Ono’s Hawaiian (Honolulu, HI)

Salt meat with watercress

On most lists of the best of Hawaiian cooking on Oahu is Ono’s Hawaiian. The restaurant has been serving food since 1961 when it opened for business. Because Ono’s has been popular with locals and tourists alike, long lines form to get seated at one of the very few tables inside. A sign on the door encourages you to be patient and go with the flow (“No huhu,” which means “No get mad“). The place isn’t much to look at from the outside, but once you step through the doors, you come into the small dining space and are greeted warmly by owner and staff alike. The walls are adorned with memorabilia and old photos, presumably of celebrities who’ve dined here. It seems that not much has changed since the first day. The lady who brings your meal scopes you out and asks, “First time?” If it is, she will explain to you how to eat the meats.

We ordered a Kalua platter and salt meat with watercress (a la carte). The platter is a good way to sample many of the islands’ favorites. Not only do you get whatever the

platter is named for (such as Kalua pig, left) but also lomi-lomi salmon, pipikaula, poi, rice and haupia. So here’s the island way to eat the meat: take a small portion, dip it in chili water (which can be refilled with a big bottle on each table), then dip it in poi and eat. You can also augment all this with some lomi salmon and a raw onion slice sprinkled with Hawaiian rock salt. As they say here, broke da mout.

The kalua is made in the old-fashioned way–in an imu, or underground oven–though not by them, according to the owner. It is fork-tender and smoky goodness. The salt meat with watercress (top photo) was supposedly invented by the matriarch, who took the island staple of stewed salted beef and added watercress to appeal to the island’s Asian population. Now, a few other island restaurants serve it. The watercress is one of the very few vegetables you’re likely to eat in a Hawaiian diet.


The pipikaula here is a kind of beef (flank steak) jerky, though not in the sense that most Americans know it. It is marinated, then dried, but not to a leathery texture. You can eat these with dentures.
The haupia is a coconut cream, starchy dessert flecked with shredded coconuts.

Ono’s is a rare family-owned restaurant that both has been around a long time and serves excellent examples of its type of cooking.

Ono’s Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Shirokiya Food Level, Ala Moana Shopping Center (Honolulu)

Anyone who has ever visited a department store in Japan knows that an entire floor is devoted to food. The second floor of Shirokiya (third level of the mall) extends that experience to Hawaiians. Like in Japan, there are restaurants that prepare food as well as small family-owned businesses. Most of the food is purchased for takeout, but there are some tables inside.

Some established businesses have a presence here. One of them is Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, which has a formal restaurant in Waikiki. Others are Mikawaya, the Japanese confectionery from LA; and Yoku Moku, the famous light butter cookies from Japan. In center court is a place that makes takoyaki where you can watch the cooks make them in those ebelskiver contraptions.

But people come here for the staggering variety of Japanese food.

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Breakfast at Eggs ‘N Things (Honolulu, HI)

Portuguese sausage with scrambled eggs and pan-fried potatoes

There are so many Japanese customers at Eggs ‘N Things that the lady taking names at the door for the waiting list speaks fluent nihongo, though she’s obviously a local. In fact, when she handed me the hand-held pager, she gave me instructions in Japanese, obviously not noticing my USC T-shirt. The word was that there is always a line out the door to get seated. While you wait, you can pre-purchase coffee in paper cups, which will be re-filled when you get seated. We arrived a little before 8am, and that is probably a good bit of advice for anyone. Our wait was no more than 15 minutes; we climbed the outside stairway to the second floor where the restaurant actually is located.

Their specialties are the pancakes, waffles and omelets, which can be ordered with a variety of toppings, including a light house-made cream. Pancakes can also be topped with their own coconut or mango syrup. The menu indicates which items are the most popular (ahi & eggs, Portuguese sausage & eggs, minced pork [the pork meaning a choice of sausage, ham, Spam or bacon] & scrambled eggs, sour cream blueberry crepes, mac nut pancakes, etc.). Both of us wanted the Portuguese sausage and eggs, mine with scrambled and pan-fried potatoes, my wife’s with fried eggs and rice. Without question, the sausages were the best we’ve ever eaten anywhere, though it could be that Holiday Bowl’s (in LA) were as good, our memories admittedly having dimmed considerably. Though we asked two separate waiters what brand the restaurant uses, both said, “I have no idea.” Yeah, oh-kay…. My potatoes were mealy on the inside. Next time, I go with rice and scrambled eggs.

Overall, a great place to get breakfast if you’re willing to wait. It’s a cut above the Wailana Coffee House.

Eggs ‘N Things
2464 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu Hawaii 96815