Quick Bite: Oahu

Quick Bite OahuI love to cook and all, but a huge part of my endless obsession with food involves, you know, actually eating it. Hence the “feeding” part of Forever Feeding. I have mentioned before that my husband and I have been very fortunate to travel for our jobs. A lot of the fun of these trips is experiencing the local culinary fare. Sometimes we have only an hour or two to get a quick bite. Other times we have days to explore and taste test everything we can fit into our mouths (that’s what she said.) 

So, to help share some of my gastronomical adventures, I have decided to start a series I call “Quick Bites.” These aren’t really the end-all-beat-all-THIS-is-what-you-have-to-eat type of posts. I mean, I wouldn’t say I am qualified to list the most impressive or decadent restaurants in any given locale. They’re really just a run-down of what I ate in a particular destination, what I thought about it, and maybe a few tips for how to have a great time eating yummy food like I did.

Hanauma BayMy first post in this series: HAWAII! Oahu, to be exact. Otherwise known as the island that Honolulu is on, Oahu is the “gathering place” amongst all of the Hawaiian islands. My family spent two weeks there last year (one of which consisted of me working my butt off, so I ate mostly hotel food that first week).

The final 5 days of our trip were jam-packed with sight-seeing and cheap eats…because, you know, we had already spent all of our money going to Hawaii. But just because we ate cheaply, doesn’t mean we didn’t eat well. here are some of our favorite food memories:

1.) Steak Shack: Waikiki Beach

IMG_3939 Like a lot of food I discovered in Hawaii, Steak Shack’s entrees came with rice. This place was basically a hole-in-the-wall surfer’s joint located in a narrow sort of boardwalk area of to-go restaurants, so I honestly didn’t even take a photo outside, but the view just out on the beach was awesome!

To get there, we walked down Waikiki Beach from our hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The views of Diamond Head were lovely and the sidewalk just off the beach is nice and paved. It’s a great place for people watching.

IMG_4237Is this not the most beautiful walk you have ever seen?IMG_3456IMG_3974Steak Shack offers basic plates with a meat choice (chicken or steak), a side of rice, and what is basically a side salad of mixed greens with your choice of dressing. My husband and I both ordered the regular steak plate, which includes 6 oz of perfectly cooked and seasoned steak for less than $10. We were pretty pleased with the taste and tenderness of the steak, and the rice was nice and fluffy. The portions were also very reasonable. The regular plate fed me and my one-year-old, who just happens to love rice.

Plus, the view just outside of the Steak Shack can’t be beat! We ended up walking all along this area until the sun set.

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2.) McDonald’s: Located wherever you find one. 

Hawaii McDonalds

Okay, okay, I realize this is not a local Oahu restaurant. And, of course, it is not authentic Hawaiian food by any stretch of the imagination. BUT, Hawaiian McDonald’s ARE unique for offering Hawaii’s ubiquitous rice (yes, even on the breakfast menu!) and an all-time favorite of mine and Hawaii’s Spam!

For being a fast-food dish, this was really not bad. The rice was as fluffy as it is anywhere, and the spam was nice and crispy on the edges. I love Spam, and the rice for breakfast concept was actually not as weird as it seems. While in Hawaii, you might as well try it.

3.) Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: Haleiwa, on the North Shore of Oahu  IMG_1574 During one of our half-days on Oahu, we drove up to the famous North Shore. Now, this was May, mind you, so the waves weren’t exactly behemoth. The waves are actually the highest, I was told, during the winter. I guess that’s when most of the big surf competitions go on. Waves or not, the drive up to the North Shore was breathtaking.

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Once you get to the Haleiwa area, there are a bunch of little shops and places to eat. There are also, as on most of Oahu, plenty of places to swim and walk on the beach. We were here for one thing, however, and that was fresh shrimp!

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There are a lot of food trucks, and I guess shrimp trucks in particular in this area, but Giovanni’s is possibly the most well-known (I linked to their Yelp page above, but you can also see their official website here). They actually have another location in Kahuku as well, but we loved the atmosphere of the Haleiwa location.It was simple and quiet, despite the long line of people waiting to order their delicious shrimp. Picnic table with umbrellas were positioned around the truck, wild chickens (quite common on Oahu) wandered near by, and the clientele seemed to be a good mix of tourists and locals.

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The truck itself was a little off-putting to me, because it looks like it was the casualty of some sort of riot. But, I assure you, the food looked and tasted fresh and everything seemed on the up and up in terms of preparation.Giovanni’s offers several different types of shrimp, all served with (surprise!) fluffy white rice. We ordered two plates of shrimp scampi (pictured above) and one plate of lemon butter shrimp. It was a good amount for a light lunch for three adults and one toddler, though my one-year-old actually loved this shrimp so much that she ended up inhaling about 6 shrimp all on her own!

Each plate has a dozen shrimp and two huge scoops of rice. The lemon butter was more subdued in flavor than the garlic, but both types of shrimp tasted fresh and tender. We could have eaten shrimp here all day.

While we were in the area, we also took a short drive up to Laniakea Beach to watch for sea turtles. We weren’t disappointed!

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I imagine the North Shore area is much more bustling in the winter time when people flock there to surf, but we had a nice time and the shrimp was definitely worth it!

4.) Germaine’s Luau: Kapolei IMG_1852

Whenever you visit Hawaii, I feel like you kind of have to go to a luau. Never mind the fact that most of them seem pretty touristy and more than a little hokey. To go to a luau, I feel, is like visiting a Las Vegas show. You know it’s going to be flashy and most of the people are just there for the drinks, but if you are open to something fun, you will have a good time.

While we were skeptical of the location of Germaine’s Luau (you have to basically drive through an industrial district to get to it), we did have a nice night.

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At around $100 per person, most luaus are pretty pricey. Germaine’s going rate is about $90 per person, but a friend of a friend was actually able to get us tickets for about $30, so we were game. We had actually wanted to go to the very well-rated luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, but the PCC is basically on the opposite side of the island as Honolulu, and we just couldn’t swing it with everything else we had planned. Alas, perhaps on a another trip, because the Polynesian Cultural Center looks like it has some pretty awesome sites to see!

Anyway, the staff at Germaine’s was friendly and welcoming, and once we got inside, the industrial complexes we passed on the way in were nowhere to be seen and the view of the ocean was very nice. IMG_1700

You can see the picnic tables everyone sat at, which lined right up to the beach as well as in front of the massive stage where the entertainment centered. IMG_1687

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In a special little ceremony before dinner, we were able to see the kalua pig (roasted pig) being brought up out of the ground where it was roasting. I’m not quite sure if this was the actual pig we ate or if they served on that had been roasted and cut up beforehand, but the pig was my favorite part of the meal. It was a little salty, but juicy and tender. It fell apart on your fork, just the way I like it.

The rest of Germaine’s food was a mix between Polynesian and traditional American food. The menu included poi (taro potato), sweet dinner rolls, chicken long rice, lomilomi salmon,
haupia (coconut pudding), island fish,  white rice, fresh pineapple, teriyaki beef, pineapple coleslaw, vanilla coconut cake, pulehu chicken, fresh fruits, chocolate cake, tossed green salad, and a very tasty potato AND macaroni salad.

Three drink tickets were included with the admission as well, and the drinks were pretty generous and tasty. After the eating and drinking commenced, the show started!

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This involved singing, hula dancing, traditional Hawaiian history and stories, and even some fire dancing later in the night. As I mentioned, I am not sure this type of luau is really all that authentic, but the food was not bad and the entertainment was fun, so I would say it was all-in-all a nice night!

Shave Ice: You can buy this literally anywhere, but my most memorable shave ice experience was eating it inside Diamond Head Monument, a short drive from our hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, in Honolulu.

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Shave ice is basically exactly what it sounds like, shaved ice. Though this ice seemed a lot softer than what we get at home. Snow cones, as we call them as home, always seems to be made out of little ice chips that all fall apart when you try to scoop then with a spoon and crunch in your mouth like, well, tiny ice chips. Shave ice tends to be much smoother and softer ice. At a shave ice truck we went to, I actually watched the man use a machine to shave the ice off a giant block. The result is more “melty” (is that a word?) ice that has a much nicer consistency than your average snow cone.

On top of that, the shave ice on Oahu comes in a lot of really delicious and unusual flavors. Think: your typical favorites like orange, cherry and grape, combined with island flavors like pineapple, coconut, mango, passion fruit, and guava. Some even have odd-ball flavors like green tea and other shave ice vendors offer toppings! I didn’t have the guts to try the toppings. I don’t need fruit sauce on my shave ice,  but I did scarf down more than my fair share of coconut shave ice while I was on the island. It was divine. IMG_2569

We ate a lot of shave ice on Oahu, and I don’t necessarily think the shave ice we got at Diamond Head Monument was the best tasting. In fact, there are tons of articles like this one that highlight the best spots to get shave ice on Oahu. BUT the shave ice from the vendor inside the Diamond Head crater does come with the best view. If you climb up to the top of Diamond Head, you get to see this:

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Now, who doesn’t want to take in that gorgeous view and then relax with a nice, cold, refreshing shave ice after making the trek back down? I thought so.

That about wraps up our food adventures on Oahu. I hope you get to enjoy some of this culinary fare on your next trip to the islands!

Bonus Food: Eat ANYTHING with pineapple in it while you are there. Buy it in plastic containers from the store to munch on as you sight-see. It is the best pineapple I have ever eaten, and you will never get sick of it.

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