A Yelp 100 Checklist

I’ve got some work to do. This will be my working list. Strikethrough’s mean that I’ve eaten there. Four out of a hundred is not acceptable. I have some work that needs to be done when I visit New York City and San Francisco this summer. Those two cities alone will help to scratch out thirteen of these Yelp hot spots. Looks like visits back to Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles is in order? Chicago is only represented twice on the list. I’m a little surprised by that.

Without further adieu, here is Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the United States:

  1. Da Poke Shack, Kailua-Kona, HI
  2. Paseo, Seattle, WA
  3. Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue, Kansas City, KS
  4. The Cinnamon Snail, New York, NY
  5. Porto’s Bakery, Burbank, CA
  6. Dametra Cafe, Carmel by the Sea, CA
  7. Alinea, Chicago, IL
  8. Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX
  9. Gary Danko, San Francisco, CA
  10. Joe’s Falafel, Los Angeles, CA [Read more…]

California Wok

I first ate at California Wok about four years ago. For some reason, I didn’t return back to this little food establishment until maybe a month ago, and I’ve been back at least five times since then. I’m a bit addicted to the Chicken plates.

California Wok bills itself as being a healthy and low fat Chinese food alternative. This was incentive enough for me to try this place out once again since I love to eat Chinese food (luckily for my waist, I don’t eat typical Chinese food too often). My favorite dishes at California Wok include the Chicken and Broccoli and the Cha Cha Chicken. As you can see, I love my chicken! The Cha Cha Chicken is a mixture of Chicken, mushrooms and spinach. Both dishes are absolutely wonderful. If you order the Chicken with Broccoli, I would recommend ordering a full plate as the broccoli is pretty bulky and will take up most of the portion. On the other hand, the half-plate of Cha Cha chicken is pretty filling.

Entrée dishes can be ordered as either half or full plates. Half-plates cost about seven dollars, whereas full-plates are a little over nine dollars each. A little pricey considering you can get larger portions at your favorite (and traditional) Chinese restaurant for about 6 bucks. You pay the extra three bucks at California Wok for the “healthy” factor. All entrée plates come with a side of white or brown rice and a fortune cookie for good luck!    

If you’re in the during lunch time than I would highly recommend ordering from their lunch menu. At about $6 you get an entrée (about half-plate in size), salad, side order of rice and a drink. Pretty good deal, don’t you think?

According to the California Wok website, they use “fresh vegetables, low sodium soy sauce, 100% cholesterol-free canola oil and by preparing each dish to your dietary preference.” They had better be using healthy ingredients if I am going to pay that three-dollar premium! 

If you’re in the Ala Moana area and want a healthy alternative to Panda Express than I would recommend checking out California Wok. It is located near Assagio’s and is right next to the American Saving Bank Ala Moana Branch.

California Wok
1450 Ala Moana Blvd # 1251
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 947-1332

Tasty Crust

We didn’t plan on going to the Tasty Crust but because of some changes in the itinerary we found ourselves on Mill St. in Wailuku at this little old diner of yesteryear. And what a pleasant surprise this unexpected visit was. The first thing you think of when seeing the Tasty Crust is old school diner. And old school it is. From the tattered building to the worn out interior this place screams vintage.

 

I had a short stack of banana pancakes to supplement a traditional breakfast (2 large eggs and 5 pieces of linguesa) and a side order of hash. You get to choose form six different meat items (linguesa, bacon pork sausage, Spam, luncheon meat, Vienna sausage, or corned beef) when ordering the traditional breakfast. Having no idea what linguesa was, I decided to go for that as my meat. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked the waitress what linguesa was and she said that it is just Portuguese sausage. I didn’t feel too bad once she sad that most people ask what about the mysterious linguesa dish. The over-easy eggs were cooked to perfection, the hash was ono’ and according to Ryan was “buttery but so good!”

Mark had the veggie omelet stuffed with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and potatoes. He also had a side order of corned beef hash and a short stack of banana pancakes. Mark, being the pancake connoisseur of the group, proclaimed the banana pancakes at the Tasty Crust as the “best banana pancakes” he ever had. I’d have to agree with Mark, the pancakes were out of this world good. These aren’t just the basic pancakes topped with bananas, instead, they incorporate the bananas into the batter at the Tasty Crust leaving your with an ordinary looking pancake that packs a banana punch with each bite. 

The prices at the Tasty Crust were very reasonable, in other words, cheap! The traditional breakfast only cost $4.25 and the banana pancakes were $2.25 for a short stack. The omelets range from $5.35 to $6.75 and you can even make your own omelet starting from $4.85. If I ever go back I’m ordering a regular order of banana pancakes, no short stack for me!

The Tasty Crust is definitely a must visit if you’re searching for cheap eats in the Valley Isle. It makes for a great early morning stop if heading to Iao Needle (we were the first customers at 6:00 am). The food is cheap, the pancakes and linguesa are tasty and the service is very friendly. The Tasty Crust is definitely worth checking out!

Tasty Crust
1770 Mill St.
Wailuku, Maui
808-244-0845

The Cream Pot

The Crème Pot is a relatively new eatery that opened up its kitchen this past February. It’s clean, cute and frilly with lots of flowers, lace and pastel colored pattern thingies. Although the eats are heterosexual, the décor is definitively geared toward those with less testosterone and more estrogen.

Enough about the décor. The food at this cutesy little European styled restaurant at the Waikiki Monarch Hotel totally delivered. I indulged in a nice serving of Belgian waffles. The waffles came topped with a lovely butter topping, maple syrup and powdered sugar and fresh bananas. The waffles were out of this world good! The syrup and butter topping did not overpower the taste of the waffles. It’s not unusual for me to only eat half the plate when ordering pancakes or waffles but to my surprise I was able to gobble up the hearty serving of waffles in its entirety.

I’m usually an eggs and bacon kind of guy, so luckily, Michelle and I ordered some maple bacon and baked eggs with potatoes on the side. The eggs were incredibly good even though the side of bacon was disappointingly small. Michelle ordered a breakfast set that included an omelet served with rice and greens as well as a crepe with fresh bananas.

If you’re into breakfast then The Crème pot is a must visit. We ended up paying about $45 for a breakfast for two. The prices are on the high end, but as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. What you get is a great breakfast with quick, efficient and friendly service (not to mention lots of girly decor!). 

The Cream Pot
44 Niu St.
Hawaiian Monarch Hotel Waikiki
Honolulu, HI 96815 
(808) 429-0945

Mama’s Island Pizza

If you’re looking for quality pizza in Hawaii then skip all of the chains like Papa John’s, Dominos, Pizza Hut and even California Pizza Kitchen and instead opt for some great tasting, traditionally made pizza at Mama’s Island Pizza.

Mama’s Island Pizza has been serving the Kailua community since late 2005, and recently underwent management changes in early 2008. Even though there’s a new mama in town, the staff is still just as friendly and the pizza is the same cheesy and meaty goodness that customers have come to expect.

They offer seven types of Hawaii themed pizza’s, from the Kailua supreme with pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and sweet red onions to the Island Veggie Spectacular which is topped with a slew of top quality veggies. My favorite pizza has to be the Hey Brah Meat Delight, it is definitely the pizza for the meat lover in you. It comes with a colossal combination of Portuguese sausage, pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, and meatballs. Another favorite of mine at Mama’s are the Midwestern style chicken wings.

One of the best things about Mama’s other than the great tasting and high quality pizza is that they accept competitor’s coupons. If you bring in a coupon from Pizza Hut, Papa John’s or any other pizza company then they give you a discount on your pizza order! The discount ranges depending on the size of pizza you are ordering, from three to five dollars.

Be sure to make the trip to Mama’s Island Pizza the next time you’re in Kailua town, you’ll be greeted not only by friendly people but by the best pizza on the island.

Mama’s Island Pizza
108 Heikii Street, Suite 107 (Foodland Plaza)
Kailua, HI 96734

Nobu Waikiki

Noted Chef Nobu Matsuhisa recently opened his 15th restaurant at the Waikiki Parc Hotel this past year in Hawaii. I’ve been wanting to visit a Nobu’s for over a year now, ever since I researched eateries for the east coast trip that I took last year.

Having wrapped up teaching my first course at UH, Michelle thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the milestone with dinner at Nobu’s. Never one to turn down fine dining and fine company, I said yes.

After a little trouble locating the Waikiki Parc Hotel (It’s across the street of the Halekulani Resort) we finally found our way through the doors of this trendy new fine dining eatery. We had a 7:45 reservation and made it just in time. The restaurant was filled with a mixture of tourists and locals (okay, maybe more tourists than locals). The ambience was nice and the restaurant had a contemporary Japanese feel to it which is fitting since they do serve “new style Japanese.” Once we checked in with the concierge, we were immediately seated. We sat in the couples section, meaning, all tables within our proximity were for seating for 2. The tables were parked closely to each other, especially the tables for 2, but I guess this goes with the Japanese experience. In Japan, everyone and everything is shoulder to shoulder! We could clearly hear the conversations of the couple seated to the right and left of us. The food more than made up for this slight annoyance.

Less than 5 minutes after being seated we were greeted by our very friendly and knowledgeable waiter. We decided on some edamame as a starter along with some spicy tuna, California rolls and a platter of oysters. For my entrée, I had the organic chicken with anticucho and teriyaki sauce (I couldn’t decide on the anticucho or teriyaki so my waiter gave me both, score!). Michelle chose the tempura plate for her main entrée. Both of our entrées came with a hearty serving of miso soup, a bowl of rice (nice serving of rice but might not suffice those who are used to plate lunch portions) and tsukemono (vegetables such as daikon pickled Japanese style). Other vegetables that are traditionally pickled in the tsukemono style include umeboshi (ume plum), turnip, cucumber and cabbage. To supplement these wonderful delights, I ordered some Kirin Ichiban. I love Japanese beer!

Service was quick, our edamame arrived a few minutes after placing our order as did a surprise serving of greens with Matsuhisa dressing. Kitchen staff (and not our waiter) deliver the food, so you know that your food is served as soon as it is prepared. The edamame was served just the way I like it, slighted heated and with a dash of salt. Next came the miso soup and tsukemono. The miso soup was indeed tasty, and to my surprise was not flooded with green onions! I’m not the biggest pickled vegetable fan, but I did have a taste of the daikon, again, not the biggest fan. The oysters, oh the oysters. I love raw oysters, and these oysters were splendid.

Our appetizers shortly followed the miso soup and tsukemono. The California rolls were as good as any that I have tasted. Of course, it was far superior to Cal rolls served at Genki Sushi but on par with the cheaper Sushi Man (located on King Street). I didn’t get a chance to taste the spicy tuna (raw fish is not a favorite of mines) but Michelle did say that it was tasty.

We were both stuffed by the time our entrées came out, but like the good eaters that we both are, we trucked on! The tempura plate was quite a large portion. It was filled with a variety of tempura items, from the large pieces of shrimp tempura to the crunchy asparagus and the always interesting lotus root. Finishing off the tempura plate was a challenge, albeit a tasty one! The organic chicken with anticucho sauce was such a delight! I love my chicken and the chicken at Nobu’s did not disappoint. Again, the serving was plentiful. It was grilled to perfection. The jalapeno on the side was unnecessary for me.

No fine dining experience is complete without dessert. We sure did dessert! Rather than settling on one desert we haphazardly splurged on two delights, the milk chocolate “cremoso” (based on the waiters recommendation) and a pistachio desert whose name evades me at the moment. The milk chocolate cremoso came with a lilikoi curd and gelee, Nobu cabernet caviar and peanut butter powder. The cremoso did not disappoint. The finely grated peanut butter powder was amazing when combined with the cremoso. If heaven exists, then they must serve Nobu’s cremoso.

We left Nobu’s both satisfied with the service and stuffed with the food. The restaurant validates so parking is free if you park in the hotel lot. No valet service at the Waikiki Parc, but that’s no biggie.

If you’re interested in tasting great food in a nice ambience with good and fast service then definitely give Nobu’s a try. And don’t forget to ask for the cremoso when its time for desert.

Nobu Waikiki
2233 Helumoa Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
808-237-6999

Pee Wee Drive Inn

If you’ve lived in Hawaii and have frequented Honolulu then you more than likely have passed by Pee Wee Drive Inn during a drive down South King Street. I’ve lived in Hawaii all my life and have passed by Pee Wee’s more times than I could possibly remember. Surprisingly, I have never eaten at this famous old time Hawaii favorite.

Located at 1602 South King Street, Pee Wee Drive Inn has been serving locals since Nobuo Watanabe opened up the eatery in 1966. Although Watanabe has since passed away and there has been management changes (Watanabe sold the business in 1996), Pee Wee continues to serve the local style food that it has become known for.

Having never eaten at Pee Wee’s before, I decided to forgo the regular food flare freely available at other plate lunch hot spots. I indulged in a mini chicken adobo plate (US $5.50). I have had my share of chicken and pork adobo having grown up in a Filipino household, so I know how good adobo tastes. For the untrained, adobo is a filipino dish, of either pork or chicken, that “is slowly cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns, and often browned in the oven or pan-fried afterwards to get the desirable crisped edges.”

My chicken adobo plate was ready in less than five minutes, very fast indeed. It came with a scoop of rice and a side of corn (you get to choose a side of either corn, mac salad, or greens). I have to admit though, that the chicken adobo plate was a bit lackluster. Each bite I took made me long for my grandma’s authentic adobo dishes. The chicken adobo at Pee Wee’s tasted more like shoyu chicken with a small splash of vinegar. It was not “adobo” enough for my liking!

Next time maybe I will try the chicken katsu plate and see how it compares to L&L’s herelded katsu plate. I know for sure that I won’t be ordering the adobo plate again! All in all, the plate that I had was sub par, but the service was quick and efficient. The parking can be a mess if you go during rush hour lunch times, so I suggest you go during off hours if you just want to test the place out. The ambience is great, there are a few tables and chairs outside. It’s a rustic experience that’ll make you’ll feel as if you’re back in 1966.

Pee Wee Drive In
1602 South King Street
Telephone: 808.949.5781

Ninni Ku-Ya



Ninni Ku-Ya

Originally uploaded by iCoty


Lots of food dressed up in garlic. It’s an interesting restaurant on
Waialai that was converted from an old house. Ambiance was great but
food was just OK. Highlight had to be the crabcakes and the company!