Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hawaii Journal: Wrap Up

Thanks for following along with Sku's Vacation Eats. I hope you enjoyed reading about it half as much as I enjoyed eating it. Here are a few last thoughts to anyone who is inspired to visit (or revisit) Hawaii with an eye toward food.

First, if you missed anything, here is a handy index to my Hawaii Journal:

Day 1: Eggs 'n Things*, Gina's B-B-Q, Poke at Tamura's

Day 2: Leonard's Malassadas, Keneke's, Waiola Shave Ice, Mekong

Day 3: Diamond Head Market & Grill, Honolulu Coffee Co., Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop, Island Fruit

Day 4: Ono Hawaiian Food, Chinatown Report

Day 5: Sekiya's Okazuya, Northshore Report (Giovanni's Shrimp Truck & Matsumoto's), Coco Puffs at Liliha Bakery

Day 6: Ode on a Spam Musubi, Gyotaku, Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

Day 7: Sanoya Ramen, Side Street Inn

Day 8: Brunch at the Prince Court, Tokkuri Tei

Day 9: Dim Sum at Mei Sum, Gulick Deli, Shave Ice at Keneke's, Diamondhead Market and Grill

Day 10: Roadside fruit, Romy's Shrimp Hut, Chantilly Cake at Liliha Bakery and Sam Choy's

Day 11: Fukuya for the Plane

*Shortly after my trip, Eggs 'n Things announced on its website that it would be closing at the end of August and reopening with new ownership and at a new location this fall. I just hope the new owners don't fool with the mac nut pancake recipe.

Hawaii Food Resources

If you are interested in more Hawaiian food tips, there are a few excellent resources out there.

1. Books

Over the years, there have been many, many Hawaii restaurant guides, but two of the best that are currently in print are, in no particular order:

The Food Lover's Guide to Honolulu by Joan Namkoong is one of the best Hawaii food books I've ever seen. More than a restaurant guide, it discusses the various foods of Hawaii and tells you where to shop for and eat them. It is full to the brim with all you need to know to understand and seek out the best that Honolulu has to offer. Namkoong is clearly our type of people as reflected by the excellent recommendations in her book.

The Puka Guide: 100 Hawaiian-Style Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurants by Donovan M. Dela Cruz and Jodi Endo Chai is a massive list of diners, okazuyas and other little joints with excellent local food. The 2007 edition is an expanded update of their first Puka guide and their companion guide to Okazuya. The descriptions are pretty bare bones, but they give you all the information you need to find good cheap eats in Hawaii. Unlike Namkoong's book, this guide covers the entire state, though the emphasis is certainly on Oahu.

2. Blogs

There are a number of Hawaii food blogs, and I can't claim to have fluency with the whole world of them. After all, I'm already reading LA food blogs and whiskey blogs...I do have a day job, you know. But there are a couple of Hawaii blogs that are definitely worth following:

Ono Kine Grindz is the granddaddy of Hawaiian food blogs, one of the first and best on the scene. Unfortunately, a few months ago, the blogger announced that he no longer had time to post there and would discontinue the blog. Since then, the postings have picked up a bit, though they are much more sporadic than they used to be. The fantastic blog archive is still up though and is a great resource. Google nearly any restaurant in Hawaii and you're likely to come up with an Ono Kine Grindz posting.

The Tasty Island is another excellent Hawaii food blog. Along with restaurant reviews, they do fun things like taste tests of the different lunch meat musubis. And you've got to love a blog that, instead of rating with stars, uses little spam musubis.

Island Travel Tips for Good Eats

This is just my two cents based on many years of travelling to Hawaii as a tourist who wants to eat like a local:

  • Locate yourself for maximum eating. There are good eats to be found all over the islands, but there is a greater concentration where the people are concentrated, in the greater Honolulu area. If you are staying in the North Shore or Ko'olina, you will have to do more seeking and more travelling to get a wide variety.

  • Get a car and get out of Waikiki. Waikiki is a beautiful beach and, while there are a few good eateries on the strip, it is dominated by chain restaurants and tourist traps. Hawaii has not only great eats but amazingly beautiful mountains and remote beaches that you can access by car. Ninety-five percent of tourists never leave Waikiki except for quick jaunts to Haunama Bay, the Dole Plantation and Pearl Harbor. Don't be one of those people. Many of the great eats in my journal were just a ten to fifteen minute car ride from Waikiki. Your exploration will be rewarded.

  • Do you keep kosher or halal or are you a vegetarian? If so, you may want to consider another vacation spot.

  • Consider a condo or a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave. Taste more variety by taking home leftovers

  • Don't pay to go to a luau. Don't! You will see a cheesy show with mediocre food. Instead, get yourself to Ono Hawaiian. For a fraction of the price of some hotel luau, you will get far better food. If you are interested in Hawaiian culture, check out the Bishop Museum which includes displays on Hawaiian history and culture and sponsors hula and other cultural activities for all ages.

  • Mahi Mahi is not dolphin. It is dolphin fish, totally different creature, so don't sweat it; you're not eating Flipper.

  • Lastly, love the pig and do not fear the spam!


To just a few of the places I missed this trip but that are worth a visit:

Young's Fish Market
1286 Kalani Street
Hololulu, HI

Hawaiian food joint, kalua pig, lau lau, Okinawan sweet potato, etc.

2671 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI

Creative pan-Southeast Asian fusion and great ice creams. Mid-level price wise.

Alan Wong's
1857 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI
(808) 949-2526

If you have room to splurge for a meal, you must go to Alan Wong. More than any individual chef, he brought Hawaiian cuisine to a new level by blending classic techniques with local ingredients and traditional dishes. And if you are used to the occasional splurge on a high end restaurant in LA, you will be pleased with the price.

Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop
46 Ho'olai St.
Kailua, HI
(808) 262-5367

The best malassadas on the island come from this Kailua bakery. Being doughnut shaped, rather than spherical, allows for more surface area to be fried crispy and delicious. I am probably sadder to have missed this place than anyplace else this trip.

What a great vacation! I hope you enjoyed my virtual meals. Thanks to all the Hawaii residents who have made the islands such a food-lovers paradise.

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