What’s cooking in Hawaii’s fabulous food scene?
Poke bowl anyone? We check out tropical Hawaii’s latest epicurean exploits and what’s keeping diners coming back for seconds.
From traditional celebrations of food and culture to modern twists on fresh ingredients, Hawaii’s foodie scene is coming into its own.
Oahu a mecca for gourmands
Travellers with Waikiki on their bucket lists will be familiar with Hawaii’s third-largest island, but perhaps what’s less known is that Oahu is home to some of the US state’s most innovative and exciting food, with something for every budget.
And that’s mainly because the majority of Hawaii’s diverse ethnic population lives here.
At Alohilani Resort, wildly popular local chef David Lukela – who began his career at Nobu – oversees 60 staff in serving up top fare at the hotel’s various eating spaces.
His vision for Alohilani is simple – the freshest food with the highest quality and creativity.
Poke that’s straight from boat to table
If you can overlook the tourist traps down by the beach, some of the greatest culinary joy is to be found at the lower end of the budget.
Ahi Assassins Fish Co. may be tucked away in a nondescript building near the University of Hawaii, but there’s nothing ordinary about the food.
The owners at this terrific takeaway take pride in serving only “wild line caught” fish. Their impeccably fresh poke includes the famous “Lunatic” dish with its amped up spices.
- Make your own: Roasted Salmon and Avocado Poke Bowls
For other budget-friendly eats, don’t miss stopping in for a bite at Waikiki Yokocho, a food court filled with various Japanese food concepts at super-cheap prices, or grab a “plate lunch” at Rainbow Drive-In or some malasadas (deliciously hot, filled Portuguese doughnuts) at Leonard’s Bakery.
What about Hawaiian coffee?
If you are after a cafe, you can’t go past the Sunrise Shack nestled along Oahu’s north shore for mouth-watering food, great coffee and a unique island ambience.
Opened in 2016 by the Smith brothers (Alex, Koa and Travis) and friend Koa Rothman, the enchanting roadside cafe’s bright yellow exterior guarantees it stands out in the crowd.
Famous for their organic “bullet coffee”, the Shack is the perfect place for a caffeine fix.
And while we’re on the subject of a great brew, Honolulu Coffee is a name you’ll hear on everyone’s lips when you’re visiting the island paradise.
Founded in 1992 with one small kiosk in downtown Honolulu, the company’s farm-to-cup success story has its origins in the beans grown at its prized Kona coffee farm on the beautiful slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano on the big island of Hawaii.
Hawaiian tea for two (iced please)
If a little leaf is more your thing, make sure you pick up some Shaka herbal iced tea brewed from mamaki, a native Hawaiian nettle species known traditionally as an ancient miracle herb.
Launched in 2016 by Bella Hughes and Harrison Rice, Shaka Tea is now found in more than 2000 locations throughout the US.
However if you’re visiting the Big Island you can try some at the company’s special HILO HQ Centre, the state’s first tea-blending bar!
Munching on the move with Hawaiian food trucks
Hawaii is also a trend-setter when it comes to food trucks, with some of the best food of all found in parking lots, street markets and along the side of the road.
Food trucks like Blue Ocean Seafood and Steak in Oahu have brought new flavours, food concepts and eating options to the islands and are popular with tourists and locals alike.
With a large menu and even tables and chairs for those who prefer to eat onsite, this oversized truck serves chicken and pizzas as well as its famous shrimp dishes.
Options along the island’s North Shore, serving everything from Cajun to hot dogs to scrumptious desserts include Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, the Elephant Truck, Fumi’s Kahuka Shrimp Truck, Pupekea Grill, North Shore Tacos and Aji Limo Truck.
At the end of a busy day, drop into Ted’s Bakery near Sunset Beach for chocolate haupia (coconut pudding) cream pie – with layers of smooth, dark chocolate custard and rich haupia, topped with whipped cream.
What better place, and way, to watch the Hawaiian sun go down?
Written by Liz McGrath.