Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu reviews

Helena’s Hawaiian Foods – Honolulu, HI

When a hole-in-the-wall place like Helena’s Hawaiian Foods wins a James Beard award for outstanding American regional cuisine, you know there’s something special going on over there. In Helena’s case, it’s definitely the pipikaula short ribs and as many of you know, I’m a freak for short ribs. Pipikaula is a Hawaiian version of beef jerky, but this is the first time I’ve seen it made with short ribs. They’re crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and even better if you dip it in the chili pepper water that comes on the side.

Short ribs curing above the oven at Helena's.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of our order, which included familiar Hawaiian standards:

  • kalua pork – good but could have been smokier
  • squid luau – squid content was low but the flavors were spot on. My wife’s friend said this was just like the squid luau she grew up eating.
  • lomi salmon – not normally a fan, but I actually liked Helena’s.
  • chicken long rice – strong ginger flavor, which I liked, but it masks the chicken.
  • beef stew – solid
  • fried butterfish collar – rich and fatty…excellent.
  • poi – Nice purple color, but we don’t like poi. Our friend and her two-year-old daughter loved it, though.
  • haupia – the pipikaula had me in their trance and I forgot to have some! :( My wife liked it and said it was smooth and not watery like some haupias.

Helena’s is an a weird location for out-of-town visitors, but if you can make it over there, the pipikaula short ribs are definitely worth a try. Plus, everyone there is super nice, and they’ll make you feel at home.

Helena’s Hawaiian Foods
1240 N. School Street
Honolulu, HI 96817 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