Hawaii, aka The Food Tour. Part I Waikiki/Honolulu

So I’ve been back from Hawaii for a little over a week now. My tan has begun to fade and the food baby I spent so much time working on has disappeared. I won’t waste your time, let’s get right to the important details. Where we ate in Honolulu. Read on for part I of the places you HAVE to visit when you go to Oahu, Hawaii. First the list, then the details.

Waikiki/Honolulu

  1. Helena’s Hawaiian Food: Best short ribs of your life
  2. The Pig and the Lady: Vietnamese fusion, the best tuna avocado toast, aka the food I’d choose if I could only eat one for the rest of my life (and everything else we tried)
  3. Masubi Cafe Iyasume: Spam masubi, if you like that sort of thing
  4. Da Cove Health Bar: Best açaí bowl on the island (even Eddie Huang thinks so)
  5. Ethel’s Grill: Hole-in-the-wall garlic fried chicken. Need I say more?
  6. Tanioka Seafood: Poke and a long line
  7. Tim Ho Wan: Dim sum, but really I go for the bbq pork buns
  8. Ahi Assassins: Fresh ass poke. That’s it.
  9. Leonard’s Bakery: Malasadas, which are puffs of heaven, stuffed with love and rolled in sugar.

North Shore details coming in part II

I don’t know how he does it, but Dan is the kind of person that knows someone everywhere we go. Whether it’s the local watering hole, the newest rooftop bar (Everdene in SF is the shiz), LA or Hawaii. I don’t hate the on-the-house-drinks or getting to skip the lines. I also love that he always knows the best places to eat.

Little did I know, Hawaii is actually full of Asian immigrants from all over. It’s become a fusion of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino and more. The Asian food scene is out of control in the best way possible, and I don’t know I would have had the same great experience going to Hawaii for the first time if it wasn’t for my dear Chinese boyfriend. Not everything we ate was straight up Asian, but so much has an influence. And lots of fish, which I think you’d get on any island.

Onto the trip details. We went for a week; spent the first few days in Waikiki which is more of a city vibe, and the North Shore for a few days which is the place you go with a book and no plans (and I’ll get to that in the next post). We ate at so many different places you’d think we ate ten meals a day, and it definitely felt like we did. We planned each day before we left for which restaurants we were going to depending on location and meal type. Here we go into the details (images below details).

Waikiki/Honolulu area

  1. Helena’s Hawaiian Food: This was our first stop from the airport, even before the hotel. We landed around noon, grabbed the rental car, and we’re starving. Dan knew of this place because of the short ribs. They’re not typically something I’d be like “damn, I could really go for some short ribs right now”, but these ones are life changing. They’re a little sweet, a little salty, moist and are dry aged to perfection. Served with white rice, ahi tuna, mac salad, haupia (similar to a coconut jello), and a little dish of salt. Go for lunch, and make sure you go early because the wait can be long. Ps. Guy loves this place too, as featured on DDD.
  2. The Pig and the Lady: I wasn’t expecting much here. Dan made a reservation a few weeks before we went, but he also loves making reservations weeks in advance, even if it’s not necessary, because he’s a planner. Guys. I cannot rave about this place enough. We started with the ahi tuna avocado toast, pictured below. Then we had a “banana blossom” salad that had mint in it with a peanut & hoisin dressing. Next, fried chicken. Then a fish plate. I was so disappointed we couldn’t fit dessert, and also disappointed that I can only eat at this place in Hawaii. The menu changes frequently, but I will 100% book a trip to HI around this place.
  3. Masubi Cafe Iyasume: Not to bring everything back to Dan, but he’s exposed me to a lot of foods that I would have never considered. Like spam masubi. I do not eat spam. Not because I’m better than it, but meat from a can freaks me out a little. However, if you put it over rice, add avocado and wrap it in seaweed and serve it to me on the beach, it changes it for me. This place is a local spot that always has a line, so plan accordingly.
  4. Da Cove Health Bar: There is no better way to start a day in Hawaii than a fresh açaí bowl. It’s located a little off the main strip, but well worth the drive/uber. It’s loaded with antioxidants, served with lots of fruit, and some bee pollen. Don’t knock it until you try it. We also laughed because Dan’s Chinese idol, Eddie Huang (created Fresh off the Boat, and a restauranteur), was there the day after we went. Then he continued his journey onto number 5. That basically makes us famous right?
  5. Ethel’s Grill: Comfort food with big portions. I could barely eat because I was still full from breakfast, but they’re known for the fried chicken and the loco moco (hamburger patty, rice, gravy topped with a fried egg), and the ahi tuna. Tried 2 of the 3 and they were delish.
  6. Tanioka Seafood: Stopped here on our way back from the North Shore before 11am and there was already a line that was 20 people deep. They serve a ton of poke varieties, deli style. This was our airport lunch heading home (you CAN bring poke through security, if you were wondering), and I forced him to finish before we got on the plane. Not trying to be those people with the smelly food. Definitely worth the drive if you love poke.
  7. Tim Ho Wan: I originally found this place in NYC from a recommendation, and was so excited to have stumbled upon a location in Hawaii (none in SF, sad face) even though we had just eaten lunch. I’ve grown a love for dim sum, especially the bbq pork buns. They’re served with a sweet crunchy crust on the top, and I dream about them. We also got mango cheesecakes from Uncle Tetsu’s which was right next door, and also amazing.
  8. Ahi Assassins: You need to be told about this place to know about it. It’s located in a U-shaped commercial building on the second floor in the corner. It is a doorway with a counter. No place to sit and eat, but you’ll make it work. They have five daily varieties of poke and even allow samples. They catch the fish the same day then you eat it in your rental car.
  9. Leonard’s Bakery: Some would say it’s for tourists, but I say it’s just for people that have a sweet tooth and want to take a break from poke. Malasadas are a “Portguese donut without a hole” and can be stuffed with chocolate, guava, haupia (coconut), and other flavored fillings. They also have tons of other bakery sweets, and like most of the other great places in HI, a line.

I’ll be posting details on the other places we visited, and more about our trip to Hawaii in the next post. I hate too many words, who doesn’t?! Check back, and make sure you’re subscribed so you get an email I have new posts! 🙂

Thanks for reading, and I hope you try all of these places! At least try Pig and the Lady, Da Cove and Helena’s, if nothing else! If you’ve been to any of these places, let me know what you thought!

xx -S

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