Aloha! Delicious food in the Hawaiian Islands (but not Spam)

I’ve been absent from this blog for much too long. Maybe you missed me, maybe you didn’t. Part of the reason for my absence is that I went with a friend to several of the Hawaiian Islands. Crazy! I’ll skip the details, about the how, and just tell you that it was a very last minute trip.

We were intent upon keeping this trip as cheap as possible. She had already cashed in points to cover hotels and cars, so we basically had to worry about food and fun. Based on the bit of research I did before we left, I wasn’t confident that we would easily find vegetarian (her) and vegan (me) food, but we did! I’ll spend this blog entry on the food, the next on the trails, and a third on random other fun stuff.

We started on Oahu, where I was able to visit with some friends who used to attend our church. We hit up a great little vegan place for dinner called Peace Cafe. It was their first time at a vegan restaurant, and they seemed a bit apprehensive. Everything was fantastic! I got the Heart and Seoul, which was a spicy Korean inspired dish. I got the TVP rather than tofu since I have never seen it on a menu anywhere. The bulk of it was pretty good, but the spicy mound in the middle was DELICIOUS.

Mmmmm....spicy!

The next day we were targeting a very late lunch/early dinner (linner?). We decided to check out a place that had a line that wrapped around the block for lunch. We read great reviews in Lonely Planet, so we decided to give Marukame Udon a whirl. It was good, but not spectacular. It filled us up after a long day of running, but it wasn’t particularly tasty, nor did it have much protein in it.

IMG_20140428_213439The next day we were famished on our way back to our hotel from our run and had no idea what we would do for lunch. A downpour came out of nowhere and chased us into a little cafe that we would have otherwise missed. It would have been a shame. It was amazing! I would definitely hit up Tucker & Bevvy again when I visit Oahu again. I friggin love kale, and it was everywhere there! I enjoyed the kale and butternut squash wrap with red pepper-cashew hummus. It was deliciously sweet and spicy, with all of the yumminess and crunchiness of kale. Yum!

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Just before we flew out of Oahu, we ran to Leonard’s for their “famous” malasadas. Malasadas are a big thing on the islands, and I guess I get it. They kind of remind me of a cross between a donut and a funnel cake. Some of them have filling, but we got the plain ones. They are a Portuguese fried ball of dough, basically. This place is known for them, so we had to try them. On a whim my friend bought a single donut hole. She ate it and insisted I buy one as well. We both agreed they were the best donut holes (and hence, donuts) we had ever, ever had. They were out of this world, and I don’t even care for donuts.

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From Oahu we flew to the big island of Hawaii. We stayed the first two nights in the tiny town of Volcano outside of Volcanoes National Park. There were very little there in the way of food, so we visited the same places twice. We had a delicious dinner at Thai Thai – obviously a Thai restaurant. For some reason I didn’t take pictures, but I guess that’s because all Thai food looks pretty similar. We shared an amazingly delicious papaya salad. For dinner, I had the Panang curry (mild) which was dynamite. My friend got the green curry, but ordered it medium. It was not kind to her. I guess medium has a totally different meaning in Thai cuisine. We revisited this restaurant the following night for drinks. We each ordered a Flaming Thai Thai: a coffee with a shot of rum and a shot of Kahlua, lit on fire. The problem was that they poured a bit of the rum into the saucer and lit that on fire too. I couldn’t blow mine out! A waiter had to come with a wet towel to extinguish it.

The next two mornings/afternoons we hit up Cafe Ohia. We got veggie sandwiches on scrumptious cranberry macadamia nut bread. The bread was fan-freaking-tastic. Beyond that, though, we got the best coffee of our entire trip there. It was rich and chocolatey. Yum, yum. They also had a bean salad that was so delicious I ordered it twice! It was a very cheap place to get food, as their portions are huge. Sandwiches are $8.50, but are honestly enough for two meals. The bread slices are about the size of my head!

On our way from Volcano to Waikoloa, we stopped at all sorts of little places. We stopped at a coffee plantation and ended up buying macadamia nuts (though not the Spam flavored ones).

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We hit up Donkey Balls, which covers macadamia nuts in all sorts of things and then gives me silly names and packaging. I bought some vegan ones that never made it home.

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We also stopped at, Punalu’u, a wonderful little bakery with the distinction of being the southernmost bakery in the USA. (Everything on Hawaii is the southermost or westernmost something in the USA.) We got veggie sandwiches (again) and dessert. I got a yummy bread pudding.

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From Volcano we went to the northwestern coast of the island. The hotel was amazingly gorgeous, but sadly the food in the area wasn’t worth writing about. We did, however, take a trip to Waimea to a horse ranch, and stopped at Big Island Brewhaus on the way back. It’s a nano-brewery with extremely limited distribution from what I gathered. Their beers, were decent, with a very, very good IPA. Oddly enough, they served Mexican food. It was truly fabulous. It’s hard to get good Mexican food – stuff that isn’t just blanketed in cheese – but this was fresh and delicious. We got a quart of beer to go. Yes, you read that right; you can buy it by the quart. They will fill growlers like most bars, but they also fill mason jars! It was perfect for the two of us.

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We then flew to Kaua’i, and knew we were in paradise. You couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a place that served vegetarian and/or vegan food. Kaua’i was full of hippies, surfers, Hindus and Buddhists, as well as some vacationers. This mix of folks has bred a wonderful array of food. The first place we hit up was Gopal’s Creperie. I don’t have any pictures, which is a travesty. That place is AMAZING. Ah-mazing. Seriously. Her crepes are all gluten free, and many of the crepes are vegan. The ones that aren’t can be easily modified. She also serves up coconut based (vegan) ice cream. Each crepe was $7, and was plenty of food. We got a savory one (sundried tomato spread with basil pesto) and a sweet one (macadamia nut butter with bananas and honey) and split them. Simply divine.

(Gosh we ate a lot of good food. I need to wrap this up. Let me quicken the pace.)

I hit up a raw vegan place called Rainbow Living Foods. I got the “pizza”. It was good, but it really shouldn’t be called pizza. There was nothing pizza-ish about it. It should have been called “sprouted buckwheat flatbread with cashew sauce and fresh arugula.” It was a bit pricey, and didn’t fill me up, but it was tasty.

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Our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott Coconut Bay, whipped up some delicious salads for us that used edamame sprouts, arugula, avocado, red onions, and some other yumminess. They were very kind to work with us to find a meal that would suit our requirements. The salad they created was so stupendous that we went back for it a second time. (In hindsight this was a mistake, as we discovered that there were so many other good places to eat.)

In search of a great Mai Tai (after having the sickeningly sweet ones at the resort), we ended up at The Feral Pig. They claimed to have the best ones, and had veggie burgers on the menu, so we were sold. We arrived and ordered our Mai Tai’s, only to find that they no longer had veggie burgers available. We were famished after a long day of hiking, so we ordered a basket of fries to tide us over. The Mai Tai’s were amazing, though really strong. We needed food!

 

We headed upstairs to Kalapaki Joe’s, and got really great veggie burgers. Mine had sauteed jalapenos and onions on it. YUM!

IMG_20140428_214125Our final meal was taro burgers from Java Kai. They were so tasty and unique. They served them with house made BBQ sauce that was incredibly flavorful. I wish I had taken a picture, but we were eating whilst packing, and I didn’t have time. We had breakfast at Java Kai the day before. Mine was just okay, but my friend raved about hers. (They didn’t have any great vegan options for breakfast, so I was stuck with something pretty plain.)

So the short story is this: vegetarian and vegan food is plentiful on the Hawaiian Islands. There are plenty of Thai restaurants, which are almost always a safe bet. There are lots of fun little cafes and off-the-beaten-path type of places, and those are the way to go. Definitely check out Happy Cow, since Trip Advisor and Yelp didn’t always give us the best information.

Traveling in Hawaii can be expensive, so we packed tons of food. We brought microwaveable oatmeal packets, granola bars, trail mix, dried fruit, granola cereal, instant coffee (Via), coconut oil, almond butter, and some other stuff. We tried to limit eating out to one meal per day, and maybe a snack or some coffee. By doing that, we were able to get some really great food without breaking the bank.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will focus on the beautiful, crazy trails we explored. Thank goodness for the trails, or we would have gained serious weight with all of this yummy food.

 

 

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