If you’re visiting Hawaii and want to do something a little unusual, random, and a bit off-the-wall, then maybe consider checking out one of Oahu’s Asian supermarkets. We’ve got a few, but the two largest ones are located in the old plantation town of Waipahu. Let’s take a walk through Pacific Supermarket to see what interesting food items we can find! You might even find something to take back home with you.
When it comes to Hawaiian shave ice, move over Oahu, because Kauai is king. The Fresh Shave and Wailua Shave Ice are the top Kauai shave ice spots that you want to visit if flavor profiles beyond the generic “rainbow” shave ice is what you’re after. At Wailua Shave Ice, only fresh local fruits are used and forget about artificial flavors, dyes, or high fructose corn syrup…they don’t roll like that…they only use fresh ingredients that are locally sourced.
We’re fans of Chef Peter Merriman, but you already knew that. If you’ve had the chance to enjoy dinner at his flagship restaurant on the Big Island, then the next logical Merriman location to check out would be Merriman’s Kapalua, located on the luxurious Kapalua coastline. On Sunday mornings…they do brunch. And they do brunch right.
Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame might wince at the sight of SPAM, but Hawaii residents love the canned meat concoction. The SPAM musubi is a local favorite and a popular snack to take along on a hike or to curb midday munchies. I always take one when I hit the trails. For a crash course on all things musubi, swing by Musubi & Bento Iyasume on Seaside Avenue. They have a wide selection to choose from, including ones stuffed with egg, bacon, avocado, fish roe, and even spicy tuna. My favorite? the classic SPAM Musubi of course. A slice of SPAM, over a block of rice, and wrapped in nori (seaweed). That’s all you need.
We showed up at Agu Ramen, the original location on Isenberg at the Saint Louis Alumni Association, about an hour after they opened on a random Tuesday. They already had a 30 minute wait going. Not picky, we told the hostess that we would sit anywhere…table, bar…just get us that ramen. That thirty minute wait actually turned out to be just 10 minutes, and we were shuttled to the bar, bypassing those who had requested a table. Score.
Forget about that burger. You’re in Hawaii, so have a taste of the local cuisine. When the laulau cravings strike, there’s one place to go: Ono Hawaiian Foods. This legendary hole-in-the-wall on Kapahulu Avenue is known for making some of the most mouthwatering laulau in the islands.
A visit to Tanioka’s Seafoods & Catering is like taking a crash course in Local Hawaiian Grinds 101. Founded in 1978 by Mel and Lynn Tanioka, this contemporary delicatessen has been serving local delicacies for nearly 30 years. Tanioka’s is as close as you can get to an IRL cheat sheet of local foods.
Located in the old plantation town of Waipahu, Tanioka’s popularity stems from their successful catering business, however, that doesn’t stop locals from standing in line (out the door and often in the hot sun) for some local comfort food. If Hawaii’s okazuya and crack seed shops of yesteryear were to have a baby, Tanioka’s would be it. And trust me, that baby is oh so delicious.
A founding contributor of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Peter Merriman has long been known for his inventive menus that champion local farmers and fisherman. We are definitely fans of Chef Merriman and always make it a point to enjoy his offerings when visiting the neighbor islands. His namesake Merriman’s restaurants are found in Waimea on the The Big Island, Kapalua on Maui, and Poipu on Kauai. Oahu is home to two of his more casual, concept restaurants: Monkeypod Kitchen and Moku Kitchen. We finally had a chance to check out the latter.