Home cooking on windward Oahu (Hawaii)
January 12, 2014 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a stay in a guest cottage on windward Oahu (Waimanalo) and for once will have a kitchen and access to an outdoor grill. I'm looking forward to cooking and am gathering information about shopping, farmers markets etc. My budget is flexible and I'll be cooking for 4 people. I would love any recommendations for shopping from people who know the area. Driving some distance is not a problem. I'll be staying in Waikiki for a couple of days prior so could load up on stuff there, too. Any recommendations for fun places to eat would be welcome as well. Food we like? Pretty much anything, hopefully with an emphasis on local. (As an indication of our taste, we have always enjoyed buying poke at Safeway and eating it on the beach.) Mahalo in advance!
posted by BibiRose to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I had a hard time finding local Hawaiian food (poke, plate lunch, malasadas, etc.) in Waikiki last year. It's just too touristy, I think. But once you go outside Waikiki, it's much easier to find.

When you say "local" to Hawaii, well, I think this can mean Pacific Rim/Hawaiian fusion or it can mean plate lunch or it can mean produce grown on or seafood local to Hawaii. Hopefully you can get a bit of all three!

Also Honolulu is a Japanese food heaven due to the many tourists who come from Japan, so hit up some sushi, ramen, izakaya, kaiseki, etc. if you can.

For the local food type places, always call ahead to confirm hours. Lots of plate lunch & poke places are more lunch oriented and run out of food by the end of the day. Shave ice places in general are more of a mid-afternoon treat. Also a fair number of poke places aren't open on weekends/certain days of the week.

Here's a list of Oahu farmers markets. While the Saturday AM KCC Farmers Market near Diamond Head is the most famous one, it's also very crowded. You need to get there around 7am, perhaps earlier if you want to park in their lot.

The Thursday night Kailua farmers market one is probably closest to where you're staying; it's also quite popular I've heard so I would get there 15-20 minutes early. Google Maps says it's about a 15 minute drive away. The Kailua Farmers Market is every Thursday from 5-7:30pm at the Kailua Town Center fronting Longs and Pier-1 Imports.

Here's a listing of vendors at the Kailua market. I recognize a lot of them from the KCC Farmers Market on Saturdays since both are backed by the Hawaii Farmer's Bureau.

Definitely check out Ono Pops, North Shore Farms (famous for their tomatoes and pizza), Marine Agrifuture Sea Asparagus (free samples of their sea asparagus), Grandma G’s (prepared foods), Monkeypod Jams, The Pig & the Lady, PacifiKool syrups. Especially the Pig & the Lady for dinner. They post their rotating menu online beforehand.

There are other, smaller markets that aren't affiliated with the Hawaii Farmer's Bureau that may be less crowded and/or cheaper. This Chowhound discussion may prove illuminating.

Tamura's Wines & Liquors has a location in Kailua as well. They usually have many, many types of poke in their poke counter: shoyu, limu, Hawaiian style, inamona, hot shoyu with sea asparagus, spicy, sunrise (spicy with avocado and furikake), ninja (spicy with sesame seeds and furikake), wasabi, house tako, tako kimchee, tako sesame, pipikaula (beef jerky), king crab poke, and more. Fresh Catch & JJ's in Kaneohe are supposed to be excellent as well but we never made it there.

For plate lunch on that side of Oahu, try Dean's Drive In (closed Mondays) or KJ's Local Grinds (just prepared that their mac salad is a little unusual as it has tuna / spaghetti).

Here's a great Chowhound post on Where to Eat What in Honolulu by a local. I haven't eaten everywhere on that list but my top picks would be Ono Seafood (takeout lunch, closed Tuesdays), Leonard's (malasadas), House Without a Key (sunset drinks and apps, nicer), Ono Hawaiian Foods (local foods, closed Sundays), and Ramen Nakamura. Most of these are relatively inexpensive and not terribly far from Waikiki with the exception of HWAK which is pricier and in Waikiki.

We meant to get to Diamond Head Grill & Market at some point before/after hiking Diamond Head but never made it. Unfortunately Helena's was closed when we were there since it was over a school break (they always close for the holidays). We also never made it to the Angry Korean Lady. Might be fun to browse the Shirokiya Food Court as well.

A friend of mine is from Honolulu and goes home quite often. Here's her food and photography blog. I always get great tips from her and her site.
posted by kathryn at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: On the Windward side, re: restaurants, Sweet Home Waimanalo is famous for growing their salad greens on their roof. If you're craving kiawe-fired pizza, check out Prima (the Kailua sister to Honolulu's V Lounge).

It sounds like you're a regular visitor to Oahu, so you know about the crummy traffic. Given that, I'd skip KCC once you move up to Waimanalo, and just hit up the Kailua farmers markets (in addition to the Farm Bureau one that kathryn recommended, there's also a privately run "farm lovers" one that I like) and the Kailua Whole Foods and Foodland (which, compared to Safeway, tends to have a better selection of local produce, local fish and locally processed items like tofu).

I'm a huge fan of grilling - and just to rev up your idea generator, my favorite things to grill at my local beach have been fish (foil wrapped mackerel so far, Korean style) and breadfruit (just plonked onto the grill and charred). If Korean food is appealing to you, I would suggest stocking up on marinated meats and condiments in Honolulu since as far as I know there aren't any Korean grocery stores on the Windward side.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:03 PM on January 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Apparently groceries are incredibly expensive on the islands and many locals do the bulk (no pun intended) of their shopping at Costco. My sister and her boyfriend visit Hawaii regularly and have obtained a Costco membership just for buying food there.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:42 PM on January 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

At the Windward Mall in Kaneohe there is an amazing indoor farmer's market. Produce as well as local craft goods, bread, etc. Even curries and prepared food! I think it is every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon, but I'm sure you can find out from one of the market links people have included above. Aloha and have a wonderful trip!
posted by sarahparah at 2:44 PM on January 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Really getting excited now-- I made the mistake of googling for images of Korean grilled mackerel and now I'm hungry at 5AM! Kathryn, your friend's blog is beautiful.
posted by BibiRose at 3:00 AM on January 13, 2014

Apparently groceries are incredibly expensive on the islands and many locals do the bulk (no pun intended) of their shopping at Costco. My sister and her boyfriend visit Hawaii regularly and have obtained a Costco membership just for buying food there.

Yes, big savings can be had at Costco assuming you have enough people and/or are on the islands for enough time to really take advantage. It may not make sense to fight the crowds if you only have 2-3 people or are only in Hawaii for a few days.

Items are much cheaper at Costco than at the local shops on Hawaii because Costco caps its markups at 14 percent regardless of product or location, although freight is added to the prices in Hawaii.

On all of the island of Oahu, 50% of residents have a Costco card. The Iwilei, Oahu store is so busy that its entire inventory is depleted about two times each month. It's supposed to be the world's busiest Costco. It's also strategically located between the Honolulu airport and Waikiki.

Also, I've seen really good deals at Costco in Hawaii on rental cars & gas. You can book your rental car for Hawaii online through Costco Travel if you have a membership. Gas can be up to 30-50 cents cheaper at Costco (they take payment via debit, Amex, or Costco gift card only) on Hawaii. You can check for recent gas prices on Hawaiigasprices.com.
posted by kathryn at 12:17 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks y'all-- the food was a grand success! Shopping trips to Kailua and a couple of outdoor markets, and we were set. Different kinds of poke every day, wonderful island produce. I did grill breadfruit; everyone was impressed including the woman who sold it to me. (I was a bit timid about grilling because of the island wind, but of course it drops in the evening and we did have the grill by a wall; I still only grilled a couple of times.) We ate about a hundred Big Island oranges. So good. The food highlight of the trip was something I missed-- my friends all went to the Pro Bowl and were invited to tailgate with a group who made BBQ and fried rice and opihi; some skipped the game in favor of eating. The tailgate cooking thing is apparently very competitive at the Pro Bowl, and I may just have to go next time and think of something to cook.

For some reason, we never got to Costco but we have in the past, and I definitely concur with that recommendation.

Staying in Waimanalo was like a dream and my friends now want to do it every January. Being that season, a lot of days were wet and misty and it was glorious sitting on the lanai pretending the cottage was our home and running to the beach for a dip when the sun came out. Anyone who wants to know about the place where we stayed can memail me.
posted by BibiRose at 7:00 AM on February 4, 2014

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