Everyone knows what a beautiful destination Hawaii is and it seems that it has never been more popular with Aussie tourists. What most people don’t know though is where to eat in Waikiki. There is a common belief that in America all food is hog tied, deep-fried and the size of Texas. Well fear not dear readers as I have 10 amazing things you can put in your pie hole whilst on vacation in my most favourite place on the planet. If you remember nothing else from what you are about to read, just remember Roy’s.
1. Kona Coffee/Green Tea and an Acai bowl at Island Vintage Coffee (since 1996), Royal Hawaiian Centre above Royal Grove, 2301 Kalakaua Ave
I don’t drink coffee but I understand that most people in the world cannot function until they have had a decent one. So I thought we should start the countdown here. This is the place my island living friends choose to get their caffeine, so I know it will do you right. Kona is one of the best coffee beans in the world and is unique because of the volcanic rich soils in which it has grown since 1813. I am more of a green tea kinda girl and they have got me and many a Japanese matcha loving visitor covered there.
But what I really come here for is my acai fix. This delightful bowl filled with ice cold, creamy, refreshing, antioxidant rich acai topped with crunchy house granola, bananas, blueberries, strawberries and drizzle of honey. I love eating one of these after a morning beachside run along Kalakaua Avenue. It is the perfect way to start the day, totally addictive too.
2. Udon with Spam musubi at Marukame Udon, 2310 Kuhio ave
I can still taste these delicious, silky, perfect udon. They are instagrammed on my taste buds. They were easily the best udon I have ever had, and considering I've had udon in Osaka, that is a big call. Not altogether surprising though as the ingredients are imported from Japan and the noodles are made fresh daily.
Whilst you are sun baking by the beautiful Waikiki beach you may think that lining up to slurp down some hot udon might not be high on your "to do" list. This thought would be wrong.
When you arrive, there will most likely be a line but do not panic, it moves quickly and in any case the line buys you time to make decisions about the composition of your udon bowl. Choose your broth, protein and tempura or musubi. This is your perfect opportunity to get some spam musubi into your life. And what pray tell is spam musubi? It’s the high-end combination of a precise rectangle of quality meat A.K.A Spam atop a neat mound of sushi rice with a belt of nori holding it together.
The best Halloween outfit I ever saw was when we were in Waikiki and a waitress at Duke’s had dressed up as a cling wrapped piece of salty spam musubi goodness. A fair effort in itself but managing to wait tables in the heat at the same time was a new level of awesome.
Anyway, I digress. Once your decision is made the line will have progressed and you will move along in a cafeteria-style fashion to collect your goodies, pay a few yen, I mean greenbacks, and savour the goodness.
3. Kalua pork at Ono Hawaiian Foods, 726 Kapahulu Ave
You could spend $100 and travel an hour to a luau to get some suckling pork into your gob or you could take a 2-mile jaunt (walk, bus, taxi, don’t drive) over to Kaimuku for that kalua pork you’ve been dreaming of. I mean, sure, you won’t get any fire twirling or grass skirt shaking but you will get some real grub, real cheap. Now Ono’s is not a fancy place, it is a hole in the wall, local joint that has been around forever and looks like it. So come casual, come hungry, bring cash and be prepared to feast on some real Hawaiian food. I recommend getting the combination plate so that you have the opportunity to try a variety of things including the pork of course, lomilomi salmon, taro paste (poi) and haupia – a set coconut cream custard.
4. Malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery (since 1952), 933 Kapahulu Ave
After getting your traditional Hawaiian on at Ono it is time to waddle across the street for some traditional food of a different kind. Originally made to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, nice sub for pancakes I’d say, these delicious Portuguese donuts stuffed with custard are thankfully now available all year round at this popular old school bakery. Even better that it’s open late allowing plenty of time to grab a takeaway Malasada or 2 for the trip back to Waikiki.
My favourite flavor was the custard but you can choose from chocolate, coconut, guava, plain sugar, cinnamon sugar or plum. There is also a flavor of the month and wouldn’t you know it, this month is pineapple! If only Leonard’s wasn’t a 10 hour flight away!
5. Cheese burger with waffle fries at Duke’s Waikiki, 2335 Kalakaua Ave
It would be remiss of me not to give you a restaurant with a view and when it comes to a view Duke’s is in the best position to capture the beauty of Diamond Head and the stunning Waikiki beach. There is people watching a plenty from your vantage point at the Barefoot Bar which is practically on the sand. Here is where you come to get that cocktail shot for your social media account of choice while you wait for your juicy cheeseburger and waffle fries to arrive. Waffle fries you say? Yes indeedy, just like the name suggests they are thick fries woven into the shape of a waffle. Sometimes a good ol’ American dining experience is just what you need after a big day of poolside cocktail indulgence. Good times.
6. Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory, 2301 Kalakaua
Now I realize that this is a chain restaurant and it can be found outside of Hawaii but it still remains necessary to advise my loved ones that they should not be perturbed by the massive hoards of buzzer toting patrons waiting to get in. For you do not need to line up for a piece of cheesecake that you can whisk away to your hotel room and greedily scoff whilst watching some of America’s finest reality TV. You simply proceed straight past the crowds and make your way to the cheesecake counter. You might run into some trouble there that is truly down to your inability to make a decision when presented with so many viable options. Give it your best shot, you can do it. My go to flavours are Pumpkin Pecan (when in season), Godiva chocolate and Reese’s Peanut Butter. PS. You can also call ahead to put in a take out order for cheesecake or some actual food too.
7. chocolate dipped pineapple cookies at Honolulu Cookie Company (since 1998), 2233 Kalakaua Ave
I am not merely loving these cookies because they are shaped like pineapples, although it certainly doesn’t hurt their cuteness factor. No, these moreish, buttery shortbread cookies are the perefect little sunbaking and road trip snack for that drive up to the North Shore. They are also very popular as gifts to bring back home and remind everyone what a fabulous time you had while they were miserable at work. There are many locations, opening hours are long and the staff are very sweet and helpful. Free samples don’t hurt. Lots of island flavours to choose from like mac nut, kona and lilikoi. My picks are anything chocolate dipped and I wouldn’t say no to the choc chips ones either.
8, 9,10. pineapple martini, miso butterfish & chocolate soufflé at Roy’s, 226 Lewers St
I saved the best till last. The harmonious pairing of Hawaiian and Japanese cuisines brought together with European cooking techniques honed by the CIA. Not the Bourne Identity, homeland security type CIA but the Culinary Institute of America type CIA. My vegan friends are well catered for with a wonderful fixed menu or order a la carte. My friends of all dietry requirements, lock this venue in for date night. Everyone I have recommended Roy’s to has had the most memorable time, often going back twice in the one vacation.
Order a pineapple martini as soon as you are seated and let your waiter know to keep 'em coming. They are that good.
No need to read the menu, all you need to know is to order the stunning Miso Butterfish in the largest serve possible and follow that up with the decadent chocolate soufflé and a delightful chocolate martini. The only crime here is that the chocolate martini is not actually on the drinks list but trust me they make it and it is amazeballs.
What Roy's lacks in a view it more than makes up for in service, ambience, quality food and sublime mixology. It is wise to make a reservation but if you forget, just prepare to pop your name on the wait list and stroll Waikiki for 30 minutes while you dream of the deliciousness that awaits you.