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Nov 29, 2012 08:23 AM

Oahu and Maui authentic local food advise

Hello All,
Family and I are traveling to Oahu and Maui in February. I want to experience the Hawaiian culture as much as possible so I'm primarily looking for food that's Hawaiian (Polynesian, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, etc). I prefer the local holes in the wall to the fancy resorts but have a few fancy resorts on my list as well. I plan on being all over both islands so I welcome recommendations anywhere. Below is what I have so far (based off of research from these boards and elsewhere) but want to make sure I'm not missing any MUST-eats! Also, anything on my list overrated?? Also, looking for good places to buy local fruits while on the island. Thanks for the help!!

Helena's - Lau lau, short ribs
Like Like Drive Inn - Saimin
Leonard's Bakery - Malasadas
Ono Hawaiian Foods -
Rainbow Drive-Inn - Plate Lunches
Mana Bu's - Musubi
Side Street Inn
Highway Inn
Various shrimp trucks - any favorites?
Matsumoto for shaved ice
Taniokas Seafood or Fresh Catch for poke
Shige's Saimin Stand
Ted's Bakery
Boot's & Kimo's for breakfast

Paia Fish Market
TJs Wharehouse for bentos
Old Lahania Lua
Tom's Mini mart - shaved ice
Mama's Fish House

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  1. I hope you have a LOT of TIME and a burning desire to eat at Boots & Kimo's, the lines there are absolutely outrageous, no kidding. You might think of Cinnamon's also in Kailua, they too have
    lines but not as long. They serve lots of great pancakes and many types of Benedict available in
    half orders.

    1. In Maui, Yee's Orchard for fruit, Eskimo Candy for poke, Kihei Caffe for breakfast, Coconut's Fish Cafe for fish tacos, Ululani's Shave Ice (now with 3 locations), Local Food for plate lunch.

      1. I would skip Like Like Drive Inn for saimin and instead go to Palace Saimin. If you are out in Waipahu, then Tanioka's is a must for poke. If in town, then I would go to Tamura's, Alicia's, or Ono Seafood for poke instead of Fresh Catch. Also for shave ice, go to either Shimazu, Waiola, or Ailana rather than Matsumoto.

        1 Reply
        1. re: killersmile

          i would also recommend palace saimin over like like and shige's. new, easy hours are 11a-11p, closed sundays and mondays.

          also make it a point to go to liliha bakery for coco puffs and chantilly cake. the other baked goods aren't that great to are really bad. the diner food is delish, though.

          you may want to go a korean place if you don't have one near you on the mainland. we like han yang (in kalihi right by palace saimin) and shillawon. chois garden is more expensive, but very clean. my parents' current favorite is million, a real hole in the wall, and good.

          for japanese food, i like gyotaku. there are two locations, one in town, and one in pearl city/aiea. it's gyoTaku, not the similarly named gyokaku. there are many great j restaurants here.

          you may want to try bubbies ice cream or a dave's ice cream for unusual flavors like green tea or purple okinawan sweet potato.

          you should check to see if a food truck rally will be happening during your stay.

        2. Star Noodle in Lahaina. And it's Old Lahaina Luau--"lua" refers to a bathroom.

          5 Replies
          1. re: honu2

            Star Noodle was good, overpriced, but good. If we hadn't had a gift certificate we had won at the MACC, we probably wouldn't have gone at all. I'd rather have something from the Honolua General Store. Some of the best food we had this past Feb/Mar was sitting in our car eating shrimp from Geste shrimp truck, watching the windsurfers near Kahului harbor

            1. re: rexster314

              I agree that Star Noodle is pricey, but it does serve Fried Soup, which is as local to Maui (and possibly Lahaina) as you can possibly get. As far as I know, there are no restaurants on Oahu who have this non-soup dish on their menu.

              1. re: honu2

                can you tell us more about this fried soup? alas, i am on oahu

                1. re: indelibledotink

                  Those who have told me about "fried soup" all grew up in Lahaina when the sugar plantation/mill was paramount. It's apparently a noodle dish, originally prepared and sold by a grocery store on Dickerson St. near the Buddhist Temple, which was served in a paper cone made from butcher paper. I've asked whether it was what we would call fried saimin on Oahu and was told the noodles were wider but it was the same concept of noodles, a little bit of meat and vegetables fried together and seasoned with a shoyu-based sauce. A small-kid time comfort food experience akin to eating shave ice on a wood bench outside the store on a hot day while walking home from school.

                  1. re: honu2

                    Very cool, honu! Thank you for the story.

          2. sadly I have to agree with those who suggest giving LikeLike a pass. Even Zippy's has better saimin than theirs. Palace Saimin, Old Saimin House, and Sekiya's are all options. Dillingham (the old Boulevard) and Takaka's (the offshoot of Dilligham) just don't have it any more. I enjoyed the Saimin at 49er Fountain in Aiea very much as well. But if you have sentimental reasons for hitting up LikeLike so be it.

            17 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Aloha K Man..
              Friends in Aiea love Youngs Kalbee..have you been?

              Love Giovanni's Shrimp truck in North Shore for their crack on a plate, garlic shrimp.
              Maui, I would add Gazebo in Napili for one of the best breakfast and Surfing Goat in Upcountry...Kula lodge is a good stop before the crater.

              1. re: Beach Chick

                Jawz food truck at Makena beach is fantastic after snorkeling/swimming..heads up though since they just had a Tiger shark attack.
                : (

                1. re: Beach Chick

                  Beach Chick - Have you tried the fish tacos at Coconuts Fish Cafe? From most reports, these are some of the best fish tacos anywhere. They use big juicy chunks of fish (not the fish shreds that Jaws uses) and something like 18 other fresh ingredients. Everyone says they are fantastic! Can't wait to try them in January.

                  QBall - Ive only been to Oahu once, so my recs are all for Maui. I'd say put Coconuts for fish tacos on your must do list. And also, very important, it is *shave ice* NO *d*. ;-) The only shave ice you need to try is Ululani's! Their ice is amazingly powdery fine and their syrups are made from scratch with real local fruits. The lilikoi is my favorite with li hing mui powder! If you must try another shave ice place go ahead and compare, but don't miss Ululani's!

                  Also you might want to try Kamoda Store and Bakery upcountry in Makawao, but go early before they run out of their famous cream puffs and other yummies.

                  The Fish Market in Honokowai is another stop for great, not fancy, food at a good price. Their original chef, and his recipes, came from Mama's Fish House.

                  We've enjoyed Old Lahaina Luau a couple of times, it's a fun experience. Load up your plate with the Ahi poke and kalua pork, and try the poi with the pork. Some of the other food is barely edible and not worth the calories imho. You can get great kalua pork and poke at other places. Have you looked at the option of doing Feast at Lele?

                  Oh, another good place to try is Mana Foods in Paia. It's a natural food store with lots of cool local products, including unusual fruits and some good prepared foods too. I always stop and get some produce and red salt among other things.

                  Karen gave you a good list, too. We plan to try Local Food in Lahaina in January as well. I'll come back with our impressions of these places, and we can see if we agree or not!
                  Have a great trip!

                  1. re: terijoy

                    Oh wait, I do have one don't miss rec for Oahu. The Saturday Farmer's Market at the community college! So many wonderful things to try there! I especially loved the miso butterfish. We picked up lots of fresh fruits and herbs to muddle into some delicious drink concoctions too!

                    1. re: terijoy

                      Woops! Sorry Kathryn - I'll try again
                      Kathryn gave you a good list!

                      1. re: terijoy

                        for fish tacos on Oahu, South Shore Grill can't be beat.

                          1. re: Joebob

                            yeah, well i wrote that before my trip to Luibueno's last week. So I'll ammend it to best in town. Trust Joebob to keep me on the straight and narrow... LOL

                      2. re: Beach Chick

                        Staying in Makena in January..... snorkeling every morning...... I will not fear sharks.... I will not fear sharks..... I will not fear sharks.... ommmmmmmmm......

                        1. re: terijoy

                          The old saying 'What you fear, will find you' ..
                          Don't go too early snorkeling..dawn and dusk rules usually apply but not always.
                          Jawz food truck is great and I love Makena area to swim/snorkel.

                          Have a great time and surround yourself with the Aloha of the island and you will be fine!

                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            Thanks Beach Chick! I've always meant to try Jaws, but we usually only get to South Maui one or two days on our trips and I love MonkeyPod so we eat there. This time we will stay south for part of our trip, so we should def try Jaws and Coconuts too.

                            Promise i will wait until the sun shines brightly before i go into the water. I have snorkeled with a four foot white reef tip shark and was curiously not afraid. If a tiger shark wants me I probably won't see it coming. But the same goes for getting hit by a car crossing the street and I will still do that, as well as swim and snorkel in the ocean - following safety rules of course.
                            Then I'll go get me some fish tacos!

                            1. re: terijoy

                              Those fish tacos at Coconuts look fantastic!
                              I'll be in the islands soon and it's on my list terijoy..
                              Have you been to Bev Gannon's General Store?

                              Aloha and have a wonderful time!

                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                Hali'imale General Store is on my want-to-do list for our upcountry day this year. We never have enough days! Husband wants to do the wood fired oven pizza at Kula Lodge. Not sure who will win, but I bet Bev Gannon's food is better. However we can always do one of her other places in South Maui. What do you think, is Hali'imale her best? We really enjoyed our O'o Farm lunch tour upcountry last year too.

                                1. re: terijoy

                                  Hali'imale and Mama's provided us with the best food.

                                2. re: Beach Chick

                                  Beach Chick, have you had your Maui trip yet? Did you try Coconuts?
                                  Well, we finally tried both Jawz and Coconuts fish tacos, and enjoyed them both, but didn't really find either to be rave-worthy. The Maui fish tacos I am raving about are from The Fish Market in Honokowai!!!
                                  They were exactly what I was hoping to get at Coconuts. Big juicy chunks of super-fresh ono, seasoned with a kick! Perfect corn tortillas, cabbage, nice tomatoes, really good salsa and topped with rich guacamole, yummmm.
                                  I should've been tipped off at Coconut's when the menu bragged about being low fat!! Hey, fat carries the flavor after all. Not that Coconut's wasn't good, they were. But I was expecting them to blow me away, and they didn't. The Fish Market did! And their other food was wonderful too. Also had poke and fresh fish to cook at home.
                                  I really recommend The Fish Market!
                                  Anyone else have an opinion on this place or Coconut's Fish Cafe?

                      3. re: KaimukiMan

                        the saimin at jane's on liliha is good as well