In Hawaii, food is a mirror of culture. The islands' culture is a blend of native Hawaiian and countless international influences. Japan, China, the Philippines, the United States, Portugal, Native Hawaiians, and many other places have shaped Hawaii and its cuisine. Hawaiian food is a unique blend of different flavors from around the world.
Outside of Hawaii, restaurants often add pineapples to dishes and call it "Hawaiian." While pineapples are undoubtedly famous on the island, it doesn't scratch the surface of all the delicious treats you can find there.
While I am not a Kama'aina, I have spent a lot of time in Oahu because my mom grew up there and my uncle still lives there. Grabbing delicious food is always a top priority when we visit the island.
There are so many foods there that I can't find anywhere else. Here are my must-visit spots when I visit Oahu.
Liliha's Bakery has been serving up delicious cakes and pastries since 1950. Many of their bakers have been working with them for decades! They have some unique items like guava passion chiffon cakes, chocolate haupia cakes, and cream puffs. You can also dine in at the restaurant and try some local favorites. Their beef stew and oxtail soup are my favorites, but everything is delicious.
Liliha Bakery, North Kuakini Street, Honolulu...
Malasadas are a Portuguese-Hawaiian classic, and Leonard's Bakery is one of the most famous places to get one. These tasty treats are Portuguese doughnuts without a hole coated in sugar. If you want your malasada with a filling, you can get a malasada puff. I also love their cookies, cakes, and pies. This unique bakeshop is a must-visit spot when in Oahu.
Leonard's Bakery, Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, ...
For the ultimate Kama'aina experience, head over to Aeia Bowl. This place is a unique restaurant located within a bowling alley. They are most famous for their oxtail soup served with rice. However, they have some special items you won't find anywhere else, like Pepsi Cola turkey sandwiches and their award-winning tasty chicken. This spot has been recognized nationally in TV shows like Man vs. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Aiea Bowl, Aiea Heights Drive, Aiea, HI, USA
Helena's Hawaiian Food
If you're looking for some old-school Hawaiian food, try Helena's. The food is classic but exceptionally well-made. This place even won a James Beard award in 2000! Here, you'll find quintessential Hawaiian dishes. These include long rice chicken, kalua pig and cabbage, beef with watercress, Pipikaula-style short ribs, and butterfish cooked several ways. Not sure what to order? You can get a set menu to try a few different items.
Helena's Hawaiian Food
Helena's Hawaiian Food, North School Street, ...
There is a lot of hype around Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. I believe that this recognition is well-deserved. This food truck on the North Shore has various shrimp dishes served with a rice and mac salad scoop. These include shrimp scampi, hot & spicy shrimp, and lemon butter shrimp. This place has become a staple in the local community and a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
( Credit Facebook: Giovanni's Shrimp Truck )
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, Kamehameha Highway, ...
A North Shore local favorite restaurant for plate lunches is Papa Ole's. Here, the portions are large, and the food is outstanding. All meals come with the classic sides of mac salad and a scoop of rice. They are most famous for their loco moco (hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and gravy), galbi (Korean marinated short ribs), garlic chicken, garlic shrimp, and peanut butter rolls.
( Credit Facebook: Papa Ole's )
Papa Ole's Kitchen
Papa Ole's Kitchen, Kamehameha Highway, Hauul...
Zippy's is a chain restaurant that you can only find on the Hawaiian islands. Locals love this place because they serve hearty food that hits the spot. They are most famous for their unique chili, which has red beans and ground meat. You can also get great plate lunches there and some delicious fried chicken. I personally love their Zip Pac Deluxe. This combo has their famous chili, fried chicken, breaded hoki fish, Spam, and teri beef over white rice.
1725 South King Street
1725 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826, U...
Foodland is a Hawaiian grocery store chain that is the best place to go if you like poke. This Hawaiian classic is sliced pieces of sushi-grade fish and shellfish marinated with various traditional sauces. The deli section of Foodland has endless varieties you can sample. You can put any poke on top of a bed of warm white rice and add a side of their crispy fried chicken.
( Credit Facebook: Foodland Poke )
1450 Ala Moana Blvd
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA
The Gray Manapua Truck
One of the best ways to sample manapua (Hawaiian steamed buns) in Oahu is by getting one from a food truck. The Gray Manapua Truck is just one of many outstanding ones on the island. Mostly locals frequent this lunch spot, so it is a hidden gem. They offer delicious lumpia, baked goods, musubi, and fried noodles that cost less than $5!
510 Cooke St
510 Cooke St, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA
Chun Wah Kam
Chun Wah Kam has been a Chinatown staple since 1942. It perfectly embodies the island's spirit, fusing classic Cantonese dim sum with Hawaiian plate lunches and manapua. I love having a mix of classic manapua like lup cheong and char siu and more innovative buns like Thai curry chicken and kalua pork. Don't forget to try their famous pork hash and homemade noodles!