Filipino Express Restaurant (aka Kambingan)
Westgate Center, 94-366 Pupupani St., Waipahu, HI 96797
This is my favorite because Filipino Express or Kambingan, compared with other restaurants, offers a wider range of choices of meat, vegetable, seafood and good old Ilokano cuisine like pinakbet (mixed vegetables boiled or sautéed), sinigang (sour soup), igado (braised pork with innards), salads made of katuray (corkwood tree flower), camote(sweet potato) tops, sayote (chayote) tops, etc., complete with homemade bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) with small onions and tomatoes. They also have pinapaitan (meat usually beef mixed with bile, which gives it that "bitter" taste), dinakdakan (meat from pig's head) mixed with brain and well-cooked, flavored with onions and vinegar. I think the latter is uniquely Ilocano, and when I describe it to my non-Ilocano friends they are horrified: “Brains? How gross!”
Golden Coin Bakeshop and Restaurant (four locations)
1833 N. King St., Honolulu, HI 96819
My next favorite is Golden Coin with its ready-to-eat arroz caldo (rice and chicken porridge), dinardaraan (dinuguan [blood stew] to other Filipinos, but the Ilocano dinardaraan is really delicious because it’s not soupy like the Tagalog version and doesn't use entrails or intestines). This restaurant also has a vast array of desserts--bibingka, puto, kutchinta, empanada (varieties of rice cakes), ube (purple yam) roll--and snacks like prawn crackers, chicharon (crispy pork rind), corn crackers, etc.
Nayong Filipino Fast Food
1116 Fort St. Mall, Honolulu, HI 96813
North Star Deli and Sausage
2225 N. School St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Nayong Filipino and North Star are good for take-outs although Nayong also has a "restaurant space" of two or three tables. They make dinardaraan too, tinola (ginger chicken soup), pinakbet, sinigang, the usual stuff.
Max of Manila
94-300 Farrington Hwy, Waipahu, HI 96797
801 Dillingham Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96817
Max of Manila is the most popular because it’s in the heart of the urban center. It’s more spacious and reminds people of the good old Max fried chicken in Manila. They have kare-kare (oxtail and peanut stew), which I'm not crazy about; pancit (noodles); the signature chicken, of course, and good desserts. I find the chicken too dry sometimes, but I guess that's how Filipinos like it.
Mabuhay Café and Restaurant
1049 River St., Honolulu, HI 96817
My oldtime favorite is Mabuhay, the oldest of these joints, operating since the mid-‘60s when I came as an East West Center graduate student. They make the best dinardaraan and they also have good sari-sari vegetables (sautéed mixed vegetables) and munggong paria (mung beans) with pork or shrimp.
Other Places to Get Filipino Food in the Honolulu/Waipahu areas:
- People's Cafe, 1310 Pali Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96813, (808) 521-5552
- Thelma's Restaurant, 94-366 Papupani St., Ste. 116, Waipahu, HI 96797, (808) 677-0443; www.thelmasrestaurant.com
- Jesse's Coffee Shop & Restaurant, 1101 N. King St., Honolulu 96817, (808)-842-1121
- Loulen's Restaurant, 1125 S. King St., Honolulu 96817, (808) 853-2212 (good buko [young coconut] dessert!)
- Elena's Home of Finest Filipino Food, 94-866vMoloalo St., DAA, Waipahu, HI 96797, (808) 676-8005
- Alicia's Market, 267 Mokauea St., Honolulu 96817, (808) 841-1921
- Bautista’s Filipino Kitchen, International Market Place Waikiki Food Court, Pearlridge Mall Food Court Uptown, and Pearl City Don Quixote Food Court; www.bfkhawaii.com
Belinda A. Aquino is professor emeritus at the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu.
When the craving for comfort food hits, where do you go for satisfaction? We invite you to tell us about your favorite Filipino restaurant(s) in your section of the planet. Send to submissions[at]positivelyfilipino.com. Include photos, if possible.