North Shore Eats & Honolulu Sweets

Continuing my posts about my recent trip to Oahu... I finally get to talk about some of the great food that I ate all around the island! While my family had the luxury of eating home-cooked meals for most of our vacation (Thanks, Mom!), eating out was inevitable. Fortunately, we've visited the island enough times to know our way around. Here are a few of my favorite places, and I hope you fit them into your plans if you're ever in Oahu! (I would hate for you to think that Cheesecake Factory or PF Chang's in Waikiki is as good as it gets...)

After all of the Pro Bowl events, there were a few days left in our vacation for casual sightseeing, and a drive to the North Shore definitely fits that description. We picked up my dad after a morning round at Leilehua Golf Course, a military course near Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Airfield. From there, we just took Kamehameha Highway, and Dole Plantation was a mere 10-minute drive away. (The Disney fan in me obviously couldn't pass up a Dole Whip!) Another 10-minute drive later, we were in Haleiwa! Historic, charming, and laid-back could all be used to describe this surf town, with its plantation-era architecture and small shops.

Our first stop was for lunch at Kono's, a quaint eatery with surfboard-shaped tables in the booths and a picture of Ice Cube taped to the soda fountain's ice dispenser. (Yeah, that's right.) They're only open until 3:30 in the afternoon, so Kono's is best known for their breakfast options. In my opinion, you'll never be disappointed by their giant breakfast burritos, or "bombers". The "Pig Bomb" has their famous kalua pork and housemade guava BBQ sauce! Wanting to try something different, I ordered the Macadamia Nut Pesto Melt. A generous amount of pesto is slathered onto slices of turkey, fresh tomato, and cheese, then the whole sandwich gets toasted until the bread is crisp on the outside and the cheese is oozing. Yum. Kono's even has a "Wall of Flame", where they keep bottles of sriracha and housemade salsas. Pour some Charred Jalepeno & Pineapple on your burrito or sandwich, and you'll be in heaven.

Next, we headed to Matsumoto's, a longtime Haleiwa establishment marked by the yellow "M. Matsumoto Grocery Store" sign. A trip to the North Shore is not complete without some shave ice from Matsumoto's! The "Rainbow" is one of their best-sellers, a combination of strawberry, pineapple, and lemon. My favorite is the "Tropical" (guava, lilikoi, papaya) with sweetened condensed milk drizzled on top. There are over 20 flavors, though, so you can pick up to 3 per shave ice and make up your own combinations.

Our last road-trip meal was in Kahuku, where shrimp is king. While heading East on Kamehameha Highway, there are many shrimp trucks and stands to choose from, but Romy's is my family's favorite. (Funny backstory: A few years ago, when it was our first time ever driving through Kahuku, we only picked Romy's because my dad's brother is named Romy, and we thought it was pretty funny. We've stuck with this stand ever since!)

We always order the same thing: the Butter & Garlic Shrimp plate, a heaping portion of shrimp sauteed in...-drum roll-...butter and garlic. The shrimp is served with steamed rice and a spicy-shoyu dipping sauce. When it's late in the afternoon, there really is nothing else like sitting at a picnic table on the side of the road and chowing down on some fresh shrimp. The ponds that the shrimp and prawns are harvested from daily are right behind the stand and right next to the picnic tables. If you're driving to/from the North Shore, you must stop at Romy's!

Back on the Honolulu side of the island... My Uncle Ray invited us to his nephew's 18th birthday party. Uncle Ray, my dad's best friend and my godfather, is stationed in Oahu. My dad was his first supervisor when they were in the Air Force together, so our families actually go way back. Now, their house isn't exactly a restaurant that you all can visit…But this was a fun night for me that's still worth talking about. :)

If you've ever been to a Filipino party, you's food, food, and MORE FOOD. (Well, food and karaoke.) It's the home-cooking jackpot. I had platefuls of the bbq and pancit, and some of Uncle's margaritas. My favorite dishes, though, were the kutchinta and pichi-pichi made by Tita Gloria. I normally buy these Filipino desserts at Asian markets or Filipino bakeries, so it was a real treat to have some that were homemade. The kutchinta is made with rice flour and annato powder, pichi-pichi is made with cassava, and both are topped with grated coconut. Mmmmmm.

Whenever we're in Waikiki, I always request to make a stop at Lappert's Hawaii. The original Lappert's Hawaii is in Hanapepe, Kaua'i, the historic town that I wrote about last September. In 2010, I stayed with my aunt and uncle at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Every day, I walked downstairs to get a freshly-made, hand-made waffle cone full of Hawaii-inspired ice cream. Waffle cones are all you smell as soon as you walk into this tiny corner shop. I've loved coming here every since!

Lappert's Hawaii has tropical flavors, like Maui Mango Madness and Coconut Macadamia Nut Fudge, baked goods, and their own coffee blends. This time around, I went with the Poha Berry Cheesecake ice cream. Poha berries, also known as cape gooseberries, are a popular fruit in Hawaii and are usually made into jams. The tartness of the berry paired well with the cheesecake and wasn't too heavy at all!

For another place to pick up some sweet treats, I recommend making a stop at Liliha Bakery. This full-service bakery, complete with a countertop for serving diner fare with a Hawaiian twist, is open 24 hours a day and 6 days a week (closed on Mondays). It's been open since 1950!

There is a huge assortment of pastries. They have classics that mainlanders will instantly recognize, like bear claws and glazed donuts, but they also have local favorites, like malasadas. (I'm just glad I didn't walk in here with an empty stomach, otherwise I would've bought one of everything...)

Liliha Bakery is most famous, though, for their "Coco Puffs". The delicate profiteroles are filled with different flavors of pastry cream. And by "filled", I mean, completely stuffed so that it feels like 10% puff and 90% cream. (Finger-lickin' good.) The original Coco Puff is topped with a buttery chantilly icing and filled with a chocolate pastry cream.

My favorite flavor was the Green Tea Puff. It's filled with a green tea-flavored pastry cream and topped with a green tea-flavored chantilly and salted macadamia nuts. The matcha green tea flavor definitely comes through, and the saltiness from the chopped nuts balances the sweetness of the cream filling. Highly addictive.

I also bought a Lilikoi Malasada. Once I took a bite, I immediately regretted buying only one. The malasada was light and fluffy on the inside, and I think I just automatically love anything that tastes like passion fruit. I can't wait to come back to Liliha Bakery and get more of this!

Actually, I can't wait to come back and eat at all of these places. So, if you're ever in Oahu, my hope is that you'll visit at least one of them! They all offer great service and amazing food, and it's a perfect way to get a taste of Hawai'i! :)