Iconic Eats of Oahu
It’s no secret that when we travel, much of our day is designed around food.
Heck, that’s the way we roll at home, too – searching for local secrets, ever-popular must tries, and iconic eats.
Today we’re talking Iconic Eats of Oahu, so bookmark this page for the next time you visit the islands to get a taste of these world-famous, forever memorable treats.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
It’s said that if you find your way to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, you’ve officially made it – which is why their plain white trucks are littered with signatures, stickers and messages from around the globe.
And while they aren’t the only shrimp truck in town, they’re definitely the original – which is why Giovanni’s is on our list of must tries.
With a price point of $15, every plate comes with a dozen sauced up shrimp, two scoops of rice, and a slice of lemon.
Regardless of which plate you get (Scampi, the ‘No Refunds’ Hot & Spicy, or Lemon & Butter), you’re
guaranteed to leave with a ring around your mouth and a sheen on your arms from the elbow down.
Even the Jumbo Hot Dog plate (ringing in at 5 bucks), comes smothered in their signature scampi sauce with a lemon slice and rice on the side – but I’d recommend saving that dog for a ballpark day.
Extra sides of Rice, Mac Salad and Drinks (soda, iced tea and water) are available for another couple bucks.
All three trucks are open daily and accept cash only.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Serving traditional, local Hawaiian food since 1946, this family-owned business is the same simple and unpretentious eatery it’s been for the last SIX DECADES – even as a James Beard Regional Classic Award winner.
One of the first places we visited after landing on the island, we were still pretty unfamiliar with the local cuisine – so rather than faking our way through, we admitted we were new to get the scoop from those who live it.
Now don’t get me wrong. This strategy has definitely backfired on us at times, but not at Helena’s.
Oh, no. At Helena’s we were given a warm smile with a list of must-tries designed to enjoy family-style, like: Kalua Pork (we
added cabbage), LauLau, Short Ribs, Rice and of course, Mac Salad.
But the thing that really took our breath away and had us talking about this meal for days was the Fried Butterfish Collar.
Delicately crisp, and you guessed it, buttery – this light, flaky fish was unlike anything we tried on the island during our month-long stay, and something we’d happily go back to Helena’s for every. single. day.
That, and an unexpected treat of raw white onion slices dipped in pink Hawaiian sea salt, provided to cleanse your palate before moving onto the next bite.
I’m not kidding when I say it’s about savoring the small things when visiting Helena’s – but isn’t that what living aloha is all about anyway?
It wasn’t until driving from Waikiki after dark that we noticed the glowing neon of the Rainbow Drive-In and knew we had to give it a try.
You can imagine our excitement when we realized it was a spot not only known for its Loco Moco (a long-time family favorite), but also considered an icon of the Oahu food scene.
Serving up plate lunches since 1961, the Rainbow Drive-In is passionate about preparing hearty portions of simple food with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad for a reasonable price.
So fast that the original Kapahulu location serves over A
THOUSAND plate lunches to locals and tourists every single day.
While Hahn opted for Loco Moco, I sprung for the Kalua Pork and Cabbage Plate (only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays), both of which rang in at a whopping ten bucks and provided us with more food than we could possibly eat – but that certainly didn’t stop us from trying while seated in their classic mid-mod open-air dining.
For weeks after visiting the Rainbow, we’d see people carrying stacks of their signature plain white sweater boxes and let out a collective “Yummmmmm. Rainbow Drive-In” every time. It’s like we were forever inducted into an unforgettable food club – and something we’re pretty darn stoked about.
Choose from four locations across Oahu, but take note of the various days, hours and payment options each location has before heading their way.
Word on the street is the Cream Puffs are where it’s at when visiting the Liliha Bakery, but we didn’t know that when we wandered through their brightly lit door in a dim corner on the third floor of Macy’s at the Ala Moana Center.
But totally worth the the scavenger hunt-like search to get there.
With dozens of gorgeous pastries to choose from, we gravitated straight to the Chocolate Eclairs and ordered two for the road.
Eclairs tend to be predictably light and airy with a crisp
outside that’s piped full of rich cream and topped with chocolate icing.
Fluffy as a cloud, these eclairs have the perfect crisp on the outside and are somehow filled with an even lighter and brighter cream that balances out the chocolate topping that’s not just icing, but a hotdog-sized tube of truffle.
And for this reason, Liliha is a must-stop on your Oahu iconic food tour.
Open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner (and dessert) at five locations across Honolulu.
Call it cliche, but we saved the best for last on this one.
Leonard, Leonard, Leonard.
How can I ever find the words to properly describe our love for what you do?
Commonly referred to as a Portuguese donut without a hole, but in my opinion, that doesn’t even come CLOSE to explaining the magic of a malasada.
True, it’s a ball of dough that’s been lovingly fried and then rolled in Sugar, Cinnamon Sugar or Li Hing (a sweet, salty AND sour flavor) – but rather than a cake-like treat,
the malasada comes out almost custardy when made fresh and eaten immediately.
As sugar trickles down your front, leaving a ring of happiness across your face, you can’t help but lick your lips, smile and lean in for a smooch to get a taste of the sugar left on your honey’s grin, too.
Or maybe that’s just me. Anyways…
Leonard’s has been serving up hot malasadas from their pink and white-striped, neon-signed building in the heart of Honolulu since 1952.
Open daily from 5:30 am to 7 pm, expect long lines (which is totally part of the charm) and make sure to order at least a half dozen – even if just for two of you.
Can’t make it to Leonard’s original bakery?
Leonard’s has since opened four MalasadaMobiles across the island of Oahu for a quick fix of this addictingly tasty treat.