Iconic Hawaii eateries

Well, who knew Monday’s blog would be such a talker!

But then again, I shouldn’t be surprised.

Hawaii has changed so much over the past few decades, it’s easy to find something to miss.

Longs Drugs Stores are now owned by CVS. Star Markets no longer exist. And the only place you can get a fresh waffle dog regularly is at the Panini Press at Kahala Mall.

But I didn’t want the blog to be a downer.

Though we don’t have Da Rink or Castle Park anymore, though restaurants such as Wisteria and Coco’s have long closed, though we’re seeing more Mainland big-box retailers open and local stores closing — there are some great places still around.

And today’s blog, I’m going to focus on those iconic restaurants, diners, drive-ins and take-out spots that make Hawaii, well, Hawaii.

Here’s the start to the list I’m sure you’ll finish: (Notice most of them don’t have websites yet!)

Rainbow Drive-In and its award-winning loco moco plate and slush float
• Like Like Drive Inn, one of the few local restaurants open 24 hours and serving breakfast all day
Liliha Bakery with its famous cocoa puffs and that old-school radioactive-red jelly served at the counter
• Wailana Coffee Shop on the outskirts of Waikiki
Zippy’s — it’s the closest thing to a locally owned chain restaurant and its chili cheese fries are a late-night nosh must
• Ono Hawaiian Foods on Kapahulu Avenue that’s still so popular you have to wait in line to get a table
Natsunoya Tea House on Alewa Heights
• W&M Bar-B-Q Burgers on Waialae Avenue — used to be on 9th Avenue — that still makes some of the best (and cheapest) burgers around
• Shige’s Saimin Restaurant, an iconic saimin stand in Wahiawa
Ted’s Bakery, though a tourist haven, still got great cream pies
• Gulick Delicatessen, one of the best-known okazuya located in Kalihi and serves the best vegetable tempura I’ve ever had

OK, finish my list! And tell me what to order next time I’m there!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to my RSS feed

Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

47 Responses to “Iconic Hawaii eateries”

  1. WERUreo April 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    This blog post is bound to be a winnah (and also a means for me to plan my food trek around O’ahu)! I don’t know if anyone would consider this place iconic, but the first place I always stop when I land on the island is Leeward’s Drive In in Waipahu. I grew up right down the street from there, and we would always go there as kids. I always order a plate of fried noodles, a BBQ burger, and, of course, a large Green River!

  2. matti2d April 12, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    When I think of “iconic” restaurants, I think of an area and, if an eatery pops into mind, it probably fits the bill. places that are as much a part of the community as the geology. because of this, most newer places don’t qualify, imo. while I love me some Kiawe Grill, it (they) aren’t “iconic” imo.

    I’m going with:

    Dots (Wahiawa)

    Kens (Hilo)

    Cafe 100 (Hilo)

    Chuns (Kaneohe)

    Maruki Tei (Kaneohe)

    Okata Bento (Waialae Ave)

    Kay’s Crackseed (Manoa)

    Itsu’s (Hilo…Hotdog and iceshave, please)

    Hy’s Steakhouse (Waikiki)

  3. Cat April 12, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    I completely forgot about Ken’s and Cafe 100. I’d put Koji’s on that Hilo list, too.

    Also, Hamura Saimin Stand! HELLO!

  4. johngarcia April 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    W&M Burger was one of my childhood favorites. Used to always go for the teri burger with cheese and my Dad would always get the crab salad, which I didn’t really care for.

    And of course — zippys! You should do a blog post on your favorite Zippy’s dish… Korean Fried Chicken, Chili Chicken mixed plate, Zip Min… hungry now! haha

  5. Panini April 12, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Don’t go there often, but I bet Side Street will be one of those places people talk about long after it’s gone. How about Pancake House? Byrons Drive-In by the airport? Whatever happened to Bob’s Big Boy and Jumbos in Mapunapuna? Anna Millers.

  6. WERUreo April 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    @Panini Oh yeah, Anna Miller’s is a good one.

  7. WERUreo April 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    @johngarcia zippys What I wouldn’t give for a Zippy’s in Florida! I miss when they used to sell food online. My dad would always send me chili. I guess there are still ways I can get Zippy’s chili online.

  8. 808marv April 12, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Hmm I wonder how many people are willing to talk at length on this one…some may want to keep their favorite “icons” a secret. ;-)

    Grace’s Drive Inn is iconic I think…surprised @Cat skipped it…the legendary Chicken Katsu, think they’ve kept the same formula over the years. Mochiko chicken is good, they also had some spicy wings on special that were really good.

    HK’s Restaurant off King St. near First Hawaiian Bank has a long history from Ala Moana Center I believe (never went when it was there though). Roast pork is good, as well as their “Yum Yum Chicken” .

    St. Louis Delicatassen, the okazu place next to St. Louis Drive Inn. Take your pick of what’s good here. St. Louis Drive Inn is not bad either, though I stick to the bentos.

    Also in Aiea:

    Heights’ Drive Inn (see that Aiea outing post on Nonstop for ideas)

    Anna Miller’s

    Forty Niner Restaurant (no I haven’t eaten there yet but hey it’s iconic)

    Kabuki Restaurant

    Kapiolani Coffee Shop Waimalu (although moved from original location in Aiea)

    Diner’s, but I admit it has changed from the old days though…doesn’t taste the same

    Waimalu Chop Suey (home of the gigantic gau chee)

    Aiea Chop Suey

  9. tyfferz April 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Two more iconic eateries for Hawaii is Rocky’s in Waipahu (I remember going there for breakfast and lunch when I worked at Arakawa’s) and Sunny Side in Wahiawa ( I love their chocolate / custard pies). *stomach growling*

  10. matti2d April 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    don’t know how i forgot Paalaa Kai bakery in Waialua

  11. streetgrindz April 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    @tyfferz awe man! now I gotta get me some pie from Sunny Side. Stay away from that place it’s ‘evil’!! Along with Kilani bakery’s chocolate center donuts and eclairs!! At one time Wahiawa had the bomb Okazu-ya. I always looked forward to field trip day so I could get a bento from them.

  12. streetgrindz April 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm #


  13. streetgrindz April 12, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    @tyfferz ? where’s my comment.

    Let’s try again…. now you made me ono for a Sunny Side Pie!!

  14. 808marv April 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    @Panini Bob’s Big Boy got damaged in a fire a while back, I think they have returned or are returning.

  15. streetgrindz April 12, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Kilani Bakery is another Wahiawa Icon. Their brownies, chocolate center brownies and eclairs rule!!

    Geez…. Wahiawa isn’t the same if Dot’s were not there. And, what a sad day when Cornet’s went out of business, for us and the Cornet’s hookers!!! LOL!

  16. WERUreo April 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    What about Highway Inn in Waipahu? I haven’t been there since small kid time but I remember it being good.

  17. WERUreo April 13, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    @tyfferz I don’t think I’ve ever been to Rocky’s, but Waipahu Bicycle Shop right next door I used to go to all the time! And what was that grocery store that used to be in that little shopping area across from Arakawa’s?

    I just looked at the Google street view of Waipahu Depot Road. Wow, looks pretty much the same as always. When I was really young, I took piano lessons at Keiki Music School. Used to be in the building right at the corner of Depot Rd and Hikimoe…

    Oops, starting to revert back to the other thread now haha.

  18. Cat April 13, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    @808marv @Panini I miss Jumbo’s fried saimin…

  19. Cat April 13, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    @808marv Forty Niner Restaurant is under new management. Anyone checked it out recently? Maybe that’s my next FUUD Friday!

  20. Cat April 13, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    @streetgrindz @tyfferz Yep, Sunny Side. Love that chocolate cream pie. I think I may like it more than Ted’s Bakery, which, in my opinion, is a bit more touristy for my tastes now.

  21. Cat April 13, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    @matti2d AND THE CREAM PUFFS! Oh, man, now I’m craving those!

  22. Cat April 13, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    @WERUreo I haven’t been there since they renovated for “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Heard the food is still good, though.

  23. Cat April 13, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    Helena’s! Hello!

  24. 808marv April 13, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    @Cat Well if you go I hope you can secure one of the five parking stalls there!

  25. WERUreo April 13, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    @Cat @808marv I gotta start searching Google Maps for these places because then I might remember where they are/what they look like. I used to pass Forty Niner’s all the time, apparently. It’s funny these places that I’ve passed by for so long without even thinking about until they get mentioned here!

  26. WERUreo April 13, 2011 at 12:53 am #

    I know nothing about the food there, but what about Original Buzz’s Steak House? Now I’m just naming off restaurants that I used to always pass by when I was a kid but have never tried…

  27. WERUreo April 13, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    @Cat @808marv Speaking of which, Google Maps is so off sometimes! I searched for Waimalu Chop Suey and Kabuki (both in Waimalu Shopping Center) and it showed up across the street from Neil Blaisdell Park!

  28. snow April 13, 2011 at 1:51 am #




    kim chee I-???


  29. snow April 13, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    there’s still quite a few oldies but goodies… thank goodness, ’cause i have lots of favorites! :)

    sekiya’s – love their hash tempura

    kenny’s – koreen fried chicken is the best!

    mitsuba – sweet potato crumbles… mmm… so good when they are still warm!

    kim chee I to ? – meat jun!

    royal kitchen – best baked manapua ever!

    is it lunchtime yet? ;)

  30. nathankam April 13, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    - Sugoi Garlic Chicken

    – Okata Bento on Waialae for anything

    – Irifune on Kapahulu

    – Bob’s Big Boy in Mapunapuna

    – Mitsuken in Kalihi

    – Char Hung Sut in Chinatown

    – Helena’s in Kalihi

    – Highway Inn in Waipahu

    – Tanioka’s in Waipahu

  31. turkfontaine April 13, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    DUKE has his statue at WAIKIKI, CAT should have hers at RAINBOW, ’cause a good percentage of her disposable income goes there. probably enough to send the owners kids to college.

  32. M April 13, 2011 at 2:41 am #

    Hello Cat, I like going to Fukuya’s

  33. DianeSeo April 13, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    Man, you guys have a good memory. A few I can think of: Ruger Market, Leonard’s Bakery, Jose’s Mexican Restaurant.

  34. 808marv April 13, 2011 at 3:39 am #

    @WERUreo @Cat Oh wow try look up Shiro’s Saimin Haven on Google Maps, then go to street view for it…it’s the right location but there’s a picture of a dumpster in the backstreet behind of the shopping center! LMAO Who da heck was they guy driving the Google Truck that day?

  35. WERUreo April 13, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    @nathankam Wow, how could I forget Tanioka’s? Oh and Char Hung Sut, mmm. The first time I ever tried their manapuas was just last summer. Man, that was some good manapuas!

  36. MaxMaxMax April 13, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    @Cat Aside from “CVS” being on some products, I can’t tell Longs is not Longs…

    What about Egg ‘n’ Things?

    …and has anyone noticed that Koa Pancake House is branching out locally BIG TIME? They just opened one in Hawaii Kai, and are currently constructing one in Kaimuki.

  37. DarylWong April 13, 2011 at 6:32 am #

    Poke Tower at Hapa Grill and curries and most everything else at Willows

  38. NikkiHem April 13, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    You guys all forgotten about Ethel’s Grill in Kalihi

    Best Spare Rib Saimin and Turkey Tails

  39. NikkiHem April 13, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    Ethel’s Grill. Best Spare Rib Saimin, Hands down

  40. Cat April 13, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    @NikkiHem I haven’t been to Ethel’s in a looong time.

  41. Cat April 13, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    @MaxMaxMax Eggs N Things has new owners… Heard it’s not as good as it used to be…

  42. Cat April 13, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    @DianeSeo Duh, Leonard’s. Forgot about that one!

  43. Cat April 13, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    @nathankam How long has Irifune been around?

  44. Cat April 13, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    @snow It’s ALWAYS lunchtime :)

  45. nonstopmari April 13, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    @Cat @NikkiHem right on re the spare rib saimin at ethel’s.

    also, ditto m below re fukuya’s and its old-time flavors.

    liliha bakery, not for the cocoa puffs (overrated!) but the killer pumpkin pie and chocolate drops.

    helena’s: pipikaula, squid luau, beef stew, chix long rice.

    hy’s and its tableside svc.

    hungry now, gotta run.

  46. MaxMaxMax April 13, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    Having eaten at the new place a few times, I’ll say the food is still the same, but the experience is not the same at all… I miss the sneaking onto the surfboard bar waiting list bypassing the tourists waiting for the regular tables, LOL!

  47. MaxMaxMax April 13, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    @nathankam Irifune is great! Been a few years since I’ve been, but looooooove the tempura!

Leave a Reply