Eating My Way Through Hawaii

I would eat at Leonard’s every day if I could. Thank heavens that’s not an option.

There really is no place like home. Especially if home is Hawaii. For many, Hawaii is a dream vacation spot. For me, it’s the place of family and comfort and warmth. The minute I step off the plane and get enveloped by the fragrant air, I’m grateful to be back to everything familiar.

We arrived in Hawaii three days ago, and have quickly settled into the laid-back local lifestyle. Steve and I are spending three weeks (!) on Oahu and Maui. That means ample time for family, the beach, and of course, food.

For any person coming back to Hawaii after an extended time away, the top priority is hitting up as many local eateries as humanly possible. Hawaii offers a diverse array of foods unlike any other place, and one must properly take advantage. So like any intelligent person would do, I compiled a list of Top 10 Places to Eat on Oahu. A few are well-known places I’ve been meaning to try, while others are personal favorites that I visit every time I’m here. So far, we’ve eaten at two (Leonard’s Bakery and Goma Tei Ramen). Eight more to go!

Top 10 Places to Eat on Oahu
  1. Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen: A homey breakfast diner with fluffy pancakes topped with macadamia nut sauce that is a bit like crack. I ate here for the first time a few years ago, and have dreamt about the sauce ever since.
  2. Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts: There’s a wide selection of ice cream and other desserts, but I go for the homemade mochi ice cream in divine flavors like guava, chocolate peanut butter, lychee, green tea, tiramisu, and passion fruit.
  3. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: Los Angeles has taco trucks, Hawaii has shrimp trucks. Giovanni’s huge plate of butter garlic shrimp is said to be the best on the island, and well worth the drive to the North Shore area.
  4. Goma Tei Ramen Restaurant: If your only experience of ramen consists of the instant packaged stuff sold in grocery stores, you’re missing out. Goma Tei takes ramen to a new level with their huge bowl of noodles in slightly spicy sesame broth topped with pork and vegetables.
  5. Leonard’s Bakery: Cupcake and frozen yogurt fads will come and go, but Leonard’s malasadas are here to stay. The Portuguese fried dough pastries are crispy on the outside, and fluffy and soft on the inside. They can be enjoyed traditional-style, or filled with custard, chocolate or haupia (coconut cream). We ordered fresh malasadas for breakfast one morning, and four of us immediately polished off the entire box.
  6. Liliha Bakery: Yes, another bakery. This one is famous for its coco puffs with creamy filling topped with Chantilly icing. They also serve other baked goodies and diner-style breakfast foods.
  7. Mitsu-Ken: A dinky shack that serves great garlic chicken. The chicken is fried, and drizzled with sweet garlic sauce. With no seating, this take-out joint offers a great lunch to enjoy on the beach.
  8. Ono Hawaiian Foods: Authentic local Hawaiian food at a mom and pop hole-in-the-wall is a must, and Ono fulfills all the requirements. The combo plate includes kalua pig, lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, rice and haupia. Ono is Hawaiian for delicious…and ono it is. My mouth is watering just writing about it.
  9. Rainbow Drive-In: This charming old-school place offers plate lunches – typically an entree, two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad – for really cheap. Good choices include teriyaki beef, mahi mahi, chicken katsu, and loco moco (hamburger patty with a fried egg covered in gravy).
  10. Zippy’s: A trip to Hawaii must include a Zippy’s run. Often touted as the Hawaiian version of Denny’s, Zippy’s has upscale fast food 24 hours a day. I like their chili, fried chicken and saimin the best.

16 thoughts on “Eating My Way Through Hawaii

  1. It is 1 degree right now in Clearwater, Lars. 1 frickin’ degree! Words cannot describe how jealous I am of your current location. And I’m totally craving chicken katsu, spam musubi, and mochi ice cream now!Have fun eating for two 😉


  2. Good idea, I’m going to make Spam Musubi today. I’m snowed in with the kids (on my day off, damn it!). We are low on baking ingredients and Monday is usually my grocery replenish day, but I do have Spam and rice! We may not be able to bake cookies, but we can make Spam Musubi!!!Had I not just returned from a week in Hawaii, I would be jealous of your location too. I guess I should be glad it’s 24 degrees here in Portland. 1 degree? Frickin BURRR!


  3. Zippy’s chili….yay. Remember those weird Zippy’s commercials growing up with the talking Christmas stockings? That was before they ever had it on Maui. Mele Kalikimaka Lariss–enjoy those good eats. I’ll have to have to see how many of those spots my sisters have hit up. You are so right about that luscious air–it surrounds you right off the plane and makes you go Ahhhhhhhhh…. Home.


  4. Yes, please! May I add the Hukilau Cafe–their Coconut Pancakes are to die for!–and Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice–the stuff dreams are made of.Merry Christmas and Mele Kalikimaka!xox


  5. Wow! I’ve been to most of the places that you listed. And I must say you have awesome picks. Hope you are able to eat at all of these places. If you go back to Maui have some guri, guri and Komoda Cream Puffs for me! Enjoy!


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