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Jun 29, 2013 01:24 PM

Recs for Filipino food on Oahu (or potentially Kauai)?

Hi all, my boyfriend and I are on a temporary job posting in Honolulu. I've read that there is great Filipino food in Hawaii and was hoping some of you might have some recommendations for that, either on Oahu or Kauai (we'll be in Kauai for a week next month). For Oahu, it doesn't need to be in Honolulu, we're happy to drive anywhere. I tried searching the board and couldn't find anything -- my apologies if I've missed a previous discussion.

Also, while I'm writing, I just wanted to thank all of you SO much for your amazingly helpful postings and discussions on this board. We didn't know much about Honolulu and were pretty nervous about moving here; we've now been here 9 months (out of one-year postings), and exploring all your outstanding recommendations has made our experience here really wonderful. So thank you!

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  1. There are a lot of Filipino food on Kauai as their is such a strong Filipino presence here. Specific places that serve almost exclusively Filipino food are usually mom and pop family owned small restaurants. In Lihue is Mama Lucy's, Myron's Filipino Food and The Kawayan. There is the Kauai Family Cafe in Kapaa, and Aaron's Kitchen in Hanapepe.

    There are Filipino dishes at many other local restaurants that dont serve Filipino food only.

    Enjoy your visit here!

    1. Most of the Fillipino food on Oahu is Illocano style, as opposed to the Tagalog style you find in a lot of US mainland cities. The style is a bit different, usually there is less moisture, thicker sauces, etc. For Tagalog style the most popular, and newest, place seems to be Max's of Manilla. A location in Waipahu and one in Honolulu/ Liliha/Iwilei.

      For Illocano style the leaders seem to be Thelmas (Waipahu), Elena's (Waipahu), and Jessie's (Kalihi.) I'm kinda a Thelma's fan myself. I tend to go for the two item combo plate. Its a lot of food and fresher than what's in the buffet, although the buffet is ok. They also have three and four combo plates. Go there hungry for that, or take home leftovers (which you can't do from the buffet.) Get some of the Thelma's special (crispy roast pork, onion, and tomato in a soy based sauce - essentially lechon kawaii).

      1 Reply
      1. re: KaimukiMan

        Wow,, thank you so much for the recommendations. Also excited that there are Illocano places. We really like Ilocano pinakbet ( with bagoong isda). mmm masarap. And the ilocano dinuguan another favorite. I hope we can also get our fix of good Filipino food in Maui. Interesting that there is a Max there,,I like their arroz caldo.

      2. I don't know anything about Filipino food, but I have many times accompanied Filipino co-workers to lunch at the food court in Maunakea Marketplace in Chinatown. There are at least 3 vendors there that serve Filipino food, and the funny thing is that each of my dining companions has a different favorite vendor. It strikes me that going there first might give you some idea of what's available and allow you to try a lot of different dishes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: honu2

          Thank you all very much, this is great!

        2. Oddly, KMan and I agree about Thelma's, slightly ahead of Elena's IMO and possibly the best on Oahu. I am very fond of Thelma's diniguan, where you can't taste the hemoglobin at all, but the sauce is delicious. Thelma's guisantes and squid are good too. I get the 3 or 4 combo and make two meals out of it. I once compared Thelma's and Elena's lechon kawali directly and they came out about even. However, Thelma's is a family restaurant whereas Elena's is a hole in the wall. I have heard good things about a place on River street in Chinatown, but have never eaten there so I can't recommend it, just pass along the rumor.

          1. do you think that max's (Oahu) is a good place to start for someone who is somewhat intimidated by Filipino foods? I just read an article about 50 of the most outstanding dishes from the Philippines and some of them looked pretty good. part of the problem is I don't know what to order, and the food in the article only had recs of places in the Philippines. i'd like to start with simpler dishes first. I've had fried chicken from max's and it was ok. dunno if I could ever tackle balut or fried pork-stuffed frog, but I like pancit and lumpia. that blood sauce stuff... maybe

            6 Replies
            1. re: indelibledotink

              Max's is a good restaurant, but my experience has been that it is geared more towards larger groups (more than one or two people.) The servings are large so it's hard to get a cross section of flavors. Of course I've only been there with groups, at least 5 or 6 of us, so maybe my experience is skewed.

              1. re: indelibledotink

                I've been to Max's twice and I don't think much of it, even their specialty, the fried chicken. Chicken (leaner) and pork (fattier) adobo are safe bets if you like a vinegary sauce with bay leaf flavoring. You know how to find the menus in advance, yes? Did you see fried pork stuffed frog on an Oahu menu? If so, where?

                1. re: Joebob

                  yes, the chicken was not memorable.

                  menus are on their website, but might be alittle diff cause it's the Philippines menu.

                  no, the stuffed and fried frog was a dish in an article I read:

                  1. re: indelibledotink

                    I've liked most of the Filipino food I've tasted. Stick-to-the-ribs stuff, not very spicy. Nothing delicate, but usually good value for the money.

                  2. re: Joebob

                    In the Phils , Max and fried chicken are synonymous.

                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      We tried Max's. The chicken was OK, but nothing to write home about. I'd rather have lechon over fried/roasted chicken any day.