11 Hawai‘i General Stores You Must Visit
Hole-in-the-wall general stores dishing up their own eats— even if it’s just one ‘ono item—are a beloved part of Island life. Here are a few of Hawai‘i’s best.
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Open Since 2005
At Golden Mart, 78-year-old Uncle Eddie Miyatake cuts all the poke and sashimi for daughter/co-owner Julie Miyatake and her partner, Chilly Lee.
Photo: Olivier Koning
In our search for definitive hole-in-the-wall places, we try to be aware of our comfort zone and to stretch—which is how we end up craning our heads out of the window in Mililani at a sign that reads “Gold n Mart.” Here, it’s rumored, awaits a “most righteous creamy wasabi poke,” according to Chris McKinney, author of Mililani Mauka, the only work of literature produced by O‘ahu’s most Cheever-esque housing estate. The whole thing feels dubious, which, lovers of general-store cuisine would agree, is a very good sign.
Another good sign is the line of local folks who seem to be conspicuously avoiding the fast-food options of the mall across the street. The line moves fast, a third good sign: They know what they want, ordering their poke faves and grabbing barbecued meat sticks and fried chicken while bantering with the servers, who know many by name.
Our question: “What’s good?” draws a chorus of advice. Smoked Meat Friday, say the tattooed guys from the martial arts studio next door. Others point to the raw kimchee squid, smoked marlin and smoked ‘ahi, Golden Mart’s own special poke, and “Kilawen Shrimp”—the latter a fiery Filipino ceviche of large, raw, purple-gray shrimp in onions, ginger and scallions.
Photo: Steve Czerniak
“I always wanted our store to feel like an old-fashioned mom & pop,” emails Julie Miyatake when we get in touch. A letter carrier during the week, Miyatake and Chilly Lee, “my partner and better half,” opened Golden Mart 10 years ago. Her 78-year-old father, Eddie, is “our most revered asset—he’s been our poke and sashimi cutter all these years.”
Golden Mart only uses fresh fish, drawing online raves. Many single out the Big Island ‘opihi poke. “I believe the plump yellow Big Island ‘opihi are definitely the best there are!” says Miyatake. “We know how precious and difficult they are to retrieve.”
Time to test the creamy wasabi poke. It has a smooth and unctuous bite that, after a nice moment of uncertainty—you’re waiting for the nose-clearing hit—delivers only a brief jab-uppercut flurry of heat. Subtle! the reaction is followed by: More!
As of last July, a second location has opened at Waipahu Festival Market Place.
95-119 Kamehameha Highway, Mililani, 625-2442
Open Since 1898
Left photo: Steve Czerniak, Right photo: Angelica rabang
Under towering trees in the soulful stretch of road between Ka‘a‘awa and Kahalu‘u, the Waikane Store looks pretty much as it did in 1898 when Hyung Thom opened it. Sold in 1929 to the Tokuzato family, a pleasing lime green accented with orange-brown rust spots, the store has weathered the opening of supermarkets and Costco, says Nadine Tokuzato, who runs it with daughter-in-law Rachelle and son Alden. The secret? “We had to make, like, sushi and chicken to keep us going,” she says. “Bake our own cookies: Russian tea, almond, peanut, chocolate chip.”
The family also specializes in making friendships. The store is a touchstone, must-stop spot for neighbors, locals and a quiet stream of boldface names. If the “grandma-style” maki sushi has run out, Tokuzato or someone will make more—simple tuna, carrot, rice and sauce: “Doesn’t need shoyu, has all the flavor inside. Can take it to the beach, or picnic, or wedding.”
Like the cookie recipes and especially the fried chicken, the sushi seasoning is something Tokuzato has tweaked and perfected. The Russian tea cookie is “the crusty kind with almonds inside, covered in powdered sugar.” Sam Choy comes for the hot dog maki with hot Colman’s mustard. The Spam musubi is teriyaki style.
Waikane opens late by general-store standards—9:30 a.m., so no breakfasts—but Tokuzato has been up frying chicken since dawn. She soaks the cut-up pieces overnight in the modified Korean batter. People develop cravings for it.
One item that makes a lot of people happy: guitar and ‘ukulele strings. We ask Alden if musicians come by: “Oh, yes—Ozzie Kotani, the De Lima ‘ohana of the band Kapena, Andy Suzuki, Danny Gottlieb from Pat Metheny, Walter Keale, Makaha Sons, Gabe Baltazar, Don Gordon,” on and on.
We ask if the musicians ever set up and play in the store. “Every so often we will jam for laughs,” he says. “Gordon Freitas, Japanese jazz star Hironobu Saito …” As the list scrolls on, we realize the best thing on the menu at the Waikane Store may be the pleasure the Tokuzatos and their customers take in each other’s company.
48-377 Kamehameha Highway, Kāne‘ohe, 239-8522