Best of Honolulu 2015: Food
The 32 editorial and reader picks for tastiest food from our Best of Honolulu 2015 issue.
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Best of Food Reader’s Pick
Best Local Chocolate Company
PHOTOS: AARON YOSHINO
Big Island Candies is probably best known for its rich, chocolate-dipped rectangles of shortbread cookie—the kind that come in a beautiful box, perfect for omiyage—but our readers also voted the Hilo company as having the best local chocolate, period. The manufacturing process starts with the highest grade of either milk or dark chocolate, which is then wrapped around all kinds of locally sourced treats. Hawaiian macadamia nuts, red chili toffee, Kona coffee beans, even ume shiso. Your mouth is watering now, isn’t it? It’s OK, when you’re buying a box of chocolates for someone else, just buy one more for yourself!
Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., #1230, 946-9213, bigislandcandies.com
Best Place to Buy Poke
With an average of 30 varieties—many of them tweaked to their neighborhood taste—it’s no wonder Foodland wins our readers’ nod as best place to buy poke. While the locally owned chain starts with basic recipes for the classic standards (spicy, shoyu, limu, Hawaiian style), spokeswoman Sheryl Toda notes that each store has some say. “A store might select a milder shoyu, add a little less sesame oil, add a little more chili pepper, more wasabi, etc., and they do it based on customer feedback every day over the years,” she says. At Sack N Save Puainako on the Big Island, one of its most popular is “Idamay’s Special Poke,” created by employee Idamay Okinishi. An ‘ahi poi poke is going strong on Maui while a pineapple poke never really caught on. Spicy ‘ahi reigns as the most popular poke. If you figured Super Bowl Sunday as the best-selling poke day, you’d be wrong. It’s New Year’s Eve. Toda says, “Our lines start from one end of the store and go all the way to the other end.”
Locations statewide, foodland.com
Best Wine Shop
High spirits are automatic at Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors, whose three O‘ahu branches are famed for serving the casual imbiber heading to a BYOB restaurant with the same consideration they show connoisseurs of each store’s constantly rotating 2,000-bottle wine selection. The secret is in the sales staff, many of whom came from outside the business but were turned into experts and, at owner Glenn Tamura’s insistence, good listeners. “The store makes sure we do a lot of tasting,” says Ron Fujimura, a 16-year veteran of the 3496 Wai‘alae Ave. location. “That’s how we learn to become very open-minded, so that we don’t just recommend what we like. We learn to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes by asking them questions: What’s their pricing, what’s their style, what have they liked in the past? A lot of people ask for food pairings, but I tell them, bottom line, just drink what you like.” (Still, asked what to pair with a vigorous kim chee, he instantly recommends “something white, off-dry, semi-sweet, like a viognier … ” Well played, sir!)
Various locations, tamurasfinewine.com
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers
Multiple locations, teddysbiggerburgers.com
Best Coffee Shop
Island Vintage Coffee Inc.
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., #1128, 941-9300, islandvintagecoffee.com
Best Grocery Store
Multiple locations, foodland.com
Best Health Food Store
Whole Foods Market
Multiple locations, wholefoodsmarket.com
Best Local Beverage Company
Kona Brewing Co.
Multiple locations, konabrewingco.com
Best Local Food Company
Best Local Snack Company
Wholesale Unlimited Inc.
Multiple locations, wholesaleunlimitedhawaii.com
Multiple locations, lilihabakeryhawaii.com