Early tasters at Eat the Street

The food truck phenomenon has rolled into many cities and towns across the country, but who knew it could reach all the way to the Hawaiian islands? I mean, there’s no way for trucks to make it across the Pacific.

But food trucks have arrived in the 50th state, which puts a local flavor to “ono kine grindz” (local slang for “tasty kind of eats”) served up in colorful food trucks. And similar to the Off the Grid food truck gathering in San Francisco, Honolulu hosts its own monthly food truck event called “Eat the Street.”

I’m vacationing in Hawaii this week, and my trip luckily coincided with the monthly “Eat the Street,” which falls on the last Friday of the month.

Extreme Tacos truck (left) and plate lunches with guava-themed foods

Last night, I went to a parking lot in the Kaka’ako business district of Honolulu to check out Hawaii’s food trucks. There are more trucks at this event than Off the Grid, almost like a mini Eat Real Festival. Starting with this month’s event, all the food trucks were asked to offer at least one item that includes a local ingredient.

There were your typical taco and burger food trucks, but one trend I noticed at Eat the Street was the number of food vendors selling versions of the island’s famous plate lunch. This is traditionally a plate with an entrée served with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. (These days most people try to be healthy so they serve just one scoop of rice and green salad.) Problem is, when you buy one of these plate lunches, you really can’t try any of the other food trucks.

Osaka Jo taco made with pulled pork and served with bean sprouts and furikake

I started off with an Osaka Jo Japanese taco ($6.50) from the Shogunai Taco truck. This was a huge soft taco (although the taco wrap was slightly toasted, which I appreciated) that was filled with pulled pork marinated in soy sauce and served with bean sprouts and furikake. The pork was almost like pork belly because the chunks were so fatty, adding a lot of flavor.

That almost put me down for the night, but as I walked around and took more pictures, I was able to work up the appetite to try the local favorite, the KC Waffle Dog ($3), which is made by the popular KC Drive-Inn (the local restaurant actually closed but the famous waffle dog lives on).

There were a lot of other popular items, as demonstrated by the long lines, but many of them were deep-fried like fried won ton (promoted as “poppers”), fried shrimp, and French fries, natch.

Thankfully (on a very hot Friday), there were a lot of ice cream and shaved ice trucks, and one truck called Ono Pops that seemed really popular as I saw many people eating its hand-made popsicles. There were some really wild flavors like guava chiffon, watermelon hibiscus, carmel shoyu, and ume thai basil.

The event runs from 4 to 9 p.m., which makes it a fun Friday night event for the locals, and after running around all day in the hot sun, it was nice to stroll around in the cooling Hawaiian evening to spot some ono eats.

The Tiki Truck (left) sells specialized gyros and this guy (right) was selling guava-smoked pork pizza slices

The KC Waffle Dog was a thin waffle shell that was crispy on the edges and filled with your typical hot dog

This truck was selling "chimney cakes" (a Hungarian specialty) that is huge and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar

I love being able to see the beautiful sky while noshing

The Shogunai Taco truck

All Kine ice cream truck had the most unusual paint color on its truck

Ono Pops stand (I got the papaya lime vanilla popsicle)

Paul's Poppers sell won ton filled with spinach and cheese. In San Francisco, poppers are something else.

Elena's is a longtime restaurant selling Filipino food

A fun way to spend a Friday night

9 Responses to Ono Food on the Streets of Hawaii

  1. foodhoe says:

    great timing, how cool is that? I also saw that there was the Hawaiian food and wine festival the past few days, did you make it to that too? The waffle dog sounds like fun!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Yeah, I saw that on the local news but all the events conflicted with family plans. Would have been fun to check out but different when your vacation spot involves lots of family.

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    The waffle dog looks pretty outrageous! And lucky you to be vacationing in Hawaii. Have a great time. 😉

    • Ben Ben says:

      Thanks Carolyn! There actually was another stand selling a competing waffle dog, just called Hawaiian Waffle Dog, and it actually looked more like a waffle than the KC version. In a way, the KC version felt like a corn dog.

  3. Janet says:

    You must be too young! I remember going to Grace’s Lunchwagon when I was at UHManoa. There’s lots of lunchwagons around Queen’s and by the courts area. We call is lunchwagon; mainland call it food trucks..same thing.

    Did you drive to Kahuku to have the shrimp plates….ono.

    • Ben Ben says:

      Yeah, I never ate at the lunchwagons growing up. I think cuz they were mostly at Sandy Beach. Didn’t have to drive to Kahuku for the shrimp plates because they were at Eat the Street, but fried!!!

  4. agent713 says:

    Neato! I’m glad to see the food truck craze has “rolled” into Hawaii 🙂 That popsicle looks especially good right now.

  5. Hawaii has always had lunchwagons and I’ve eaten from a few of them in my younger days. Nice to see they’re going upscale a bit and offering different types of foods than just “local plate lunch”. I agree that one plate will put you down for the rest of the night. These types of events should make the trucks downsize their menus and portion sizes, kinda like the Honolulu Festival at Skygate used to do.

    Ono Pops are the bomb! They’re always coming up with inventive flavors.