By Chef Mark "Gooch" Noguchi
Food brings people together; this I know. It's the guiding principle in why I cook, and besides cooking, the next greatest thing about cooking... is eating. I'm honored to be able to share six of my favorite spots to eat in Hawai`i. They're always my first choices, the spots that I take visiting chefs, family and friends. I hope you get to enjoy them as much as I do.
PALACE SAIMIN Ramen is trendy, Saimin is life; that's my mantra. Iv'e been coming here since small kid time, and to this day it's still one of only two places I go for saimin (the other is HOME Bar.) The Arakaki-Nakagawa `ohana run this shop now; and it hasn't changed one bit. Hot, humid, cramped, soda boxes stacked to the ceiling. This is one of the first stops I bring all my chef buddies when they ask... "So what's local food?"
HOME BAR & GRILL Quintessential local bar food, HOME is all 808. The flavors that these boys put out is just like the ambiance — loud, straight up, nuts, & unapologetic. It’s a local bar. If you’re new, or a visitor, you might get looks. It is what it is, local first. And that territorial attitude is something not born out of hatred, but geographical awareness. We protect what is ours. The food reflects that too...Big John and Neal never changed their style. They’ve kicked ass cooking for over a decade, and the loyalty of their fans show it. Go with some friends who’ve been there before. Get the Kalbi Fried Noodle, Tater Tot Nachos, Wafu Steak and legendary Negi Toro. And don’t forget the Chicken Gizzards & Fried Pork Chop.
MARK'S PLACE Mark Oyama and his wife have kept this Kaua`i standard running for almost 20 years. He's the Mayor of Kaua`i, knows eveyone, and cooks some of the best local food in the State. Simple, ono, and straight up 808. Photo provided by: Moon & Turtle
MOON & TURTLE (Hilo) Another husband and wife duo, Mark & Soni Pomaski run this tiny gem of an experience. Soni's sense of hospitality, aloha, and killer cocktail hands, coupled with Mark's connections with the local fisherman bring a divine experience to Hilo. A favorite spot of the Sig Zane `ohana, you'll find Kuhao Zane holding court here multiple times a week.
LAULIMA FOOD PATCH (Kona) Clean food —that's what Chef Bonita Lao does extremely well. She is an expert in simple, delicious execution (and surfs moonlit nights like no one's business.) One of my all-time favorite lunch spots. I can eat here every day. My favorite is her Happy Chick Bowl, extra pork belly, add egg.
Image by: Laulima Food Patch
TIN ROOF I don't really order at Tin Roof... ever. Even if I do order my favorite — the Mochiko Chicken Bowl — I never get just what I ordered. Chef Sheldon and his `ohana are masters of the "shishi naenae." Food so good it takes you to another time and place... then puts you to sleep. Their food is contemporary local, yet still grounded in heritage like only a born and bred brownie can. Always Hi, never Lo, Tin Roof is 96720 in the 96732 all the way.
Photo from: Tin Roof Maui