Oahu was my home growing up. At 48 I've now lived longer in Minnesota than I did being born and raised in Hawaii.
I spent much of my childhood on the beaches on the North Shore of Oahu. Mostly right at my grandma's backyard near Sunset Beach. As you can see I really worked on my beach bod back in my toddler days.
We get back about once a year to see my family, reconnect with the spirit of aloha and eat our faces off.
There are 5 places you MUST eat at on the North Shore of Oahu. If you go to Oahu and don't enjoy at least one of these places, don't talk to me. Tony and I go back and forth on our favorites, but I would say these are the five we would say you must try.
1. Matsumoto's Shave Ice in Haleiwa
Matsumoto's has been serving delicious shave ice since 1951. When I went there as a kid it was a grocery store that looked more like a shack. A true hole in the wall. Today, it is a tourist attraction in the beach town of Haleiwa on the North Shore. Their store is much bigger and the lines are way longer, but it is worth the stop.
My favorite is any mix of flavors with sweetened condensed milk on top. You can't go wrong. They serve over 1000 shave ice each day on average.
The store has fun souvenirs as well, and other local treats. But, the star is the shave ice.
Tip: If the tour buses are out front, walk around Haleiwa for awhile enjoying the town, then go back when the lines are shorter. Know that there will be lines almost no matter when.
2. Foodland's Poke
Foodland is a grocery store chain in Hawaii. On the North Shore of Oahu the Foodland is across the street from Shark's Cove, our favorite spot to snorkel on Oahu. Foodlnd has better poke in their deli case than ANY restaurant I've been to anywhere!
They have a variety of poke. Our favorite is the spicy tuna poke. You can also order it with a side of rice. Perfect to take the the beach. Decent prices as well. It's amazing that some of the best poke in Hawaii is sold in the deli case at the grocery store the way you would find sliced turkey on the mainland.
We eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner when in Hawaii. Here I had spicy tuna poke with some avocado, Portuguese sausage and scrambled eggs. The breakfast of Hawaiian champions! Only thing missing is poi.
Tip: Get the smaller container and try two or three different types of poke. They will also let you sample it.
4. Waiahole Poi Factory
You will notice all of my recommendations for where to eat on Oahu are on the North Shore. Don't bother with Waikiki and chain restaurants. Waiahole Poi Factory is one of those honest to goodness local restaurants. It was once a poi factory, then an art gallery. In 2009 they went back to their roots and became a poi pounding restaurant. It's more like a stand.
The food is authentically local. Their motto is "Hanai ike ai hanai ike aloha", which means "To nourish with food, to nourish with love." in Hawaiian. We love to get the Lau Lau plate with Kalua Pork and of course poi. Don't pass up the haupia, which is a dessert like coconut custard.
You probably won't know what most of the menu items are. Try them all if you can. It is truly Hawaiian food the way it was meant to be made.
Tip: Call in your order ahead of time and pick it up. Skipping the lines and waiting.
5. The Spot Food Truck - Acai Bowl
The Spot is one of several food trucks across the street from Foodland and Shark's Cove on the North Shore of Oahu. They have regular food but all I can focus on there is their Acai bowls, which are amazing!
There are a couple of other great spots for açaí bowls on the North Shore, but The Spot is one of my favorites. They pile it on so don't think you won't get enough to eat. It is truly a meal unto itself. This is not "dessert", at least not to me.
Tip: Be patient. Service is often slow at the food trucks. Enjoy being on island time.
We also like to go to the Turtle Bay Resort for dinner beachside at Roy's Beach House. It's a beautiful spot for a sunset dinner. Sadly our last two times there it just wasn't that great. Not for what they charge. Try them for happy hour. The location is great. After our last two experiences we wouldn't blow a ton of cash on dinner there. Hopefully things will change. It use to be better.
Tony and I both agree on is that the hole-in-the-wall spots and food trucks are the way to go on the North Shore of Oahu.