I recently had the good fortune of living in Hawaii for 3 months, and was so impacted by the island spirit that I’ve returned a different person. To reflect on a portion of the experience, yes, Oahu is blessed with hourly rainbows, crystal blue beaches, and genuine smiles – but it makes you wonder how anything can top all of this… to be concise, it’s incredible food.
With the cultural “melting-pot” taken to a very literal level, all the nearest Asian and even Portuguese cultures have combined throughout the island’s immigrant history to produce some of the most epic and unique tastes.
One of which is Hawaiian poke. Now, there is contention as to which spot in Hawaii boasts the best poke. The dedicated foodie masses profess Ono Seafood to be the winner, and locals swear that your nearby Foodland, the island’s Safeway equivalent, is hands-down the best place to buy this delectable marinated raw fish dish. I prefer Ono Seafood’s spicy ahi, but my recommendation would be to try both and cast your own vote!
(Ono Seafood’s Spicy Ahi Poke and Shoyu Ahi Poke over brown rice)
If you happen to be in Honolulu on a Saturday morning, the place to be is KCC’s Farmer’s Market which is held in a parking lot near Diamond Head. You can find the most exotic tropical fruit where “sweet” does not fully describe the extent to which these strange little gems overwhelm your taste buds.
(Hayden Mangos, Apple Bananas, Soursop, Papaya)
Amidst the traditional pork-heavy island establishments, there are also some healthy AND delicious options, like Ruffage Natural Foods, which to my opinion offers the best ahi poke salad on the island. With a nondescript, hole-in-the-wall vibe (and perhaps some hole-in-the-wall service), this place surprises you with consistently fresh, high quality ingredients and legitimately tasty healthy dishes and smoothies.
(Ahi Tuna Poke Salad at Ruffage Natural Foods)
Though the next two establishments are as famous as the island itself, I can’t leave them out of this list of must-eats. The first is Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck on the North Shore. I would suggest going to the original location, which is in Kahuku, housing more tables and parking space, as well as killer smoothie and grilled corn vendors. You’ll be oozing garlic from your pores for 3 days, but it’s absolutely worth it.
(Shrimp Scampi Plate at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck)
The second is Matsumoto’s Shave Ice, also in the North Shore, which usually has at least a 30 minute wait, but once you taste the shave ice, you know why. The ice isn’t shaved insanely fine, nor can you tell if the syrups are made from fresh fruit, but there is something magical and unexplainable about the flavors mixing with the consistency of the ice shavings. You can only acknowledge the whimsical joy it brings as you look around at everyone else experiencing the same magic in that sunny courtyard.
(Matsumoto’s mango, lilikoi, and passionfruit shave ice with mochi balls)
For the best things to do and eat in Oahu, I’ve teamed up with Priscilla Mendez, founder of the conscious jewelry brand, 100 Graces, to provide a list of do’s and don’ts for your next visit to Oahu. You can find it here: https://www.100graces.com/blogs/100-graces-blog/dreaming-of-paradise-hawaii
Happy Eating and Exploring in Oahu!