"Ono" means "good" in Hawaiian, and "Hawaiian foods" translates to pork, fish, and poi. This hole-in-the-wall in Honolulu seats about 15, and serves up the city's finest in local grinds. Not all visitors like Hawaiian food because they say it lacks spice. But if the adventurous eater is going to try it, it might as well be at Ono's.
The menu doesn't explain what everything is, which can be frustrating for the hungry newbie. Luckily, the wait staff is friendly and used to explaining words like "poi" and "lau lau." The poi - pasty pudding made of taro root - is served with raw white onion slices and Hawaiian salt. I find poi bitter and hard to swallow, while many can down a pint in minutes. While locals may prefer to eat their onions with salt, I found them to be good for dipping. The pungent flavor matched with bitter poi makes it a yummy pupu, or appetizer.
Lau lau is fish or pork wrapped and steamed in luau leaves, the giant leaves of the taro plant. It comes piping hot, wrapped like a present on the plate. The pork in my lau lau needed salt, but the luau leaf was delicious. My cut of meat was also fatty for my liking, but many locals here claim that's the best part.
My lau lau was served with cold purple sweet potato, my favorite part. In taste and texture it was exactly like mainland Thanksgiving yams. These are served cold and plain, sliced thick and eaten with salt.
Kalua pig and chicken long rice are other favorites. Kalua pig is pulled pork barbecue served hot and saucy. Chicken long rice is not what first comes to mind, chicken and long-grain rice. It is actually chicken with vermicelli rice noodles in a dense broth made with green onions.
Most customers order combo plates that include poi, a heavier dish like pork lau lau or kalua pig, and haupia for dessert. Haupia is a creamy, coconut jello, a definite must-try for newcomers.
Ono Hawaiian Foods not only boasts "ono" foods, but "ono" hospitality and ambiance. Wait staff are quick to give suggestions, teach you how to properly eat certain dishes, and may even teach a Hawaiian word or two. It's easy to get sucked into staring at the wall photos while waiting a few quick minutes for your meal. Miss Hawaiis of years past, local legends, and world-known celebrities clad the walls, giving the local haunt a global feel.
It's also a kid-friendly place, but not for the picky eater. Prices are a bit on the high side, but everyone I've ever met to have gone there agrees they're worth it.
Located at 726 Kapahulu Avenue