First Visit to Hawaii...and I don't want to miss anything!
I am vacationing on Oahu in October. I was already looking forward to the trip - and after reading the yummy posts - I am even more excited! Any must do culinary experiences while I am in town? I am looking for anything from great local food trucks to high end dining experiences - and I would really appreciate a place to get a Spam breakfast...or is that just way too touristy? ;-) Thanks!
When I'm in the mood, one of my favorite cheap breakfasts is from Rainbow Drive In just outside of Waikiki in Kapahulu. Portuguese sausage, eggs, rice with a side order of chili over it and macaroni salad. It may sound gross, but you'd be surprised how many people comment how good it looks when my order comes out and order it too. You can get it with spam as well.
That sounds pretty good. Actually, if they threw in a hamburger patty (becoming a chili moco) that sounds really good.
Speaking of which, ksueroy, other breakfast item (the conversation has triggered breakfast recs.) is Zippy's chili moco: It's a hamburger patty, chili (Zippy's chili is popular among Hawai'i people), a fried egg and a little bit of mayo--all over a bed of rice. Actually, I've never tried this particular combo (I've tried Zippy's chili), but it sounds good.
If you don't mind my asking, where are you coming from? I ask because there are certain places I wouldn't really recommend if you come from a city that has better quality of certain styles of cooking (e.g. Korean if you're coming from L.A.).
What kind of restaurants do you like or interested in trying? Do you want to experience what locals eat, or are you primarily interested in quality?
I'm assuming you'll have transportation to go wherever you want?
As for a spam breakfast, I can't think of any notable place to get a breakfast with spam. (A lot of places probably serve it, though.) It's actually probably the opposite of a touristy breakfast: most locals probably make fry some spam and eggs and eat with rice (the wet, sticky type). The other popular local breakfast meat is portuguese sausage. That reminds me: consider getting fried rice with your breakfast. Big City Diner has a solid kim-chee fried rice (pretty huge portions), although there may be better ones.
I'll try to suggest other places, after you give some details
Big City Diner
3569 Waialae Ave Ste 3, Honolulu, HI 96816
Jazzaloha - thanks for the interest and probing questions. Details are below:
I lived in DC for the last 6 years and just moved to the Boston area. While in Oahu, I want to try foods that are unique to Hawaii - but I am primarily interested in quality. The New York Times had some recommendations that looked really great - I like that many of the recommendations were asian restaurants of the variety I don't see everyday. They are below.
Green Door Café
Little Village Noodle House
Transportation should not be an issue - we are renting a car.
Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith St, Honolulu, HI 96817
Just a few comments on the NYT's recommendations.
I've been to Green Door Cafe once, and I thought it was OK, although people seem to really like it.
I liked LIttle Village Noodle House the first couple of times I went there, but I was a bit disappointed by the last two visits (although I was trying new things). I imagine if you get specific recommendations on what to order, it might be worth the trip.
Nico's does have fresh fish, but I think their menu is a little limited. (Usually, they have a fish special and maybe one or two other fish dishes. This is essentially a plate lunch place, btw.)
69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr Ste F5, Waikoloa, HI 96738
For breakfast go for the portuguese sausage eggs and rice combo available almost anywhere (including McDonald's.) It is the definition of "local" breakfast. If you want spam with something, get a spam Musubi - even the ones at 7-11 and or ABC stores are good. A great snack!
Another morning (or lunch) get a real loco moco (big scoop rice, hamburger patty, fried egg, all smothered in brown gravy.)
Other must do's are:
Shave ice: Matsumoto's in Haleiwa or Waiola Store just off Kapahulu (across / around the corner from safeway) I like mine with ice cream and azuki beans.
Malasadas: Great for breakfast or a snack. Leonards near the top of Kapahulu (the other end from waikiki) Champion on Beretania near McCully, and Agnes Bake Shop in Kailua are among the best.
Plate Lunch: Zippy's isnt bad, but Rainbow drive in (mix plate, gravy on the rice), Grace's (chicken katsu or Hawaiian Plate on Fridays), or L&L drive in (not my fave, but some people swear by it), Bob's Giant BBQ (Dillingham @ Waiakamilo Road), especially if you want a 'meat' fix.
Shrimp Trucks: There are several from Haleiwa to Kahuku, do a search here or on yelp to get a take on the discussion on which ones are best. If you don't make it to the north shore (gasp!), Blue Water near Kuhio and Kaiolu is really pretty decent.
Fine Dining: If you want one really nice meal consider the following: Alan Wong's, Roy's, Mavro. Not recognized among the best, but also great: 3660, Hau Tree Lanai, Town. Duc's Bistro (chinatown), Chai's at Aloha Tower.
Hawaiian Food: Ono's, Helena's, People's cafe. These places sell endemic Hawaiian, not contemporary local food. Lau Lau, Lomi, Squid Luau, Chicken Long Rice, Poi, Kalua Pork (thats Kalua, not Kahlua) Hawaiian Sweet Potato, Haupia.
Crack Seed: This is an increasingly underappreciated segment of local food. Crack seed are essentially traditional chinese snack/medicinal items and include dried and pickled plum. mango, and other fruits, dried squid and other fish, and various types of senbei (which is japanese). Crack Seed Store on Koko Head near Waialae, Crack Seed Center (ala moana), C-Mui on the edge of Chinatown (Bethel Street) are among the more popular old time places. More contemporary is Wholesale Unlimited (various locations.) Most supermarkets and drug stores sell some crack seed items. Look for "local snacks."
If you hit at least one of each of these categories no one will be able to say you shirked your gustatory duties while you were here. Yes, there will still be things you missed. I've lived here almost 35 years, and I still drive past places all the time and think, "I really need to get there one of these days."
1188 Maunakea St, Honolulu, HI 96817
Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826
2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826
Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
2863 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
I enjoyed eating fish plate lunch at Nico's, and really loved the Hawaiian food at People's Cafe. Ono Hawaiian Food is also consistently delicious. Someday I will make it to Helena's, but they were closed for vacation the last time I was on Oahu.
Another must-do for me is a visit to an okazu-ya. Fukuya was good, but I have a feeling there's better around somewhere...probably in Kalihi, which seems to be the epicenter of great local eats on Oahu.
Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
2710 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96826
I really like the lumpia at Gulick's, too. If I'm not mistaken they have slivers of potato, which is something I like.
Unlike most okazu-yas, Gulick's is not really oily, and the food is well-prepared. However, it's not cheap. Btw, Okazu-yas sell pre-maid items a la carte, so patrons "build" their lunch by selecting items. The food is local-Japanese based, but you can find non-Japanese items occasionally as well (e.g. lumpia, pork gisantes, etc.)
Fukuya is good, and I've heard good things about Gulick Deli. If you are in the downtown area you might give Nuuanu Okazu-ya a try. Pretty big variety of items there, but they close early (2pm?) and start running out of some items during the lunch rush.
2710 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96826