I’m not sure if it’s just my family or truly a Hawaiian/Filipino cultural tradition, but every time I head back to the islands, I find that the majority of my time spent with my family is around the dining room table. Our meals last for hours and a big majority of the table conversation is about what we plan on eating for the next meal. Food is what brings us all together and to tell you the truth, I’m not even mad about it.
When most people think of Hawaii they envision white sands, crystal clear water, and gorgeous weather. While all of those are great, the first thing that pops into my head is all the food I want to eat upon my arrival. There are a few dining haunts that I absolutely must hit up before my time in Hawaii is complete. These are the tastes of home that I yearn for, whether they are tourist havens, or little local hole in the walls.
By giving you this list of where to eat in Hawaii I’m basically initiating you into my family. Try them out for yourself the next time you’re in Oahu and let me know what you think. If you don’t end up liking these recommendations, you might want to keep it to yourself. I don’t want to have to kick you out of the family.
This is almost always the first place we hit as soon as we leave the airport. My family likes to get there as soon as they open to ensure we get all of the local goodies that we crave. Tanioka’s offers plate lunches (combo plate with rice, mac salad, and one entree), bento boxes, and a wide array of deli-style dishes that you can pile up on a tray. I usually play it safe and get one of everything. If you want to cut down on the food intake, I’d suggest a spam or mochiko chicken musubi, some poke, and at least one bento box.
For the seafood lover, Tanioka’s is heaven. A wide assortment of Poke (a raw seafood salad) is offered and there’s always fresh, local sushi available- or at least until it’s sold out.
Leonard’s is for the sweet tooth in all of us. These heavenly Portuguese balls of fried dough are served deliciously warm and chewy. Kicking it up a notch from the usual sugar coating, Leonard’s gives one the option to choose between original, cinnamon, and li hing powder. If that’s not enough, you can also buy them filled with chocolate, haupia (coconut cream), or custard. Game over.
I’m a huge fan of the li hing mui coating while the Captain is obsessed with the custard. Our solution? Get a half dozen of each. Leonard’s bakery can be found in downtown Honolulu and there are also malasada trucks stationed throughout the island. We always frequent the one across from the Waikele shopping center.
My mouth watered just typing that.
This Hawaiian fast food chain is one of my favorite stops on the island. They can be found everywhere and I usually only go for their chili. Seriously. I recently heard that the reason why their chili is so good is because they put mayo in it. Did that deter me from ordering it every chance I got? Um, no. In fact, it made me question whether I should try to add it to my own chili. I’m only slightly disgusted in myself.
If mayo-saturated chili isn’t your thing, never fear. Zippy’s offers a wide variety of plate lunches and I will vouch for their beef stew. Give Zippy’s a try. There’s definitely something for everyone.
Matsumoto’s Shave Ice.
Yum. There are imitators everywhere, but no shave ice vendor is as good as Matsumoto’s. That’s a fact. With over 40 flavors, the delicious combinations are endless. My favorite is the “tropical” with guava, lilikoi (passionfruit), and papaya syrup.
Now, you might think that shave ice is just frozen water and syrup, but you’d be wrong. At Matsumoto’s you can also sweeten the deal by adding ice cream or beans to the bottom of your cup. For the real adventurers, a dollop of condensed milk over the top will send you straight to shave ice ecstasy.
Matsumoto’s offers cup holders for a mere 30 cents. I used to think that only the weak and clumsy invested in these holders but I’ve since been proven wrong. After many trips to Matsumoto’s ending with myself covered in multi-colored sticky syrup, I decided to buy a holder for myself and I haven’t looked back.
L & L’s.
That’s a picture of rice topped with a hamburger patty, egg, and then smothered in gravy with a side of macaroni salad. What’s not to love? L&L’s is a favorite among Hawaiian locals and it’s not hard to see why. The menu boasts a large variety of plate lunch options at very affordable prices. They’ll whip up your plate in a timely matter and it will taste even more delicious than it looks. Definitely give L&L a try when in Oahu. They can be found all over the island.
So there you have it, my favorite (and admittedly biased) list of the best food that Oahu has to offer. If you do make it to any of these places, be sure to have a bite for me and send a picture my way. I’d love to see what you order!
What about you? What are your favorite Hawaiian places to visit for a yummy bite to eat? Leave your recommendations in the comment section below.