Nine days in Oahu gives a lot of chances to try the island's food. (Even though Pizza Hut weaseled its way in after a 10 mile hike) we tried to do our best to eat local food.
After a long day of flights and travel, as soon as we got to our condo, getting dinner was a priority. The security guard where we were staying recommended a few places, and we choose L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. There are L&L's all over the island and they offer traditional Hawaiian style meals, most famously plate lunches. Plate lunches consist of white rice, a tossed or mac salad, and a meat. We were excited to try this iconic Hawaiian dish, but we were sadly left a little underwhelmed. It was more bland than expected.
The next morning we tried acai bowls from Haleiwa Bowls. If we lived on the island, this would be our go-to breakfast for sure. The setting was such a nice touch: a little wood shack tucked into some lush trees and wooden menus to top it all off. We actually even ended up coming back here once more during our trip, and definitely thought about it other mornings.
I never imagined that a combination of fruits could be as flavorful as these bowls were. There were two types of bowls: mana and hapa. Brandon got hapa, which is more of a smoothie like consistency and is typically how the ones I've had on the east coast of the mainland are made. I got the mana, which was more of a sorbet consistency and a perfect refreshing way to start the morning. There was an array of toppings to choose from of fruits, seeds, nut butters, and supplements; they're completely customizable.
Next on our list was Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, and man, they did not disappoint either. Knowing this is a popular location, we were worried about a long line but our wait was only about ten minutes. We ordered their most iconic dish, the shrimp scampi plate. It was steamed shrimp with two scoops of white rice with lemon all covered in a scampi sauce. One word: delicious. This was a huge step up from the bland meal we ate the night before. It was a little messy and definitely got under your fingernails, and being served from a food truck, of course there was no sink. Still,this plate was totally worth the short wait and the messy fingers.
The next day we did an early snorkeling trip out of Waikiki, and wanted a nice big lunch. We decided on Kona Brewing Co. We started with a beer sampler which was really good. We aren't big craft beer/IPA people, but Kona Brewing had a couple really good options that we enjoyed. We both decided on the shrimp salad sandwich. It was great, but definitely different than the shrimp salad we're used to in Maryland. I'm used to big chunks of shrimp on a roll with seafood seasoning. This shrimp salad was very smooth, and was overpowered with the tomato, lettuce, and cheese also on the sandwich.
Two mornings later (after that night of Pizza Hut I previously mentioned), we had another great fruit breakfast: Papaya Bowls from the Sunrise Shack. The Sunrise Shack was literally a shack on the side of the road, but the food did not disappoint. I'm not sure I've ever had papaya prior to this, but now I'm a fan. This bowl was literally a papaya cut in half filled with a banana, blueberries, goji berries, almond butter, hemp seeds, coconut, and honey.
Another great food truck we went to was Surf N Salsa. We ordered in the front of the truck, and to our surprise there was a whole outdoor restaurant seating setup outside. It was so cute and they even served chips like you'd get at a Mexican restaurant and had complimentary water.
Brandon got chimichangas, and I got shrimp tacos. The shrimp tacos were really good, but it's hard to beat a combo with melted cheese wrapped in a tortilla.
A perfect, refreshing dessert to our Hawaiian Mexican food was Matsumoto Shaved Ice. The line for the shaved ice was actually the longest we waited in for any food. They have so many flavors but we went with one of their best-sellers: the Rainbow. The flavors were Strawberry, Lemon, & Pineapple. They maximize the beauty of their shaved ice by making flavors in colors you would not except. In this case, our rainbow was so pretty because the pineapple flavor was actually blue.
Local BBQ places have become sort of a staple for Brandon and I on our trips, so when the captain of our shark diving boat recommended Kono's for lunch, we couldn't pass it up. Kono's might have been our favorite food the whole time we were there. Kono's was a little hole-in-the-wall type of place with fantastic barbecue. I got the "Old School", which was a low-roasted Kalua pulled pork, guava bbq sauce, grilled onions, and slaw sandwich. Brandon got the "Triple Crown", which was a slow-roasted Kalua pulled pork, ham, bacon, guava bbq sauce, cheese, and slaw sandwich. Fantastic. We even went back later in the week and got sliders. They also had a homemade pineapple lemonade that was the perfect pairing. 10/10 would recommend Kono's.
A fun fact that we learned during one of our tours on the island is that contrary to common belief, pineapple is not indigenous to Hawaii. That being sure, they sure do do it justice. Especially at the Dole Plantation. If you want something pineapple flavor, they have it. We tried their chocolate covered pineapple, which was good, but nothing came close to the Dole Whip. It's a smooth concoction of frozen pineapple goodness.
The last weekend our our trip we stayed at Paradise Bay Resort in Kaneohe. They had a three course dinner, which was delicious. First course was from a salad bar (pretty sure poppyseed dressing is not my favorite), a dinner buffet of potatoes, veggies, fish, and chicken, and a pineapple bread pudding dessert. We were too busy eating to get a picture of the entree but all of the food was great.
We ate dinner here on the one week-iversary of our wedding. It was the perfect way to celebrate. As we ate the delicious food on the softly lit bayside patio at sunset, sipping our complimentary Mai-Tais, the live musician played Somewhere Over Rainbow on his ukelele, which just happens to be the song we walked down the aisle to after we were officially married. The story doesn't really have anything to do with food, but it was just too perfect of an night not to include here.
We knew that one thing we had to do before we left Hawaii was go to a luau. We choose the Polynesian Cultural Center. The show was a great glimpse into the Hawaiian Culture and the food was surprisingly good for a buffet. We had salad, white rice, sweet potato, white fish, BBQ chicken, slaw, pot roast, and taro roll. As strange as a purple roll may look, taro roll was really just a sweet roll and made for an overall good meal.
For dessert following the luau, we visited Delice Crepes at the Hukilau Marketplace. We ordered the "Waikiki" which was a crepe filled with nutella, strawberries, bananas, and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We wanted to try to crepes for two reasons; one because crepes sounded delicious at the time, and two because their other location is out of an old red Volkswagen van very similar to ours. How can you not support a company that serves crepes out of a Volkswagen van?
Our final meal of our trip was one of the best: Poke bowls. We had been wanting to try poke all week but were never in the right place at the right time so we made a point to cross it off before we left. We ended up at Okina Cafe food truck and were so glad we didn't leave before trying poke. I'm not sure of all of the ingredients, but I know they went together perfectly. I never thought that fresh ahi, a sauce, some grilled veggies, and what we called "crunchies" could be so good.
Out of all of our food ventures in the nine days we were on Oahu, we learned a few things:
1. Listen to the locals.
2. Eat locally grown food, especially fruit.
3. Don't underestimate food trucks.
4. Dole Whip lives up to the hype.
5. GO TO KONO'S