Between questions about surfing, hula dancing and Barack Obama, I often want to grab people by the collar, shake them and yell, “Ask me about Hawaiian food! I want to tell you about my favorite places to eat!” Sure, contemporary Hawaiian cuisine might not be the very first thing that comes to mind when we tell you where we’re from, but the food scene in Honolulu is much more innovative and eclectic than one might think.
Whether you’ve been off island for a week, a month, or several years, at some point in time, you’ve been through a minor (or in my case, a major) period of Hawaiian food withdrawals. After being away from home, every local Hawaiian kid eventually realizes that their favorite snacks stops and brunch spots are inimitable by mainland eateries (Yes, we call it the mainland… Stop making fun of us.)
On the bright side, this deprivation during our time off-island gives us that much more to look forward to upon returning to the 808-state, and here’s where to start:
Like Californians, Hawaiians have also adopted the acai trend. While there are countless places to get a solid acai bowl in town, the best spot to grab this bowl of magic is on the North Shore at Haleiwa Bowls. After getting your açai from the beach-y shack kitchen, it’s virtually impossible not to Instagram these picturesque bowls.
2. Poke Bowls
I’m not gonna lie; everyone should love sushi, but Hawaiian sushi is special. Poke bowls, basically deconstructed spicy tuna rolls made into rice bowl form, are about as synonymous with Hawaii as apple pie is with America.
Mahalo to @808plate for sharing your photo and stopping by! #mahalofromkamehamehabakery #mahaloshoutout #ourcustomersareawesome REPOST from @808plate – Poi Malasadas from Kamehameha Bakery in Honolulu, Oahu: Review from @ricketyrach ~ Poi Malasada on National Donut Day??? @808plate five for sure!! ? the stuff dreams are made of! #808plate #iifymgirls #taro #poi #malasadas #foodporn #foodgasm #glazed #lovefood #nofilter #kambakery #poimalasada #malasada #luckywelivehawaii #hilife #hawaii #bodybuilding #bootybuilding #donut #fitfam #fitness #fitgirls #girlswholift #happiness #teamatp ~ Mahalo for the tag and support @ricketyrach ?? ~ ? If you're looking for those late night/ early morning cravings, Kamehameha Bakery opens at 2:00am Monday – Friday and 3:00 on Saturday's and Sunday's. We hope that you're having a great weekend 'ohana. Mahalo for all of your support and Aloha. #Regrann
Although no Hawaii kid likes raw poi (despite what we might tell you to seem more native), Kam Bakery’s poi donuts are a different story. Baked goods from Kamehameha “Kam” Bakery have been a potluck staple for nearly 37 years and you just can’t get your hands on this purple stuff anywhere else.
First of all, it’s shave ice, not shaved ice – and don’t you dare call it a snow cone. Kids who went to school in town know that Waiola’s is the place that you “jog” to then reward yourself with a $5 jumbo rainbow bowl with azuki beans, mochi balls, condensed milk and ice cream.
Despite having made a recipe video for honey toast, I still can’t get it to taste as fluffy, buttery and delicious as it does at Shokudo. Home to the OG honey toast and other amazing Japanese-American fusion dishes (try the teriyaki quesadillas or the spicy tuna crispy rice), Shokudo is my go-to homecoming restaurant.
6. Taste Tea
I’ve had some relatively good boba while on the mainland, but nothing even comes close to Taste Tea’s bubble tea. With the ability to customize your tea to your liking, I think most Hawaiians would agree that Taste Tea has the best variety on island. However, because I’m really creative, I always opt for the classic milk tea with big tapioca.
Beach day essentials like chili, saimin and bentos can be picked up from this Hawaiian-style diner. Founded in 1966, Zippy’s is home to Hawaii’s local twist on comfort food.
Three words: four dollar udon. Four measley dollars for a big ass bowl of hands-down some of the best noodles you can get outside of Japan. It pains me to pay $12 for a mediocre bowl of udon here on the mainland when I know that there’s a hot bowl of kake udon with my name on it at Marukame… And for the same price as a Starbucks coffee.
The only thing better than Bubbies homemade ice cream is their mochi ice cream. Mochi ice cream, a Japanese confection made by putting ice cream in the center of a ball of mochi (sweet pounded rice), is the epitome of a cold treat for a Hawaiian summer’s day.
Leonard's Malasadas ? #leonardsmalasadas #leonardsbakery #leonards #malasadas #malasada #bakery #bakeshop #pastry #pastries #patisserie #doughnuts #donuts #sweet #dessert #treat #snack #sugar #confectionery #baked #deepfried #food #hawaiifood #localfood #cuisine #dish #eat #kapahulu #honolulu #oahu #hawaii
I have yet to find a malasada, the deep-friend, Portugese version of a donut, anywhere outside of Hawaii. If you’re a malasada connoisseur, you know that the best spot to get these little balls of happiness in Honolulu is at the historic Leonard’s Bakery.
If you went to school, worked or lived in the Manoa area and have recently moved off-island, I’d wager that Andy’s is one of the major causes of your Honolulu food withdrawals. Arguably the yummiest homemade sandwiches and smoothies in town, Andy’s aficionados recommend the guava cream smoothie paired with a classic ahi melt.
12. Spam Musubi
I know 99.9% of mainlanders think that Spam is repulsive, but I’m pretty sure that’s because they’ve never had a spam musubi, which is basically a giant spam sushi. Forget about chips and bagel bites; 7-11’s spam musubis are the definition of a Hawaii kid’s afternoon snack.
13. Gomatei Ramen
Let’s put being on the US mainland aside for a second; I crave Gomatei ramen even when I’m eating at another noodlehouse in Honolulu. You just can’t get that spicy tantan ramen and crispy gyoza anywhere else.
The Hawaiian Guri Guri ice cream-shave ice hybrid is that much better in soft serve form. Most locals go for the strawberry-vanilla swirl and Samurai is the best place to get this spin on a classic Hawaiian treat.
15. Chicken Katsu
Nothing screams Hawaiian plate lunch like katsu and mac salad. I long for the footloose and fancy-free picnic days filled with crispy chicken katsu, tangy katsu sauce and white rice.
16. Loco Moco
Arguably the quintessential contemporary Hawaiian eat, the loco moco is one dish that keeps even unassuming tourists coming back for more. The loco moco consists of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg and gravy. Hit up any of the older diners/cafes on the island for this bomb classic.