Best Food & Drink / Best hole-in-the-wall eatery
Shige’s Saimin Stand
Watching the Olympics on TV, slurping down homemade saimin noodles and broth, dipping the grilled cheese crust in for extra glutton points, and talking to the strangers at the next table as if to old friends: This is the experience at Shige’s Saimin Stand in Wahiawa. Homemade noodles, teri burgers, BBQ stick, and loco moco are served up in a no-muss, no-fuss eatery style that makes up for its lack of décor with streamlined service and delectable old-school favorites.
Char Hung Sut, Chinatown
The ratio of sweet, steamed bao bun to finely shredded char siu pork is about 4:1. The manapua are giant, completely devoid of fat chunks, and extra doughy. There must be a secret to this dough because it blows all others away, but let’s not ask them. Let’s just keep going there as our families have done, knowing that the quality will be matchless and unchanging as it has been for the past 50 years. Other five-star items include the half moon, pork hash, mai tai sui, fried won ton, chow fun, layered and sponge rice cake, and black sugar manapua.
Food truck (Country)
To save time looking for your favorite pro surfers or Hawaii celebrities, just go to Pupukea Grill, where the faces of autographed surf spreads on the walls around the picnic tables materialize in the flesh as regulars at this lunch wagon. Pupukea Grill is revered for their made-to-order comfort food with a healthy twist. The menu features salads, Mexican, poke/sushi, flatbread wraps, ahi burgers, plate lunches, doner kebab wraps, paninis, fresh fish of the day, daily specials, acai, fruit smoothies (get the guava colada!) and shave ice.
Hawaiian Food (Country)
Da Pokeman Fish Market
Here’s the thing about haupia: It’s obvious when it’s out of a package and when it’s a time-tested recipe passed down through generations. Da Pokeman Fish Market’s haupia is as legitimate as their Hawaiian plates and fresh ahi poke. The Kalua Pig and Lau Lau plates come with chicken long rice, lomi salmon, rice, and poi with onion and sea salt for $7.45; add haupia for 50 cents. There’s plenty of poke (try the kim chee ahi poke) behind the counter to make any Hawaiian food lover smile. Orders are only for take-out so grab a plate on the way to the beach when passing through Wahiawa.
Best Shrimp Truck That Also Broils Huli Chicken And Offers Fly-Free Seating
Monkey Mike’s Shrimp and Chicken Shack, Kaneohe
Monkey Mike’s serves the perfect combo that’s big enough to share: broiled huli chicken (chopped) and a generous portion of large garlic shrimp, two scoops of rice and two slices of pineapple (approximately $13). But what really makes this shrimp spot special are the kamaaina discounts, fly-free seating and dog-friendly grassy area with an uncrowded ocean view.
Best Try with the Meat Pie
Sweet Revenge Meat Pie Truck
I’ve been begging for cornish astie, savory little takeaways with meat and potatoes packed inside a light flaky crust that you see in every 7-Eleven in the UK. Meal-on-the-go on steroids. I did catch one a while back here; a “chicken pie” where the musubis would normally go at 7-Eleven. Boy, did I celebrate. Then I never saw it again. Sweet Revenge dishes up the closest thing with their pot pies. The bacon mac & cheese and chicken are their two very best. Trying to track them down is a bit of a savory challenge, but it’s so worth it if you can!
Best Japanese noodles
If you want the best of fresh and fast noodles, join the long line of hungry folks at Marukame Udon. You won’t have to wait too long–the udon here is served cafeteria-style where you grab a tray, order a bowl and pay at the cashier. Slightly chewy on the inside with a firm, slippery exterior, the noodles are made fresh and taste best cold. My favorite? The regular-size ontama udon ($4.25), with a runny, half-boiled egg, tempura flakes and green onion. This dish is best thing to slurp down on a hot, summer day.
Best local grass-fed burger on the go
Momo Burger first started roving the streets while I was abroad, but rumors of the juicy, 100 percent grass-fed beef patties, locally grown on the Big Island, teased me from across the globe. When I finally came home after months of anticipation, I knew with the very first bite of my bacon cheeseburger (with caramelized onions, hickory-smoked bacon, smoked gouda and special Momo sauce) that I had a new favorite burger.
Owners Colin Sato and Lindsey Fujimoto vow to use grass-fed beef as a healthy alternative. With fewer calories and more omega-3 fats, vitamins A and E, higher levels of antioxidants and up to seven times the beta-carotene as regular beef, their burgers are made fresh daily. You really can taste the difference.