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Decisions, decisions: A selection of fryer-fresh malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. Credit: _e.t.

By Amy Drew Thompson

Sure, you can sample pork and poi at whichever of the Honolulu hotels you choose as your base in Oahu exploration. Maybe you’ll even spring for some of the city’s best fine dining at the five-star Halekulani‘s upscale Orchids, Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider A Westin Resort and Spa, or while absorbing the Pacific panoramas at the Kahala Hotel & Resort. But if you want to eat like a real Hawaiian, press your palate past pineapple and macadamias and try some of the more adventurous fare – everything is delicious. Or as the locals say, “Ono!”

Nothing says kama`aina – or native – like the malasadas and pao doce (Portuguese doughnuts and sweet bread) at Leonard’s Bakery, where they’ve been serving them since 1952. Their malasadas began as a pre-Lent tradition of Shrove Tuesday, and became the sweet, deep-fried orbs enjoyed year-round. Can’t decide between plain sugar, cinnamon-sugar or “puffs” filled with custard, fruit or coconut haupia? Then bring a box (or two) back to your digs on the beach.

Founded in 1966 and with more than 20 locations across the state, Zippy’s is Hawaii’s answer to the diner, and a veritable institution. The menu runs the gamut and you’ll find mainland staples but two of their classics – oxtail soup served over rice, and saimin, a traditional Hawaiian noodle soup – are among the favorites. Additionally, Zippy’s moves more than 110 tons of its original recipe chili every month. That statistic alone surely merits a taste.

Cooling off like an islander means grabbing a shave ice, and many locals place Waiola Shave Ice in Honolulu’s top tier. Tucked into the small Kapahulu neighborhood, just minutes from Waikiki, Waiola is where to try this smooth, delicately shaved ice (which originated in Japan) with all manner of mix-ins, from ice cream to azuki beans. My advice? You’re on vacation. Get both.

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Freelance travel writer and former PLAYGIRL editor Amy Drew Thompson is grateful that words and photos are zero-calorie. Consume her compendium at

Tagged: Hawaii

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