Hawaii Cheese Dishes

Ooey, Gooey Cheese: It stretches, it bubbles, it tantalizes you with warm, salty flavors. You know you can’t deny yourself the melting goodness of cheese. We found the 18 most irresistible cheese dishes in town. Here’s where to indulge.

By Devany Vickery-Davidson, Lois Ann Ell, John Heckathorn, Tiffany Hill, Christine Hitt, Michael Keany, Kathryn Drury Wagner and Shannon Wianecki

Shokudo’s Mochi Cheese Gratin is as unusual as it is delicious.

Photo: Monte Costa




An ooey gooey cheese dish at a Japanese restaurant? While it’s a rarity, look no further than Shokudo for its mouthwatering Mochi Cheese Gratin ($7.45). Bite-size mochi cubes are enveloped in mozzarella—lightly browned in the oven—and bathed in a light soy dashi broth. The dish is topped with green onion and nori. “This is one of my favorites—enjoy,” said the server as he placed the dish before us. We couldn’t agree more: It’s hard to tell where the mozzarella begins and the mochi ends. Ala Moana Pacific Center, 1585 Kapiolani Blvd., 941-3701, shokudojapanese.com.




BLT Steak

The name says it all: beer-battered blue cheese-stuffed olives. These treats from the BLT Steak cocktail lounge are served warm and triple tangy. There’s the crunchy beer batter on the outside, the bite of big Spanish green olives, and the earthy undertones of the oozy, melted blue cheese. To top it all off, you can dip them in a spicy aioli. A generous portion is only $5 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily. Move over, fried mozzarella sticks, the world’s greatest cheesy bar snack has arrived. Inside the Trump International Hotel Waikiki, 223 Saratoga Road, 683-7440.



Rumfire has taken the basic quesadilla and upgraded it, local-style. Its seared kalua pulled-pork quesadilla ($12) begins with an improbable amount of kalua pork shoulder, smothered in a generous portion of pepper jack cheese, topped off with caramelized onions and jalapeños, and then toasted until it’s crusty on the outside and melty inside. Rumfire serves this with barbecue sauce, a fresh tomato salsa and fresh guacamole. If you’re sharing with others, we recommend getting the jump on your friends by skipping the first two toppings and just piling your slices with guac. The pork, warm pepper jack and creamy avocado combination makes for a heavenly mouthful. Inside the Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., 922-4422, rumfirewaikiki.com.



It’s in the appetizer portion of the menu, but Mariposa’s Blue Crab Grilled Cheese Stack ($12) is such a generous serving, you could make a light meal out of it. Big hunks of sweet crab marry well with the creamy, melted cheese, and a side dish of spinach-and-artichoke mustard, almost hummuslike in consistency, only adds to the sophistication. Should you feel bad enjoying such a rich, creamy dish, the petite pile of salad greens can assuage your guilt. Inside of Neiman Marcus, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., 951-3420, neimanmarcushawaii.com.


Formaggio’s French onion soup calls for cheese excavation.

Photo: Monte Consta



Formaggio Wine Bar

It was a wet, chilly night when we ducked into Formaggio, but we weren’t shivering for long—the classic French onion soup gratinée  ($7.99) we ordered arrived at the table looking like a little bubbling cauldron, literally covered with Gruyere cheese. This is wonderfully comforting stuff—one of the best onion soups we’ve tasted, and the rich broth keeps the cheese melty until the last bite. At our server’s suggestion, we paired the gratinée with a glass of 2007 Bodega Lurton pinot gris from Argentina, and, by the time we scraped the last of the cheese from the dish, we didn’t care if it rained all night. 2919 Kapiolani Blvd., 739-7719, formaggio808.com.





You can even eat Tutu’s Soup Hale Potato Boat for breakfast.

Photo: Kicka Witte


Sometimes a bowl of Cheerios just doesn’t cut it. Start your day off right with breakfast from Soul, which won a gold place 2011 Hale Aina Award for Best New Restaurant. The Steak & Eggs Three Cheese Frittata ($13) has all the essential elements of a hearty breakfast: braised short rib, Hamakua mushrooms, sautéed onions and bell peppers, all enveloped in fluffy eggs and generously topped with Havarti, mozzarella and Swiss cheeses. You’ll have a hard time going back to cereal afterward. Breakfast is only served on Saturdays at 9 a.m. 3040 Waialae Ave., 735-7685, pacificsoulhawaii.com.


Da Big Kahuna

Da Big Kahuna’s garlic cheese balls are so addicting they put other pizza joints’ breadsticks to shame. Balls of dough are baked in butter and garlic and topped with mozzarella, provolone, Cheddar, Romano and Parmesan cheeses. Order the regular size, which includes 12 warm, cheesy puffs ($5.95), because, once you bite into these salty creations, you’ll realize the six-piece menehune size ($3.45) will not be enough. Trust us. 550 Paiea St., 833-5588. bigkahunaspizzahawaii.com.


Buca di Beppo

With a twist of a fork, the cheese manicotti at Buca di Beppo oozes ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses from its large, tube-shaped pasta shells. The serving includes four cheese-filled manicotti placed on a bed of homemade marinara sauce, and the small size ($17.95) could easily feed two people. A big appetite is necessary, because after dipping each bite into the surrounding sauce, you’ll wish you could eat it all. Kids will love the gooey texture, while adults will love that it’s a hearty meal with enough to go around. 1030 Auahi St., 591-0800, bucadibeppo.com.



Vegetarians don’t usually get invited to a katsu party, but at Hukilau, they are welcome. The Portobello Katsu Mushroom Sandwich ($12) features a breaded, deep-fried Portobello mushroom, a slice of melted Brie cheese, roasted red peppers, grilled onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and a sweet and tangy sundried-tomato spread. The Brie’s abounding, earthy flavor pulls the entire dish together. This entrée is part of Hukilau’s lunchtime menu. 1088 Bishop St., LL13, 523-3460, dahukilau.com.


Big Island

The Beach Tree Restaurant and Bar

We sampled the Truffle Ricotta Flat Bread ($12), a crispy, free-formed flatbread topped with fresh Puna goat cheese ricotta in-fused with shavings of truffles, black pepper and parsley, then drizzled with truffle oil and topped with micro basil and oregano. Encouraged, we dove into a second offering, made with Wow Farms tomatoes, fresh Puna chèvre, bits of basil and shallots, and topped with micro greens. It tasted like summer. Both were awesome dishes to devour while chatting with a friend over sangria ($10) and the sound of the surf. At the Four Seasons Hualalai, 72-100 Kaupulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona,  (808) 325-8000.



There is ravioli, and then there is this ravioli, perfectly executed. Hawaii Island Goat Cheese Ravioli ($15 for an appetizer portion or $34 as a main course) is just one example of executive chef George Gomes’ talent for using local ingredients to make stellar dishes. The server brought us an exquisite Russian porcelain bowl and lifted the cloche to expose perfect morsels of ravioli swimming in a corn broth with local Pioppini mushrooms, chunks of Keahole lobster, fresh edamame, local Nakano Farms corn and housemade bacon from local pigs. The ravioli were plump and filled with Puna goat cheese and herbs. In a matter of minutes we managed to clean our plates, wishing for more even though we had an entrée coming. At the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, (808) 882-7222.



Tutu’s Soup Hale

The “Hale” in owners Bert and Sage Mccluskey’s restaurant name is fitting: Customers play checkers, browse the bookshelf or talk story on the couch while a comforting, vegetarian meal is crafted in the kitchen. The Potato Boat ($7.95) is a staple here: a whole baked potato, sliced in a bowl covered with melted cheese, topped with fresh, spicy salsa and a dollop of sour cream. The thick layer of steamy cheddar blankets the tender potato slices so generously that cheese ends up in every bite. Sound simple? It is, served up for breakfast or lunch. Kinipopo Shopping Village, 4-356 Kūhio Highway, (808) 639-6312, tutusouphale.com.


Flatbread Co.’s Pele Pesto + cold beer = perfection.

Photo: Ryan Siphers

The Tavern

If Roy Yamaguchi’s vision for his newest Kauai venture, The Tavern, was to combine comforting pub-style food with his culinary excellence, he achieved it. Consider the Onion Soup Gratin ($10). It’s a delicate broth with wisps of onions hidden beneath a slice of baguette and a lightly browned layer of mozzarella cheese, dusted with parsley from the restaurant’s garden. This is no soup du jour, either; it’s a regular on the starter menu. The Tavern didn’t reinvent this classic soup, it just perfected it. Princeville Golf Course, 5-3900 Kuhio Highway, Princeville, (808) 826-8700.



Flatbread Co.

Like woodland nymphs performing some ancient rite, the fire tenders at Flatbread shovel hot pies from the wood-burning oven. Certainly the Pele Pesto (12-inch, $13.50, or 16-inch, $19.75) is worthy of a Dionysian feast: Its thin, whole-wheat crust is heaped with organic basil and macadamia nut pesto, Roma tomatoes and Kalamata olives beneath melted daubs of mozzarella and Surfing Goat Dairy cheese. Both hedonistic and health-conscious, the indulgence feels justified—especially on Tuesdays, when the restaurant donates 10 percent of the evening’s sales to a local nonprofit. 89 Hana Highway, Paia, 579-8989, flatbreadcompany.com.


La Provence

La Provence couldn’t be more quaint, and that’s not counting  the jaw-dropping views from adjoining Kula Highway. The bakery’s vine-covered trellises and baskets overflowing with fruit tarts and croissants whet the appetite for a hearty French breakfast. On weekends, Benedicts and crêpes are served outside. The classic ham and cheese crêpe ($10.95) comes with a delightful roasted potato and salad greens dressed in aged balsamic. Between the crêpe’s plump folds, an addictive béchamel sauce smothers thick sliced ham and melted mozzarella. (Cash and check only.) 3158 Lower Kula Road, Kula, 878-1313, laprovencekula.com.


Shor’s mac and cheese comes in a tiny, cast-iron casserole dish. It’s technically a side for a chicken entreé, but you can order it solo.

Photo: Monte Costa

Mac & Cheese: The Ultimate Comfort Food

The mac and cheese at the new Shor restaurant in the Hyatt Waikiki comes in a cast-iron mini casserole dish. It’s got truffles, macaroni and a nice breadcrumb crust. But is it cheesy? How about nine cheeses? Yellow sharp cheddar, white extra-sharp cheddar, Muenster, Parmesan, Gruyere, Swiss, Pecorino, Gouda. Plus Velveeta. Really. “We didn’t want to do it,” says Jeff Szombaty, of the Hyatt kitchen, “but it just didn’t taste right without it.” It’s usually served as a side dish to an espalette-rubbed roasted chicken ($28), but you can order it by itself for $7.
Shor, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, 2424 Kalakaua Ave., 237-6145, shorgrill.com.

Chef Mark Ellman’s Adult Mac and Cheese ($14 lunch / $19 dinner) may not leap off the menu at Mala Ocean Tavern, laden as it is with more exotic delights. But one whiff of the oven-baked dish and we were sold. When the elegant platter arrived tableside, we could hardly wait for the bubbling layer of mozzarella, pecorino Romano and Maytag blue cheese to cool down enough to eat. (Perhaps patience is the adult ingredient?) The cheesy crust, delectably crisp on the edges, gave way to juicy alii mushrooms and macaroni aswim in rich sauce. In the shore break just steps away, similarly satisfied turtles munched on seaweed, their tails in the air. 1307 Front St, Lahaina, Maui (808) 667-9394, malaoceantavern.com.

Brown’s Beach House has a Truffled Mac and Cheese that tastes of decadence and luxury (it’s $9 as a side dish or $27 as an entrée, by request only). Even as you are pulling the fork out of the dish, you realize this is more than special, it is spectacular. Cheese oozes and stretches, the fragrance of truffles tickles your nose, a crunchy, fresh edamame is spied, a bit of a Hamakua mushroom peeks out of its cheesy cloak and there is a macaroni noodle in there somewhere. This is a dish that will call your name like a distant lover. Inside the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, 1 N. Kaniku Drive, Big Island. (808) 887-7368.