Hungry in Hawaii? Eat here.

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.

Tanioka’s.

where to eat in hawaii taniokas

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 Malasadas. 

Where to eat in Hawaii malasadas

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.

Zippy’s. 

My mouth watered just typing that.

Where to eat in Hawaii

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.

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.

what to eat in HawaiiThat’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.

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17 Comments

  1. Maria
    March 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Definitely not a post to read/view when hungry. *laugh*
    Maria recently posted…When in RomeMy Profile

  2. Kieu ~ GQ trippin
    March 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I hate you guys so much right now.. lol. We’re in desperate need of a Hawaii break. 😀
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted…Bolivia Salt Flats: Salar de Uyuni (Part 2)My Profile

  3. Jorie
    March 18, 2013 at 3:16 am - Reply

    OHmuhgosh. Lilikoi. *drools*. and…. Haupia. *light headed*

    {runs off to raid pantry…}

  4. @mrsoaroundworld
    March 19, 2013 at 6:23 am - Reply

    The masaladas are calling me! How amazing to find Portuguese influence so far away! We call them differently – sonhos, which translates as “dreams”
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted…My hOtel – Ten Manchester Street, LondonMy Profile

  5. Kent @ NVR
    March 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    I feel like you wrote this just for us.

    We gotta get to Matsumoto’s!
    Kent @ NVR recently posted…Video Debut (and Exciting Announcements!)My Profile

  6. The World Wanderer
    March 19, 2013 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    Yum! I am so glad you posted this, as I was hungry during your entire trip, while stalking your photos. Definitely bookmarking this and saving it for when I make it back to Hawaii.
    The World Wanderer recently posted…An Interview with Kirk Reynolds: Owner of Discover Outdoors.My Profile

  7. Johhny
    March 21, 2013 at 12:33 am - Reply

    As they say “A family that eats together, stays together” 😀

  8. thelazytravelers
    March 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    yumm! the romantic got to try poke during her stay in hawaii, but wasn’t a big fan of shaved ice. we’ll wait on our final verdict until the wino can give it a try.
    thelazytravelers recently posted…no travel requiredMy Profile

    • Captain & Clark
      March 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm - Reply

      AH, but was it Matsumoto’s shave ice? That’s the best one out there 😉

  9. Traveling Ted
    March 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    I can imagine how mayo can be good in chili. I actually like it on my meatball sandwich at Subway. I get some strange looks from the sandwich makers, but marinara and mayo is a good combo, so I can see how it would be good in chili. Great guide and tips for those heading to Hawaii.

  10. Elizabeth
    March 26, 2013 at 6:34 am - Reply

    Great post!! Some of my favorites are on the list! I too invest in the shave ice holder 🙂
    Elizabeth recently posted…Kauai Ziplines – Koloa Zipline ToursMy Profile

  11. Craig Zabransky
    March 27, 2013 at 6:11 am - Reply

    no SPAM? was wondering if the locals really eat it….
    stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted…Quinceañera-A Mexican Sweet 15My Profile

    • Captain & Clark
      March 27, 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Oh, don’t you worry. I eat SPAM all the time. SPAM, rice, and eggs for breakfast. SPAM musubi for lunch. Chris isn’t a big fan, but he’ll eat it every now and then. 🙂

  12. Tim | Adventure Strong
    April 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Hawaii is one of my favorite places. When I was in Honolulu, I’d go to L&L almost every day after work. They have surprisingly good kalbi ribs. There were about a dozen nice restaurants near the University of Hawaii. The Kona Brewery on the Big Island is worth visiting too. I never tried Leonard’s but I did have these amazing pastries in Kona that were filled with a sweet taro cream.

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