I’m BAACCCKKK! Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been super busy with work stuff and haven’t had time to tell you about all the amazing restaurants I’ve been to lately. But fear not! I am back. I actually just got back from a long vacation in Hawaii so I’m super well-rested and ready to make this year better than the last. One of my new years resolutions is to do more things that I want to do (such as blogging). No more agreeing to go to things I don’t want to go to or going out when I just want to stay home and eat spam and watch Making a Murderer.
Speaking of spam, Hawaiians <3 spam. You’ll see a ton of spam in Hawaii because during WWII, spam was served to the GIs in the area and eventually found its way into the local cuisine. Those of you who think spam is gross because comes in a can or is “mystery meat” need to back off and be a little more open-minded. All spam is is preserved pork shoulder, pork butt, salt, water, sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrate (help keeps the pink color in meats like spam and pepperoni). So basically, if you ever have pizza with pepperoni on it, you have no right being weirded out by spam. Just try it. I <3 it.
Anyway, this post is dedicated to all the best foods I had in my time in Hawaii, many of which included spam. I visited Oahu, Maui, and Big Island. All beautiful, awesome places. I can’t say that Hawaii is necessarily a foodie destination but there are definitely some great eats, especially if you like spam or tuna.
The first spot I’ll recommend you check out is the Moanalua 99 food court. Yes, a food court. It’s extremely close to the airport so very convenient (and also VERY TASTY). The food court has a number of really well rated spots, including Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen, Take’s Fish Market, and this place we went to called Urawa Japanese Fusion. I had the BEST fish+rice bowl here out of my whole trip. Really.
Pictured above is the spicy ahi bowl, which comes on top of a bed of AMAZING sushi rice. Between the rice is also a layer of delicious seaweed. The ahi is mixed with this incredible sesame seed and seaweed seasoning. Seriously, this bowl is like crack. The textures, flavors, everything. I think part of why I liked it so much was it that it wasn’t doused in spicy mayo. All the other places we went had various bowls that were all doused in sauce. This is so good.
I ordered the Misozuke Butterfish plate, which was also amazing. The fish was so flaky and well marinated. Again, not overflowing with sauce. It was sweet and salty, charred perfectly, just uGHGH so good. We actually had the same butterfish at another restaurant (a much fancier Japanese restaurant actually – not a food court) and it paled in comparison to this (therefore I’m not recommending that place to you). When you arrive in Oahu, pick up your car and just go straight here. It’s literally like a 5 minute drive from the airport.
Musubi & Bento Iyasume
334 Seaside Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Musubis. If you’re going to Hawaii, you need to eat a ton of musubis. There are literally musubis everywhere. Every single gas station and supermarket even has them. Musubis are pressed rice balls and are most commonly seen made with spam. Musubi & Bento Iyasume specializes in making different kinds of musubis and small bento boxes. It’s a great little cafe to pick up lunch or a snack. It’s right in the heart of Waikiki (aka. resort town) so if you’re staying there, definitely make a pitstop here. Although, if you’re not in the area, I wouldn’t make a trip out just for these guys. The musubis were good, but did not live up to my snobby New York expectations (I’m the worst, I know). Many other great places for musubi (such as L&L – I’ll get to L&L later).
The musubis here are all made fresh (still warm). We got two of the spam, egg, and bacon musubis. The egg and bacon additions were awesome. Soft little piece of egg, salty fatty bacon, and flavvorrrfful spam all over rice and wrapped with love/seaweed. The spam was a little too over-seared so the texture was slightly hard… and the rice could have been better… but it was still good. Paid $2.75 for these I believe.
This here is the Hijiki musubi. Hijiki is a type of black seaweed. The rice is mixed with hijiki, sesame seeds, soy beans, and other little veggies, then wrapped in seaweed. Surprisingly tasty. Very umami.
2310 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Another great spot we ate at in Waikiki is Marukame Udon. Few places in Hawaii require a long wait. This is one of them. And by long, I mean Hawaii-standards-long (not New York standards). The line outside the restaurant was intimidating as it wrapped around itself (like for a Disneyland ride) but only took 20 minutes. And totally worth the 20 minutes. The food was delicious, cheap, and fast. The udon is all freshly made in house.
This lady is prepping my curry udon bowl.
After you pick the base of your udon (curry, soy broth, etc.) you then get to go pick all the fried toppings you want. I hiiiiighly recommend the shrimp tempura (seriously some of the best I’ve had) and the fried chicken (yes, the fried chicken). Fried chicken piece I had was dark meat, super moist, and sooo flavorful.
LAW got the Niku Udon bowl. It came with a “traditional broth with light fish and seaweed taste” and was topped with thin slices of beef and caramelized onions. The soup was okay. Noodles were fantastic. I had not had fresh udon noodles before so this has now set the standard for me. Fresh udon noodles are very chewy and do not become mushy on the sides over time. I got the curry udon, which I think was better than the Niku because the curry > broth. Noodles, again, were fantastic. Sorry WordPress is being dumb and won’t let me upload the photo of my curry udon :(
Anyway, Marukame is worth a meal, especially if you’re on a budget or just happen to crave udon. Broth wasn’t great but noodles and tempura were awesome.
Tucker & Bevvy Picnic Foods
2586 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Waikiki (last spot in Waikiki I promise!)
If you want a quick snack or a healthy lunch in Waikiki, I recommend Tucker. It’s right across from the Honolulu Zoo parking lot, where we actually parked both times we were in Waikiki. It’s $1 an hour – a much better deal than any of the garages.
Anyway! On top is the mango macadamia bread. Truthfully, the bread didn’t live up to my expectations. I had read all about the bread and even waited 30 minutes for it because they were waiting for a new batch. It was good. Extreeeemly soft and moist. Nutty macadamia on the crust was delicious. It was just not mango-y enough. I really couldn’t taste the mango at all. Bumz.
We also had the kale (pretty sure this is arugula but they called it kale), quinoa, and roasted kabocha squash salad with pumpkin seeds. So simple and so delicious. Roasted squash was sweet. Pumpkin seeds added texture. Great salad.
We each got a pesto chicken panini. I was underwhelmed with the bread and the chicken. The chicken was like … that weird kind of chicken they serve at Subway. It’s super tender and moist but very fake tasting. I know this is supposed to be the “best of Hawaii” post but I do want to rave about the salad here. And the non-pictured smoothies are also delicious!! Just don’t get the chicken sandwich. And instead of getting the mango bread, get the guava jelly cornbread (also not pictured). I had that on another day and it was great!
Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering
94-903 Farrington Hwy
Waipahu, HI 96797
On our way to visit Pearl Harbor, we picked up lunch at Tanioka’s, a little market that is famous for its poke bowls. It also sells various musubis, salads, and snacks. It’s super popular among locals (see line).
This is the Tempura Poke Bowl. It came with rice, poke, and tempura shrimp (with lots of spicy mayo). It. Was. The. Bomb. Hard to even describe but the poke was super fresh and had a great smooth texture (not stringy at all). Great quality of rice here too. Shrimp tempura was also amazing. All round delicious. One of the best poke bowls we had on our trip!
This is the Limu Poke, a classic type you’ll find in every poke place. It is made with tuna, limu kohu (a type of crunchy ish seaweed), sesame oil, and shoyu. The sesame oil creates a slimy film on the outside of the tuna that I couldn’t quite get used to. But it’s a very popular type of poke so I’d recommend you’d try it. Just wasn’t my favorite.
Tanioka’s is also famous for its inari sushis, which as riceballs wrapped in tofu skin. The sweet juice from the tofu skin seeps into the rice, making it a juicy little rice ball. Probably the best inari I’ve had… not saying much as I’ve only had them randomly at restaurants in NYC. This just tasted much fresher (made on the spot essentially).
The musubis from Tanioka’s were a tier better than from Musubi & Bento Iyasume. I think the ingredients were just better. We got the spam, fried chicken (amazing), hijiki (veggie one), and fishcake (MY FAVORITE – surprisingly because I don’t even love fishcakes that much). The fishcake was more like a fish meatball. That also sounds weird (and now thinking about it, given that they sell fresh fish here, they probably use some of the unfresh ones to make these meatballs……..but hey, that’s what meatballs are!), but it’s delicious. If you go here definitely try it.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
56-505 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731
If you’re in Oahu, definitely make a trip up to the North Shore. It’s where all the pro surfers surf. We, of course, watched the surfers and did not join them. After an exhausting hour or so of watching surfers, we drove down to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. If you go to that address, you’ll actually see a whole row of shrimp trucks and little picnic tables in the front. Giovanni’s is the most popular one and I don’t really know why… we ordered the spicy garlic shrimp plate (above) and it was, well, it was good. Very heavy (lots of butter). There was also randomly a Korean food truck so we decided to try the kalbi. The kalbi was AMAZING (sorry no photo again!).
1225 Hopaka St
Honolulu, HI 96814
Sidestreet Inn is a restaurant I wish I had discovered sooner when my family was still with me in Hawaii (my family left at a certain point so it was just me and LAW) solely because I wanted to try EVERYTHING on the menu and their portions are GINORMOUS. We sadly could only order two things and could barely even finish them (and you know we’re monsters). The restaurant makes “local style comfort food”. Local food is like hodgepodge Asian. Fusion done right. Pictured above is their *award winning* Side Style Fried Rice with char siu, Portuguese sausage & bacon, peas, carrots, green onions, and kimchi. So effing delicious. I can’t even explain to you. I just wanted to scoop spoonfuls of this rice into my mouth non-stop.
We also had the kalbi. Kalbi is a very popular thing in Hawaii randomly. Sidestreet is actually most known for its sizzling boneless kalbi but they were sold out of it when we got there :( But this was still delicious. Some of the best kalbi I’ve had. So tender. Not stringy at all. Flavorful. Yums. They’re also known for their poncho clams, spicy chicken, and pan fried island pork chops. Nomzzz…. definitely check this place out for hearty comfort food!
That’s all for now! Stay-tuned for the best of Maui and Big Island!