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Jun 13, 2013 11:10 AM

Shrimp Trucks ~ Oahu's North Shore

I keep hearing about the shrimp trucks on the North Shore. Are they all pretty much the same, or are there 1 or 2 that really stand out?? Are they whole, head-on, shrimp in the shell, the good kind you have to work on to eat?? Any precautions???

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  1. Giovanni's, Romy's, Macky's, Fumi's, and the newcomer Blue Water are the best known. They all pretty much sell similar products and each has their fans. Almost all of them are in-shell, and fresh/caught daily. Giovanni's is probably the oldest and best known. None of them are a bargain, but none of them are going to really rip you off or sell old/spoiled product.

    1 Reply
    1. re: KaimukiMan

      Macky's js my choice... lots of giant $12 with salad and a piece of pineapple. So good we returned the next day just to see whether they retain the quality and we were not disappointed. Also plenty parking.... and a faucet to wash your hands.

    2. To me the shrimp trucks are the ultimate tourist trap. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd swear the majority of their business is the tourist trade.... too expensive for locals.

      2 Replies
      1. re: scottca075

        I sort of feel the same way. We have dined at most of K'Man's recs., and all were OK (maybe OK+), nothing blew me away. Same for my wife. Now, maybe because we both grew up in the Deep South, and had shrimp almost every way possible, but it was a bigger treat standing in the sunshine in Kahuku, with O`ahu all around me. The various shrimp dishes were not up to that, at least for us.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          I can't argue that since they became popular the lines are longer, the prices higher, and the quality has not improved. But for a place that only had frozen shrimp available until 15 years ago, it was a real treat. I remember when you used to see them put your order of live shrimp in to cook. Those days are certainly gone. Still the taste of fresh shrimp is a treat, even if it isn't what it used to be (not that I drive to the north shore just for shrimp.)

      2. Aloha..
        Giovanni's for their garlic shrimp with 2 scoops..Outstanding!

        36 Replies
        1. re: Beach Chick

          I've heard really good things about Giovanni's,, sounds like a great place for lunch on the way back from a snorkeling trip. Is the "No Refunds" that hot??? Is it worth the burn??? It looks sooo good!! I know Fumi's sells live shrimp too, do you know if G's does??

          1. re: KowboyK

            I've only tried the Hot once. Meh, kinda hard to appreciate the shrimp with that much hot sauce. And no, I didn't think it was that spicy, i think its more of a marketing gimmick. You have to remember that a lot of the Japanese tourists don't have much of a tolerance for spicy food (except wassabi.)

            Giovanni's used to be willing to sell fresh shrimp if you asked for it, I don't know if they still do or not.

            One thing to look for is if any of the fresh corn stands are open when you are up there. Nothing like an ear of fresh picked corn with the fresh shrimp. I'm surprised one of them hasn't opened up right next to Giovanni's or one of the other shrimp trucks. Now that I've let that cat out of the bag watch the lines start growing for fresh corn, like the corn line at the KCC market. Sigh.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              I think I'll stick to the scampi, it looks great. I don't mind heat, if it enhances the flavor of the food. I don't like hot, just to be hot or cover up the taste of the food. I've heard the corn is awesome,,, we have some of the sweetest corn on earth grown right here in the Central CA delta, but it's seasonal. Can they grow corn year round on Oahu??? I've heard there's a place, I think it's called "Wally's", in Kahuku maybe that is supposed to be incredible,,, gotta find it!! Mahalo for all the info.

              1. re: KowboyK

                there is a larger crop in the summer months, but yes, it grows year round to some extent.

                1. re: KowboyK

                  Garlic shrimp isn't hot but with a black sticky like 'eel sauce' with lots of garlic..
                  You can get scampi on the mainland..this is crack on a plate!
                  Tails on with no heads.


                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    BC: a lot of places have added a spicy shrimp option in the last few months. Most of them are just "hot" and not terribly flavorful.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      Wow..that probably goes over real well with the tourists.
                      For me, I love some food super hot in spice but the garlic shrimp at Giovanni's don't need no stinking chiles to make it mo' better..


                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I see similar, with many other dishes - "spicy" = heat, and not flavor.

                        While I grew up with spicy, which often had some heat, it was all about the final product. I have never felt inclined to try to best pure "heat." To me, that is like drinking water at 212 F, and does not necessarily translate to flavor - where I want to go.

                        I have yet to try any of the "spicy" options, at any shrimp truck, but sort of feel that those would not be something that I would truly enjoy. "Spicy" CAN incorporate "heat," but that is but one element in the equation, and not the "end-all-be-all," at least to me.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Last time I was up there one person wanted to try the spicy. We all had one piece. It wasn't bad, but it was clearly about the heat, not the overall flavor. I didn't think it was that spicy, but maybe if I had eaten a whole order? I think it was a shrewd marketing ploy. Many other people did what we did, so they end up selling one extra plate for probably every three or four regular plates, good business, and people buy extra drinks too.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            Well, there IS the "macho" crowd, and with enough "adult beverage," some WILL try to eat anything.

                            I agree that it is probably a marketing ploy. Being from New Orleans, where one can often get "really spicy Cajun," and then a fan of Tex-Mex, where there is often quite a bit of "heat," I am not adverse to "spicy," or to "heat," but there needs to be a culinary reason for it.

                            Once, in Thailand, a friend challenged the chef with "you think that THIS is hot? You don't know HOT!" Well, he spent time in the local hospital, recovering from "hot."

                            "Spicy" can have heat, and often does, but then, there is "HOT!," and it often does not have much flavor, just damaging "heat." That is not MY thing. Though in a "manly-man baritone," or maybe "bass," I can take "heat," but I want a reason to do so.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I fully agree with both of you, I don't mind some heat if it is a by product of the proper seasonings!! I absolutely love Cajun, Tex-Mex, Mexican, Caribbean if done properly. I also love some wings, I actually prefer them to be a little hot,,,, as long as the flavor is there!! As far as the shrimp trucks go,, think I will stick to the scampi or garlic,,, I sure love garlic!!!

                              1. re: KowboyK

                                Have you tried the Angry Korean Lady's chicken wings? Mmmmm!

                                1. re: Joebob

                                  NO,,,,, tell me more!!! Where does one find these wings you speak of???

                                  1. re: KowboyK

                                    ANGRY KOREAN LADY aka Ah-Lang Rest., back of Imperial Plaza, 725 Kapiolani Blvd., C-119B, (808)-596-0600, M-Sat. 11-2 & 5-9. CLOSED SUNDAY. "Fried Specialty Wings, $9" last I looked. Let us know how you like them.

                                2. re: KowboyK

                                  Interesting, as we are watching a History Channel 2 program on "heat in food."

                                  I love heat, but ONLY when balanced. I do not need to prove that I am a "MAN," by eating stuff that kills taste buds - I want a well-rounded, flavorful dish, and any "heat" should be integrated into the flavors.

                                  I do not feel the need to enter into a contest in a Key West bar, where each person drinks jet fuel, then sticks a kitchen match into their mouths. Heat should be just another element in the layers of flavor, at least IMHO.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    These trucks have nothing on my husband! He made the most beautiful shrimp last night with a fabulous marinade grilled to perfection. Safeway has 16-20 wild caught in the USA for $9.99/pound.

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      it was funny when my ex gf and her parents and I were eating at a mex restaurant which boasted a whole wall of hot sauces. her dad announced he would try the hottest and made a really funny face when it was too hot for him. I tried it and it was good, not too hot. he was quiet for the rest of the meal.

                                      1. re: indelibledotink

                                        There does seem to be a culture of "HOT."

                                        My late step-father-in-law prided himself on fixing the hottest possible Louisiana Cuisine (known for some heat).

                                        It took me a bit of time, but I "broke the code."

                                        Every dish that he would offer up, was followed by "Bet that's too hot for you to eat." If I answered "No, it tastes good," he'd add habaneros, or maybe ghost chilies. And comment again, "Bet that's too hot for you to eat." This would continue, until the heat WAS too great to eat. Then, he'd declare, "See, told you that it was too hot for you to eat."

                                        At a point, I realized where this was going, and would wait until things were just right, then declare, "You're right, it too hot to eat, " and proceed to eat and enjoy. He was a good cook, but was hung up on providing food that humans would find too hot to eat.

                                        Never challenge a chef at a Thai, or Southern Indian restaurant, with "can't you make this dish too hot to eat?" They can, and likely will, but why?


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          you have clearly never lived in an area dependent on annoying overbearing, tourists who travel half way around the world to eat at sizzler and mcdonald's and then complain that there weren't any good places to eat there. Why do you realize there isn't an applebees or olive garden in all of Hawaii? How do those people live like that? We went to a luau and you know poi tastes like wallpaper paste. We got us some real food at Denny's as soon as we got back to Waikiki. Pork belongs in sausage, not dug out of some hole in the ground.

                                          Such behavior brings out an evil streak in even the most mild mannered of people. Best expressed in a bumper sticker I saw once "If it's tourist season why can't we shoot them?"

                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                            we are getting applebee's and olive garden soon...

                                            1. re: macsak

                                              they have been threatening that (and 5 guys) for years, hasn't happened yet. No doubt it will at some point.

                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                i think that this time, they actually have leases in place

                                                5 guys would be welcomed, i guess
                                                but not as much as in-n-out
                                                i hear there is a hawaii girl that married into the in-n-out family
                                                don't know if it is urban legend or not
                                                but another urban legend is that i-n-o will never open a restaurant where they have to fly to get to

                                                and i do feel your frustration, KMan
                                                i always rant about how the longest lines in waikiki are at outback steakhouse, red lobster, and cheesecake factory

                                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                                              Now, and the Applebee's comments aside, we have had great poi, though certainly not always. The best was (actually "were," since there were two) at Alan Wong's New Wave Lu`au, and they transcended all other offerings.

                                              As for Ka`lua pork, well we are big, big fans, but that is just us.

                                              As for many of the Mainland fast-food restaurants, I am glad that they are NOT in Hawai`i.

                                              Just came back from 10 days in Burgundy, and we were embarrassed that there were so many McDonald's in Dijon. I felt that we needed to apologize, being from the US.

                                              Now, I have never warmed to Lau`lau, even by Chef Wong. Just not my thing, though I often love that, which is wrapped within.

                                              Just different tastes - like the US residents lined up at the Hard Rock Grill in Mayfair, London, UK. Why?


                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Just remember, it is a statistical fact that half the population are of below average intelligence.

                                                1. re: Joebob

                                                  As my dad always said " one half of the Doctors, graduate in the bottom 50% of their class"

                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    i am ashamed to admit while on a Europe tour (my college graduation present - 21 countries in 54 days) I broke down and got a McD's hamburger in Vienna of all places. I atoned for my sin by going to Demel for dessert.

                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                      I will say that once a year or so I do eat McDonald's so shoot me!

                                                      1. re: manomin

                                                        mcdonalds has great breakfasts aside from the burrito.

                                                        your euro trip sounds amazing! I have not been out of the country yet.

                                                      2. re: KaimukiMan


                                                        I will try to not hold that against you. Often, all of us will "slip," from time to time.

                                                        Now, considering that I have not stopped at a McD's in maybe 30 years, even on very long road trips, it is easy for me wrap myself in the cloak of "fine cuisine." I will not do so here. So you stumbled, and you fell, but picked yourself back up, and forged ahead. We all are tempted by a certain "siren song," and we deal with those, in our own way.Your indiscretion, especially in your youth, will never be held against you. Heck, about 30 years ago, we stopped into a Golden Corral in Dodge City, KS, when driving back from New Orleans to Denver. It was late, and it was open. The meal was actually great! We had never heard of a Golden Corral, but found one in Denver, expecting similar. It was not even close, in any respect, so we wrote that chain off our list - still, after 18 hours on the road, late at night, the Dodge City restaurant was very good, to excellent - at least for us. [My confession]


                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          Perhaps I've told this story before, but back in high school I went backpacking in the high sierras with cousins. 5 days of freeze dried food, gorp, and beef jerky. Coming back out there was a small hamburger stand at the trailhead. It did a land office business. The burgers were amazing, the fries sublime. a week later we drove 70 miles back to that burger stand, they were that good.

                                                          This time the true nature of the food revealed itself. Turns out the burgers were horrible, frozen pucks probably 30% breadcrumbs, 60% meat, and 10% god knows what. The fries disgusting, limp, soggy, and oily. Remarkable what tastes good after a week of hiking food, or 18 hours of driving.

                                    1. re: indelibledotink

                                      Kabayaki sauce is a thick, sweet, hickory flavored sauce.
                                      It's what you get on a eel hand roll at the sushi bar.
                                      Like the Kung Pao brown sauce too.

                                3. re: KaimukiMan

                                  Little beats fresh Kahuku Sweet Corn Chowder. I really love that dish, when well done, and like it, when it's not quite up to par.

                                  I used to think that Olathe Sweet was the ultimate, until I tasted Kahuku.

                                  I love to pair that with a nice Montrachet (French Chardonnay), so often look for it at higher-end restaurants, like 21 Degrees. Ola used to have a few nice FR Chards, but the wine list got pared down, last time there.


                            2. ok, I am prepared to be flamed.

                              I have never eaten at the shrimp trucks, but some of the best garlic shrimp I have ever eaten is from L&L, specifically the one on liliha st. they don't come in mini at this location, and are very different than the L&L off of Dillingham and mcneil (by savers). that kalihi location is crap. I don't want to fool around seeing if the other L&Ls are any good cause the liliha one is in my neighborhood.

                              tons of roughly chopped garlic atop crispy in shell fried shrimp. I eat them whole, and my dog gets the tails. would eat the tails too if dog wasn't around. very buttery, very salty, but I get three scoops of brown rice with that, and some shredded cabbage. so ono. usually makes two meals and costs around eight bucks.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: indelibledotink

                                Indelible, I'm usually the first to rise up and criticize L&L but even I have to agree that they do a decent job on shrimp. It's frozen of course, not fresh, and I still think there is too much salt and msg, but also a lot of garlic (a good thing.) Its not a bad dish, and they include lots of butter sauce. Probably one of the best things on their menu. And like their other dishes, the portions aren't skimpy.

                                As a side note, I made a posting about the description of the Hawaii board on Site Talk, if you or others want to chime in, feel free. Thanks for letting me slightly hijack your posting.