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Honolulu Food Guide: Where To Eat

HONOLULU | I’ve created this Honolulu Food Guide to help you plan where to eat in Honolulu? It’s true that Waikiki is a tourist hotspot, and contains little in the way of inspiring food and drink that’s worth travelling for. Venture out of Waikiki, and you’ll discover a city with a vibrant, exciting food scene.

Since visiting Honolulu a few months ago, I’ve had a lot of people ask me for a Honolulu Food Guide. Honolulu’s food scene has been shaped by the native Hawaiian population, generations of immigration to the city, and creative young chefs cooking food that’s personal, exciting, and uniquely Hawaiian.

During my time in Honolulu, I was constantly wowed by what I had to eat and drink. The welcoming, friendly nature of those who I encountered in Honolulu’s hospitality venues was also notable.

You can read more about specific foods and dishes that I enjoyed in my article, ‘What To Eat In Hawaii‘. That article focuses on things that are uniquely Hawaiian, while this article has a broader focus. It’s a culmination of my research, first hand experience, and discussions with knowledgeable locals.

In this Honolulu Food Guide, updated as at November 2022, I’ll tell you the places to visit to try these dishes. I’ll also showcase venues drawing upon Hawaiian ingredients and culture to put twists on dishes that aren’t exclusively Hawaiian.

I’ve placed the tips in alphabetical order, and they’re all delicious. Are any of your favourites listed below? Are there any places that you think should be on the my Honolulu food guide?

8 Fat Fat 8 Bar & Grille

If you’ve ever wondered what Chinese-Hawaiian food is all about, then 8 Fat Fat 8 Bar & Grille is the place to visit. Opened in 1986, the dive bar x karaoke joint x restaurant serves up a delicious assortment of dishes. These dishes draw upon the owners’ Chinese heritage and Hawaiian upbringing. Think beef ong choy, ‘fat fat’ special chicken, and crispy gau gee (a Hawaiian take on deep fried wontons).

Bar Leather Apron

Bar Leather Apron was recently awarded number 42 in the ‘World’s 50 Best’ best bars in America list. It’s a must visit for outstanding cocktails and Hawaii’s biggest selection of whiskey. East Asian inspired snacks are well worth your time. Things like citrus sake cured kanpachi, jasmine tea smoked duck bao, and kimchi clam dip.

Bar Maze

Bar Maze is a restaurant by  Justin and Tom Park, the owners of Bar Leather Apron. The food is broadly Japanese and Korean, with Hawaiian flourishes. There’s a farm to table ethos with a real respect for the quality produce and it’s origins.

It’s an omakase style menu, with each dish developed and paired with its own cocktail. Drinks don’t just compliment each dish, but are an essential part of the experience. If you’re not a drinker, a non-alcoholic pairing is available.

Beer Lab HI

Beer Lab HI is a Honolulu craft brewery with three locations across town. The original is on University Avenue, and is a great spot with a real local’s vibe. It has a philosophy of constant change and experimentation. Expect lot of interesting and unique small batch brews on tap when you visit.

Breadshop

Breadshop is a Kaimuki bakery founded by owner and former Alinea, The French Laundry and Town chef baker, Chris Sy. The focus is on high quality bread and sweet and savoury baked treats. Everything is baked fresh in small batches throughout the day.

All lovers of quality baked goods need to have Breadshop on their Honolulu Food Guide.

BREW’d Craft Pub

BREW’d Craft Pub is a cosy local’s spot, with 25 rotating craft beers on tap, and over 100 cans and bottles in the fridges. For food, it’s tasty pub meals like IPA brined chicken wings, poutine, fish and chips, and burgers.

Brix And Stones

Brix and Stones is a retail wine and cigar shop, awaiting it’s bar license. When granted, it’ll open both the current space, and the currently closed space downstairs, as a bar. For now, it’s not technically a bar, rather a retail store with a relaxing, atmospheric lounge.

The focus is on interesting, minimal intervention wines from around the world, classic cocktails, and some of the world’s best cigars. There’s currently no kitchen, but you can order food in from any one of the great eateries in the area.

The Curb Kaimuki

The Curb Kaimuki is one of the best places in Honolulu for lovers of good coffee. The team are across all aspects of the bean to cup process, with coffee brewed every way you can think. There’s espresso and filter options, alternative milks, teas, and house baked treats.

Diamond Head Market & Grill

Diamond Head Market & Grill owned by local award-winning chef Kelvin Ro, who has built a career on cooking local food, infused with Asian flavours. At Diamond Head Market & Grill, Kelvin and his team create a variety of dishes that incorporate influences from all of the cultures of Hawaii. The focus is on quality, local ingredients, and a connection with culture.

Ethel’s Grill

Ethel’s Grill is a no-frills diner, open since the 1960s, in an industrial area near the airport. The food is informed by owners Ryoko and Yoichi Ishii’s Japanese Okinawan-Tokyo heritage, and Mexican-Hawaiian influences. The menu, written by hand on paper in the restaurant, features an assortment of regular dishes and limited specials. It’s local food, uniquely Hawaiian, but also uniquely Ethels.

Fête

Fête is a modern American restaurant with a global outlook, with dishes that celebrate the diversity of Hawaii’s food and people. It’s about showcasing the best Hawaiian produce, with a strong farm-to-table ethos, through food that’s a homage to the food that the people of Hawaii love to eat. Well deserving of its place atop many Honolulu Food Guides.

Guava Smoked

Owner Scott Shibuya started Guava Smoked in 2011, serving cold-smoked BBQ pork made using a recipe passed down through his family. Scott uses strawberry guava wood for smoking for a unique flavour. There’s three locations, offering things like smoked pork, kalbi ribs, salmon belly, chicken, duck, butterfish collars, and more.

Harry’s Cafe

Harry’s Cafe is run not by Harry, who I assume once ran it, but Soo Kyung (Christy) Cho since at least the 1990s. It’s an institution, open early and popular with workers looking for an affordable, tasty breakfast. Harry’s has an old school diner vibe, and a focus on Hawaiian favourites. Things like loco moco, spam musubi, and chicken katsu on rice.

Hana Koa Brewing Co.

Hana Koa Brewing Co. is an independent Kaka’ako brewery opened in 2019 by husband and wife duo Josh and Chrissie Kopp. There’s 15 unique and diverse beers on tap at any given time, with new releases kegged each Friday.

For food, its Asian and local inspired pub bites, prepared using the freshest local ingredients. Think panko popcorn shrimp, spicy tofu lettuce wraps, and tonkotsu ramen. A real step up from your average bar and brewery food.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Helena’s Hawaiian Food is a family owned and operated business that’s been serving traditional, local Hawaiian food since 1946. Founded by home chef Helena Chock, the restaurant is today run by Helen’s grandson, Craig Katsuyoshi. Visit for honest, delicious, home-style Hawaiian dishes.

Highway Inn

Highway Inn is an iconic Hawaiian restaurant that belongs on every Honolulu Food Guide. It’s been satisfying locals with delicious, traditional Hawaiian food since 1947. If you want to try real Hawaiian comfort food, Highway Inn is a great place for it.

Order one of the signature Hawaiian combo plates to try a bit of everything. You get a main dish of your choice, along with poi (a starchy, sweet/sour thick paste) or rice, ‘uala (sweet potato), and haupia (coconut pudding) with your choice of lomi salmon, potato-mac salad, or Maui greens with liliko’i dressing.

KCC Farmers Market Diamond Head

KCC Farmers Market is a farmers market that takes place every Saturday morning in Honolulu. Located close to Diamond Head State Monument, it’s a great option for a morning bite before doing the Diamond Head walk.

The market features over 80 local vendors selling fresh produce, Hawaii made products, and delicious food to eat. You can try a diverse range of things, while meeting the famers and producers.

La Mariana Sailing Club

Brooklyn-born Annette La Mariana Nahinu, and her Kiwi husband, Johnny, opened La Mariana Sailing Club in 1955. It moved up the road to its current location in 1975 and was run by Annette until she passed away in 2011. Visit to step back into the bast and experience one of the truest and last remaining examples of a real, old school tiki bar.

Lam’s Kitchen

Opening in 2009, Lam’s Kitchen is a family owned and operated restaurant, specialising in authentic Cantonese dishes from the family’s hometown of Guangdong. Must order dishes include the signature beef flank and tendon look fun soup, cheung fun noodles, and preserved egg and pork jook (congee) with youtiao (Chinese doughnuts).

Lanikai Juice

Lanikai Juice is a locally run business focused on making healthy and fresh smoothies, fruit bowls, and freshly squeezed/pressed juices. Ingredients are high quality – local and organic where possible. There’s several locations across Oahu, and it’s a great option if you’re looking for a healthy hit, and feeling like you need some fresh fruit after indulging on your trip.

Leonard’s Bakery

Leonard’s Bakery was founded in 1952 by Leonard DoRego, specialising in malasadas, or Portuguese donuts. The original recipe was handed down by Leonard’s grandmother Amelia, who immigrated to Hawaii from Portugal, in 1882. Today, you can still enjoy these malasadas at Leonard’s, made to the same family recipe, along with other Portuguese baked treats like pão doce.

Liliha Bakery

Liliha Bakery has several locations in Honolulu, and is a local’s favourite, with the original location opening in 1950. There’s 150 varieties of baked goods at the counter, which is why you come here. Try the signature cocoa puffs – light puff pastry rounds filled with a creamy chocolate (or matcha) pudding and topped with a buttery Chantilly frosting.

Maguro Brothers

Famed for their sashimi, grilled fish, and poke Maguro Brothers have been serving up some of the freshest seafood in Honolulu for over 50 years. There’s the original location, inside a Chinatown market, that you can visit for breakfast and lunch, and a second Waikiki location. The Maguro brothers work at both, which is why the opening hours don’t overlap.

Maui Brewing Co.

While not a place to specifically seek out for its food and drink, Maui Brewing Co., is one of the best options for those looking for a decent drink and bar food in a central, Waikiki location. A great option for a drink and snack, if you’re in the area and want something reliable.

Milky Way Hawaii Ice

Milky Way Hawaii Ice is a colourful food truck offering Taiwanese snow ice (different to shave ice), milk tea, iced tea, and boba drinks. It’s not a “you must seek it out” type place, but a great option if you’re in the area (Kaka’ako) and looking for a refreshing sweet treat.

Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar

Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar. is located in an unassuming industrial location around the corner from Honolulu’s international airport. Visit for some of the freshest and best sushi in Honolulu.

Master chefs Shingo Luu, Masakazu Murakami, and Il Han, use the best quality local and imported (in particular from Japan and New Zealand) seafood, with a focus on hand rolls, nigiri, and sashimi, and a few other dishes.

Mitsu-ken

Mitsu-ken is a hole in the wall takeout spot that specialises in local combo plates and bento boxes. Their signature item is the garlic chicken. Deep fried, boneless bite-sized chicken pieces, topped with an addictive secret recipe sweet garlic sauce. Order it, along with a bento box of assorted favourites on rice like Spam, teriyaki beef, and Portuguese sausage.

Mud Hen Water

At owner/chef Ed Kenney’s modern American restaurant, Mud Hen Water, traditional Hawaiian ingredients are used in new ways, across dishes that dance across the various cultures that make this melting pot of a city what it is. In particular, the food of Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines.

There’s a reason this restaurant appears on so many Honolulu Food Guides. It’s food that’s very much grounded, with a real sense of place.

Ono Seafood

Judy Sakuma, a native of Vietnam who fled during the Vietnam war, started selling shoyu aji poke with her husband Willy, from a cooler under a parking garage, in 1995. Ono Seafood is located next to that same garage and it’s still run by Judy and her family.

Go for the two most popular flavours on the menu. The shoyu ahi, featuring a house made shoyu made to a secret recipe blending Japanese and Hawaiian flavours, and spicy ahi.

Palace Saimin

Saimin is a ramen-like dish dating back to Hawaii’s plantation era. It features soft wheat egg noodles served in a hot dashi, topped with diced green onions and a thin slice of kamaboko. Other common toppings include things like Spam, shredded nori, dried shrimp, and char sui pork.

Palace Saimin, which was opened in 1946 by Kame Ige, who immigrated from Okinawa in 1924, is one of the best places to eat it.

The Pig And The Lady

Born and raised in Honolulu to Vietnamese parents, Chef Andrew Le’s modern-American restaurant, The Pig and The Lady, marries his Vietnamese heritage and American upbringing. It’s a family affair, with deeply personal dishes you won’t find elsewhere. There’s a respect and understanding of tradition, culture, and ingredients.

Purvé Donut Stop

Purvé Donut Stop is a small donut shop in Ala Moana (there’s a second in Kahala), that’s considered one of the best spots in town for a good donut. Everything is made fresh in front of you, and the donuts are midsized, so you fit a few in before you’re full.

Flavours are fun and inventive, generally riffing off nostalgia, childhood favourites, and uniquely Hawaiian ingredients. The base donut is a light and moist cake donut, with a freshly crisped exterior.

Rainbow Drive-In

Rainbow Drive-In a favourite amongst locals for simple Hawaiian comfort food. It’s been going strong since Okinawan born, former US Army chef Seiju Ifuku, decided to open his own diner in 1961. The focus then, as it is now, is on tasty, simple lunch and dinner plates that the everyday person can afford and enjoy.

Skull & Crown Trading Co.

Skull & Crown Trading Co. is tiki bar at heart, with contemporary flair, inspired by the trading companies that used to occupy this part of town. Cocktails are the focus, with a diverse assortment of delicious options. Most are made using local spirits and ingredients.

To eat, it’s an assortment of East Asian leaning snacks like meat and vegetable skewers, bao, and banh mi.

Smith’s Union Bar

Located in Honolulu’s Chinatown, Smith’s Union Bar has been doing its thing since 1935, making it the oldest bar on Oahu. Today, things are much the same as they’ve always been in here. Smith’s Union Bar has a reputation as the best (if not the only true) dive bar in town, and it ticks all of the right boxes.

More of a Honolulu Drink Guide than a Honolulu Food Guide spot (you don’t come here for food), but you should know about it.

Sooper Secret Izakaya

Chef Ricky Goings’ pop-up restaurant, Sooper Secret Izakaya, was one of my most memorable meals when in Hawaii. Ricky’s dinners follow the progression of courses of a traditional Japanese kaiseki meal, with dishes that throw away the rule book, and always respect the quality and provenance of the produce used. The result is food that’s exciting, interesting, and delicious. You can find details on the next pop-up on the Sooper Secret Izakaya Instagram.

Sushi Sasabune

For a memorable sushi dining experience, Sushi Sasabune is hard to beat. It’s a high-end restaurant that was opened in 1997 by chef Seiji Kumagawa, who wanted to bring an authentic omakase style sushi experience to Honolulu.

There is no set price and no fixed menu options to choose from. You simply enjoy the highest quality sushi that’s served to you, leaving the decisions to those who know best in the kitchen. You can go for the whole, generally 14 course meal, or simply stop when you’re done. You’ll only ever be charged for what you’ve eaten.

Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors

At the Kaimuki location of Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors, you’ll surprisingly find, beyond a great selection of liquor, some of Honolulu’s best poke. There’s the popular ahi, along with things like marlin, mussels, and even pipikula (Hawaiian dried beef). Most of it is fresh from the market, with handful of frozen items specified as such. Poke is sold by the pound, with rice available to purchase if you want to make it a poke bowl.

Taqueria el Gallo Rosa

Taqueria el Gallo Rosa is a no nonsense taqueria by Australian chef Paul Bentley (CasaSi Paradiso) and Mexican chef Fausto ‘Tato’ Garcia, who cooked together in restaurants in Mexico.

The menu is inspired by Paul and Tato’s favourite tacos to eat in Mexico, their own experiences cooking Mexican food in Mexico, and Tato’s mum’s recipes. Simple food made on site from scratch, using the best possible ingredients.

W & M Bar-B-Q Burger

W & M Bar-B-Q Burger is a no-frills counter-service burger joint that’s been popular with locals since 1940. Get the signature “Royal Hamburger”, a simple burger that hits all of the right notes, and a serve of their perfectly salted, crispy fries.

Waiola Shave Ice

Shave Ice is a popular year-round treat in Hawaii. Waiola Shave Ice, which has been around since 1940, is one of the best places in Honolulu to find it. Shave Ice is blocks of ice, finely shaved into a cup or bowl, topped with syrup. The shave ice at Waiola is so fine, that it’s light and fluffy like a cloud.

Zippy’s

Yes, there’s a chain on my list. Zippy’s holds a special place in the hearts of many a Hawaiian. It’s a locally owned chain that kids grow up with, and that people turn to when looking for a reliable late night feed. Hawaiian dishes are the focus of the menu. The iconic ‘Zip Pac’, featuring mahi mahi, fried chicken, Spam, and teriyaki beef over furikake rice, is a must.

Have you been to Honolulu before? What are your favourite things to eat there, and your favourite place to eat them? What would you add to this Honolulu Food Guide?

Check out my guide of What To Eat In Hawaii for a rundown of the best local dishes and things to eat in Honolulu.

Full Moon Fever, Abbotsford

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MELBOURNE | I’ve been a fan of Lulie Tavern ever since they first popped up down the road from their current location in 2014. When owners Brendan Kennedy and Jon-Lee Farrell moved Lulie to the current location in 2018, they managed to retain what made the venue special. Great drinks, fantastic service, and an unpretentious vibe wth live rock music and an Americana vibe.

Today the team opens their new rooftop bar, much delayed after the decision to do it was made just before the pandemic hit. Attending the launch event last night, I can say it was worth the wait.

Named after Tom Petty’s 1989 album, Full Moon Fever, the rooftop bar looks to Southern California. More specifically one of Brendan and Jon-Lee’s favourite Mojave Desert bars and live music venues, Pappy & Harriet’s.

The bar has the vibe down pat, with sunset hues, stone walls, and cacti. There’s a retractable roof and a fire to keep things rolling during winter, booths, and sunbeds. There’s a DJ booth in the corner for live music, which skews classic rock with a more chill feel than downstairs.

To drink, it’s SoCal themes cocktails with a focus on mezcal and tequila. There’s also interesting wines and a tap and can list or crafty and not so crafty beers. To eat, it’s eight different burgers, fried chicken, wings, and thick cut chips. Vegan options are available too.


Full Moon Fever

225 Johnston Street
Abbotsford
Victoria 3067
Australia

Telephone: 0437 626 885
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Mon – Thu: 4:00pm to 11:00pm
Fri – Sat: 12:00pm to 1:00am
Sun: 12:00pm to 11:00pm

What To Eat In Hawaii

HONOLULU | While researching what to eat in Hawaii, you’ll soon be salivating at the dishes that can be experienced. Hawaii is home to a rich and diverse food culture, the result of successive waves of immigration over generations.

There’s pre-European settlement, Polynesian staples like poi, kalua pork, and the fresh raw seafood that evolved into today’s poke. Japanese immigration has had a big influence on the food of Hawaii, as has immigration form places like China, Korea, and the Philipnes.

Trends from mainland USA have also influenced what to eat in Hawaii, along with an ever increasing culturally diverse population. Traditional diners and cafes, some of which have been in the same family for generations have a story to tell, as do newer restaurants. Many of the new restaurants, started by Hawaiian-born chefs who have returned home, build on modern-American cuisine with a distinctly Hawaiian flavour and story.

Here are some of the foods that you can expect to find when you’re visiting, and wondering what to eat in Hawaii. I’ve also included some of the place where you can enjoy these foods in Honolulu. For a full list on places to eat in Honolulu, check out my article, “Honolulu Food Guide: Where To Eat“.

Coco Puffs

Liliha Bakery’s signature coco puffs hit the bakery’s menu in the 1970s but didn’t become what they are today until being tweaked in the 1990s. Today it’s what they are known for. Coco puffs are puff pastry rounds filled with a creamy chocolate (or matcha) pudding and topped with a buttery Chantilly frosting.

Garlic Shrimp/Prawns

Popularised on Hawaii’s North Shore at food truck Giovanni’s in 1993, garlic shrimp has become a Hawaiian staple. Plump, local shrimp are sauteed with a heap of finely diced garlic until crispy. They’re then served over rice with a thick, buttery sauce.

Chocolate Haupia Pie

There are many variations of haupia pie, but the most popular is chocolate haupia pie. It’s a combination of haupia pudding (a dense coconut milk pudding) layer, chocolate layer, and whipped cream, in a pie crust.

Huli-Huli Chicken

Huli-huli chicken is chicken that’s been barbecued on a grill or rotisserie over mesquite wood, and basted with a sweet huli-huli sauce. Huli is the Hawaiian word for “turn”. Customers would shout it out when seeing the chicken turning on the rotisserie.

Huli-huli sauce is similar to teriyaki sauce, based on a sauce created by former naval intelligence officer Ernest Morgado, the inventor of huli-huli chicken, in 1954

Kālua Pig

Kālua pig is a whole pig, cooked in an imu, a traditional Hawaiian underground oven. The entire pig is seasoned with sea salt. It is then placed into the imu, which is filled with lava rocks, and sealed with banana leaves. The pig cooks slowly throughout the day until the meat is fall off the bone tender. The flavour is wonderfully smoky.

Traditional Hawaiian restaurants Helena’s Hawaiian Food, and Highway Inn are two great place to try it.

Loco Moco

Loco Moco was created in 1949 at a restaurant called Lincoln Grill. It was done so at the request of some teenagers from the Lincoln Wreckers sports club. They wanted something quick and inexpensive that wasn’t a sandwich, and Loco Moco was the result.

Crazy (Loco) was the nickname of one of the teenagers, George, who was studying Spanish at high school. Moco though? Because it rhymed with loco and sounded good. Unbeknown to the boys, moco is Spanish for mucus/snot.

There are lots of variations of Loco Moco in the cafes and diners of Hawaii. The traditional is the most popular. White steamed Japanese short grain rice, topped with a beef burger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. Try it at Diamond Head Market & Grill, or Ethel’s Grill.

Lomi Lomi Salmon

Lomi lomi salmon (also known as lomi salmon) is a common Hawaiian side. It is a cold fresh salad of salted, shredded salmon with tomatoes, and sweet Maui onions. Scallions/spring onions are also sometimes used.

Luau Stew

Luau Stew is a traditional Hawaiian stew made by cooking fresh luau leaves with water and salt. Onions, ginger, and garlic are common additions. It’s commonly served with rice and other traditional Hawaiian dishes like kālua pig, poi, and ulu.

Macaroni Salad

Ubiquitous as a side on many Hawaiian plates, the macaroni salad in Hawaii is a unique creation. It’s believed to be an adaption of the potato salad that European hotel chefs used to cook back in the plantation era. Local staff swapped potato for macaroni because it was cheaper and less perishable.

Hawaiian macaroni salad sees the elbow shaped macaroni cooked beyond al dente. It’s dressed with a whole lot of Hellmann’s/Best Foods mayonnaise. Mustard, sugar, and MSG are omitted, as sometimes is vinegar.

Malasadas

A malasada is a Portuguese donut It was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese plantation workers from Madeira and the Azores, who immigrated to Hawaii in 1882. Malasadas are filled with traditional flavours like chocolate and custard, along with Hawaiian flavours like haupia, and guava. Try them at the iconic Leonard’s Bakery, the original location of which has been operating since 1952.

Manapua

Manapua is a Hawaiian take on the Chinese char siu bao, adapted by Chinese immigrants to the islands. There’s the classic char siu, along with fillings like Portuguese sausage, kālua pig, and coconut. Manapua are bigger than char sui bao, and the char siu filling sweeter.

Mai Tai

Despite being associated with Hawaii, the mai tai was actually created at Trader Vic’s, in Oakland, California, in 1944. It was introduced in Hawaii in 1953, and soon became the most popular cocktail there. It’s been associated with Hawaii ever since.

The traditional mai tai is a blend of rum, Curaçao liqueur, orgeat syrup, and lime juice. Several variations on the classic are offered at different venues, but the classic is what you want to be trying first.

Pipikaula

Pipikalua is a salted and dried beef dish, similar to beef jerky. It was traditionally eaten by Hawaiian cowboys (paniolos). It’s common to find pipikalua that’s been marinated in soy sauce. The version at Highway Inn is very good, served sizzling on a skillet. Be sure to get a side of rice to soak up the meat juices on the skillet.

Plate Lunch

The Hawaiian plate lunch is a very popular thing to eat in Hawaii and can be found all over the islands. It consists of two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad, and a main/entrée. It’s generally considered to have appeared in its current form in the late 1800s, an evolution of the Japanese bento.

Mains/entrées reflect Hawaii’s cultural diversity. Several of the things on this what to eat in Hawaii list can be found in plate lunches. Things like Japanese chicken katsu and beef teriyaki, Chinese chow fun, and char sui pork, Hawaiian kālua pig and lau lau, Korean galbi, Filipino chicken adobo and longanisa, Portuguese sausage, and American hamburger steak.

Poi

Poi is a traditional Hawaiian dish of taro that is baked or steamed, then pounded to form a paste. It’s a common side dish, and also often seen as a dipping sauce. Try it at Waiahole Poi Factory, Highway Inn, or Helena’s Hawaiian Food.

Poke

At its heart, poke is lightly seasoned seafood, with a few ingredients to enhance the qualities of the seafood, over rice. The best poke in Hawaii, from what I’ve been able ascertain, more or less sticks to this formula. It’s influenced strongly by waves of Japanese immigration from the late 1800s through to the 1970s.

Some say that any deviation from the basics isn’t really poke. Others say that it’s fine as long as one understands and respects the history, and exercises restraint. Poke is definitely something that should be on your list of what to eat in Hawaii. Three great places to try it in Honolulu are Ono Seafood, Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors, and Maguro Brothers.

Saimin

Saimin is a popular Hawaiian noodle soup, similar to Japanese ramen. Dating back to Hawaii’s plantation era, saimin features soft wheat egg noodles served in a hot dashi, topped with diced green onions and a thin slice of kamaboko. Other common toppings include things like Spam, shredded nori, dried shrimp, and char sui pork.

In Honolulu, check out late night local gem, Palace Saimin, for a tasty bowl of the good stuff.

Sashimi/Sushi

While this might not be an exclusively Hawaiian dish, the Japanese influences and abundance of fresh seafood mean that sashimi and sushi are a must when looking for what to eat in Hawaii. One of the best places for sashimi and sushi in Honolulu is Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar, an unassuming spot just around the corner from the airport.

Shave Ice

Shave Ice is a popular year-round treat in Hawaii. It consists of blocks of ice, finely shaved into a cup or bowl, topped with syrup. The best places on town pride themselves on having ice that’s been shaved so finely, that it’s light and fluffy like a cloud.

Waiola Shave Ice has been around since 1940, and is one of the best places in Honolulu for shave ice.

Spam Mubusi

Musubi is similar to sushi, in that it’s packed white rice topped with meat or veg of your choice. The difference is that the rice used for musubi isn’t vinegared.

At its simplest, Spam musubi features sliced grilled or fried Spam, seasoned with a light Teriyaki sauce, atop a mound of rice the same size as a slice of Spam, wrapped in nori. Spam musubi can be found all over Hawaii. Most commonly in convenience and grocery stores like Lawson, and chains like Musubi Cafe Iyasume.

Teriyaki

Unbeknownst to many, teriyaki sauce was invented in Hawaii, not Japan. Japanese immigrants mixed local ingredients such as pineapple juice and brown sugar with soy sauce and used it as a marinade.

Teriyaki is extremely popular in Hawaii, and can be found everywhere. I’m a huge fan of the teri-burger-rice at Ethel’s Grill. You get a huge serve of rice, a beef burger patty topped with teriyaki sauce, egg, and Japanese mayo, salad, and a cup of miso soup.

Tripe Stew

The tripe stew you’ll find in Hawaii is a blend of Portuguese and Filipino favours and cooking techniques. Slow cooked boiled honeycomb tripe served hot in a thick vegetable stew. If you try it at Highway Inn, you can go for the common tripe stew, or the humbug stew, which has a different tripe combination.

Ulu

Ulu, or breadfruit, is a tropical fruit native to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Polynesia, and South Asia. It’s very versatile, and can be enjoyed raw as a fruit or vegetable. Raw, ulu has a custard-like texture. When baked, it has a texture that resembles bread.

How many of these Hawaiian foods have you tried? Which is your favourite? Are there any that aren’t on my list that you love? Let me know what you think people should be eating when in Hawaii in the contact form on my website, or by sending me a DM on my socials. I’d love to hear from you.

For a full list on places to eat in Honolulu, check out my article, “Honolulu Food Guide: Where To Eat“.

Snack Man, Fortitude Valley

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BRISBANE | Snack Man the third venue from Cameron and Jordan Votan, the brothers behind popular spot Happy Boy next door, and Greengrass in the CBD. Unlike the wok and BBQ focus of Happy Boy, Snack Man showcases regional snacks and street food favourites from across China, and places in the world with a large Chinese population.

It’s a dark, low-lit space, with a long bar displaying the impressive wine and spirit collection up to the ceiling. Lots of concrete, granite, and leather, with space for 80 downstairs and 15 upstairs.

Each dish on the menu lists the region from which it originates. Dishes include things like su chai jiao (sticky mushroom or chicken dumplings) from Shanghai, Taiwanese yan su ji (crispy salt and pepper chicken ribs), and Mao shi hongshao rou (Chairman’s comforting red-braised pork belly). The tasting menu, which gives you the best of the menu for $59 per person, is great value and highly recommended.

Snack Man works well as a restaurant, but is equally a place where you can go for a drink and, as the name suggests, a snack. The drinks list is very impressive. Over 400 bottles of wines from around the world, plus a good selection of interesting drops by the glass, craft beer, and cocktails. The low intervention, funky section of the wine list is particularly good.


Snack Man

Between fairy-lit trees, East Street
Fortitude Valley
Queensland 4006
Australia

Telephone: 0413 246 890
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Sun, Tue – Thu: 4:00pm to 12:00am
Fri – Sat: 2:00pm to 12:00am

Hellenika, Fortitude Valley

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BRISBANE | Beginning life in the Gold Coast over a decade ago, and now one of the most popular and acclaimed restaurants in Brisbane, owner Simon Gloftis’ restaurant Hellenika needs little introduction.

Located poolside on the first floor of boutique hotel, The Calile, Hellenika is a beautiful, natural light-filled modern Greek restaurant has both style and substance. The menu draws upon Simon’s Greek heritage, with dishes that range from the tried and true favourites, to ones that put a contemporary flair on the classics. Ingredients are fresh, local, and of the highest quality.

The four main pillars of the restaurant are lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, and cooking over charcoal. It’s a solid base for head chef Brian Kelly and his team to create some delicious food. There’s saganaki of grilled kefalograviera and lemon, taramasalata with house made pita, and cheese and spinach spanakopita. All crowd favourites along with the veal dolmades, and signature zucchini chips with kefalograviera.

Being a Greek restaurant, Hellenika also a big seafood focus. Highly recommended are the kritharaki (orzo pasta) with saffron, metaxa, and seasonal fresh seafood; chargrilled octopus; and sea urchin with olive oil.

Hellenika is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a popular spot, so bookings are recommended. However, you can usually grab a walk-in spot outside of peak lunch and dinner times.


Hellenika

The Callie Hotel
48 James Street
Fortitude Valley
Queensland 4006
Australia

Telephone: (07) 3252 2060
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Mon – Sun: 7:30am to 10:00pm

Frog’s Hollow Saloon, Brisbane City

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BRISBANE | Frog’s Hollow Saloon is a cocktail and whisky bar named after the former name of the part of Brisbane’s CBD where the bar stands. The area was once a mangrove-filled swampland called Frog’s Hollow, a name that held on as the area evolved into Brisbane’s first red-light district.

A swamp and red light district no more, the area retains links to its past in its heritage buildings. The space is full of character, lots of exposed brick and timber, with old wine barrels around the venue, a wagon wheel suspended from the ceiling, saddles slung over bar stools and on the walls, and country hats between the bar.

The team behind Frog’s Hollow Saloon have some serious pedigree behind them, having worked in some of Australia’s top bars. Cocktails and whisky are a focus here. Try the Ryomen Fizz, a blend of Jim Beam Black, Blackberry Syrup, Yuzushu, and Yuzu Soda. If you’re in the mood for a whisky on the rocks or neat, the staff will happily guide you through the extensive list.

If you’re looking for wine and beer you’re also well suited with a carefully curated selection of quality options. There’s also a very decent list of other spirits like gin, rum, and mezcal.

For food, it’s a small selection of bar snacks. Things like pickled eggs, biltong, and chicken liver pate.


Frog’s Hollow Saloon

26 Charlotte Street
Brisbane City
Queensland 4000
Australia

Telephone: n/a
E-mail: n/a
Website

Open
Mon – Sun: 3:00pm to 1:00am

Dr. Gimlette, Brisbane City

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BRISBANE | Dr. Gimlette is a cocktail bar in Brisbane’s CBD from the team behind Death & Taxes, and Cobbler. Housed in one of Brisbane’s oldest heritage buildings, which dates back to 1892, the venue exudes old world character. A raised timber floor and exposed brick walls combine with warm, low lighting, artwork on the walls, plush leather booths, and a nine metre long marble bar.

Behind the bar, is a collection of over 300 spirits – local and international. They can be enjoyed neat, in classic cocktail, or in one of Dr. Gimlette’s bespoke creations. On the menu, you’ll find around 30 rotating cocktails themed around flavours, potions, plagues, and cures.

There’s variations on the bar’s namesake, the gimlet, highballs, fruit forward cocktails, herbaceous creations, and more. The ‘Scarlett Stains’, a combination of Fords Gin, Antica Formula Spiced Apple & Rhubarb, and Lemon, is a great option. As is the ‘Death Rattle’, a blend of Lark Symphony No.1 Whisky, ginger, turmeric, toasted coconut and pandan.

Keep an eye out for the bar’s tow martini carts, available to serve every type of martini with various garnishes, gins and methods to pick from. If cocktails aren’t your thing, there’s also a quality selection of craft beer and wine to choose from.


Dr. Gimlette

109 Edward Street
Brisbane City
Queensland 4000
Australia

Telephone: n/a
E-mail: n/a
Website

Open
Sun – Thu: 3:00pm to 1:00am
Fri – Sat: 3:00pm to 2:00am

Wanderlust: The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood, Singapore

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I stayed at Wanderlust as a guest of Oakwood.

SINGAPORE | Wanderlust: The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood is a boutique hotel in Singapore’s Little India neighbourhood.

It’s part of Oakwood’s “Unlimited Collection”, a selection of hotels that aim to provide guests with “a departure from the conventional short-stay hotel experience”. It’s a funky, modern hotel, housed in a 1920s Art Deco style building that was renovated in 2021.

Location

Wanderlust is located on the eastern fringe of Little India. On one side, it’s the vibrant local food, shopping, and architecture that Little India has to offer. On the other side, there’s the youthful neighbourhood of Jalan Besar, with its trendy bars and restaurants. The exciting Kampong Glam neighbourhood is a short 10 minute walk away.

The hotel’s location makes it a great option when visiting Singapore if you’re really looking for that local’s vibe that you don’t get when you stay downtown. It’s only a 20 minute drive from Changi Airport. If you need to catch the metro, Jalan Besar MRT station is literally around the corner, a two minute walk away.

Little India is a neighbourhood you’ll want to simply wander around in. It’s full of colour and life, with some of the best examples of traditional Singaporean shophouses in the city. The six story electronics mega centre, Sim Lim Square, is in the area, along with 24/7 multi-level, multi-building, Mustafa Centre. For amazing Indian and Malay hawker food, along with clothing and fresh produce, bustling Tekka Centre is a must visit.

Rooms

The hotel features 29 fully furnished rooms across five categories – Deluxe, Studio Deluxe, Studio Premier, Junior Studio Loft, and Studio Loft. Due to the heritage nature of the property, each room has a slightly different layout, but there is much consistency. Gone are the bold, brash colours of the hotel’s prior incarnation. They’ve been replaced with a more relaxed palette of white, grey, and brown, with good use of natural materials such as wood.

The queen-sized Simmons bed, with soft pillows and linen is very comfortable. Paired with blackout curtains, a comfortable, good night’s sleep is easy to get. Housekeeping services are offered daily.

Each room contains a small desk and chair, plush lounge chair, kitchenette, bar fridge, electric safe, phone for free local calls, large TV, coffee and tea making facilities, bottled water, a safe, iron, and ironing board. I was particularly impressed by the clever use of space, especially in regards to the kitchenette with its filtered water tap, stove, and microwave. The backlit storage space under the bed is also very convenient.

Bathrooms feature rain showers, organic toiletries from local brand Ashley & Co, and amenity kits. It was nice to see the toiletries dispensed from pump bottles to be more environmentally friendly.

I was working remotely during my stay, and was able to do so effectively. There’s free and fast Wi-Fi in all rooms (and throughout the hotel). It didn’t skip a beat even when I was working with, and uploading and downloading, very large files. Power adaptors are available to borrow from reception, which is open 24/7.

Amenities

Wanderlust contains a laundry room on level two with a washing machine and a dryer that’s free for guests to use. If you want to chill outside, there’s an outdoor courtyard featuring a small dipping pool and lounge chairs.

In the lobby, you’ll find something that I thought was wonderful idea – the hotel’s “Mama Shop”. It’s small curated grab and go store concept that endeavours to showcase the best locally made artisanal food and retail products. Perfect for a snack and drink, and “non-touristy” mementos and gifts that are actually useful.

Eat & Drink

The hotel doesn’t have its own food and beverage offering per se. Rather, acclaimed chef Rishi Naleendra’s Sri Lankan restaurant Kotuwa, and its bar, seamlessly integrate into the lobby. It’s a popular restaurant, so do book in advance if you want a table. If you just want a cocktail and snack at the bar, you’ll be fine without a reservation.

Outside of the hotel, there are no shortage of diverse options for food and drink. Follow your nose and the sight of locals enjoying a feed at any one of the delicious and affordable hawker spots that spill out onto the streets of Little India. For breakfast, the aforementioned Tekka Centre is a winner. Nearby favourites of mine include Indian restaurants Om Murugan Vilas Idly, and Mr Biryani; Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice, Sungei Road Laksa, and Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant. For a drink, craft beer specialists Druggists (who also have great cocktails, wines, and snacks) is a must.


Wanderlust: The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood

2 Dickson Road
Singapore 209494

Telephone: 6396 3322
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Ann Siang House: The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood, Singapore

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I stayed at Ann Siang House as a guest of Oakwood.

SINGAPORE | Ann Siang House: The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood is a boutique hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown neighbourhood.

It’s part of Oakwood’s “Unlimited Collection”, a selection of hotels that aim to provide guests with “a departure from the conventional short-stay hotel experience”. It’s a beautiful hotel, housed in a restored, heritage-listed former Chinese immigrant clan house.

Location

Ann Siang House is located on trendy Ann Siang Street. The street is a small pocket of calm, surrounded by Chinatown’s bustling street life, restaurants, and bars.

The hotel’s central location makes it a great option when visiting Singapore. It’s a 20 minute taxi ride from Changi Airport, and a short walk from Tanjong Pagar and Chinatown MRT metro stations. Walk in any direction, and you’ll find some of Singapore’s best food and drink spots and boutiques.

The hotel is close to tourist sites like the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple. For those looking for a taste of Singaporean hawker food, the famous Maxwell Road Food Centre is but a two minute walk away. A short walk beyond that, and you’ll find one of my favourite hawker centres in town, the sprawling Chinatown Complex Food Centre.

Rooms

The hotel features 20 fully furnished rooms, across four categories – Deluxe, Deluxe Corner, Studio Executive, and Executive Premier. Due to the heritage nature of the property, each room has a slightly different layout, but there is much consistency. A classy grey and white colour palette, with wood accents and panelling, and upholstered fabric.

The King Size bed is extremely comfortable. A Hypnos mattress, with soft down pillows and 400 thread count cotton duvets. Paired with blackout curtains, a comfortable, good night’s sleep is easy to get. Housekeeping services are offered daily.

Each room contains a small desk and chair, bar fridge, electric safe, phone for free local calls, large TV, Nespresso coffee machine and tea making facilities, bottled water, a safe, iron, and ironing board. About 20 per cent of the rooms come with a basic kitchenette, which is worth keeping in mind if you want to do some cooking in the room.

Bathrooms feature rain showers, organic toiletries from local brand Ashley & Co, and amenity kits. It was nice to see the toiletries dispensed from pump bottles to be more environmentally friendly.

I was working remotely during my stay, and was able to do so effectively. There’s free and fast Wi-Fi in all rooms (and throughout the hotel). It didn’t skip a beat even when I was working with, and uploading and downloading, very large files. Power adaptors are available to borrow from reception, which is open 24/7.

Amenities

Ann Siang House contains a laundry room with a washing machine and a dryer on the third floor that’s free for guests to use. There’s a small communal working space on each floor. I made use of the space on my floor when I was looking for a change of scenery from my room while working.

Eat & Drink

The ground floor lobby and dining space of the hotel was being renovated when I visited, with completion expected late November 2022. Once open, there will be an airy lobby cafe, opening out onto the street.

In this part of town, you’re not short of quality options for food and drink. There’s the aforementioned Maxwell Road Food Centre and Chinatown Complex Food Centre for Hawker food for delicious affordable eats, along with many more of my favourites. Champion Bolo Bun, Tong Heng Traditional Cantonese Pastries, and award winning bars/restaurants Sago House, Native, and Tippling Club, are all a short walk from the hotel.


Ann Siang House: The Unlimited Collection by Oakwood

28 Ann Siang Road
Singapore 069708

Telephone: 8608 8190
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Casa Chow, Woolloongabba

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BRISBANE | Casa Chow is, I believe, the first restaurant in Australia that’s completely dedicated to Chifa cuisine. Chifa is a Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine that began to develop in the late 1800s in Lima, when Peru experienced a large wave of Chinese migration – labourers who helped build modern Peru.

I first experienced Chifa dishes when I visited Peru in 2018. From refined takes at Isolina Taberna Peruana in Lima and Chicha In Cusco, to the casual family hole in the wall spots, I fell in love with the it. To this day lomo saltado Is one of my favourite things to eat.

Co-owner Jared Thibault’s wife Fiorella (who sadly passed away in April) was Peruvian, and he fell in love with her family’s dishes, and the many Chifa spots he visited on trips to Peru. The other owner, Vince Lombino, meanwhile, worked in Miami’s contemporary Latin restaurant, Chispa. Those influences are apparent as soon as you step in the door. The live DJ, neon lights, and pastel colour scheme all shout “Miami Vice”.

Back to the food, and there’s a lot to like on the menu. Dishes are inspired, and in many cases identical, to Fiorella and her mum Edith’s, home recipes. Lomo saltado, a beer and vegetable stir fry on chips, is great, as is the fried rice, ceviche, And dumplings. In fact, it’s all very tasty.

To drink, it’s cocktails inspired by the food, a selection of pisco sours, beer by local brewers Aether Brewing, and delicious wines.


Casa Chow

4B/148 Logan Road
Woolloongabba
Queensland 4102
Australia

Telephone: 1300 185 730
E-mail: n/a
Website

Open
Wed – Thu: 5:00pm to 10:30pm
Fri: 5:00pm to 12:00am
Sat: 12:00pm to 12:00am
Sun: 12:00pm to 9:00pm