Featured on the Food Network, Da Pokeman Fish Market dishes out a menu of Hawaiian flavors from recipes passed through generations for more than 70 years. Succulent cubes of ahi tuna dive into tangy shoyu soy sauce or limu algae in the quarter-pound bowls of poke ($9.95–$11.95). The Squid Luau plate snugly bundles two bales of rice beside poi and lomi ($7.95), and the Hawaiian Combo plate's exclusive guest list includes laulau, kalua pig, chicken long rice, lomi salmon, rice, and poi ($9.45). Ordering à la carte, diners can pair a helping of kalua pig ($6.95/lb.) with a side of pickled ogo ($6.95/lb.). Patrons can get carryout to enjoy meals in an oversize aquarium castle.
After falling in love with Wahiawa upon his first visit, master coffee-brewer Mike Richards quickly plotted a way to join the community’s eclectic crowd on a more permanent basis. The fruition of this aim, Perk-A-Lot Coffee & Sandwich Shop, marries Wahiawa’s uplifting spirit with a low-key ambiance and delicious coffeehouse fare. Since opening its doors in 2011, this up-and-coming spot has evolved into a cherished hangout for locals and coffee connoisseurs on pilgrimages from nearby islands.Mike and his friendly staff of baristas prepare café beverages behind simple wooden counters, pairing iced or steaming drinks with handmade wraps and sandwiches. When they aren’t sitting down to enjoy pastries such as lemon scones and fudge brownies, visitors can walk across the café’s checkerboard floor to view the local art that adorns the walls. On Friday nights, local poets and musicians stage performances for crowds, who signal their approval by snapping and pelting the stage with packets of sugar.
The culinary sorcerers at The Shack conjure up a menu of Hawaiian-inspired pub grub to occupy vacant plates and empty stomachs. Oil rusty jaw-hinges and distract mouths from shouting out social security numbers with five varieties of poke, a traditional Hawaiian raw fish salad ($10.95), or with pub snacks such as jalapeño poppers full of cream cheese ($8.25). The Shack Monster cheeseburger bridges the gap between bun halves with a quarter-pound hot link and allows diners to choose from a trio of cheeses including american, swiss, and jack-cheddar ($8). Meanwhile, the 14-ounce grilled rib eye, glazed with garlic, soy, and ginger, then topped with smoked shiitake mushrooms ($23.50) is great for sating carnivorous cravings and warming up throats for draft beers, microbrews, and long conversations about renaming the moon.
The staff at Banzai Sushi Bar serves fresh, flavorful fish in a down-to-earth atmosphere, earning accolades in the Star Advertiser's Ilima Awards for several years running. Nestled in a corner of Haleiwa's North Shore Marketplace, the restaurant cossets diners in a covered open-air deck constructed of rustic dark wood, with floral floor cushions for Japanese-style dining or conventional seats for settling the bill with games of musical chairs. Raw seafood is laid bare atop nuggets of sushi rice in nigiri or wrapped tightly between layers of rice and seaweed in maki rolls such as the hawaii roll, whose bundle of shrimp tempura and cucumber is topped with spicy tuna and macadamia nuts.
Universe Juice Café harnesses solar energy to blend and squeeze organic fruit into refreshing drinks that complement a menu of fresh, healthy fare. The Mantra smoothie mixes together berries, bananas, papayas, and positive thoughts ($6.75), and the Malo Man swaggers out of the blender with banana, ginger, pa'i 'ai, and noni ($6.50), and refuses to ask directions to the nearest glass. Signature poke bowls layer spicy or shoyu-style Hawaiian ahi over rice ($8) and kale ($10.50), as savory naan flatbread paninis embrace vegetable and turkey fillings ($8.50+). Universe Juice Café's warm-colored walls and intimate café seating abut a wood-topped juice bar, creating a cozy atmosphere for dining, drinking, and blending in time to live music showcases.
Thai Kitchen takes patrons on a magic floating market ride with a menu of authentic dishes and house specialties. Meal rockets launch with a slurp of house specialty lemongrass soup ($8.50–$12.95) or a crunch of crispy shrimp tempura, which is available only on the weekends and Martian federal holidays ($10.95). The classically noodle-ridden Pad Thai comes crowned with proteins of the land or sea ($9.50–$10.50), and the dish dubbed “Evil” arrives as a cackling platter of chicken, pork, or beef simmered in coconut milk on a bed of cabbage grown to the soundtrack of backward-playing Beatles albums ($9.50). Desserts such as Thai tapioca pudding with coconut milk ($2.95) end meals on a saccharine chord, while traditional Thai iced coffees and teas ($2.95) keep sweet teeth humming throughout the meal.
In a mini mall off Farrington Highway, shoppers passing Futaba Restaurant’s modest façade might never guess the culinary gem they’ll discover inside. Co-owner and executive chef Tadao Nezu––who once cooked for the Imperial family of Japan, according to the Honolulu Advertiser––has spent more than three decades at Futaba Restaurant treating Hawaiian taste buds like royalty with Japanese cooking wizardry and golden scepters that double as chopsticks. Noodle dishes dominate the menu, which includes six varieties of udon and soba noodles mixed with shrimp tempura and egg, and saimin noodles made from scratch and tossed in in homemade broth. Diners can also sample more indulgent dishes, such as the manalta mori, a mix of fresh ahi, jumbo-shrimp tempura, beef teriyaki, and grilled saba.