How does stuffing your trap with flaky macadamia nut monchong slathered with lobster butter sauce sound? What about digging your fork into the chocolatey decadence of a Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé? At Roy’s you may never want to put your fork down. And that’s okay.
Maybe the gigantic line gave it away. Or the James Beard Award. But damn, home girl Helena can cook. Order the pipikaula-style short ribs and you’ll die happy.
3. Goma Tei
When you want to go out and grab some food, the mall might not be the first place on your list. But among the horrible fluorescent lights and the interesting (read: rank) aroma of parking garages and food court trash cans at Ala Moana Center, there is hope hidden behind those two glass doors. Push them open and immediately it’s all “Hello sunlight!” And “How are you clean tables?” The staff is extremely kind and the food, well, it’s good enough to forget you’re eating at the mall. Some personal favorites are the Tonkatsu Tan Tan Ramen and the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl.
Grab a seat at the bar and order the caramelized avocado cake. You’ll thank me later.
It’s pretty hard to get into Haleiwa Joe’s, partly because they don’t take reservations and partly because it overlooks a scene straight out of Jurassic Park. Serving bar food with a heaping side of aloha, it’s the perfect place to sip a mai tai as the wind gently rustles your hair. If that’s not enough of a reason to take the effing long drive to the North Shore, you get to keep the tacky glass with the sand on the bottom to remind you that it’s all downhill from here.
6. Ono Seafood
To fully understand the awesomeness that is this place, you need to get with the lingo. “Ono” means delicious in Hawaiian, and the poke (pronounced poke-eh) is definitely something to rave about. Walk right into this inconspicuous looking ground floor joint, grab a few pupus and choose from the list of ingredients (white or green onions, chili pepper, kukui, etc.) you can add to your poke.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of this thing called an acai bowl. The Diamond Head Cove Health Bar has the best one. Anyone who doesn’t dream of healthy, ice cream-like goodness for breakfast is just plain insane, if you ask me.
Try just about anything on the menu, especially the Twice Cooked Short Rib, soy braised and grilled “kalbi” style. You can’t not love it.
9. Doraku Sushi
You know how in chapter six of Catching Fire the Capitol’s citizens purposefully drink stuff that makes them puke when they get too full — just so they have room to eat more? You’re going to want some of that for your gorgefest on any of Doraku’s Special Rolls.
Oh, and if eating raw seafood totally freaks you out, there’s always Burger King.
10. Waiola Shave Ice
Say “shaved” and someone will probably shoot you the stink eye. While all the haoles will inevitably head to the North Shore to visit the famed Matsumoto’s, you can sip, scoop and slurp your way to ecstasy without ever having to leave the Waikiki area. Experiment with fancy flavors like Li Hing Mui, Haupia or Green Tea, then add some sweet azuki beans or tapioca pearls for a true taste of Hawaii. Oh, and at $3 for an extra-large bowl, you’re sure to get your money’s worth.
If it’s authentic island flavors you’re seeking, look no further than Elena’s, an Oahu staple. At this Filipino hot spot, all the dishes are made from scratch and the portion sizes are pretty perfectly huge. Try the popular Pork Adobo Fried Rice Omelette wrapped in a thin egg crepe or the Sari-Sari, a mixture of local vegetables simmered with pork belly and shrimp.
On an island littered with shrimp trucks, Giovanni’s is the king. This little gem located on the North Shore of Oahu may not look like much at first, but catch a whiff of this truck’s garlic-lemon-butter deliciousness and you’re sure to be a fan for life. First timer? Try the Shrimp Scampi. Like it hot? Opt for the “No Refunds” Hot and Spicy Shrimp smothered in a fiery hot red sauce. It hurts so good.
13. Leonard’s Bakery
Meet the malasada: round puffs of dough dusted in sugar that taste like heaven. You really can’t beat the original, hot and fluffy right out of the oven, but the cream or haupia-filled versions come close.
14. Yard House
Sure, it might be a chain, but if you like beer and bar food, Yard House is where it’s at. The Hot & Spicy Edamame is on point, but the street tacos are the real stars of the show. Order the Vampire Taco (not as scary as it sounds) made up of carnitas, bacon chorizo, cumin crema, guac and chipotle salsa hugged by a cheese-crusted tortilla. Dude, yum.