Restaurants (2019)

I remember Don recommending Cafe 8 1/2 (or something like that), an Italian restaurant in town. They closed before I ever got to try there, but I believe the owner opened a new place called Soffritto on Pauahi Street. Whether the owner is the same, I went to Soffritto’s recently. In addition to Italian food, they also serve Cajun food there. The pictures I saw on yelp made me want to check out the place. Unfortunately, they’re only open for lunch on weekdays. (They were open Saturday nights, and we tried to go recently, but they were closed. When I asked the owner about this, he said he no longer opens on Saturday. He said he’s getting a wood fire oven, though and will open on Saturday evenings in the near future.) I was on vacation so I recently went down for lunch. The verdict? I really liked this place. We tried a bunch of things–the gumbo and rice, shrimp etouffee and rice, the beef stroganoff with macaroni, and the jambalaya. The stroganoff and jamabalaya were fine, but I really liked the gumbo and etouffee. I want to go back!

76 thoughts on “Restaurants (2019)

  1. At Grace’s birthday dinner, we were talking a little about restaurant bathrooms, and I mentioned how Chinese restaurants always seem to have bad bathrooms, and how it makes me question how well the food is taken care of.

    Reid suggested an alternate theory: that with Chinese restaurants, there’s an unspoken agreement between customers and restaurant. We judge the restaurant by the food and the food only.

    It makes sense, given other considerations in Chinese restaurants (such as customer service). I have this coworker whose parents own a well-known Chinese restaurant (I’ll tell you in private if you want). My coworker says she totally understands my displeasure with the restrooms in these restaurants (she’s a bit of a priss herself about these things). Then she said her mom says, “I’m not selling you a bathroom break. I’m selling you a meal.”

    So there you go. Reid was right and I don’t want to eat at Chinese restaurants anymore.

    Oh, my friend added a corollary: Her mom says, “I’m not selling you a smile. I’m selling you a meal.”

    1. You really don’t want to eat at Chinese restaurants anymore or were you being facetious?

      (Man, I’m surprised we only had one post for this thread this year.)

    2. I was telling your wife a couple of months ago that one of the side effects of one of my medications is the sudden, urgent need to go to the bathroom. It’s not as bad now (my body’s gotten used to it and my doctor prescribed me a time-release version of the same drug that’s easier on my insides), but it was pretty rough for a year or so. This means that for a certain time period (it was kind of restricted to the first X hours after I took the pills) I was always aware of how close I was to an acceptable bathroom.

      So yeah. Even though this awareness is not as critical to my everyday life, it’s still with me, and although I wouldn’t refuse to go to a Chinese restaurant if that’s where my friends were going, if I have other options with better restrooms, to heck with the Chinese restaurants and their terrible bathrooms.

      It’s not just Chinese restaurants. I’ve chosen McD’s over Zippy’s in my hood because the Zippy’s (Kalihi, not Kapalama) restroom is fricking insulting to me as a customer. I can’t believe Zippy’s thinks I deserve to be treated this way, to an utter (and literal) craphole of a bathroom.

      So, no. Not facetious at all. Feces-ious, definitely.

      1. I was telling your wife a couple of months ago that one of the side effects of one of my medications is the sudden, urgent need to go to the bathroom.

        I didn’t realize this–and I get it now.

        So, no. Not facetious at all. Feces-ious, definitely.

        Hahaha.

  2. I resist bandwagons, especially when they cause lines to go out the door in national chain restaurants, but I was out for a long walk one afternoon and saw there was enough seating in Raising Cane’s to give it a shot.

    It’s chicken fingers and fries, basically, and if there was anything on the menu besides fingers and fries combos, I don’t remember what they were. I got a four-piece combo (it comes with a drink) and it was pretty dang good.

    I wouldn’t get excited about chicken fingers, but these are good. Lean, tender breast meat, nicely deep fried. The fries are crinkle-cuts, which would normally get me amped but these are a little on the thin side, so not as potatoey as I like. If the fries were a bit thicker I’d make it a point to come here again. As it is, I’ll probably only come again if in a similar situation: happen to be nearby and it’s not crowded.

    The cole slaw is good but honestly not better than KFC’s. The Cane’s sauce (or whatever it’s called) goes well with the fries, which is why I paid fifty cents or so for a second sauce (the combo comes with one). The chicken was good enough without sauce.

    1. I have zero interest in this place, but the following makes me a little interested–“…it was pretty dang good.

      I wouldn’t get excited about chicken fingers, but these are good.”

    2. It really depends on how you feel about chicken. People say chicken breasts are boring, but I really like them. I’ll eat them plain, without any seasoning even. I like chicken to taste like chicken, and these do.

      1. I like chicken, and I really like almost any type of friend chicken. If their chicken fingers are essentially equivalent to a good chicken katsu I might be more open to them. At the same time, I would prefer eating them plate lunch style.

  3. I heard that Raising Cane’s chicken is underseasonedj (on purpose), so if you don’t like their dipping sauce you won’t like their meal.

    Mitchell,

    How was the Texas toast? Not memorable, I guess.

    Just had Meg’s Chicken Katsu today, and I didn’t care for it. It’s crispy and pretty juicy, but it didn’t really have much taste. The breading may have had a slight burnt taste, too. Much like Raising Canes I guess, you got to eat it with the sauce.

  4. I wonder if that’s why I liked it. I like the taste of chicken with no seasoning. Sometimes I get a whole tray of chicken breasts from Costco and throw them all in the slow-cooker with a few tablespoons of water and (I guess) steam them. Then throw them in a large container in the fridge, and eat a chicken breast (or two) for breakfast every day for a week. Chicken is good — it doesn’t need a lot of seasoning.

    Oh yeah the combo comes with a slice of Texas Toast, whatever that is. It was a lot like a Liliha Bakery butter roll — super buttery but not especially tasty. A little bit of nuclear jelly and I might have had more than the one bite I had. I saved it for last and I was kinda carbed out already.

  5. Pho Tri
    This is that spot on the corner of Beretania and Kalakaua, across the Mormon temple. The entrance is on Kalakaua.

    This is easily my favorite pho on the island (so far). I’m told the non-pho items on the menu are also very good, but I doubt I’ll ever find out. The broth here is amazing, not the tasty but insipid broth I usually get other places. I’m not saying it’s as complex as a good bowl of soup, but there’s a lot more flavor here than I’m used to in a pho.

    There’s not a lot more to say about it; I mean, it’s pho, and like a lot of places now, there are a lot of varieties for meat. I’m not fond of the fatty brisket (that’s what it’s called on the menu) but the other meats I’ve had were good.

    If you go on Saturday and dine in, you get a second bowl for half price. Which is crazy if you ask me: who can eat two bowls of pho?

    Oh, you know what? I did try something else on the menu. Spring rolls and Vietnamese iced coffee. The spring rolls are good. The iced coffee is great. It seems when I’m there that the Thai iced tea is more popular, and I may give that a try one of these days.

    If you like pho, I can’t imagine your not liking this pho. I’m supposed to go with coworkers again in two weeks, but I may not be able to wait that long.

    1. For what it’s worth, one or two Vietnamese people I know mentioned this place when I asked which place had the best pho.

      The broth here is amazing, not the tasty but insipid broth I usually get other places. I’m not saying it’s as complex as a good bowl of soup, but there’s a lot more flavor here than I’m used to in a pho.

      I have the same impression of the broth from pho. Have you tried the pho at Pig and the Lady? Their pho is really flavorful, and I’m wondering how it compares.

      If you go on Saturday and dine in, you get a second bowl for half price. Which is crazy if you ask me: who can eat two bowls of pho?

      Wait, so one person has to eat two bowls? If two people come in the bowl for the second person won’t be half off?

      In any event, I want to try this place now.

      1. Oh yeah I had (I think) a vegetable pho at Pig and the Lady and it was good but I have to put that in a separate category.

        And of course one person doesn’t have to eat two bowls. I was making a stupid joke about how I almost always dine alone.

        1. You’re putting PatL in a separate category because it’s too upscale?

          I was making a stupid joke about how I almost always dine alone.

          Went totally over my head. Half off the second bowl is definitely appealing.

    2. We go here once in a while as well. The pho meat is good (ie: soft and tasty) and the broth is good. Of course we do the Saturday thing, but it can get crowded on Saturdays. The pho is probably one of the cheapest. It never used to be, but as pho prices have gone up all over, this one hasn’t. It’s still under $10, and it’s one of the few and maybe only that I know of outside of Chinatown.

      Mitchell,

      Have you tried Saigon on Kapiolani in the same lot as MW? I like their soup better, but it cost $13 (maybe even a little more).

      1. It’s been on my list for a while but not yet! I always think I should put on long pants and a nice shirt before I go there.

  6. Finally tried Ike’s Sandwiches. I got the dirty Rueben with the crazy sauce. It’s a really good sandwich. It’s definitely better than Jersey Mike’s, imo. However, Jersey Mike’s for about the same price has significantly more meat, but it doesn’t taste as good. Must be the that dutch bread, which is very good. I would go back, but I think I would rather get the other options at that food court for the money. I often get the Hamachi Kama bento from Ahi and Vegetable, which probably isn’t as much food as Ike’s but I enjoy it more. I kind of like the food at Seoul Mix as well. Which is sort of like regular Korean food, but served in a bowl. I would put Ike’s third or tied for third with Da Spot if ranking the Lanai choices.

    1. Not a fan of Seoul Mix, but Ahi and Veg is my favorite spot there. I usually get a sashimi salad (ahi, salmon, and hamachi on a green salad).

      Usually I’m just passing by and want a little snack, so Musubi Iyasume is the spot I line up in front of most often.

      1. I like Seoul Mix because I just dump everything in the bowl and make a bibimbap out of whatever I chose. I like that because you also gochujang sauce. But I guess you have to like bibimbaps.

    2. PS: What did you get at Jersey Mike’s? Penny, Tony, Grace, and I were down there at the Starbucks yesterday but we went to Raising Cane’s for lunch instead.

      1. Shoot I forget, but been to that Jersey Mikes and the one at Kahala. They give good portions of meat. I would say three times what you would find in a Subway sandwich.

    3. The crazy sauce is the one with a orangey, sweet taste, right? That sauce is crazy because it’s inexplicably good. To me, it’s just a sweet, organge-y sauce, and I’m not sure how or why it’s so good. And I’m talking about a vegetarian sandwich. Unless there was something else in there, the sandwich shouldn’t have been as good as it was (not that it was great, but better than one would expect). The bread is a factor, but I don’t think that alone explains it.

      1. I want to say they have many different sauces depending on the sandwich you order. My sauce was yellow-y, but I didn’t really open up the sandwich. But you are correct that the sauce makes it better, and unlike Brent’s sandwiches it seems less about the meat than the rest of the contents. Jersey Mikes probably is more the meat than the rest of the sandwich. I think the bread is a huge part of it. Because there is nothing else in there that was completely different from other sandwich places other than the sauce. But even at Subway you can get different sauces I thought.

      2. Yeah, they do have different sauces, but I believe the crazy sauce is the citrus-y, orange flavored one.

        unlike Brent’s sandwiches it seems less about the meat than the rest of the contents.

        Yeah, I agree, although the cole slaw and Russian dressing in Brent’s pastrami sandwich were critical.

        I think the bread is a huge part of it. Because there is nothing else in there that was completely different from other sandwich places other than the sauce.

        Maybe you’re right. To me, though what’s in the sandwich was better than I thought it would be. (The veggie sandwich I had had pretty ordinary vegetables as well.)

        1. Yeah, I agree, although the cole slaw and Russian dressing in Brent’s pastrami sandwich were critical.

          I didn’t get that sandwich, but did you think the cole slaw and dressing was special? As in better than most? I guess it wouldn’t be surprising.

          To me, though what’s in the sandwich was better than I thought it would be.

          Yeah, surprisingly so, because the ingredients seem pretty generic. I will say though, the cheese in my sandwich seem like the Velveeta type (melted). I think it would be better if they used “real” cheese, at least for myself.

      3. I didn’t get that sandwich, but did you think the cole slaw and dressing was special? As in better than most?

        No, both weren’t special or exceptional, but without either the sandwich wouldn’t be nearly as good in my opinion.

  7. I’ve been in a sandwich mood, so I tried two new places in Don’s neck of the woods–Earl of Sandwich and HiCraft Kitchen.

    Here are the sandwiches I tried at Earl of Sandwich:

    The Drew: pastrami, swiss, tomato jam, whole grain mustard, horseradish mayo, pickle, tomato

    Brisket Gyro (more like a brisket sandwich): beer braised brisket, roasted garlic, harissa, red onion, HOTS, feta, tomato, lettuce, creamy tzatziki

    Short-rib Torta: Short Rib, chorizo, poblano, pickled carrot, tomatillo salsa, sour cream, cilantro, lettuce, tomato, hot sauce

    All three were $12-$13.

    None of the sandwiches blew me away, but they were all tasty and well-made. If not for the cost, I would give this high marks. Eating one sandwich would be satisfying, but for the cost, it seems like skimpy. A bag of chips would make this a better deal.

    HiCraft Kitchen

    Short-rib sandwich. I can’t remember the name of this, but it came with jicama slaw and water cress. The flavors from the latter really made the sandwich. (The bread was solid as well.)

    Meatball sandwich. This was disappointing. The meatballs were small and pretty bland.

    Overall, I prefer Earl of Sandwich.

    (Note: I doubt Don will like these places, mainly due to the price and portions. Also, the beverage options are limited. No fountain drinks at both places.)

    1. I vaguely recall this place, but I don’t remember the souffle pancakes. (I believe another place on Kapahulu makes something similar.) The pancakes look good–something worth trying!

      Did you try them?

    2. It’s a tiny space and very busy, so I’m unlikely to anytime soon, although I would consider it on a regular workday morning. The menu looks pretty intriguing.

    1. Man, I only tried Pig and the Lady from that list. Pig and the Lady’s wings are awesome. I would put Von’s Chicken up there for me, but again I didn’t try any of the others on the list.

    2. I’ve had Dolan’s (good but plain, and I suspected they came out of the freezer) and Dirty Lickin’s (great, but I wouldn’t go with the bbq).

      I know it’s a chain, but I love the lemon pepper wings at WingStop.

    3. I agree with Don–I like Von’s, and I think they should have been included in this; although, like Don, I don’t think I’ve tried the other wings (besides Pig and the Lady’s).

    4. I haven’t had the Vons wings, but I disliked their regular fried boneless chicken. The meat was excellent, but I didn’t care for the breading, which I thought was kind of spongey. I got it plain even though the lady behind the counter said the shoyu sauce variety was the most popular. Since it’s walking distance from work, I’ll definitely be back, maybe for the wings next time.

      1. I’ll be surprised if there is a difference between the boneless chicken and the regular wings in terms of the breading. But I could be wrong. I’m guessing you ate the boneless ones fresh? It’s always straight out of the fryer, which is why is so good.

        Even in Korea, I think they fry chicken well. It always crispy on the outside and really moist on the inside. The thing that may be different though, is in Korea the chicken isn’t seasoned a lot like in America. It’s enough seasoning for me, but that might be a drawback for Americans. Vons, though, seasons the outside of their chicken well, imo.

  8. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I’ve been wanting to try some gas station fried chicken for years, since I heard some people talking about it on a mainland podcast. It’s a thing, apparently, and several years ago I happened to walk into a gas station here and see it.

    On Kalakaua Ave, heading into Waikiki, just before the Kuhio-Kalakaua split, across the David Kalakaua triangle park, there’s an Aloha mini-mart and gas station. They have a fried chicken place inside, in the rear of the store. It doesn’t look great, but I decided looks weren’t going to stop me. Today I was hungry as I walked by, so today was the day.

    The reason I haven’t been there yet is mostly ’cause I’ve been a bus-rider most of those years, and there’s nowhere inside to eat whatever you buy. I didn’t like the idea of lugging chicken to the park or wherever and trying to eat in the grass beneath some tree.

    I ordered a four-piece meal (nine bucks and change), which is supposed to be one breast, one wing, one thigh, and one drum, plus potato wedges and a biscuit. Maybe I read the sign wrong, but I got two wings instead of a wing and a drum, but that’s fine with me. The drum is my least favorite piece, and the wing is my favorite.

    I have to say the chicken was pretty dang good. I’d put it ahead of Zippy’s and Foodland, but not much ahead of Foodland. The breast was a little dry and the wings were a little scrawny, but they were both tasty, with a more flavorful (read: saltier and pepperier) skin than Foodland’s.

    While the chicken is better than at Foodland, it’s not better enough to warrant going out of your way for it, when there’s a Foodland in almost every neighborhood. But if you’re in the area and jonesing for fried chicken, it’s totally worth the stop.

    The wedges were good, but like the chicken, I suspect it all comes out of a freezer and is simply deep-fried on the spot. Not any better or worse than any other wedges. I took a bite of the biscuit and tossed it, not because it was bad, but because the calories weren’t worth it. It was mediocre at best.

  9. I finally tried Jersey Mike’s on King St. I had the #2: Jersey Shore’s Favorite, which is provolone, ham, and cappacuolo. The bread was good, if a step or two below Ike’s, but the meat and cheese ingredients were very good. I don’t know if slicing the deli meat right there in front of you makes a huge difference, but I suspect it does. I appreciated the thinly shredded lettuce, but the tomatoes looked sub-par.

    It’s a good sandwich. At $9 or so, I thought it was worth the price, and I’ll almost for sure go again.

  10. A new barbecue spot opened today in Pearl Highlands, Reid. Tin Hut BBQ or something like that. I know nothing else about it, but that’s your wheelhouse, not to mention your weekday ‘hood. 🙂

      1. Tin Hut has been around for a while now. They used to or maybe still have a food truck that used to be at the truck “thing” near our house. I believe their truck was on base somewhere on the weekdays. I think I tried their stuff and thought it was just okay.

  11. https://www.elchinoloco.life/menu

    You guys should try and check this place out if you in the area. They have a food truck that is parked on Keeaumoku Monday – Friday near the Sam Sung Plaza. I never went to the truck, but these guys were passing out stuff at a golf tourney that I went. It was good.

    Reid may not like it because it’s southern barbeque with a Asian flare. I tried the Misoyaki Brisket and the Char Siu Ribs. Just for context, it’s definitely more southern than Asian. Actually I couldn’t taste the Misoyaki and I only had a hint of Char Siu. I also hope this guy can make it, because his food deserves it and he’s a nice guy (Korean I think). He said his BBQ side of his dishes are Carolina BBQ I believe – not sure what that means exactly though.

    While we on that, at the same golf tournament I had the smoke meat from Square Barrels. It’s an appetizer there. It’s smoked pork butt that is then deep fried with a vinegary chimichurri sauce. I don’t know if I would go there for that, but it was good. For context though, it tasted very much like Lechon Kawali because it’s deep fried pork with a vinegary sauce.

      1. Just check their Facebook page. When looking for their link, I went to their Facebook page and saw they weren’t going to be on Keeaumoku today. That was the case when they came to the golf tourney as well. If you go, let me know what you think.

    1. Dang, kinda sucks the truck is only open Monday thru Friday. I’m off next Friday, so maybe I’ll try it.

      It’s smoked pork butt that is then deep fried with a vinegary chimichurri sauce.

      Ooo, this sounds good.

  12. I’ve been seeing way too many photos on IG and FB of the smashburgers at The Daley, down on Nuuanu between Pauahi and Hotel. I finally got to check it out after this NaNoWriMo thing Saturday.

    A beer (from the tap), some crinkle-cuts, and the regular Daley burger. Delicious. I don’t know what that cheese is, but it’s gooey and tangy and perfect. Sorry it’s not a great photo but if you look it up on Yelp you’ll see some great ones.

    I do love a thick and juicy monster burger, but a good smashburger can be great too, and this is. I think next time I’ll get the double, because the bun is a little too thick for the amount of meat in the single. With a tip, I paid $20 for what you see.

    They also supposedly have a great soft-serve but I didn’t have room for it.

    1. So it was a pretty filling (not counting the beverage)? I’m interested in trying this, but the price has cooled my enthusiasm.

      1. The prices are reasonable. That beer is five bucks and I tipped 20% or so. I was full but I also wasn’t especially hungry when I went in. I only ate there at that moment because I was in the area and had been wanting to check it out.

        Anyway, get the double or one of the other options.

      2. The prices are reasonable.

        How’s the burger size? It looks relatively small for the price (I’m thinking of the combo meal as well.) I guess if they gave a lot of fries that would make up for it.

        1. Based on the menu for just a burger, the single is $7.5 and the double is $11. Yeah it looks on the pics sort of on the smaller side (might not be a quarter pound burger), but it doesn’t seem like a total rip off. The bun looks unappealing in all the pics though. Was the bun good Mitchell?

          Ooops I’m assuming for $7.5 you get a cheeseburger (as in all burgers comes with cheese), though I could be wrong on that part.

          1. The bun isn’t bad (and yeah, they all come with cheese), but it was a little dense and chewy, not airy like at the local diners. I really do want to see how it is with more meat in between.

      1. Someone else sent me the link to that article. I think I must order the specials, because I’ve only had one thing on that list. Or maybe I haven’t dined there as many times as I thought I have.

    1. They’re really well made–maybe the best in Hawai’i, in terms of overall quality and how they’re made–but I would guess you would think they’re kind of a ripoff (or at least the old Don I knew). Worth trying, though. Choosing the fried chicken sandwich in the #1 spot is a good pick.

  13. I had a burger at Burger Hale in the International Market Place food court. This place is run by Michele and Wade of M&W fame. The burger looks like a smash burger, so it’s kind of thin. I didn’t catch what the weight of the burger was though. The burger was pretty good. I just got the plain burger, which comes with cheese, tomato, lettuce and their special sauce. The star of the show I thought was the mochi, portugese sweet bread bun. It wasn’t sweet as far as I could tell, but the special sauce was a little sweet so maybe it just overpowered the bun’s sweetness. But the mochi texture, which is a little firmer and being toasted it was really crispy, was great. I didn’t get fries, so I have no clue on that. For the single it was $7.99. The burger for a smash burger could have had a little better “crust” or burntness on the outside, and maybe a little more salt, but I would get it again. The loco moco looked good too. Yelp kind of kills this place though so take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

    1. I wanted to try this place, including the shave ice shake (?) (and I assume you didn’t try it). I don’t like going to Waikiki, though.

      1. What is the shave ice shake? I never noticed they had that. I went back to Yelp and yeah saw it on their menu. There was one picture, but it looked just like shave ice with ice cream and fresh fruits.

      2. This place looks good. And like a lot of us, I never cared for Waikiki, but in the past five years or so I’ve hung out there a lot and now I really like it. Driving into it and through it is no fun, but being in it is great.

        1. We used to go Waikiki more in the past especially on Sunday and look for free street parking. Now parking on the street even on Sundays is not free, so we hardly go unless we need to.

          1. Yeah but zoo parking is inexpensive if you can get it. And you can add time from your phone if you spend longer than you expect.

          2. A 3/4 mile walk would wouldn’t be long to me if I actually wanted to walk. If I just wanted to get to a destination, that would be a long walk. Relatedly, when I go to Ala Moana nowadays, I go partly for the walking.

          1. Yeah, I disagree with that. And I’m often with other people who would disagree even more strongly, I think.

          2. Google Maps says it’s one mile walking, from the zoo to Hard Rock Cafe, about as far as you can go from the zoo and still be in Waikiki. If you’re not going THAT far, you’re walking — what — three quarters of a mile or half a mile at most?

            It’s roughly half a mile from one end of Ala Moana to the other. If you were parked at Macy’s and had to get something at Foodland Farms, would you drive?

            I’m guessing the average shopper walks at least that far while shopping at Costco.

          3. I want to say the meters at the zoo was like $.75 (maybe fifty) when everywhere else was at least a $1. Now the zoo parking is the normal $1.50 an hour. However, just about everywhere else in Waikiki is now $3.00 an hour. Threw all that knowledge all there for no good reason.

          4. I think $1.50 an hour is super reasonable. And again, you can recharge your time from your phone if you punch it into the kiosk when you make your first purchase, for up to 24 hours total. Super useful!

      3. Don,

        I haven’t tried it, but imagined it was basically like it sounds–a shake with shave ice. The concept appealed to me.

        Mitchell,

        Driving and parking in Waikiki is the biggest turnoff for me.

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