Heeia Pier General Store and Deli, a year later

Saimin and pan-seared uku

In a recent article about Taste, the pop-up venue in Kakaako, I wrote about Mark Noguchi, one of its partners. It’s been almost a year since he left Heeia Pier General Store and Deli, which reminded me that it had been just as long since I’ve eaten there. Curious to see how the menu has changed, I made the trip up. During lunch hour on a weekday, the place was packed, a mix of tourists disembarking from boat tours and Hawaii residents, both first-timers to The Pier and regulars, including an “Uncle Boogie.” Russ Inouye, who still owns the restaurant and store, had hoped a change in direction would bring back locals; it looks like—at least on the day that I went—he got his wish.

The menu has expanded to include breakfast (pancakes, a fish and eggs plate), and the lunch menu now features more local favorites—saimin, teri chicken, chicken cutlet, misoyaki beef. Holdovers from the old menu remain—beef stew, luau stew, guava chicken, Kuahiwi Ranch burgers. Ultimately, the differences are subtle: portions are larger, mac salad spills out of the Styrofoam clamshells instead of kalo salad presented on compostable plates, and whereas before Noguchi championed a locally-sourced menu, from the ahupuaa, even, now Kuahiwi Ranch’s hamburger beef is the only reference to a locally-grown ingredient. That and the catch of the day. Uku and nairagi were offered when I went—pan seared and topped with a marinated tomato salad, exactly what I wanted to eat at this waterside setting; it feels a little like Nico’s of the Windward side (at least takeout-counter Nico’s, not the sleek, massive restaurant it is now).

The hamburger, an old-fashioned patty on a squishy, soft Kaneohe Bakery bun, is not my style—I prefer an all-beef burger as opposed to a meatloaf style with filler, but it’s got a terrific char and taste. Saimin is standard, but good, though none of the advertised pork broth flavor comes through.

Ultimately, while it lacks the creative spark and uniqueness that used to compel me to drive from Honolulu just to eat here, it’s a good little spot befitting its location and atmosphere, a place that still serves Green River to go with your beef stew and mac salad, or fresh fish with salad, if you so desire.

Heeia Pier General Store and Deli, 46-499 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, 235-2192, facebook.com/heeiapier