What Kind of Hawai‘i Foodie Are You? | Go Hawaii

What Kind of Hawai‘i Foodie Are You?

Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / AJ Feducia

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A guide to experiencing a few of the local eats residents love most, one bite at a time 

There are few better ways to immerse yourself in a destination than dining your way through it.
Hawai‘i is no different. The diversity of food found in the Hawaiian Islands today is the result
of multiple origins – among them, the indigenous Hawaiian culture, dozens of multicultural
influences, and modern-day cuisine from around the world. And although the Islands offer
their fair share of prestigious dining options, one of the best ways to understand the cuisine
locals truly enjoy most is by checking out our most popular and beloved food-truck, hole-inthe-
wall, and hidden-gem eateries. Spaced between all of your hikes, beach stops and relaxing
getaways, you’ll need a reliable list of local eateries to refuel your adventures. We’re ready to
help with that.

Fortunately, it’s easy to find and taste fresh, local-favorite comfort foods in the Islands. A
common thread across the eateries spotlighted below is the use of locally-sourced products and
ingredients in their dishes, whether in support of local farmers, ranchers and fisherman; to
promote overall environmental sustainability across the Islands; or simply because fresh and
local tastes best. We’ve selected several intriguing places to eat for four types of foodies,
exploring Hawai‘i’s ethnically diverse cuisine one plate at a time, from Kaua‘i to the island of
Hawai‘i. Eat, drink and enjoy!


Introducing, a handful of hole-in-the-wall joints and online sensations that you might be on the
fence about that actually live up to their foodie hype. If loco moco is on your mind, travel to
Hilo, the island of Hawai‘i town where the local-favorite comfort food dish was invented, and
head to Cafe 100, which offers more than a dozen tasty loco moco options, none of which
disappoint. A tasty stop on Maui is Tin Roof, owner-chef Sheldon Simeon’s new generation
mom-and-pop takeout place serving heaping meals-in-a-bowl inspired by Hawai‘i’s multitude
of cultures and featuring a menu of notable specialties, including mochiko fried chicken and
pork belly bowls. On O‘ʻahu, mix and match sensational local flavors of fresh poke at Ono
Seafood, where you’ll find locals and visitors queuing up for made-to-order shoyu and spicy
ʻahi poke. On the way back from adventuring at Waimea Canyon, do not miss a stop at Porky’s
Kauaʻi food truck in Waimea town for some smoky aloha in a bun. With only three items to
choose from, the menu here is easy to navigate. But each is a customer favorite offering hearty
portions of slow-roasted kālua pork.
Cafe 100
Photo credit: Hawai‘i Tourism Authority - Blake Bronstad


The plate lunch concept originated back from the plantation days where workers from Japan,
China, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal and other areas, brought a hearty lunch to sustain
themselves at work. Eating a plate lunch today is like eating a scoop of Hawaiian history, with
the delicious mixture of cultural cuisines. Broke Da Mouth Grindz is tucked in a small, out-ofthe-
way shopping center in Kailua-Kona’s industrial area on the island of Hawai‘i, but its garlic chicken
deserves all of its fan hype and is worth the search. Though Da Kitchen Cafe
gets creative with a menu of specialty loco moco and sides like deep-fried Spam musubi, it also
offers some of the best – and largest – plate lunches on Maui. On O‘ʻahu, Helena’s Hawaiian
Food has been serving up quality traditional-style Hawaiian cuisine – including pipi kaula-style
shortribs, laulau and squid lu‘au – to Honolulu customers for more than 72 years. If your food
travels take you to Kaua‘i, stop in at Mark’s Place in Lihu‘ē for fast, affordable and ‘‘ono (tasty)
local-style comfort food. One of its most-popular plates is packed with the Hawai’i comfort food
staples chicken katsu, teriyaki beef and beef stew, with sides of rice and potato macaroni salad.
Photo credit: Hawai‘i Tourism Authority - Lucy Laucht


Hawai‘i’s agricultural crops benefit greatly from the Islands’ nutrient-rich volcanic soil. Embark
on your farm-to-table journey at local-favorite spots like Sweet Cane Cafe on the island of
Hawai‘i. Ever sipped on sugarcane juice, or cane-juice-based smoothies and slushies? You will
at Sweet Cane, which also offers delicious, nutritious and organic farm-to-table eats. Menu
items at a‘a Roots Maui are strictly vegan and locally sourced, and include savory bowls,
salads, smoothies and juices that don’t disappoint. Whether you’re vegan or not, a‘a Roots aims
to change the way you view vegan cuisine. ‘Ai Love Nalo is a plant-based restaurant in the
O‘ʻahu town of Waimānalo that sources from local farms, crafts its dishes from scratch and is
passionate about promoting health and wellness in its community. On Kaua‘i, Verde serves
100-percent grass-fed beef raised on island, antibiotic and hormone-free chicken, and pork from
local farmers and producers.


Should you find yourself exploring historic downtown Hilo, head to Moonstruck Patisserie for
a cup of espresso, bites of the bakery’s delectable desserts and the right amount of sugary
sweetness to uplift your day. Ready for chocolate aficionados, Maui Specialty Chocolates in
Kahului is best known for its fresh and fluffy chocolate-filled mochi. On Moloka‘i, Kanemitsu
Bakery’s famous hot bread – served warm and filled with gooey, sweet cream cheese, butter
and fruit spreads – has for decades kept fans (and the just plain curious) trekking a dark
Kaunakakai town alley most nights for a taste. The experience is still best on Moloka‘i. But you
can now purchase hot bread from a Kanemitsu Bakery food truck roaming the island of O‘ʻahu
as well. Wailua Shave Ice on Kaua‘i serves Hawai‘i-style shave ice topped with syrups made
from fresh local fruit and no artificial flavors, dyes or high fructose corn syrup. Order the Lava
Flow, a popular shave ice pick crafted with pineapple juice, strawberry puree, and toppings of
coconut foam, pineapple and strawberry.
Wailua Shave Ice <span aria-label=Kauaʻi" src="/sites/default/files/Wailua-Shave-Ice-%28Kauai%29_0.jpg" />
Photo credit: Hawai‘i Tourism Authority - Heather Goodman