Favorite Dishes Dining Out

Don asked this question in a conversation, and we never really got to discuss it for some reason, which is a shame because I would be interested in what other people like to eat when going out. I want to encourage people that don’t live on O’ahu to contribute their favorites, too.

23 Responses to “Favorite Dishes Dining Out”


  1. Mitchell

    The part of the question that I don’t understand is whether it’s asking what our favorite dishes are at specific places, as in, “If you go to Ken’s, you have to get the corned beef hash…” or just our favorite meals in general, as in, “When I try an Italian restaurant for the first time, I get the chicken marsala.”

  2. Reid

    Chuck,

    Good to see you. By “going out” I didn’t just mean fancy restaurants, so that would include casual eateries, basically any place you pay to eat.

    Mitchell,

    I’d be interested in hearing answers to both questions, but my original intention was for people to list their favorite dishes at specific eateries. Another way to answer the question is to think of the dishes you order on a regular basis–for example, I eat the paniolo chicken salad at Big City Diner almost once a week (that’s true for me by the way).

  3. Don

    I have a lot… : )

    Here are a few off the top of my head:

    Laulau from Young’s
    Oxtail soup from Kapiolani Coffee Shop
    Mochi balls, red bean, milk shave ice from Ice Garden
    Close second is red bean shave ice from Hula Bobba

    Here’s one from a restaurant that I don’t really think is that great: Chengdu Spiced Lamb from PF Chang’s. Tracy didn’t like it (she said it tasted like lamb Char Siu).

    More later, I’m drooling on my keyboard.

  4. Reid

    Don,

    I’ve had oxtail soup from only a few places (the Chinese restaurant near my house and Zippy’s, I think). I’m curious to know if you’ve tried oxtail soup at a lot of places, and, if so, what makes the Kapiolani one so good. (This is the one that is now by Young’s Fishmarket, right?)

  5. CHUCKy

    The Kapiolani Coffee shop that moved to the place by Young’s is gone…there is a Thai place there now. All I know about that place is that they weren’t doing so well and the rent was too high.
    Asahi Grill on Ward its the counterpart of of that restaurant and they have the same Oxtail Soup there.
    I really enjoy their Oxtail Soup. the flavor of the beef comes out without any extra saltiness or extra flavorings to try to make it taste good…if that makes any sense?
    The flavoring from the boiling of the tails comes out from the bones which gives it it’s great flavor. The broth is a very tasty beef broth with no hint of saltiness to it.
    Zippy’s Oxtail isn’t too bad…not as tasty and sometimes chinsy on the amount of oxtail you get.
    I even tried Flamingo’s Oxtail soup, when they were in business, and it wasn’t as tasty either but, they did give a healthy serving of Oxtails.
    I have even tried Oxtail soup at Hungry Lion and it wasn’t that great either. It was a bit tasty but with a salty side to it and the amount of Oxtail you got wasn’t a lot.
    There was one Chinese restaurant I went to a long time ago and had Oxtail and it was awesome…however, for the likes of me, I can’t remember where it was…so, for me the search goes on. Otherwise, Asahi Grill has the best out of all I have tried.
    The Laulau from young’s is really tasty too and quite filled compared to many I have tried.

  6. Mitchell

    Chuck left a comment somewhere and WordPress marked it for approval, but somewhere it seems to have been lost. He wrote what I was about to say: The Kapiolani Coffee Shop that was at City Square is gone. It originally was at Moanalua Shopping Center for decades before that building was knocked down and replaced by the current strip-mall.

    Don’s talking about the Kapiolani Coffee Shop that made its home in Kam Bowl for so long. Devotees called it the best oxtail soup anywhere, and while I was never a huge fan of that dish, I have to say it was pretty good there. You can currently get the (expensive!) soup at the Waimalu location and at the Asahi Grill on Ward Ave.

    Here’s what Charles wrote (I found the entire text in my email; still can’t find where it is in WordPress):

    The Kapiolani Coffee shop that moved to the place by Young’s is gone…there is a Thai place there now. All I know about that place is that they weren’t doing so well and the rent was too high.

    Asahi Grill on Ward its the counterpart of of that restaurant and they have the same Oxtail Soup there.

    I really enjoy their Oxtail Soup. the flavor of the beef comes out without any extra saltiness or extra flavorings to try to make it taste good…if that makes any sense? The flavoring from the boiling of the tails comes out from the bones which gives it its great flavor. The broth is a very tasty beef broth with no hint of saltiness to it. Zippy’s Oxtail isn’t too bad…not as tasty and sometimes chintzy on the amount of oxtail you get.

    I even tried Flamingo’s Oxtail soup, when they were in business, and it wasn’t as tasty either but, they did give a healthy serving of Oxtails. I have even tried Oxtail soup at Hungry Lion and it wasn’t that great either. It was a bit tasty but with a salty side to it and the amount of Oxtail you got wasn’t a lot. There was one Chinese restaurant I went to a long time ago and had Oxtail and it was awesome…however, for the likes of me, I can’t remember where it was…so, for me the search goes on. Otherwise, Asahi Grill has the best out of all I have tried.

    The Laulau from young’s is really tasty too and quite filled compared to many I have tried.

    Now that I understand the question, here are a bunch of mine:


    • Nico’s at Pier 38: Whatever the catch of the day is.
    • Kiawe Grill: Kobe burger plate.
    • KJ’s: Furikake chicken, but everything there is good.
    • Blane’s: Roast pork loco moco. Rowr.
    • Ken’s House of Pancakes: Corned beef hash. Now I’m getting misty.
    • Ice Garden: Pudding/milk shave ice with mochi balls.
    • Mediterraneo: Osso bucco, of course.
    • Cafe Sistina: Pollo Gorgonzola. Chicken Limone a good second choice, and a lot lighter.
    • Olive Tree: Chicken souvlaki. Heck yeah.
    • Richie’s: Boneless chicken. Not great, but inexpensive.
  7. Mitchell

    What the heck. Charles’s posts are disappearing all over. I’m going to give him a VI login and see if that helps.

  8. Don

    Mitchell,

    Where’s Blane’s? Never heard of that place. Must be one of your secret joints.

    Reid,

    I’ve tried Zippy’s, Flamingo’s, and Likelike’s oxtail soup. Oh, and the Cal in Vegas. To me none can compare to Kapiolani Coffee Shop. But as Chuck as alluded, the one by Sugoi’s has closed. There is one in Waimalu Shopping Center, but I heard it’s not as good. Didn’t try it though.

    Here are two more:

    Lamb Chimichanga or Burrito at El Burrito

    Masaman Curry at Malee in Maunakea Marketplace – Reid and I first went here on Penny’s great recommendation. Masaman curry to me is a little sweeter than other Indian curries, but Malee’s one is the best I’ve tried.

  9. Mitchell

    Blane’s is on Waianuenue Ave, in the spot of the old Hilo Dairy Queen, down the road a little from the Hilo library. They’ve got another location on the main highway. It’s a definite two-stopper for me whenever I’m on the Big Island.

  10. Reid

    Don,

    Did you try the oxtail soup from the Kapiolani Bakery on Ward? I remember you telling me that people were saying that the reason the other KB’s weren’t as good was because the pot at Kam Bowl was what made that oxtail soup so good. It’s a plausible theory to me. I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to try the one by Young’s.

    Btw, did you see the Honolulu Advertiser’s Metromix section on Thai places? They had two dishes from Malee. I don’t know if it’s the one you pointed out. I gotta go there again and take Larri.

    Mitchell,

    You should note when the place is on a neighbor island.

  11. Don

    Reid,

    Are you talking about Asahi Grill? If so, yes I ate it there. Taste similar, but the soup looked cleaner (clearer) and the bowl is way smaller (but it’s cheaper too). It’s good, but not as good as when they were in Kam Bowl. I didn’t go to the one near Sugoi’s.

    Mitchell,

    Yes the pudding at Ice Garden is awesome too.

  12. Reid

    So does anyone know if the Kapiolani Bakery near Young’s move to another location? I ask because I’m assuming they’re the ones from Kam Bowl, and Don says they had the best Oxtail soup.

    On another note, here’s my list of favorites. Before I list some, I realize that I have two lists: one of healthier food that I eat now and one of favorites that I liked before I got health-conscious. Here’s my pre-healthy favorites:

    Grace’s chicken katsu plate: Man, I could eat this once week. The sad thing is that I haven’t had one in over a year (but I’ve haven’t been suffering, thank you, Jesus).

    Young’s Lau-lau: Or Yama’s. I could also eat this once or twice a week, but I don’t eat this very often, too.

    Ortega burger at Kua Aina. The grilled ortega chili and the grilled onion really make this a favorite of mine.

    Buzz’s: We use to go hear more often for the salad bar and grilled sourdough bread. They have the best clam chowder I’ve had in Hawai’i, too. I also liked getting the oreo ice cream pie with a cup of coffee. I miss those.

    Here are some of the more recent favorites:

    Mushroom pizza on honey wheat crust and roasted vegetable salad at CPK. The roasted vegetables is good without dressing. I love the fact that CPK offers honey wheat crust, too.

    Chicken Assagio. This is not exactly healthy, but it’s an improvement from the Chicken sorrentino or saltimboca. This is a pretty simple dish that comes with chicken, olives, red peppers, pepperoncini, onions and pasta in a white whine, olive oil, capers and garlic. I really like it thought. The large portion, for a little under $20, is huge, too.

    Chicken putanesca from Assagios. I’m not a big fan of red sauces, but this is my favorite. A lot of the cooking at Assagios is simple, but here the sauce is a little more complex, with anchovies and some other stuff I can’t recall right now. I like the way the fry the skin of the thighs a little crispy.

    Paniolo Chicken salad of the Salmon salad at Big City Diner. Both are around $10 and they’re just well-made, imo. A lot of times the pre-grilled chicken breast is dry and bland tasting in salads like this, but the chicken is tender and tasty. (I think they brine it.) I love the diced bermuda onions, olives, shredded carrots and beets and roasted corn(!).

    The salmon is grilled perfectly with those charred marks, but not overcooked. They also have a good ponzu (?) dressing, which is tangy, but light.

    49er pancakes at Original Pancake House. I get this crispy. It’s basically like a crepe, but better than any crepe I”ve had. Not healthy, but I still love it.

    Chicken souvlaki at Greek Corner. Basically, chicken kabobs. Really simple but delicious. The dish comes with rice, but I usually get extra salad (no dressing) or hummus or babaghanosh. It also comes with pita.

    A lot of these current favorites, I often eat once a week. There’s so more, but I’m tired, so I’ll try to finish later.

  13. Mitchell

    The Kapiolani Coffee Shop in City Square, I am almost certain, was not associated with the one at Kam Bowl. I say this because the one in City Square moved there from Moanalua Shopping Center, where it existed for decades, when Moanalua Shopping Center was knocked down. It was the same restaurant with the same dishes and same employees. When Kam Bowl was closed, I don’t think there was any relocation; the Waimalu Shopping Center restaurant had already opened and so had Asahi Grill. If you want the good oxtail, at least by reputation, that’s where you’re supposed to go.

    Again, the oxtail that Don raved about was at the bowling alley, which has a connection to the Waimalu restaurant and Asahi Grill, but wasn’t connected in any way (I believe) with the City Square restaurant that moved there from Moanalua.

  14. pen

    From Grace’s: Lemon chicken. Worth the wait.

    From Ricado’s: Chicken zingera. No longer on the new menu, the chef will make it if you ask. It’s kind of like a chicken saltimboca with breaded eggplant and cheese, but garlic sauce has pepperoccini, black olives, roasted red pepper. *sigh* Awesome with roasted potatoes.

    Du Vin: Moules et frittes. Mussels and fries. Sublime. Yes, the one at Town is good, but no skinny, crispy french fries.

    Downtown: Hamakua mushrooms. Fungi never tasted so good.

    Phuket Thai: Stuffed chicken wings. Da bomb.

    Any Chinese restaurant: honey walnut shrimp and taro ball thinggies.

  15. pen

    I have a new one to add:

    Souvaly: Dungeness Crab Curry. Oh my gosh. Worth getting your hands dirty and looking like an uncouth oinker, for sure. Don’t worry, they give you extra napkins to help clean yourself up afterwards.

  16. Reid

    Penny,

    Have you tried the brown rice tabouli at Downtown, yet? I’m not a big tabouli fan, but the one they make is a winner.

    I like Souvaly’s Dungeness Crab Curry, too, but I don’t know if it’s worth the price. The dish is based on market prices, and it’s been about $40 when I tried it. The “gravy” with mixture of crab meat is the best part. Plus, they serve the dish with french bread, which is a great “sopper.”

  17. pen

    This isn’t so much a “dish,” but I like Kinkaid’s happy hour food. They have $4 mixed drinks (love the flavored mojitos, margaritas and martinis!) and the appetizers are half-off. LOVE the baked macadamia nut encrusted brie with balsamic reduction. The meatloaf sliders are okay, but too much bun and not enough meatloaf! There is this fried shrimp with buffalo sauce that’s pretty awesome. I like the raw oysters, too.

    Compare that to Island Burgers in Ala Moana. I like their regular menu just fine. But they have a special (M-F after 4 or 5p.m.): free chips and salsa (mediocre) and half-off appetizers. But they only have 4 appetizers: sliders (decent), buffalo chicken wings (fried but no sauce!), artichoke/spinach dip (kind of dry and unseasoned), and chicken fingers (didn’t try these). Saying it was mediocre is being a shade effusive here. I rather spend more money and get decent food.

    Panya also at Ala Moana has a late happy hour from 9p.m. until closing. Limited drink specials, but $5 appetizers. Haven’t tried them, but they look pretty good. Worth checking out some time soon, methinks.

  18. pen

    Ok, went to Panya to check out their happy hour’s $5 appetizers and $6 mixed drinks. I had a strawberry-lemon drink that was pretty and tasty. Had enough alcohol in there for a light-weight like me (one drink and I’m red and feelin’ the buzz).

    Re: the appetizers, I tried the crab salad on crunchy slices of bread. It was good: cool and refreshing. There was celery in it, but it was cut so small, I couldn’t taste it (and I hate raw celery). Also tried the spring rolls and potstickers, which were average. They were like the frozen kind that you deep fry. I tried one more thing and I can’t remember what it is right now…Renee was with me…do you remember what it was?

    All in all, I think you get the better deal at Kinkaid’s. I liked some of the pupus at Kampai, too, but Kinkaid’s still reigns for me.

  19. Mitchell

    A few more:

    Thai Mixed Plate (that excellent place in the Pearl Highlands food court): Pumpkin chicken is my favorite, ‘though almost everything is great.

    Kiawe Grill: Kobe burger plate. Heck yeah.

    Kenny’s: Not a great restaurant, but it’s close to home. The Monte Cristo is pretty dang good, as is the sweet bread French toast. I also like the hamburger steak and the hot turkey croissant.

  20. pen

    Mitchell–what was that jerk chicken you liked at one of the stands in that food court in Moanalua/Mapunapuna area? I tried to find it, but did not see anyone serving jerk chicken. You said it was best to order it cut up into pieces.

    Oh, since I’m mentioning him, I might as well give Mitchell props…he said the hearty breakfast bowl from Jack in the Box is waaayyy better with rice (rather than hash brown sticks) and it is! I love that breakfast bowl! I get the combo, so I can have my hash browns on the side. YUM!

  21. Mitchell

    The jerk chicken place disappeared, but there’s a Jamaican chicken at 99 Ranch Market’s food court (99 Local Plate or something like that). Ask for it chopped up.

  22. pen

    Is it possibly called something else? I looked for Jamaican chicken, too and couldn’t find it. Is it a special or on the regular menu?

  23. Reid

    Larri and I really like the pita spread at Kalapawai Cafe in Kailua. I’m not sure if it’s on the menu now, but we still order it. The spread comes with toasted pita, sprinkled with sea salt (can be a bit too salty) and seasoning–sort of like Doritos seasoning–but not really, because I’m not a big Doritos fan–and various “dips”–including hummus. I’m not sure what’s in the other dips, but one is tomato based with eggplant(?), another with figs, and another that is sort of like baba ganoush. I’m not doing a good job of describing this, but it’s yummy. (Thanks to Penny for ordering this when I first tried this place.)

    For our while, Larri and I were really into the pumpkin soup at Sweet Home Cafe–we seemed to be going there once a week. I really loved using the Taiwanese satay sauce, which has peppery silt on the bottom of the sauce. This is great with the beef. I also like a couple of the other sauces. But we’re sort of burnt out on this place right now.

    Mitchell,

    Have you tried the kobe burger at Kiawe Grill recently? We’ve eaten the one at the Aiea restaurant, and it definitely went downhill. (Are there different types of kobe? I’ve seen different descriptions of kobe beef–e.g., wagyu, Snake River kobe, etc.–so I’m wondering if there is a difference in taste.)

    Other Updates

    1. I’m sad to report that Kaka’ako Kitchen’s bread pudding is no longer as good as it once was. I’m not sure what happened, but it’s not as good.

    2. I don’t care for Big City Diner’s salmon salad and their salmon sandwich anymore. They use a different type or cut of salmon. It’s a darker red with a funny fishy taste.

    3. Still haven’t tried the Oxtail Soup at Kapiolani Coffee Shop.

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