Discover the Best Local Food in Oahu
Oahu is known for gorgeous rainbows, sandy beaches, and tropical palm trees, but no one should visit this island paradise without trying some of the truly phenomenal local food. In Hawaii, the term “local food” can encompass a lot; keeping that in mind, here are some of my personal favorite local food stops on Oahu.
Off the Hook Poke
Not a single person in the long line for the Off The Hook Poke shop window said that the wait wasn’t worth it. After much deliberation, we’ve decided that this place is exceptional because every ingredient of the poke bowl can stand on its own. They have about eight different options (depending on availability), including Cold Ginger Poke, Hawaiian Style, and Kilauea Fire—each one fresh and delicious. Don’t let the popularity of the place dissuade you. Instead, know that you’re waiting for excellent food with people who have the same exquisite taste as you. Find it on East Manoa Rd. across from Manoa Marketplace.
Side Street Inn
If you’re looking for a little bite to eat, you’d better look elsewhere. This place is known for its stellar food and family-style portions. The fried rice and the signature spicy garlic chicken are must-tries, especially if you’re a fan of local food. They’ve even got a beer named after them—the Side Street Inn Ale by Rogue Ales, which makes for the perfect palate cleanser between bites. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, their take on the classic pairing of peanut butter and chocolate takes warm and gooey and tops it off with the perfect amount of crunch. They have two locations and both are almost always busy, so reservations are recommended. Find them on Kapahulu and Date, same side as the golf course.
This place feels like a time machine. They’ve been around since 1950, and we doubt that it’s changed much. A classic greasy spoon diner with a Hawaiian twist. The cooks are dressed in all white, and the waitresses have long aprons and a take-no-prisoners attitude. There’s one long bar with about 20 seats, and everything is cooked directly in front of you on a grill with lots of butter. A simple breakfast menu with all the fixin’s, including a gravy-smothered loco moco. Lunch and dinner is local-style grinds and sandwiches. The food’s pretty good and fairly cheap. Don’t leave without trying their most famous bakery item. It’s a puff pastry filled with chocolate and a dab of chantilly frosting on top—it’s amazing. They call it a coco puff, and they claim to make 5,000–7,000 daily.
To get there from Waikiki, get on H-1 west and take exit 21A, then take a right onto Liliha Street and a left onto N. Kuakini. The bakery is on the corner to the left. They also have another location on Nimitz Highway that seats 170.
Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken
We aren’t sure if the tasty food or converted school bus leaves a stronger impression, but either way, this is a memorable place. They’ve been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Food Paradise, and it’s easy to see why—the food is awesome. Go for the chicken (broiled over kiawe wood for that good smoky flavor), or get a plate lunch classic like kalua pork or garlic shrimp—either way, you’ll find some good flavors and ample portions. Their “dining room” is a patio to the side of the bus, covered by a wooden roof but open to the lush garden outside. It’s very easy to forget you’re at a food truck no more than a stone’s throw from the highway.Find it at the Kahuku Sugar Mill, next to the parking lot.
Rainbow Drive Inn
This iconic O’ahu drive-in has been churning out ono grinds at cheap prices for more than half a century. Plate lunches are the go-to items here with your choice of main dish accompanied by “two scoop rice” or fries, and a hearty scoop of local-style mac salad. Specials change daily, but the shoyu chicken and the loco moco (a beef patty topped with an egg and smothered in gravy) are definitely the favorites here. Lots of options involving chili, and at breakfast, be sure to try the sweetbread French toast—if they haven’t run out. Located just outside Waikiki on the Diamond Head side, on the corner of Kapahulu and Kanaina.
There are lots of restaurants offering Hawaiian BBQ, but this roadside stand is the real deal. Kalua pork, teriyaki chicken and sausages are the usual lineup here, but keep an eye out for specials. Consider getting the mixed plate because everything is good. If they have it, be sure to try the pani popo, a sweet roll topped with a coconut glaze. Simple yet delicious. As good as the food is, half the experience is interacting with the cook—he’s funny and full of the aloha spirit. Our only ding is that the hours are spotty. Find it near Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp Truck in Kahuku.
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