8 Classic Honolulu Dishes That Just Won’t Quit

These dishes never seem to get old.


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Hawaiian-Style Curry 

The Willows

Photo: Steve Czerniak 


The peanuts, the shredded coconut, the mango chutney—and the raisins, hard-boiled egg, green onion, bacon and sweet pickles … are we forgetting something? Oh yes, the curry! Seven decades after its debut at the Mō‘ili‘ili eatery, Willows’ Hawaiian curry is still as famous for its array of condiments as for the buttery, gingery, coconutty main dish. Over the years, the curry has survived a six-year closure, a change in ownership and a switch to an all-buffet format. There are three fewer condiments now, chicken’s been added to the original shrimp, and you’ll detect a slight heat, to accommodate changing tastes. But the curry survives. 

901 Hausten St., 952-9200, included in buffets ranging from $23.95 for weekday lunch to $40.95 at dinner


Pipikaula Short Ribs

Helena‘s Hawaiian Food

Photo: Odeelo Dayondon 

The story of Helena’s famed pipikaula can be written in two chapters: Before Man vs. Food and after the Travel Channel show came to visit. Before, local customers had long accorded iconic status to the 64-year-old eatery’s toothsome, salty-meaty, half-inch-thick ribs that fall somewhere between a dry kalbi and a thick, soft jerky. Then in 2009 Man host Adam Richman arrived in the kitchen. Since then, the 150 pounds of marinated ribs hung over the stove to dry every night doubled to 300 pounds—all of it taken down for frying, one order at a time, until it sells out nearly every day. 

1240 N. School St., 845-8044, $15 large, $7.50 small


Ginger-Crusted Onaga

Alan Wong’s

Photo: Steve Czerniak 

You think about the guy on the ginger-crusted onaga station,” Alan Wong says. “In one year, he makes that dish more than 10,000 times.” Multiply that by the $39 price of the top-selling entrée, and you can see why Wong keeps it on his classics menu, available any day. The dish, inspired by cold ginger chicken, has been on the menu since Alan Wong’s opened 20 years ago. He’s tried to take it off, but gave up in the face of repeated requests from customers. “It makes me proud and happy,” Wong says, “that we can be so consistent that people will come back for it.” 

1857 S. King St., 949-2526, $39



Blarney Burger

Murphy’s Bar & Grill 

Photo: Steve Czerniak 

The irony of the Blarney burger, a bestseller on Murphy’s down-home menu of shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage and other pub fare, is that it was inspired at a Neiman Marcus gala. It was Marion Murphy who discovered the $14-a-pound Irish white cheddar infused with Irish porter from Cahill’s Farm in County Limerick. Set atop thick, juicy beef patties, the beery slices, in striking mosaics of dark chestnut and pale gold, add just enough porter flavor at lunch that you won’t need to order a pint. 

2 Merchant St., 531-0422, $13.25


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Honolulu Magazine July 2019
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