Online food nexus and network Eater.com has some good travel-to-eat guides—Paris and Lisbon for example. For the first time it highlights a U.S. state, and it happens to be Hawai‘i. Particularly good is Lavonne Leongʻs meditation on Zippyʻs. She encapsulates what makes Zippyʻs Zippyʻs in one sentence: “Locals, especially ex-pats, walk into a Zippy’s and exhale, because they’re finally in a place where Hawai‘i isn’t performing — it’s simply being itself.”
Eater editorial gets kudos for doing Hawaiian diacriticals and really making an effort to be on the inside looking out, rather then vice versa, which is normally the case.
I covered the history of Hawaiian and local food in Hawai‘i—what, no irate comments yet?! I did get a text from a friend questioning me about one aspect of the story (squid lū‘au to be exact).
Then the lists and reviews are always so subjective. I anticipated an avalanche of irate comments on the “38 Essential Hawai‘i Restaurants” and “Hawai‘iʻs 9 Best Poke Spots.” But no. Just one comment on how someone ate at Hamuraʻs. I even dispute something—the “There’s no better Japanese food outside of Japan” tagline. I think thereʻs better Japanese food in New York City, and has been for more then 25 years. Honolulu is just beginning to catch up. I think thatʻs a story—why hasnʻt Honolulu had the best Japanese food outside of Japan?
But itʻs all relative, according to our travels, food exposure and taste predilections. On the whole, I was honored to be a part of this project (thanks to consulting editor Martha Cheng for throwing my name in the ring) and learned a lot as a result. I was lucky to be able to introduce visiting Eater editors and writers Meghan McCarron, Bill Addison and Matt Buchanan to Youngʻs Fish Market for their first taste of laulau. Their curiosity and excitement about a place that is like food wallpaper to me was inspiring—and they were already so well informed, it was clear they had done hella research before even landing in Honolulu. Their food knowledge and savvy are incredible, allowing them to contextualize and synthesize new flavors, customs, techniques, and histories quickly.
So explore the guide—even if you think you know everything about eating in the islands, you might be surprised to find yourself learning something. And if you donʻt, itʻs always fun to go through lists and see what you agree with and what makes you shake your head.