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An Oahu Trip Report

I just wanted to post the food highlights of our recent trip to Oahu, as we gain a lot of valuable information from this board. There was a lot we didn't get to try, but that will be for future visits.

Bubble Boba in Kaneohe’s Windward Shopping center offers a soy based shave snow. I included lychee and strawberries for my toppings. A tasty and healthy dessert with nice soft snow ice.

Whole Ox: After reading about this on chowhounds Hawaii, I decided I had to try this place. I had the highly regarded porchetta sandwich, while my wife opted for the beef. Enjoyed the crispiness of the porchetta. I had hoped to return this trip to try the burger, but ran out of time.

Ailana: One of my favorites in the increasingly competitive shave ice market, this time around it disappointed a bit. That could illustrated in the better experience I had with Shimazu Store later in the week. It was simply a Wow factor I had at Shimazu missing at Ailana.

Teddy’s Kailua: Still my favorite fast food burger, tho I also enjoy Kua Aina. Teddy’s also serves up a nice crispy fish sandwich.

Shimazu Store has to be the best shave ice in Hawaii. Their small is quite large, and the variety of flavor syrups are nearly unmatched, though Ailana offers up healthier whole fruit toppings. Among my favorites at shimazu: Melon Bar melon, strawberry crème and Georgia peach. All their syrups are made with cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. And the ice is shaved very fine. Waiola, which has dropped from my list in recent years, still shaves a fine ice.

We tried Heeia Kea Pier also from CH recommendations. It seems the Windward side is offering more and more decent restaurants. The resto is situated at the very end of the pier where boats are launched. Very popular eating place. Come early, for they seem to run out of choices. I came to try the misoyaki beef, but they were out by 12:30. I settled for the burger, and wife had the guava chicken. We found neither particularly memorable. But if you sit inside the store or outside off to the side, you have a really nice view of Kaneohe Bay and of the fishing boats coming by.

Made In Hawaii: My cousin recommended this place for their strawberry mochi. It’s a mochi fitted around a large strawberry. I chose their strawberry & dark chocolate mochi, wife chose the haupia cheesecake mochi. Both were really delicious. I was taken by the soft and rich quality of the mochi itself. Definitely worth a visit.

Aoki: Honestly Matsumoto’s gets the tourists, but I have found Aoki’s equally good. As a disclaimer, neither are as good as the best in Honolulu.

Rainbow Drive In: Rainbow’s is still my favorite plate lunch, especially the mixed plate, which includes their mahi, fried chicken and teri beef. Good as ever, though the portions were noticeably smaller.

Bubbies has always been a favorite of mine, especially the macadamia nut (whole nuts). Having tried a plethora of artisan and quality ice creams in the LA area, I think Bubbie’s creaminess is right up there with the best LA has to offer.

We did take out for noodles, thin and thick, from Char Hung Sut. Boy if those thin Chow Mein noodles
were to die for. Just delicious. That place needs to set up tables and chairs.

Honolulu coffee: Another favorite which this time disappointed. They only offered 100% Kona brewed French press, which is not my preference. I would have much preferred a drip or a syphon. The coffee tasted burnt and lacked the smoothness I usually enjoy in Kona coffee.

Jung’s: I tried this place based on a CH recommendation. A little eclectic Chinese store on King across from the Zippy’s corporate building. It was probably the unhippest shave ice place, even more than Waiola Store, which probably added to its charm. The ice was served in a Styrofoam cup with standard flavors, but the ice was indeed shaved very well and it was really cheap, as a small came to $2.00.

Kua Aina: My wife’s favorite burger in Hawaii. I like it too, but don’t care for those stringy fries.

Yoony Sun: Actually a very good Korean plate lunch place in Kaneohe. I like their bulgogi, but wish they would slice it thinner. Hawaii seems to serve a thicker bulgogi most places. I like it sukiyaki/shabu shabu style. Good selection of panchan, though.

St. Germain Bakery in Shirokiya: My mother-in-law turned me on to the Excel thick sliced bread here. Toasted in the morning with butter and guava jam, just great. It must be really popular because you often have to ask for it at the counter, where they will slice it for you to your preference.

Thang French coffee & Bubble Tea. Actually a smoothie stand in the Mauka Kea Market foodcourt. And they served the best mango smoothie I’ve ever had. At their Kalihi location, I tried their honeydew, which was not as good. I think the rule of thumb is to stick to local fruit flavors.

Leonard’s Malasada. Always a favorite stop. Mine is the dobash (chocolate), but also enjoyed the flavor of the month, guava.

Agnes Portuguese Bakery in Kailua. They don’t have the variety of fillings Leonard’s offers, and the malasada itself tasted more dense. Leonard’s is lighter and still better to me.

Saigon House in Kaneohe had a nice vermicelli with charbroiled pork. Others in my party enjoyed the Pho.

Grace’s Inn. This is an old time favorite, though I hadn’t been in years. I used to always come for their chicken katsu. The portions were noticeably smaller, but still pretty crispy and tender.

Pancakes & Waffles is in the same strip mall as Young’s and Thang’s in Kalihi, so we gave it a try. The chicken and waffle offerings were pretty good. In LA, my favorite is Pann’s over Roscoe's , but P&W does a very good job. The fried chicken is very crispy outside and juicy inside, just the way I like it.

Windward Shopping Center Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoon is located inside the mall and on both floors. Great prices on produce, plus a good variety of goodies. I came away with macadamia nut peanut butter, guava jam made with honey and a reasonably-priced and smooth tasting 100% kona coffee. The market had stands for Portuguese pastries, Filipino delicacies, poi, etc.

Chun’s BBQ. A local favorite in Kaneohe but flies under the radar, as many Windward places seem to. Really enjoyed the kalbi as it was the thick cut.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Looks like you got to hit a lot of places in your time here. Shave ice really is a great way to break that summer heat. Next time you should add Your Kitchen to the shave ice list. My favorite alongside Shimazu.

    5 Replies
    1. re: killersmile

      I really tried. My wife loves Shimazu so much, she would rather go there 10 times than try 10 different places. I also updated my shave ice report from last year. I did like Jung's. The whole experience there was quirky. Your Kitchen is definitely on my list for next time. I can just taste that mango. Speaking of which, Thang's mango smoothie was like liquid mango.

      1. re: Ogawak

        I love Shimazu, just no parking around there so have to park at Foodland especially when busy. Usually I just make the long walk from home. I usually only stop by Your Kitchen when I am craving their japanese pork bowl, although I make sure to pick up a fujiyama green tea shave ice as well. I love Thang's as well, love the fact that you can watch them use fresh fruits when making the smoothies. At Heeia Pier, I really think you need to go with the daily specials instead of the stuff always on the menu. To me that's where they really shine. And just to note, my new favorite burger is at the Whole Ox. Very simple & basic, but aging the beef gives it a depth of flavor that you don't get otherwise (but my favorite sandwich there is still the porchetta).

        1. re: killersmile

          I wanted to try Whole Ox's burger, but I think it will be a priority next trip. What a great place! Thanks for the tip on Heeia Pier, it's a great location. The burger was a real disappointment. I did want to try the misoyaki beef.

          1. re: Ogawak

            We got the fish (moi) special at the Pier and had a good meal.

            1. re: Joebob

              I have liked everything (and it's a wide range) except the burger at the Pier. I found it to have too many onions mixed in with the beef. But on the other hand the patty melt was perfect! Try the loco moco it's outstanding. If you are lucky to have a fish burger (fresh aku for example) it is delicious just a nice filet letting the fish speak for itself.

    2. Great report, thanks. Teddy's and Kua Aina are my favorite burger joints here, but I have to agree with your assessment of Kua Aina's fries ( I get them well done which seems to help a bit). Honolulu Coffee Co. is another favorite of mine, I usually get the cappuccino there which is one of the few times I'll have milk in my coffee, it's that good.

      You seek out real local places which is terrific. Try Dean's Drive In, in Kaneohe, their ahi cakes and teri beef are big sellers. Only drawback are their sometimes weird business hours. Ethel's Grill on Kalihi Street below Nimitz is a great hole in the wall, everything there is good, especially their mahi mahi, pork chops and chicken katsudon, a co-worker swears by their pigs feet soup. Kahai Street Kitchen across the street is also a popular lunch spot, mostly take-out. Also the Nuuanu Okazuya is getting lots of positive reviews for take-out bento items which you may enjoy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: curiousgeo

        One thing to note about Nuuanu Okazuya is that I find the food to have a little too much sodium. Very tasty food and kinda pricey. The items quickly add up. I don't think I have ever made it out of there without spending at least $8 and I don't pick very many items. Just make sure not to get the fresh catch if they have it that day. You get a very small piece of fish which isn't worth the price you pay.

        1. re: curiousgeo

          Re: Honolulu Coffee Co., I understand they have award-winning baristas, thus the great cappuccinos.

          Next trip I'm going to have to ask you for your favorite hole in the walls. Ethel's Grill sounds great.

        2. Thanks for report. 1st trip to Oahu in 20+ yrs coming up soon! Can't wait to try some of your recs. Also going armed with a couple iPhone apps (What Chefs Eat; TV Food Maps; etc).