then add in your extras like inamona, limu kohu, sesame oil, chili pepper water, shoyu, or whatever to taste. Their fish is really fresh. Their pipi kaula is really good, too, and they almost always have poi to go with the rest of the food.

                              For holes in the wall I mentioned Kikuya in Kane'ohe elsewhere. It really does have some of the best Japanese food around. Home cooking, really fresh sashimi, and reasonable prices, but a dive. It's always swarming with local folks, from infants to the tutu gang, so you know it's gotta be good. Standing around in the parking lot you almost always run into friends so you get to play catch up while waiting for a table to open up.

                          2. re: kathyyl

                            referred this old thread to someone looking for cheap eats and noticed kathyyl's blog. it is still active and she was obviously "home for the holidays", worth checking for some of her more recent posts.

                      3. I also forgot to mention The Crab Tank, in City Square, Kapalama (the old "Gem" location). Pretty much just crab and shrimp, but oh so good.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          crab tank is gone now.... an empty storefront waiting for someone....

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            you should try the Okinawan restaurant in that same City Square - Utage.

                            the Soki Soba, champuru and shoyu pork are great.

                        2. Just wanted to note we had lunch at Mitch's yesterday. This is a fish monger in the industrial area near the airport. Looks quite dumpy... as most eateries in the area do... but its possibly THE MOST expensive hole in the wall in the WORLD.

                          We paid $85 per person for various raw seafood delicacies including lobster sashimi from a poor crustacean killed before your eyes... abalone, various fish. All super quality ingredients and superior to what you get at most very high end sushi places.

                          However... I don't know that for my palette I would shell out my own money here.

                          1. there are so many places i still need to try, but just plain never got around to going...

                            town is one of them - i seem to hear good things all the time
                            crab tank was another one...i always pass by, but never get to go
                            forgot to mention, i like Panda Cuisine (NOT panda express like in the food court) across from the Walmart near Ala Moana - for late night dim sum.... but then again, i dont know where else to go.....

                            anyone know of any other late night dim sum places?

                            AND, if you like okinawan food, Utage (in the same City Square as Crab Tank) is really good! they have japanese and local food too, but you gotta try something okinawan like the Soki Soba, its my fav over there.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: kimcheesoup

                              not sure I would classify town or panda as hole in the wall, but both are good.

                              I don't know how late they are open, but the chinese restaurant (Mei Sum?) at the corner of Smith and Pauahi (Downtown) will cook individual dim sum orders after they finish the main dim-sum service (with carts).

                              BTW, where do you go for kimcheechige?

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                kimchee chige? check out Jang Su Jang when you get a chance....

                                their Kalbi is really good too (NOT the california rib... make sure you order the "big bone" kalbi)

                                and the mandoo is homemade, big, and good.....

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  whoops, sorry i read one of the other posts wrong (when i referred to Town), and yeah, i know Panda isnt a hole in the wall, but i was just wondering about late night dim sum places..... actually, maybe i should start a new topic board about that..... thanks for the tip about Mei Sum(?).... i think i'll go check it out

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    The best kalbi has to be Kim Chee II in Kaimuki. They use the whole bone short rib which is so tender. Char Hung Sut on Maunakea is still my favorite take out dim sum ever since time began. Their ma tai soo is something people rave about. My friend's relatives still own the place.

                                    1. re: Clinton

                                      sorry, but i'm still sticking with Jang Su Jang for Korean food... Kim Chee II is good, but man... i'm tellin ya....