This quirky, homespun restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue known as Ono Hawaiian Food (not to be confused with the U.S. mainland fast-food chain Ono Hawaiian BBQ) has been a local favorite and doling out completely authentic, traditional Hawaiian favorites since it opened nearly 40 years ago. Having been advised not to miss the opportunity to have a fantastic gastronomic experience by a born-and-raised Hawaiian, we ate in Ono’s for three times in the week we were in Oahu and were able to try out various dishes the place had to offer. Every time we were there, regardless of the time the day, there was a 10-15 minute line. Like most local eateries, Ono’s is small and reasonably priced (around $25-30 for a very satisfying meal for two). The dining area is rustic and simple. It only has about ten tables which helps explain the waiting line. The word Ono means “delicious,” and it’s the perfect way to describe the foods served here.
In this modest dining room you can sample such local delicacies as Lau Lau (slow roasted pork shoulder in taro leaves), Kalua pig (pork that is steamed and then shredded to thin slices), butterfish or squid luau, salt meat watercress, lomi salmon (fresh salmon salad with diced tomatoes and onions), poi (fermented taro plant served in soupy consistency and considered as staple), pipikalua (beef jerky), beef stew, tripe stew, and more. For value and the chance to try a few different things, we ordered one of the four combo plates, which included a nice mix of specialties. The food was just great. The lau lau was one of the most amazing things that I ever had and we kept coming back for the lau lau. It comes out steaming hot and covered in layers and layers of tender and delicious taro leaves. On top of this fattiness, it comes with 4 sides of your choosing (we chose lomi, poi, pipikalua and hawaiian white onions). If you are not so big on pork, there is always the squid lau to try, which is great itself and goes very well with steamed rice. The long-rice chicken and the beef stew with watercress were delicious too.
There’s nothing touristy about the menu here, although plenty of food-loving visitors in-the-know have made this local jewel their stop for years. And I, for sure, will be one of them in the future.