What $10 Gets You: ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace in Kaka‘ako
It’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. Frolic’s balling on a budget series is back!
On a balmy day in the spring of 2020, the Frolic team converged at ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace. Our mission: Find tasty, filling lunches for $10 or less for what would have been part 3 of our What $10 Gets You series. And find them we did, lots of tasty deals, but it was March, so you know what happened next. COVID shut down our world for a while, and that post was never published.
Fast-forward 20 months, and on a balmy day last week the Frolic team converged for a second visit. The world has shifted in this time, so our pre-pandemic posts spotlighting $10 deals at Ala Moana Center and Downtown Honolulu are now largely outdated (think discontinued items, higher prices and at least one business that’s closed). At OHM, where small businesses rent kiosk space by the month, solid offerings at good prices have allowed several eateries to move out into brick-and-mortar spaces, making room for new enterprises. That means a whole different eating scene inside the old Sports Authority. With months to go before the site is redeveloped, we set out again with $10 in hand and found these tasty, filling deals.
SEE ALSO: The Story Behind the “Swap Meet With Upgrades” That Has Become a Destination for Local Entrepreneurs Looking to Set Up (a Small) Shop
Eric Baranda’s lunch
What: Roast pork plateWhere: Tess Kitchen Where’s that: Diamond Head wall, to the right of the stage Price: $9.99
Roast pork slathered with pepper gravy, accompanied by fresh greens topped with baby tomatoes and two scoops of mixed grain rice. Definitely comfort food, this plate lunch from Tess Kitchen is filling and you get your money’s worth. The generous amount of gravy can make it difficult to suss out the pork bits, but there’s enough meat and fat hidden away to satisfy. Cash is preferred, but they accept credit cards. The cashier had no idea if the business has plans to relocate anytime soon, which is true of many of these kiosks.
Gregg Hoshida’s lunch
What: Half-pound ham and turkey sandwich on a poi purple bun
Where: Sole Sammich
Where’s that: Diamond Head-makai corner
Your choice of ham, roast beef or turkey is sliced to order, and the resulting half-pound of meat is served with a mayonnaise-mustard spread and a choice of cheese on a pillowy poi bun. With a pickle spear and a bag of chips, this is a gut-busting wallet-saver for those trying to find maximum value for lunch. While the owners are taking their post-OHM future day by day, diners can find them slinging out their sandwiches with a howzit and a smile.
Lauren Kaneshiro’s lunch
Mari Taketa’s lunch
What: Bulgogi bombsWhere: Bibihana Where’s that: Mauka wall Price: Pack of 4 for $7.75
Hungry and with my fave poke stall closed on Tuesdays, I speed-walked the marketplace perimeter until these stopped me in my tracks. Meaty comfort food you could eat with one hand, and portion-controlled to boot, these bombs turned out to be stuffed with flavorful, thinly sliced bulgogi and rice seasoned with sesame oil and sesame seeds. I took home the leftovers and got this text from the kitchen: “Bulgogi 💣 are fantastic. Can I have another 💣?” Other dishes and sides at Bibihana show equal promise, like the chive pancake: In a dry skillet over a low flame, the pieces crisped up beautifully in a thin batter that let the greenery shine, with pickled onions and jalapenos in a soy-based dip.
Maria Burke’s lunch
What: Spam katsu musubisWhere: Nana Ai Katsu Where’s that: Mauka wall Price: $7 for two
I know what you might be thinking. Spam katsu musubi? Is this another saimin burger situation? Why mess with a classic? But with tender pieces of salty Spam lightly panko-battered, fried, perched atop beautifully cooked rice and tucked into a blanket of toasted nori, Nana Ai Katsu has created a superfood. Like in the mutant sense. The panko manages to keep its crispiness and gives the Spam dimension and texture like it’s never known. A drizzle of house katsu sauce and bam, you’ve just leveled up. For two of these babies for $7 I can afford to tip well and either eat both or barter with a friend. So the answer is you can and should mess with a classic because you can just possibly make it better—if you succeed.
SEE ALSO: What’s New in Honolulu: The 7-Layer Tonkatsu at ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace
Thomas Obungen’s lunch
What: Wonton with steamed rice noodleWhere: Bo’s Kitchen Where’s that: Mauka wall Price: $9.25
Bo’s silky pork and shrimp wontons are fortified by tightly coiled cheung fun noodles that get slathered in peanut sauce, hoisin and a dash of sesame seeds. It’s a simple lunch but relatively filling and so delicious for the price. It’s perfect when you want more than just wontons or you’re craving a little dim sum but don’t have the time or dough to go to Chinatown.
Thomas Obungen’s second lunch
What: New Zealand-style hand pieWhere: Mam’s Bread & Butter Where’s that: Facing the Diamond Head wall, to the left of the stage Price: $8
A buttery crust tightly hugs comforting fillings like minced beef with aged white cheddar, savory bacon and eggs or herbed chicken and mushrooms. Savory hand pies are a ubiquitous lunch option in New Zealand and Australia and fit a tight budget, with enough left for a canned drink.
SEE ALSO: New Zealand-Style Meat Pies in Kaka‘ako Are the Buttery Hug Your Soul Needs
Thomas Obungen’s third lunch
What: Single smash burger (plain smash burger or Oklahoma fried onion burger)Where: Smashed Hawai‘i Where’s that: Diamond Head-makai corner Price: $8 to $9
Sweet caramelized onions and savory beef are married on a soft potato bun. The visceral bite of crispy beef and melting onions with a lick of Smashed’s tangy sauce will have you smiling in burger bliss.
SEE ALSO: Smashed Hawai‘i Is the Newest Smash Burger to Hit Honolulu
Katie Kenny’s lunch
What: Original waffle dog and a cookies and cream milkshake
Where: KC Waffle Dog
Where’s that: Booth 007 along ‘Ono Avenue (Mauka wall)
Price: $4.25 waffle dog, $5.25 milkshake
Close your eyes and picture this: An old school savory hot dog that’s pressed between lightly crisp waffle batter and washed down with a thick and sweet blended cookies and cream shake. Is your mouthwatering while your mind takes you back to a time you’d go out for tasty treats after school? It’s not fancy, it’s not a symphony of flavors and it’s not a meal that will hit all of the food groups. What it is, though, is 100% worth the price and a delicious on the go combo. Not keen on a shake like I (always) am? Then the simple waffle hot dog combo with chips and a regular drink on the side ($5.75) is the way to go. And if your tummy is grumbling for more than a simple $10 combo you can get on the baller ride with the lobster topped waffle dog combo meal which comes with chips and a regular drink ($15).
333 Ward Ave., ohmhawaii.com, @ohmhawaii