Eat Like a Hawaiian

Skip the burger and fries, and dig into local comfort foods.

Warning: Consumption of the following comfort foods may leave one with symptoms of a kanak attack. Mainly, sleepiness and the feeling of satisfaction that results from indulging in too much ono (very tasty) Hawaiian food.

Nobody does pipikaula better than Helena’s, and they have a prestigious James Beard Award to show for it. The restaurant has been serving up this riff on beef jerky since it opened in 1946. This hearty pupu (appetizer) is broiled and then sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt just before it arrives at the table.

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And, please, no mashed potatoes as a side here. The starch of choice is poi, made from taro; and the best way to eat it is to scoop up a hearty portion with two fingers. We’re not kidding. The only ones who will look at you weird will be the tourists. More than likely, Helena’s daughter or grandson will be preparing the food or counting your change (it’s cash only).

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Laulau is the pièce de résistance of comfort cooking. For a serious craving, Ono Hawaiian Foods is your answer—one local chef describes the restaurant as serving “the soul food of the islands.” Since 1960, this legendary hole-in-the-wall on Kapahulu Avenue has been excelling at the enormous dish big enough for two. Think luau leaves overstuffed with chunks of pork and butterfish, wrapped in ti leaf, and cooked in an underground oven (or imu). To eat laulau like a local, toss the outer ti leaf. Try the tender luau leaves, which are infused with the salty juices from the Hawaiian pork and fish.

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