Best of Honolulu 2016: Food
The 25 editorial and reader picks for tastiest food from our Best of Honolulu 2016 issue.
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Best Ice Cream Sandwiches
Photo: Courtesy of uncle’s gourmet ice cream sandwiches
The lineup of Uncle’s Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches could make you feel like starting elementary school all over again, just to devote yourself to this once-humble staple of school snack shacks. Scoops of handmade flavors include liliko‘i, macadamia nut and Waialua coffee squeeze between homemade cookies paired for their complementary flavors. “We take a real simple approach,” says founder Paul Logan, a longtime North Shore microgreens farmer, “just like if you made ’em yourself in your kitchen.” Sure, and Picasso finger-painted. The Liliko‘i topped our charts, but a Funky Monkey had equally passionate followers. Check Logan’s Facebook page for locations, including the Hale‘iwa Farmers Market, Hawaiian Chip Co. in Kalihi and Muddy Waters Espresso in Kailua.
Best Luxury Beef
Craving premium-grade, melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef, but want to skip the high-end restaurant? J-Shop on unassuming Young Street lets us travel to Japan without the plane ticket. You can easily drop $500-plus for a large luxury roast, but entry-level packages offer sliced boneless wagyu marbled meat for under $10. The shop also sells buttery sashimi, bento, fresh wasabi root and the infamous Aroma melons that sometimes top $70 apiece.
1513 Young St., 200-5076, jshop-hawaii.com.
Ever been to the KCC Farmers Market and seen the lines for the Kukui Sausage Co. booth? Fans are flocking for its savory, juicy pork sausages, in flavors that include kim chee, chorizo, Italian and even gyoza. “Everything is still made old-school style. We cut the meat and put it in the grinder—it really helps us watch our quality and consistency,” says owner Steven Horio.
Available at multiple locations, 841-8843, kukuisausageco.com.
Best Boozy Milkshake
Photo: Aaron Yoshino
Being a grownup is tough, but it does come with its perks: At The Counter, you can add a shot of booze to any of its $7 shakes or malts for $3 extra. Or go with one of the Counter’s preset options—all our favorite flavors from childhood, boosted by liquor. Go for the Thin Mint, a thick chocolate shake with Bailey’s Irish Cream and mint liqueur; or the Strawberry Shortcake, which combines Stoli Vanil vodka and amaretto with yellow cake mix, strawberries and heaps of vanilla ice cream.
4211 Wai‘alae Ave., E-1, 739-5100, thecounterburger.com/honolulu.
Best Kicked-Up Fries
Photo: David Croxford
Chili cheese fries? Been there. Poutine? Done that. When we want something really next level, we go for Real a Gastropub’s Dirty Fries, which are dusted with Pecorino, a sharp cheese that goes great with the bacon bits sprinkled throughout the dish. Throw on some fresh herbs and banana pepper slices for a little crunch and heat, and you’ve got the perfect vessel for Real’s house-made ketchup, a sweet sauce redolent of Indian curry.
1020 Auahi St., Building 1, 596-2526, realgastropub.com.
Best Li Hing Margarita
Photo: Aaron Yoshino
There may be nothing authentically Mexican about a frozen margarita infused with salty-sweet li hing. But, really, is there anything better? The li hing margarita at Ryan’s Bar & Grill is served in a giant, li hing-rimmed glass goblet with li hing mui-infused tequila and fresh lime juice blended into a thick slush that’s so much fun to drink from a straw. It’s been on the menu at Ryan’s for more than 15 years and, thanks to a daily happy hour that drops the price from $8 to $5.95, has been one of its most popular drinks, too.
1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 591-9132, ryansgrill.com.
Best Musubi Shop
Photos: David Croxford
There were two important factors in choosing the winner of this category: quality musubi (of course) and the availability of said musubi all day long. With four locations in town, Musubi Café lyasume met both requirements and then some. It sells a variety of triangle-shaped rice balls, from traditional ume to the more adventurous mentaiko (spicy cod roe) with mayo—all using premium rice imported from Hokkaido and all under $2.50 each. The most popular musubi here, though, feature Spam. Spam with avocado, bacon and egg. Spam with ume and cucumber. Spam with takuan pickles. The best part? Each location is open daily and inventory is promptly replenished.