dessert Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch

Ted’s Bakery – Sunset Beach, HI

When people talk about Ted’s Bakery, they’re usually talking about one thing: chocolate haupia pie. I’ve had Ted’s famous pie before, and you can get their pies at almost any market on Oahu, but on this trip, I wanted to get one directly from the source. But Ted’s has a lot more to offer than just pie; their selection of bentos and sandwiches is pretty impressive too.

Ted's Bakery

Let’s start with the pie since I ate a slice while I was waiting for the rest of our food to arrive. It’s a simple pie crust with chocolate filling on the bottom, a layer of haupia in the middle and topped with whipped cream. The consistency of the chocolate filling is somewhere between pudding and mousse; it’s light but sturdy enough to support the denser haupia on top. Aside from the flavors, the texture contrast between the chocolate and haupia might be the best thing about this pie. The pie crust is forgettable so it’s only real purpose is to provide structure, but it’s blandness also lets the rest of the pie shine.

Chocolate Haupia PieTed’s Famous Chocolate Haupia Pie

My wife ordered the Crab and Bacon Combo off the Hot Foods menu. It’s basically a crab salad and bacon sandwich served on a hamburger bun and served with fries. This sounds weird on paper, but it’s a brilliant combination.

Crab & Bacon Combo SandwichTed’s Crab & Bacon Combo Sandwich

I ordered the Ted’s Bento, an amazing array of Hawaiian plate lunch standards—teriyaki beef, fried SPAM, fried mahi mahi, and fried chicken—served inexplicably over four scoops of rice. I only ate half the rice and think the folks at Ted’s would really be onto something if they went with two scoops of rice and then topped this bento with a fried egg or two on top. Doesn’t that sound perfect? ;)

Ted's BentoTed’s Bento

If you’re on the North Shore and looking for a great alternative to all the shrimp trucks that roam the area, look for Ted’s. They’ve got a lot going on besides those famous chocolate haupia pies. My only regret was that we didn’t get there in time for breakfast.

Ted’s Bakery
59-024 Kamehameha Highway
Sunset Beach, Hawaii 96712
Web site

dessert Hawaii Hawaiian Kauai Oahu reviews shave ice

Shave Ice Showdown!

It’s hot in Hawaii year round, and shave ice is a great way to cool off. Most people know the Big 3 in Oahu, but there’s one in Kauai that’s giving them a run for their money. Here my list in order of preference.

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice

Waiola is the king of shave ice on Oahu with its finely shaved, snow-like ice and the killer selection of toppings. Plus it’s near Waikiki, especially Waiola II on Kapahulu Avenue (below), so you don’t have to drive an hour and half outside of town to get some. It’s really no contest.

Waiola Shave Ice

On our last trip back, I discovered the power of Calpico at the Kapahulu store. Calpico is a Japanese drink with a tart yogurt flavor that is popular in Asia and other fine Asian delicacies, such as Yakult, yogurt soju, and Pinkberry.

Melona and Calpico Shave Ice
Waiola’s Melona and Calpico shave ice

When you combine Calpico with Melona on shave ice, it’s the best of both worlds. The sweetness of the Melona works perfectly with the sour Calpico, and with vanilla ice cream on the bottom, you create a wonderful sweet-and-tart-and-creamy shave ice.

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
2135 Waiola Street
Honolulu, HI 96805 map

525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 map

Hawaiian Blizzard

If shave ice was judged on purely on the ice, Kauai’s Hawaiian Blizzard might be the best in Hawaii. Yes…better than my Oahu favorites, Waiola and Aoki’s, and it makes Matsumoto look like a regular snow cone. It’s the lightest, fluffiest and most divine ice I’ve ever had.

shave ice

Hawaiian Blizzard is a shave ice stand that sets up shop Mon-Fri from 1:30–5pm in front of the Big Save market in Kapaa. On our trip to Kauai in January, we landed in Lihue at around 3pm on a Friday and went straight to Kapaa to get some shave ice before driving down to our homebase of Poipu. The detour was definitely worth the trip.

Flavor selection is pretty standard, but I was excited that they had Melona, which in my mind is the perfect shave ice flavor. They might not have the flavors and varieties that the other guys offer, especially pretty standard add-ons like red beans or vanilla ice cream, but you can also opt for a “Snow Cap,” a drizzling of evaporated milk on top of the shave ice that’s a delicious alternative.

Hawaiian Blizzard
(in front of Big Save Market)
4-1105 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 map
Hours: Mon-Fri 1:30pm-5pm

Aoki’s Shave Ice

Aoki’s a couple hundred feet from their more famous competitor Matsumoto Shave Ice. The lines are much shorter, which means you generally don’t have to wait 20 minutes to get your shave ice, which is a big deal when it’s hot.

I like Aoki’s more than Matsumoto for one simple reason…the ice is shaved a lot finer, so it’s smooth and melts instantly once it hits your tongue. It’s actually very similar to Waiola, and my wife and I favor Waiola to Matsumoto anyway. Aoki’s is also where I discovered that Melona is my favorite shave ice flavor.

Aoki's Lychee and Melona Shave IceAoki’s Lychee and Melona Shave Ice.

If it’s your first time to visit Haleiwa, then go to Matsumoto’s just because it’s the “famous” one. But if you’re in Haleiwa for a repeat visit to Matsumoto’s, stop by Aoki’s and do a taste test and see which one you really like.

Aoki’s Shave Ice
66-117 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96715 map

Matsumoto Shave Ice

Matsumoto was my first shave ice experience and it set an excellent baseline for every other shave ice I’ve ever had. But with Aoki’s just a few hundred feet away, and the fact that my wife’s family is walking distance from Waiola, there’s really no need for us to go to Matsumoto anymore.

Nowadays, I only go into Matsumoto if we’re with a shave ice newbie or to buy souvenirs because they’ve got some of the best T-shirts on the island. The selection is great and they have sizes for everyone from newborns to adults.

Melona and Ling Hing Mui Shave Ice
Picture by Soozums at flickr.

There will likely be a line when you get to Matsumoto’s because it’s so popular, but you’re on vacation…relax and check out the souvenirs and study the menu while you’re in line. But Matsumoto’s fame is probably best reserved for the souvenirs.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, HI 96712 map
Web site

A shout out to House of Annie for inspiring this post.

Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch reviews

Eating Oahu, Part 2: New Discoveries

The old favorites are always nice, but we did get to try some new stuff in Oahu. Here’s some places you might not have read about in the tourist guides.

Hapa Grill

Hapa Grill is known for their teri beef, a family recipe that was a mainstay of the Sassy Kassy Lunch Wagon back in the day, and there are those who say it’s the best teri beef in Oahu. I think I’m inclined to agree, especially because it’s not overly sweet.

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My wife had the fried noodles and teri beef and it was great. A huge plate of fried noodles with spam, eggs, fish cake with a side of the famous teri beef. The noodles were really good and it was (amazingly enough) the first bit of spam I’d had on this trip. I stole a piece of teri beef from my wife’s plate and immediately ordered myself a side order to complement my beef stew. The stew is the Wed. special and it was really good on this cool evening, esp. when it was mixed up with the rice. For dessert, we had an awesome chocolate mac nut brownie

It’s long drive out to Kapolei from town, but if you’re in the neighborhood or want a nice place to eat after shopping in Waikele, Hapa Grill’s not too far (about seven miles down H1 from Waikele) and definitely worth the drive.

Hapa Grill
91590 Farrington Hwy
Kapolei, HI 96707 map
Web site

Grass Skirt Grill

I really needed a break from eating meat, so when we were in Haleiwa on the North Shore visiting my sister-in-law, we ended up at Grass Skirt Grill for lunch (even though Kua Aina Burger smelled amazing when we walked by).

Grilled Hebi Salad

I ordered the excellent Grilled Hebi Salad because it featured locally grown vegetables and fresh, perfectly grilled fish (Hebi is a short-billed spearfish native to Hawaii). My wife and sister-in-law split a teri chicken sandwich that they both liked. We also got an order of onion rings and fries, but they were unremarkable.

Stick with the grilled fish and fresh veggies, especially if you’ve OD’ed on meat eating around the island, and you’ll have a light, satisfying lunch.

Grass Skirt Grill
66-214 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712 map

Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu plate lunch reviews

Eating Oahu, Part 1: Local Favorites

Trips to Oahu are annual since we’ve got to visit the family, and this also means good and CHEAP eats. If you’re planning on going to visit Oahu, here’s some places where you can eat like a local.

Ono Hawaiian Foods

If Kapahulu Avenue was a baseball team comprised of restaurants and their lineup included Leonard’s Bakery, Waiola Shave Ice, and Rainbow Drive-In batting in the 1,2, and 3 spots, Ono Hawaiian Foods would be the clean up hitter waiting to drive them all in. There’s a reason Ono is an all the tourist books, and you know the place is good because the locals will put up with all the tourists to eat there.

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Ono is THE place to get authentic Hawaiian food in Oahu. They’re known for their kalua pig and their enormous, almost plate-sized lau laus. And it’s not all taro leaves either…it’s a generous amount of pork, enough for two or three people to split. The pipikaula (Hawaiian beef jerky) is also excellent and something I’ll be ordering from now on. The ahi poke is fresh and wonderful and the butterfish luau was also really good.

Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816 map

Gina’s Bar-B-Q

Gina’s serves local-style Korean food, and it is one of my favorite places to eat in Hawaii because I love meat jun, which is almost impossible to find in this form on the mainland. Meat Jun is basically a really thin steak that’s dipped in egg batter and then fried. It’s kind of like a thin egg pancake with a sliver of steak in the middle. They serve it with a sweet dipping sauce that takes this humble dish to a whole other level.

On this trip, I paired my meat jun with some spicy fried chicken wings that were excellent. The crunchy, slightly spicy skin really hit the spot.

Meat Jun and Spicy Fried Chicken Combo

In addition to rice, you get your choice of four sides, which include basic Korean banchan offerings such as taegu, kim chee and pickled daikon, as well as local favorites like mac salad.

It’s small inside, so most of their business is take out, which is what we did. Best of all, Gina’s is cheap and the portions are extremely generous, so you get a lot of food for the money.

Gina’s Bar-B-Q
2919 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96826 map

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Alan Wong’s Restaurant

Towards the end of our last trip back to Hawaii, I was craving something fancy, and the other “upscale” restaurants in town (Sam Choy’s, Roy’s) got mixed reviews from everyone I had talked to. Only Alan Wong’s Restaurant got universal praise, and it’s hard to argue with a place that’s garnered so many accolades, including the prestigious James Beard award.

We thought about ordering the 5-course prix fixe chef’s tasting menu ($75), but decided to eschew its rigidity in favor of ordering directly from the menu. This actually saved us money, and we got to eat exactly what we wanted.

We started off with the Nori-wrapped Seared Tempura Ahi, garnished with soy mustard and tomato ginger relish. It was beautifully presented and a great way to start the meal. Next were the hoisin BBQ ribs, which were a little sweet but completely decadent. The succulent rib meat was easily to separated from the bones using either chopsticks or a fork.

The entrees were the main attraction, and they were all so pretty when they arrived at the table. My sister-in-law had the Twice Cooked Short Ribs, Soy Braised and Grilled “Kalbi” Style with Gingered Shrimp, Ko Choo Jang Sauce. This was just about perfect. My wife had the Ginger-Crusted Onaga, a long-tailed red snapper served with a Miso-Sesame Vinaigrette, which she really loved. I had the Macadamia Nut-Coconut Crusted Lamb Chops with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Asian Ratatouille. I wasn’t too into the Ratatouille, but the lamb chops were delicious, probably the best I’ve ever had and the sauce was great with the mashed potatoes.

After dinner, we were given a coffee menu with a selection as diverse as any wine list. I opted for the chef’s current favorite, an Organic Lafayette Coffee from south Kona, which was delicious, although some grounds got into my cup through the French press.

For dessert, we ordered the Taste of Hawaii Cheesecakes, which was pretty good, but only two of the four flavors really stood out, the Kona Coffee and the purple Okinawan Sweet Potato with Haupia sorbet. We also ordered the Chocolate Crunch Bars, which were like gourmet Kit Kats. This was the perfect way to finish the meal.

Overall, the Alan Wong experience was excellent. Service was attentive and the plating of the food was so satisfied our food porn desires. The location is a little odd, and it doesn’t have the greatest view, but the food is the star here. So if you’ve got some cash to blow on your trip to Hawaii, I’d give it to Alan Wong before Sam Choy or Roy Yamaguchi.

Alan Wong’s Restaurant
1857 S. King Street, Third Floor
Honolulu, HI 96826
Web site