03 August 2021

Sights, Sounds, and Flavors of Hawai'i - Part II

There is a lot of great food to be found all over the island of Oahu, regardless of what corner of the island you happen to be visiting. Rather than give you a full review of a bunch of restaurants, and only scratch the surface of what the island has to offer, let’s go through some of our favorite dishes we found as we ate our way around the island.
Plate lunches are serious business on Oahu, and there are a ton of great places to grab them. Rainbow Drive-In, Waiahole Poi Factory, Ted’s Bakery, Highway Inn, and Diamond Head Market and Grill are all phenomenal, but our favorite might very well be the Mixed Plate from Diamond Head Market and Grill. Consisting of a hamburger patty, with caramelized onions and made-from-scratch gravy, alongside sliced Char Siu pork and teriyaki chicken, complete with rice and a toss salad. Although, take it from me, pay the $2.50 extra for the potato mac salad.

Potato mac salad is also synonymous with island dining, and every restaurant has their own personal take on the dish. My favorite happened to be at Rainbow Drive-In, solely because I am not a fan of eggs and this version didn’t have any in it. I also recommend their Loco Moco, two hamburger patties, two scoops of rice, two eggs any style, topped with their special gravy, and a scoop of mac salad. Without the eggs, it’s called the Hamburger Steak Plate, but regardless of how you order it make sure it your plate comes with “gravy all over.” It’s not the healthiest thing you’ll eat, but you’ll be glad you did!

Over at the aforementioned Highway Inn, this happened to be our first meal on Oahu, and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to start our trip. Their combo plates are a great introduction to classic dishes, from kalua pig to haupia. Some of our favorites here were, ironically, not typically the main entrees. The Pipikaula, usually short rib or flank steak that has been salted, semi-dried, and cooked was a treat. Squid Luau, comprised of coconut milk, taro leaves, and squid, hits right in the comfort food sweet spot. Lastly, the Chicken Long Rice, a soup of glass noodles, ginger, garlic, sometimes lemongrass, and chicken thighs, was everything I had hoped it would be and more.

Now that we’ve hit a lot on the savory, let’s focus in on the sweets, and there is a lot to enjoy here! For breakfast, everyone knows about the malasadas, Portuguese donuts that can be filled or not, at Leonard’s Bakery. I am here to tell you, they are as good as they sound. And based upon my extensive research, I’m not sure there’s a bad flavor in the bunch. The main bakery in Honolulu always has a line around the building, but you can cut down on your wait time to get these delicious puffs of pastry goodness by hitting up one of the Malasadamobiles that can be found all around the island. You’re still going to wait a little bit, but that wait isn’t going to be nearly as long.

If you’re on your way up to the North Shore, make sure you give yourself time to hit up Green World Coffee Farm. One, it is some of the best coffee you are going to find, although coffee everywhere on Oahu is almost always better than coffee on the mainland. Facts are facts. Two, you need to get some of the warm banana poi bread. We didn’t stock up on the stuff nearly enough, and it is still one of my greatest regrets of our recent trip.

Moving on to desserts, we’ll stay on course towards the North Shore for two sweet destinations. Shave Ice is one of the well-known, and well worth your time, treats of the island. There are plenty of fabulous places to grab your shave ice, but Matsumoto may be the most famous, and the reputation is well deserved. However, we would also recommend Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha if you happen to be touring around Honolulu.
Back on the North Shore, Ted’s Bakery has a dessert that is tough to beat, and even tougher to not buy seconds or thirds of. I am speaking of the Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie. I’ve mentioned haupia before, but if you are unaware, this is coconut pudding made of arrowroot and coconut cream. It’s great on its own, but layer it up with some chocolate pudding and a healthy dose of whipped cream and you have a whole lot of delicious going on.

Our final dessert we remember so fondly comes from the Waiahole Poi Factory. The Sweet Lady of Waiahole is a warm kulolo, or coconut and taro pudding, topped with scoop of haupia ice cream. For us, this is Oahu in a cup, and we’re clearly not the only ones who think so. The Waiahole Poi Factory will run out of these on a regular basis, so if this is a priority for you, and we think it should be, you’ll want to get there early. If they’re sold out, you’ll never know what you’re missing, but I promise your trip will be all the better if you get one of these ladies.
Lastly, I want to touch on a pair of beverages before we go. We’re jumping back over to Diamond Head Market and Grill for their Plantation Iced Tea first. This, like so many dishes on the island, is different at every place you grab it, but the core components are the same, black iced tea, lemongrass, and pineapple. The Diamond Head Market version is so good that I have been making it at home since we returned. Mine isn’t quite perfect, but it’ll do until I can return to Oahu.
The other beverage of note is over at Monkeypod Kitchen, directly across the street from Aulani Ko Olina. This is the Monkeypod Mai Tai, a mix of light and dark rums, lime, house-made macadamia nut orgeat, orange curacao, and a honey-lilikoi (passion fruit) foam. This cocktail was on my shortlist before our trip, and it is still on my shortlist for whenever we get back. It has everything you want in a mai tai, with the sweet addition of lilikoi, which only serves to make the drink better.

There you have it! I’m sure you have a favorite that we didn’t hit upon, and probably weren’t able to get to with only a week to tour the island, but this gives you a tasting menu, as it were, of some of our favorites. I hope we gave you something to salivate over, and maybe persuaded you to add a stop or two to your next culinary tour of Oahu.

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