New: Lawson Station on Kapiolani
Left: roll cakes; right: Gyutto cheesecake
When you head inside Lawson Station, walk straight to the refrigerated section and look for dessert. What you want are these delicate roll cakes that the Japanese convenience store is most famous for. They come in chocolate and vanilla, plushy chiffons with a center of cream whipped light, and are best devoured cold. If you have room for more, get the Gyutto cheesecake, also in chocolate and vanilla, velvety and outfitted in a nutty graham cracker crust. La Palme D'Or this is not, but it's not too shabby for a convenience store.
The first Lawson Station opened in Osaka in 1975. Today, the popular franchise has over 10,000 locations in Japan. Three recently opened in Waikiki, and one on Kapiolani, just across the street from Ala Moana. Think ABC meets 7-Eleven Hawaii with a distinct Japanese twist.
Left: oden; right: fried chicken
Avoid the pre-made sushi, pass on the takoyaki and yakisoba stuffed into a soggy hotdog bun. The okonomiyaki is decent at best. Short story: avoid Lawson savory food from the refrigerated section. Go for food in the hot section near the register. That's where you'll find onigiri made throughout the day; I'm partial to spicy cod roe, though they also have ume, salmon and tuna. There are a number of fried food options…if they're out of something, ask if they'll fry a new batch for you. That's how I scored juicy arabiki sausages (made in Japan) and battered, well-seasoned chicken breast, both straight from the fryer. For a snack or complete lunch, keep your eyes on the oden, this is worth making a return trip for. They have 15 items including gobo maki (burdock stuffed into fried fishcake), hanpen, konnyaku and shirataki noodles. Craving Japanese curry rice? They have that, too. Flavors change often; I tried a tomato-spinach curry with whole plum tomatoes and a generous portion of spinach, all spooned over hot rice to order.
Take note, Lawson stocks items from local vendors. There's sweet tofu mousse from Aloha Tofu Factory, cranberry crisps from La Tour, cheesecake from Panya, and custards and melon pan by St. Germain. On the savory end are cold noodles from Sun Noodles and giant calzone-like creations by Aloha Bakehouse.
Whatever you eat, just make sure to leave with a roll cake or two.
Lawson Station, 1440 Kapiolani Blvd. and other locations. hawaiilawson.com