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Tip: This little town on Maui’s north shore was once best known for being the last stop on the road to Hana.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Along with beautiful sunny shores and palm trees swaying in the wind, a luau seems to be the quintessential depiction of what a Hawaiian vacation entails. In addition to the frenetic movements and gyrations of the polynesian dancers, what is often showcased at such an event is the food. Thanks to travel shows and the internet, dishes like kalua pig and poi are becoming almost as ubiquitous as coconuts and mai tais. In fact, island cuisine is worthy of being a visitor attraction in and of itself.
However, if you (or more precisely your stomach) don’t want to sit through a dinner show to enjoy some authentic Hawaiian cuisine, do yourself a favor – make it a point to discover Helena’s Hawaiian Foods. Located just outside downtown Honolulu, this quaint little eatery has been serving up local favorites since 1946, and judging by its popularity they will be pleasing local palates for many years to come.
The first thing you might notice when you arrive is there will invariably be a line of hungry patrons waiting outside. Don’t let this deter you. The wait isn’t horribly long and once you are seated and have ordered, the food arrives promptly. You have an option to order your food a la carte or choose from menu combos.
One item you must try is the pipikaula ribs. Seasoned, marinated and smoked to succulent perfection, these bone-in short ribs have a nice crispy texture on the outside but are bursting with flavorful juices on the inside. Don’t fret about the lack of a knife amongst your cutlery. In true local fashion you’ll find yourself simply using your fingers to devour these flavorful morsels. And don’t be ashamed to get every bit of meat off the bone – you’ll see many of your fellow diners doing the very same thing!
Another Hawaiian food staple is the lau lau. What awaits you within this green wrapped wonder are ample pieces of pork – salted and steamed with taro leaves. The pork is cooked until it is soft, tender and almost melts when you dive in with your fork. Definitely not for those on a diet, the drippings and fat from the pork create the perfect environment for the steaming process. The resulting indulgence goes extremely well with a serving of white rice to help balance out the saltiness of the meat.
There’s kalua pig, and there’s Helena’s kalua pig. Tender shredded pork with hints of smoky flavor that can only come with cooking in a traditional imu, your tastebuds will revel in every mouthwatering bite. You’ll find every morsel to be equally as delicious as the next – which will leave you with a dilemma when you find yourself wanting more (and you will) when you finish your bowl.
Poi is arguably the most well known Hawaiian dish of all time – and the most divisive. Perhaps best left to the more adventurous foodie, this taro dish inspires strong opinions on either side of the spectrum. Many people love it and swear by it. Others, not so much. But you won’t know in which camp you belong until you try some, right?
Stripped of any unnecessary embellishment, Helena’s offers simple, honest and delicious fare that exemplifies the true spirit of Hawaiian food.
Good for Kids: Yes
Accepts Credit Cards: No
Parking: Street, Private Lot
Good for Groups: Yes
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
1240 North School Street,
Honolulu, Hawaii 96734
Hours: Tue-Fri 10 am – 7:30 pm