HONOLULU | Highway Inn is an iconic Hawaiian restaurant that’s been satisfying locals with delicious, traditional Hawaiian food since 1947. If you want to try proper Hawaiian comfort food, Highway Inn is one of the best places in Honolulu for it.
The restaurant was opened by Hawaiian-born, Okinawa-raised Seiichi Toguchi, who learned how to cook Hawaiian food in Hawaii’s cafes, and honed his skill cooking American food while imprisoned (for no reason other than his Japanese heritage) and working in the mess halls of a Japanese Internment Camp during World War II.
After the war, Seiichi, along with his wife Nancy and three children, returned to Hawaii, and opened the original Highway Inn with the simple aim of serving tasty, affordable Hawaiian food to locals as a means of supporting his family. It was a hit with locals, and has been ever since. The original location is no longer around, with two locations, both still family run, serving up essentially the same menu as they have been since the start.
Traditional Hawaiian food reflects the diversity and history of immigration across the Hawaiian islands. From the arrival of Polynesian seafarers on the Hawaiian Islands in 300–500 AD, to the introduction of European and American cuisine from 1778, to Asian and other immigrant influences from 1850. The result is a cuisine that’s unexpectedly familiar, yet wholly unique.
Common ingredients include things like taro, breadfruit, and coconut. Beef, seafood, and Spam are regulars on Hawaiian menus, and spices tend to draw on Japanese flavours like terikayi, shoyu, and wasabi.
Popular dishes at Highway Inn include things like kalua pork (fall-apart tender, slow cooked, smoky pork butt); lau lau (tender pork wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in an underground hot rock oven for hours); and lomi salmon (a ceviche-like salad of hand pressed tomato, onion, and salted salmon). Hearty tripe/humbug stew, is a must.
I recommend ordering one of the signature Hawaiian combo plates. It gets you 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. A great way to manageably try a few things.
There’s also favourites like loco moco, mochiko chicken, and pulehu short ribs. Recommended to me when I asked “beyond my combo plate, what’s the one thing that I need to order” was the pipikaula. It’s a dried beef dish, similar to beef jerky, marinated in soy sauce and served sizzling on a skillet. Be sure to grab a side of thick cut garlic steak fries to mop up all of the beef juices from the skillet.
680 Ala Moana Boulevard
Mon – Thu: 10:30am to 8:00pm
Fri: 10:30am to 8:30pm
Sat: 9:30am to 8:30pm
Sun: 9:30am to 3:00pm