Last week, I shared my picks for Oahu’s best cheap eats. This week, I am sharing a few other places worthy of praise:
Fook Lam (Chinatown Honolulu) – We came here on Yelp recommendations as we were craving dim sum after days of feasting on Hawaiian food. Eating here is like a study in textural gastronomy… sticky shrimp dumpling wrappers, chewy gooey rice balls, and flaky egg tart crusts with creamy custard filling. The ingredients are fresh and the taste is authentic, as proven by the all-Cantonese clientele. D claims that the only dim sum he’s had that was better was in the legendary Chinatown San Francisco. ($3-$6 a plate. Located in the Chinese Cultural Plaza. Parking only $2 in the structure with validation.)
Leonard’s Bakery (Honolulu) – Of course, how can I forget Leonard’s? The ever popular bakery known for the best malasadas (a Portuguese deep fried doughnut fluffy as air) in town. We were so impressed with the malasadas that we were also eager to try them from other places. A mistake as we should have know it’s only Leonard’s or nothing. ($1 for the original and $1.50 for the cream filled versions. Both are delectable).
Iyasume Musubi (Waikiki) – Located down an easy-to-miss alleyway and in a tiny storefront that only seats 8, this was truly a hidden gem in Waikiki. It has about 30 different types of musubi on the menu ($1.80 – $2.50 each), a heaven for lovers of rice and meat wrapped in seaweed.
Macky’s Shrimp Truck (North Shore) – Those looking for a different experience may want to stop by at one of North Shore’s famous shrimp trucks. Shrimp trucks are unique to the north shore of Oahu (due to the many shrimp farms in that area) and can be found practically anywhere in the city of Kahuku. Macky’s was the first truck we passed and stopped at. We ordered the spicy flavor ($12) and quickly got our fingers dirty peeling the shrimp. We were not disappointed; even though this may not be in the dirt-cheap category, the price is hard to beat for shrimp this fresh.
We only splurged on one meal the whole time we were on Oahu, and so it must be mentioned:
Breakfast at Duke’s
I had a birthday while in Hawaii, and said that the only celebration I wanted was breakfast at Duke’s. And so we made reservations weeks in advance. A quick bit of trivia… the namesake, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890-1968), aka “Father of International Surfing,” grew up in Waikiki, went on to win many Olympic medals, and left the legacy of introducing the sport of surfing to many countries. Today, there is a chain of restaurants in his name located on the most popular world-renowned surfing beaches. In Waikiki, Duke’s is located in the swanky Outrigger Resort with the dining area right on the sand overlooking the turquoise waters. The setting is beautiful.
Want to have breakfast at Duke’s like every other tourist? Think again. I so so wanted to love the breakfast buffet, but I found it uninspiring. There were basic American brunch items like scrambled eggs, french toast, eggs benedict, omelet bar… and there were a couple of items with a Hawaiian twist, like Portuguese sausage and pina colada bread pudding (the only winner). Maybe I hyped it up too much in my mind, but nothing was that special. I left stuffed but disappointed.
[$18/person for the breakfast buffet, not including tip. It was decent, but we were much happier and more satisfied eating at local grinds for a fraction of the cost.]
Having been back home to LA for a few days now, I already miss some of the places sorely. To me, the beauty of Hawaiian food is its simplicity in concept, but complexity in execution. The flavors run deep even without too much seasoning or marinating. With its rich tastes and huge portions, we found it very much affordable to eat good authentic food in Oahu. There in Hawaii, they have a saying… “eat until you’re tired.” And we did just that, every single meal, and still managed to stay on budget.
Last notes: There is no shortage of good food on Oahu. And while I wholeheartedly enjoyed (almost) every meal, the food did not seem to be too healthy. I’m pretty sure that vegetables do not exist in Hawaiian cuisine. And so by the end of my week-long visit, I was eager to get my hands on anything leafy and green. Next trip, I will be looking forward to revisit any of these places, but also seek out more healthy options.
If you loved this article and want to eat what I ate, download this article on GPSMyCity here. You can get a GPS-guided map that you can use offline!