Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels

A big part of traveling is trying new food.  There will be many places in and around the tourist areas, all touting the “authentic” food of the area.  I’ve found such places not only pricey, but usually not very good.  What they serve is usually not even close to authentic.  When I travel I always look for the places where the locals eat, no one knows what’s good to eat better than the local citizens of the place.

When on vacation in Hawaii you’ll have to try some of our local fair.  When I say local I don’t necessarily mean “Hawaiian”.  Hawaii is a cultural melting pot and this reflects in the cuisine.  The population is made up of a diverse mix of immigrants who migrated to the islands years ago to work in the sugar and pineapple plantations.  They did what all immigrants do, they brought their food with them.  Today you’ll find these foods in Hawaii; Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, and more.  Some have been fused to become what has become known as Pacific Rim cuisine; a fusion of Asian/Pacific and Western cuisine, such as Korean Soft Tacos and Kalua Pork Sliders served in the more upscale restaurants.
Here is a list of must try local food and where you can find them.  Don’t leave the island without trying a few of them.
“Authentic” Hawaiian food is offered on many of the Luaus you find on the islands.  Most luaus will have poi, lomi salmon, haupia, and kalua pork on the buffet leading tourist to believe that’s all there is to Hawaiian food.  Yes, all those items are, but there’s so much more than that.   If you really want to sample authentic Hawaiian food then head out to Helena’s Hawaiian Food on Oahu, they’ve been dishing out Hawaiian food to locals since 1946 and was featured on the TV show Man v. Food.
Shave Ice is a local favorite.  Many places sell this icy treat around the islands, but the best known place is Mastsumoto’s in Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore.  You have many flavors to choose from, banana, coconut, watermelon, and much more. You can order a combination of different flavors thus creating the “rainbow” shave ice.  You can also have it with azuki beans (a small sweet read bean), vanilla ice cream, or both.  My favorite is Lychee/coconut!
Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels
Coco Puffs from Liliha Bakery.  This cream puff is filled with a chocolate cream and topped with a sweet buttery Chantilly frosting. It’s incredible and should not be missed!  The bakery also has a variety of pastries, cakes, and pies, and the adjoining restaurant serves up great local favorites.  Aside from coco puffs I always pick up a loaf of banana bread and a dozen chocolate drop cookies, my other favorites from Liliha Bakery.  They have 2 locations near downtown Honolulu.
Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels

Zippy’s is Hawaii’s answer to Denny’s and Ihop.  They’re open 24/7, most locations have a fast food counter, sit down restaurant, and Napoleon’s Bakery.  They serve everything from pancakes to chili (President Clinton’s favorite when he comes to the islands),  to teriyaki chicken to banana splits.  Local favorites are their Hamburger Steak Plate complete with a grilled beef burger smothered in brown gravy, white rice, and macaroni salad; Korean Style Fried Chicken are pieces of battered and fried chicken with a sweet sauce with the rice and macaroni salad.

For picnics or lunch on the go try their surf or zip packs – they’re bento style meals with spam, teri beef, fried fish, and friend chicken with a scoop of white rice.  Don’t forget dessert, their Chantilly Cake is to die for!  It’s Hawaii’s version of the German Chocolate cake.

Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels
Malasadas are deep fried balls of dough rolled in sugar or cinnamon sugar.  They’re crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.  They also have stuffed malasadas that are filled with your choice of creamy filling such as haupia (coconut) and chocolate.  The best ones are from Leonard’s Bakery, they’ve been frying them up since 1952.  You can pick some up at the bakery not far from Waikiki or from one of their red and white striped trucks on the island.  There’s always one at the Waikele Premium Outlet parking lot by the Old Navy. You may want to pick up a dozen because you won’t be able to stop at one!
Local Food
Local Food

A favorite local breakfast is spam, portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice.  Chock full of bad cholesterol but oh so good.  You can get them at most restaurants around the islands at breakfast time.  But most tourists I know get a kick out of eating it at McDonald’s.  Only in Hawaii does McDonald’s have rice on the menu.  You can get the platter with one or both meats.  Be sure to sprinkle some Aloha Shoyu, soy sauce, over the whole platter!

A favorite local snack or lunch is a Spam Musubi.  It may look like sushi, but it’s not.  It’s Spam, a local favorite in case you haven’t noticed, sitting on top a block of white rice.  It’s held together with a strip of Nori, dried seaweed.  You’ll find Spam Musubi and other Musubis that have chicken or other meat on top of the rice, at many shops.  The best ones are from the local 7/11s.

Local Food

Another local favorite for a light lunch or snack is the Manapua, mainland folks call it a char siu bao.  It’s a steamed bun stuffed with sweet red pork.  It also comes baked and can be stuffed with other meats such as shoyu chicken.  You will find this all over the island, but the absolute best is the ones from Aiea Manapua & Snacks on the Leeward side not far from Aloha Stadium. They’re great for a snack or a picnic lunch.  They’re very reasonably priced at just a bit over $1 each.  The shop also serves other local favorites like fried chicken, stuffed mushrooms, pork hash, and rice cake.  All priced around $1 each.

The Lemon Crunch Cake at The Alley is absolutely heavenly.  This restaurant/bakery is inside Aiea Bowl, yes, a bowling alley in Aiea on the Leeward side of the island.  I know it sounds weird, but there is actually a gourmet restaurant in there!  Their menu runs from Nathan’s Hot Dogs to their delicious Kalbi Bowl, Korean style boneless shortribs served over white rice.  Their whole menu is awesome but save room for dessert.  The Lemon Crunch Cake is a must.  It’s three layers of lemon cake smothered in a crunchy toffee candy.
Be prepared to wait for a table, they’re almost always busy!

Local Food

A favorite breakfast stop for locals is the Koa Pancake House. Their 6 locations on Oahu do only breakfast and lunch, they close around 2pm, but they do it well.  They dish up hefty plates of eggs with meat and fried rice and have a variety of pancakes.  My favorites are the Macadamia Nut pancakes and the Red Velvet pancakes.  Their prices are reasonable and the serving good size.

Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels
Bubble tea, you’ll find kiosks selling these sweet drinks at most of the malls and shopping centers around the islands.  They’re a cold milky drink with balls of tapioca on the bottom; sort of like a smoothie with chewy pearls.  They come in a variety of flavors including avocado, coconut, mango, and melon.
Local Food
Shiro’s Saimin Haven has been ladling out this noodle soup we call Saimin since 1969.  The menu has about 60 kinds of Saimin!  They also serve breakfast and have other local favorites on the menu, they serve a mean pork adobo, a Filipino specialty that’s cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and other spices.  Located in a small strip center on the Leeward side of Oahu, it’s a great stop if you’re visiting the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels

Ensaimada is a Filipino bun topped with sugar and cheese.  Many bakeries and supermarkets carry them, but none are as good as the one from Red Ribbon bakery.  This Filipino bakery is new to the islands having arrived about 5 years ago.  They also have mango bars, buttery Mamon as sweet sponge cake, and other Filipino treats.  If you find yourself hungry for some yummy cakes while shopping at the Waikele Premium Outlets then drive on by to the Red Ribbon in Waipahu, about 10 minutes away.

Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels

If you’re hungry for a good burger there are many great burger joints around.  My 2 favorites are Kua Aina Burger  with 3 locations around the island, and Teddy’s Bigger Burgers with 11 locations of Oahu and 1 on Maui.  Both places serve up great burgers, Kua Aina also offers Ahi Burgers if you’d rather not have meat.  Teddy’s serves great shakes too, I love the Pineapple Milkshake!

Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travel
Local Food
Local Food

The North Shore of Oahu is lined with shrimp trucks.  Giovanni’s is the leading favorite.  Stop by on your around the island tour for a plate of fresh shrimp cooked scampi style.  You can order it spicy or not, we usually ask for the spicy sauce on the side and dip as we eat!  Plates cost $13 including tax.  Bring cash as they don’t take credit cards!

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For those who don’t want seafood there are some other food trucks parked in the same lot, one does burgers and dogs, and another does sweet and savory crepes.

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We had some for dessert!

Do mind where you sit, each truck has its own tables and chairs by them and do not allow diners from other trucks to sit in their areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local Food
Courtesy of Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream

Mochi ice cream from Bubbies is a must try.  Soft mochi (made from sweet rice flour) is stuffed with  ice cream and frozen.  How wrong can you go with flavors such as  mango, lychee, and guava? They have many other flavors like chocolate and vanilla.  They also scoop up their homemade ice cream in cones and bowls.  Two locations on Oahu, one by the University and the other in Hawaii Kai, not far from Hanauma Bay.  Forget the mainland franchises, head to Bubbies for a real treat!

Cakes from Saint-Germaine/Dee Lite Bakery  are pure bliss.  They make layered chiffon cakes frosted with white frosting topped with a fruity sauce.  Flavors include guava, lilikoi, haupia, and more.  If you can’t decide on one flavor go for the rainbow which is a combination of different layers.

Local Food
When you’re heading to Oahu’s North Shore make a quick stop at Paalaa Kai Bakery in Wailua.  They have many different types of pastries and other treats.  My all time favorite is their Pineapple Turnover, the coconut ones are good too!
Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels

On the way to the North Shore is the Dole Plantation.  It’s a fun place to visit to learn all about pineapples.  The World’s Largest Maze is one of their attractions as is a garden tour and their Pineapple Express train ride.  While there don’t forget to try a Dole Whip, a pineapple soft serve treat.

Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels
Local Food

In the mood for sushi?  Try some at Genki Sushi, it’s not only good, it’s fun too.  Sit at the counter and grab your favorites off the conveyor belt as it passes by.  If you don’t see what you want you can order it off the menu.  The plates are color coded for pricing, at the end of your meal the server will gather stack your empty dishes and charge you according to their colors.

If you’re feeling adventurous try some Filipino Halo-Halo, this literally means mix-mix.  It’s candied native fruits topped with ice, ice cream, and flan.  The idea is to mix this all up and enjoy.  The best Halo-Halo is from Max of Manila, a new comer to the islands but has been in business in the Philippines since 1945. The restaurant also serves popular Filipino dishes including Pork Adobo and Lumpia.  Two locations Honolulu and Waipahu.

Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels

For a fun Chinese lunch head over to the Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant in the Ala Moana Hotel.

Along with their regular lunch menu you can order off the dim sum carts that make their rounds dishing up yummy tidbits.  Choose the ones you like or try something new.

Local Food
For Korean Food try Yummy Korean Barbecue, they’re in many food courts around the island.
   Order your meat then choose 2 – 4 side dishes from their display table.  My favorite is the Meat Jun, thin slices of beef dipped in egg and fried.  It’s served with a sweet soy sauce for dipping.
Local FoodLocal Food
Local Food
Savvy Nana’s Travels
Anna Miller’s located in the Pearl Ridge Center in Aiea on the Leeward side has the best Fresh Strawberry Pie on the island.  The restaurant is open 24/7 to serve up local favorites as well as a large variety of pies.  It’s popular with locals for Breakfast and lunch.
Try some Japanese curry at the Curry House Coco Ichibanya.  The are 3 locations on the island, Ala Moana, Kapolei, and Aiea.
My favorite is their Chicken Katsu Curry with Cheese.  Breaded strips of chicken, fried and served over rice, topped with curry sauce and shredded cheese.  You have a choice of mild or spicy sauce.
Local FoodIf you’re hungry for some sashimi or poke, or maybe you want a tasty bento box filled with crunchy tempura and fried rice you can head over to Tanioka’s in Waipahu.  This family owned and managed establishment is known for its fresh local ahi and aku as well as sushi, garlic fried chicken, and other local favorites!

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