After eating so much food that I wasn’t sure if I could ever eat again, Hawaiian cuisine had definitely left its mark on me. When I went to O’ahu, Hawaii for the first (and only) time last November, I was determined eat my way through the week. Steely determination in mind, I was also on a mission to eat food that I knew I couldn’t get back home on the Mainland.
Everything that I ate in O’ahu was absolutely delicious, but I’m now finding myself in a perpetual state of disappointment. Why is this, you ask? Many of the dishes that I enjoyed in Hawaii are either not available on the mainland, or they just aren’t the same. If you ever travel to O’ahu, these are the nine dishes that you absolutely must eat so you can share my disappointment.
Disclaimer: This is strictly from a tourist perspective who only spent time on O’ahu in Waikiki and on the North Shore.
1. Fresh Pineapple
Pineapple will never, ever taste the same once you’ve eaten pineapple in Hawaii. It is so, so incredibly fresh, ripe, and juicy. We’re talking dripping-with-juice juicy. While you’re in Hawaii, you have to eat pineapple at least once every day — seriously. Get your fill while you can, because it just isn’t the same back home.
This is Lulu’s Hula Burger. It’s your normal hamburger with a twist. Instead of the traditional lettuce-tomato-onion toppings, the Hula Burger has a slice of pineapple on top of a teriyaki marinated burger patty. It tastes unreal. Everything you could ever want in life is the Hula Burger. Plus you get your daily dose of pineapple, you feel?
3. Hawaiian Shaved Ice
The perfect treat for hot, sunny days (AKA every day in Hawaii) is shave ice, and Matsumoto’s Shave Ice is the place to go if you’re on the North Shore. A long list of fruity flavors are available, AND you can add a scoop of ice cream under your ice. As Hannah Montana would say, you get the best of both worlds.
Macadamia nuts are native to Hawaii, and they are delicious. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts are a go-to gift to bring back for mom, but Lulu’s takes macadamia nuts to the next level. Served every morning, these Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes are a must. An added bonus of this dish is the coconut infused syrup that comes on the side.
5. Pulled Pork
Tender pulled pork, BBQ, and tomatillo crema on a Hawaiian sweet bun… Need I say more? I’ve never had BBQ from the South, so I feel like I don’t have enough BBQ street cred to say this, but I’m gonna say it anyway: best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had. *drops mic*
#SpoonTip: You can find this sandwich at Duke’s in Waikiki.
Also a dish featured at Duke’s, this is Hula Pie. Composed of chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, macadamia pieces, and whipped cream, it’s irresistible. It’s also freaking huge. I’m talking half-a-foot tall huge. Don’t let the size deter you though, it’s so good that you can easily down a slice yourself.
These Korean Street Tacos are yet another Duke’s dish. Tacos will never taste the same once you’ve had this Korean-Mexican hybrid. Seriously, Taco Bell is already disgusting enough, but Duke’s seriously puts any taco to shame with these bad boys.
8. French Toast
Basically if you’re looking for a bomb-ass breakfast joint, Lulu’s is your place. This is their Stuffed French Toast, which is stuffed with cream cheese and pineapple-lilikoi marmalade, then topped with macadamia pieces, bananas, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. Like the Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes, this french toast is also served with coconut syrup. Greet the sugar coma like an old friend with this dish.
9. Dole Whip
Last but most certainly not least is the Dole Plantation’s Dole Whip. This was my favorite “dish” of my entire trip. Dole Whip is pineapple soft serve, but also so much more. Soft serve is not enough to describe this magical, creamy, light goodness. If unicorns were real, they would poop this stuff. It’s around $7 for this tiny cup, but it will be the best damn $7 that you ever spend in your whole life. Dole Whip is priority number one for your Hawaiian excursion.
#SpoonTip: You can actually make a DIY version of Dole Whip at home with this recipe.
If you ever have the pleasure of visiting O’ahu and you need some Hawaiian food recommendations, this article will not lead you astray. That being said, just know that you’ll have to join me in the vortex of sadness once you say aloha to Hawaii and return to the Mainland. Mahalo, Hawaii, for gracing our taste buds and ruining our lives.