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A few questions about Oahu

I will be staying in an apartment at the south end of Waikkiki for three weeks in a few days. I've been reading the Hawaii board for a few days and taking copious notes. I'd love to get some opinions on places on my list to check out.

While I do plan to eat out a fair amount, I love to cook and since I have access to a kitchen, plan do do so frequently. My goal is to focus on local fish/produce as I much as I can. Would love it if you could share your favorite local fish and preparation methods.

I've made a list of markets/farmers markets to check out. KCC, Ono Hawaiin foods, Hilo farmers market, Oahu Market. I'm wondering if there is anything in my hood that will be good for staples, wine etc. I wish I could remember what the street/cross street is where I'll be at. I just know it's south Waikkiki.

I understand you can by fish from fisherman along the highway. Is this pretty much any day of the week? Any tips about that?

I'm not looking for anything high end, restaurant wise. Casual, non-fussy fun atmosphere is important. I would like to find a good sushi spot that is relatively inexpensive near my hood for repeat visits. I don't have any leads on that. Want to visit Whole Ox, Helena's, Rainbow Drive Inn, Side Street Inn.

I need to find a fun/charming place for a birthday meal for a adult that isn't picky and that won't break the bank but will be memorable. The experience for him is probably worth more than super fantastic food. Ideas?

And finally, I hate to say this but I may very well be dying for some French, Italian or Californian food after Hawaiin overload. I've never seen any mentioned on the board. Any options?

Oh and one more thing. How are the tomatoes on Oahu?

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  1. Last item first: Tomatoes. You won't find Jersey-style beefsteaks, but you can get very good tomatoes at the KCC and Ala Moana saturday markets. 4 respectable choices, but only two I'd highly recommend. 1st is Big Wave, with a booth at both locations, but selling only their wonderful pizza at KCC. Jeanne Vana, the owner, sells medium sized reds and yellows and lots of cherry/grape etc at Ala Moana, occasionally some great heirlooms. 2nd choice is Ho's...some excellent choices, maybe a bit higher in prices, but interesting varieties. 3rd choice is WOW, with beautiful looking larger ones, but caution that they are grown on the Big Island and shipped to Oahu chilled...therefore off my list, unless I'm on the Big Island and can get them unrefrigerated. 4th would be Nalo Farms at kCC, but they all come out of their refrigerated truck too, however, they may be preferable to WOW's...have never done a taste test myself. The Big Wave's have been the winners at the "official" taste tests.

    2 Replies
    1. re: macaraca

      This is great information, thank you!!

      1. re: ChervilGeorge

        Next topic: fresh fish and general groceries. At the Ala Moana Sat market there is a vendor who sells fresh fish filets, usually several different types, packaged in @ 1 lb. portions at $10 per...ample for 2 entrees, more if you stir-fry, do tacos, etc. As for regular groceries, the only real option in Waikiki is the Food Pantry on Kuhio, branch at Eaton Square, but prices and selection will be shocking unless you come from NYC or Tokyo. Better selection, and generally much better prices, and pretty wide seafood choices at Don Quijote, just out of Waikiki but walking distance. Foodland at Ala Moana would probably fall somewhere between FP and DQ in price and selection, but they are well-known for their excellent poke (raw fish salad) and are a long-time local chain. The Ala Moana store has a wider selection of take-out items than the neighborhood stores in their chain, including a salad bar.

        For the best selection of seafood, most would agree is at Tamashiro's Market on N. King, just beyond downtown from Waikiki, but easily accessible by bus with transfers. You will pass thru Chinatown to get there, and you mentioned O'ahu Market, located there, which would be the next best choice. Go early to mid-morning. Lots of inexpensive produce stands in the same area, a lot of it local, and a lot of it not, but probably the best prices on the island, and endless colorful ambiance. Lots of cheap eateries, but that is another post.

        Can't help with roadside fish vendors, but maybe others on the list can.

    2. For the birthday meal, I'd suggest Top of Waikiki.

      1. "South Waikiki" is not commonly used in Hawaii to indicate direction or neighborhood, so some of the information may be of limited use. If your apartment is closer to the zoo, I suggest you do an intial foray to the large Safeway on Kapahulu, which you can get to by bus from Waikiki. Safeway will have both local food products and the other stuff that you're used to. For example, it will have both Portuguese Sausage and Portguese sweet bread vs. Molinari salami and ciabatta bread; local fish including poke vs. trout flown in; local bananas vs. those from S. America; Ho Farm tomatoes vs. tomatoes flown in, etc.

        I have never seen roadside fish vendors in downtown Honolulu or Waikiki. Tamashiro Market is an experience in local color besides having a great fish selection so I would suggest you try that.

        For the B-day celebration, I'm not sure how much you want to spend. If you're looking for somthing special under $45 per, I suggest Cafe 8 1/2 's Saturday night (only time available and must have reservations) fixed price dinner. It's a four course meal for $30 and you bring your own wine. Another fun event would be one of the pop-up dinners; y ou would have enough time in Hawaii to find out about what's being offered during the three weeks.

        2 Replies
        1. re: honu2

          Yes, I'll be near the zoo.

          I think I read that the roadside fisherman weren't in Downtown or Waikiki but somewhere on the highway between Sandy Beach and Kailua. My understanding is they aren't vendors but just local fisherman who pull over their cars on the side of the road and put up a little sign. I think I may have read that here on chowhound.

          I think I will amend my idea for the birthday celebration being at a restaurant. It falls on our first day there and I think a picnic on the beach at sunset with some local foods would be ideal and then we can hit the town and check out a few bars.

          I will definitely check out Cafe 8 1/2 and I'm so glad you mentioned pop up dinners. I hadn't even thought of that and would love it. Do you have a good source to find out when and where they take place?

          Thanks for the great info!

          1. re: ChervilGeorge

            The only time I've bought roadside fish on Oahu was tuna/ahi chunks outside Wahiawa. Good though.

        2. If you are going to be up at KCC for the farmer's market, check out Ft. Ruger Market on Alohea Street, about 3 blocks away for Hawaiian food and Fish, especially poke. Since I can only eat so much poke in one sitting (its rich) i always refrigerate the rest for a stir fry the next day.

          Almost any grocery store in Honolulu is going to sell good quality fish at relatively reasonable prices. Waikiki is an expensive place to shop, and as mentioned above the Food Pantry is about the only grocer in Waikiki.

          If you are looking for reasonable places to dine out in Waikiki, your options are limited. Most of the food stands in the back (mauka) area of the International Marketplace aren't too bad. Fatty's Chinese is pretty good, mostly take out, almost no seating there. Moose McGillycuddy's on Lewers is a pretty OK 'family' restaurant downstairs, college/military bar upstairs. Not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, but if you stick to the simpler foods you will do fine. You won't find much true French food in Waikiki at anything less than 3 or 4 star prices (La Mer at the Halekulani) but there is a popular italian place called Due Divino on the far end of waikiki from you. Avoid Matteo's like the plague. You might enjoy Angelo Pietro near Ala Moana Center, fusion Japanese/Italian (yes, really). Shokudo next door is OK for Japanese too. Will you have a car? bus pass? or just on foot?

          3 Replies
          1. re: KaimukiMan

            I have no need to stay just in Waikiki. I would like to explore the city. Angelo Peitro sounds intriguing and it's so cheap so I'll have to check it out. I couldn't find a menu online for Due Divino but it seems very inexpensive as well.

            I will indeed have a car but I tend to like to walk so probably won't use it much around town unless where I want to go is really far and even then I'll likely take the bus. The car will be used for getting out of the city.

            1. re: ChervilGeorge

              If you have a car, you might want to check out the First Friday bar scene in Chinatown. The next First Friday event is Sept. 7; the art galleries are open 5-9, but I understand the real action happens after 9 on Hotel St. between Smith and Nuuanu and surrounding blocks. Lots of bars, some divey (Hank's Cafe comes to mind), some not (ex. Bar 35).

              1. re: honu2

                This is right up my alley! I will not miss it. Thank you.