Most times we don’t realize it’s a home food until we take a trip to the mainland and find out there’s no such thing as fruit punch at restaurants or spam eggs and rice at McDonald’s. And while I realize there are L&L’s on the mainland, I’m not a fan. (sorry)
So while they’re here, I’ve compiled a list of foods I feel like they must try before they leave at the end of December. Jennifer Lawrence has said many times that she loves food and hopefully she knocks off at least a few of these items because there’s so much more to food in Hawaii than Cheesecake Factory!
I lived on the Big Island for 18 years and have now lived on Oahu for 15, so in other words, I’ve lived here my entire life. I’ve asked friends and family to contribute to this, so some of it is not personally tested by me. If you’ve got your own personal recommendations, feel free to comment with them! I’ve kept most of it to town, since I’m guessing they’ll stay in Waikiki even if they’re filming on the North Shore.
If you watch Hawaii Five-O, yes, this is the preferred shave ice/informant store of McGarrett and Danny, but the location on the show isn’t real. You need to go to one of these two locations. Get the scoop of ice cream underneath and top it with condensed milk. I usually go for the Lilikoi and Mango combo, but you can never go wrong with Strawberry and Vanilla.
Image from Giant Robot
The restaurant was co-founded by Daniel Dae Kim from LOST and Hawaii Five-O, though he no longer has any ownership of the place.
If you do some island hopping over to the Big Island and visit my hometown Hilo, make sure you try a loco moco at Cafe 100, along with a gravy cheeseburger.
Image from Laurie on Foodspotting.
You can start off by trying the meat jun at O-Bok, which is a small restaurant at Manoa Marketplace (very close to Paradise Park!). They serve it with a plum sauce that all my friends rave about, but I think it tastes perfect as-is. Another good starting place for meat jun is Kim Chee. There are like seven Kim Chee restaurants, but I’ve only ever eaten at Kim Chee II and Kim Chee VII. I have no clue whatsoever where Kim Chee I, III, IV, V, and VI are or if they even exist. The place is a bit run down, but pretty much everything they serve is extremely delicious.
To my circle of friends, Yakiniku Million is the hands-down champion for meat jun in Honolulu (dish in the middle above). They’re open til 2 AM on the weekends, but it’s not the greatest area to be in late at night imo.
Image from Migrationology
Mochi Ice Cream
Image from Honolulu Pulse
Image from Star Advertiser
Image from Tasty Island Hawaii
I make mine sandwich style with the spam in between two layers of rice and I cook my spam in a sauce to give it something extra. So while you can buy and eat them where ever while you’re here, here is my personal recipe (you can ignore the LOST related parts) that you can take back with you to where ever you live. My recipe has actually converted quite a few people over to Spam. 😀
Image from Quarry Lane Farms
Those are all the foods I think represent local Hawaiian cuisine very well. Here are some other quick suggestions.
- Tonkatsu (panko crusted pork loin) – Ginza Bairin on Beachwalk serves without a doubt, the most delicious tonkatsu on the island
- Ramen – Ramen shops are all over Honolulu, but my personal favorite is the Ume Shiso Ramen at Kiwami Ramen in Waikiki. I don’t get to eat there often because I don’t really like going to Waikiki.
- Saimin – Similar to ramen, but with thicker noodles and totally different broth, Shiro’s Saimin Haven has amazing saimin.
- Japanese Curry – Coco Ichibanya serves amazing Japanese curry
- Chinese roast meats – Nam Fong in Chinatown has char siu so good it’s hard to buy it and then show up at the party with any left because you tend to start eating it in the car on the way there. Their roast duck, char siu, and roast pork are to die for, you just have to be able to put up with their gruff manner.
- Lilikoi Butter – Stock up on this to take home. It’s the most amazing thing on toast.
- Sushi – For take-out, Ninja Sushi has really beautiful rolls that taste insanely good.
- Burgers – Teddy’s Bigger Burgers is our version of In N Out. There’s also a food truck called Momo Burger that makes ridiculously good burgers, you just have to check their Twitter to see where they’re parked.
- Italian – La Pizza Rina is a little hole in the wall restaurant with killer sub sandwiches and amazing lasagna.
- Cream Puffs – Liliha Bakery is famous for them
- Guri guri – Samurai on Oahu has really yummy sherbert just like the Maui kind, but if you’re actually ON Maui, make sure you stop at Tasaka’s.
If you want to eat rabbit like Katniss, I’ve tried finding restaurants that serve it with little luck. My better half raises them though, so if you did ever feel like it, backyard rabbit farmers like us are the only places I know.
Happy eating, victors!