Mixed Plate: A Guide to Eating Local in Hawaii

You’ve heard it said that the U.S. is a cultural “melting pot.” Hawaii, then, would have to be described as a pressure cooker! The close quarters and sparse conditions of early plantation life worked culinary magic bringing Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan, Portuguese, Filipino, Korean, and even German, Irish and Scottish influences together in unexpected ways. This cultural melding continues to the present: Corned beef and rice. Mabo ramen (Chinese+Japanese). Hawaiian sweet bread (Japanese + Portuguese). And (personal favorite) AndaDog (Okinawan + German?).

Want to try local food? Not cuisine, mind you, but real ono kine “grindz.” First, drive off the military base or away from the fantasyland that is Waikiki. Look for any place with “Drive-inn” or “BBQ” in its name, or head to the Okazuya/Deli or Bento counter of the major supermarkets (Don Quijote-- formerly Daiei, Star, Times, Foodland); or your nearest neighborhood “Zippy’s” (local version of Denny's pecializing in chili and other island favorites). Order out and take it to the beach – everything will taste better with the sea air and the view.

This guide is divided into three sections, Drive-Inn, Bento, and Snacks & Sweets.
  • Drive-Inn highlights the foods you'll find on a typical menu at a drive-inn, or other local fast food place.
  • Bento describes the pre-packaged rice-based meals you can find at supermarkets, drive-inns, and other places convenience foods are sold.
  • Snacks & Sweets answers some of your questions about the unusual but ono goodies you might find in a crackseed store or the crackseed aisle of the supermarket.

kah-zoo-yah): lunch counter or shop offering pre-cooked accompaniments for rice meals chicken kara’age, unagi, musubi, fried fish or vegetables, kalua pork, chicken wings, tempura, etc.

Local words for delicious: ono, ono-licious, oishii (oy-
shee), umai (oo-my)