Honolulu’s Best Signature Dishes

Susan Sunderland
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Wednesday - February 15, 2006
| Del.icio.us

Stephanie Brown serves a Shack chicken salad
Stephanie Brown serves a
Shack chicken salad

“Geez, I no see da Zigzag anymore. U pau, or wat?” a reader asks.

“Jus lazy,” I reply.

Welcome to the column that happens w’en evahs. This week we offer an honor roll of house specialties at our town’s hole-in-the-wall nooks and roadside eateries.

That’s what the Zigzag Guide is all about.

Jo McGarry gets all the fancy, full-service restaurants with charming maitre d’s and fine linen. I eat out of Styrofoam boxes.

But I digress ...

Shiro Matsuo lives up to his reputation as the ‘King of Saimin’
Shiro Matsuo lives up to his reputation as the ‘King of
Saimin’

There’s a fascinating book that, if not on your bookshelf, should be. It’s a kamaaina-must-have titled The Companies We Keep by Bob Sigall, available at most local bookstores and CompaniesWeKeep.com.

Sigall is professor at Hawaii Pacific University who had his graduate-level students research more than 150 local companies.

They collected such fascinating stories, Small Business Hawaii decided to publish them.

The book is delightful reading about 450 of Hawaii’s best-known companies. Want to know why Lex Brodie says “thank you very much” or where the plate lunch came from and how macaroni salad came to be on it?


You’ll find out in this book.

My favorite section is titled “Signature Dish - Specialty of the House.”

Many of Hawaii’s restaurants are famous for a particular item, it states. How many of the following onolicious “bests” have you tasted? You can’t call yourself a true kamaaina unless you know the specialty item at these places.

Evelyn Valdez loves her malasadas
Evelyn Valdez loves her
malasadas

Sampling each of these classics A to Z should keep you busy for a while.

Aiea Manapua: pizza manapua

Ba-le: pho

Barbecue Inn: pork chops

Big City Diner: kim chee fried rice

Boots & Kimo: macadamia pancakes

Byron’s Drive Inn: broasted chicken, shrimp burger

Café Laufer: chocolate banana Oreo cake

Char Hung Sut: manapua, mai tai soo

Isaac Waters with a big plate of kim chee fried rice at Big City Diner in Kailua
Isaac Waters with a big plate of kim chee fried
rice at Big City Diner in Kailua

Columbia Inn: oxtail soup

Da Big Kahuna: garlic cheese balls

Deb’s Ribs & Soul Food: barbecue ribs

Doug’s Gee a Deli: pastrami sandwich

Elena’s: adobo fried rice

Flamingo Restaurant: double-crusted banana pie

Grace’s Inn: chicken katsu

Gulick Delicatessen: butterfish

Helena’s Hawaiian Food: pipikaula short ribs, butterfish collars

Irifune: garlic ahi, breaded tofu, ahi boat

Kilani Bakery: brownies, banana pie

Kimuraya Bakery: cake doughnuts

Leonard’s Bakery: malasadas

Liliha Bakery: coco puffs

Matsumoto’s: shaved ice

McCully Chop Suey: kau yuk


Mitsuba Delicatessen: sweet potato crumbles

Mitsu-Ken: garlic chicken

Rainbow Drive-In: mushroom chicken, slush float, teri beef

Royal Kitchen: baked manapua

Ruger Market: poke, boiled peanuts

Shiro’s Saimin Heaven: won tun min

Sunnyside: chocolate cream pie

Tanioka’s: sushi

Ted’s Bakery: chocolate haupia pie

The Olive Tree: souvlaki

The Shack: Chinese chicken salad

Waimalu Chop Suey: gau gee

Windy’s: teri burger

Yama’s: lau lau

Young’s Fish Market: lau lau

Savas serves a fish souvlaki at the Olive Tree
Savas serves a fish souvlaki
at the Olive Tree

Zippy’s: chili

As for the origin of the plate lunch, the book says it started on the plantation.

Field workers needed a big lunch that wouldn’t spoil. Macaroni salad was first popularized around 1900 at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York and became a craze, according to the source.

Many Hawaii hotel chefs were trained in New York and brought it with them.

So, there you have it.

With this list of house specialties in hand, get out this week with friends and family to patronize these humble, yet iconic hole-in-the-wall places.

Try one place, then another. That’s right. Zigzag ‘round the town.

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