Greasy Spoons: Yama’s Fish Market


I wanted some local food before we left island paradise. I’d had Imu pork at the Kona Brewing Company the night before– an excellent brewpub that serves a huge selection of brews, favorites being the Wailua Wheat with Passion Fruit, and the Pipeline Porter made with Kona coffee– but we here at the PYT like down home, sloppy grease pits that sling up tasty local grub without pretensions or hefty price tags.

Yama’s Fish Market fit the bill on short notice; we’d spent most of the day at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, then relaxed in the pool before packing it up for the airport, and Yama’s was close by and served up local delights like kālua pork, poi, poke, as well as having shelves full of tasty snacks like taro chips and macnut cookies. Macnut is short for macadamia nuts and is me trying to sound like I’ve been in Hawaii for more than 6 days- I’m JOJ, brah!

I had a #6, which consists of kālua pork, lomi salmon, poke, rice or poi, and haupani dessert. For $8 it’s a hell of a meal. I had mine with poi and wasabi masago poke. Poke, pronounced pokay, is like ceviche, except it’s actually raw- they don’t let the citrus acids “cook” the fish. I enjoyed the hell out of it. The cubes of ahi tuna were the perfect texture, and very fresh. None of that mealy texture you get from stuff that’s been frozen too often or too long. The wasabi and flying fish roe gave it a sweet, rich and tangy flavor that went well with the other foods on the plate.

not-so-long pig

The kālua pork was the centerpiece and deservingly so. Traditionally it is made in an imu or underground oven, like in a luau, but it can also be wrapped in ti plant leaves and slow-smoked. Some say you can get a similar flavor by rubbing a pork shoulder with sea salt and putting it in a crockpot with some Liquid Smoke, but I took home a container of the frozen stuff instead. When served, it is very tender and comes with a lot of stock or broth, rich with pork flavor. It’s better than any slow-cooker pork I’ve ever had.

Poi on the other hand is a holy foodstuff and cannot be criticized. I found it delicate and slightly sweet, but the consistency wasn’t easy for a Western palate. It was cool and refreshing, but mostly tasteless. Nourishing I’m sure, but an acquired taste, and a lovely purple hue.

poi ahoy

The lomi salmon was tasty too- bits of raw salmon mixed in a light tomato salad. It was a bit light on the salmon, but what was there was good. Courtney and Sarah didn’t like the haupia, but I loved it. It’s a custard made of coconut milk and sugar. They only give you a tiny container, but it’s very strong in flavor. I love coconut, so it was perfect for me.

Over at Ono Kine Grindz they consider it a middle of the road place, so if traditional Hawaiian food is this good when “average” I can’t wait to go back and hit a place they think is great. I enjoyed everything here, and the take-home pork was a great dinner last night. If you’re in Honolulu down King Street, maybe to go to the Hula Supply Store, this is just around the corner and is good for a quick and tasty lunch.

Horseback Riding near North Shore

In Hawaii I was reading Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii, a collection of letters he wrote for a newspaper when he visited the islands in the 1860’s, before he became famous. In the book he goes on about his horse Oahu, a horrible creature that gave him a fearsome case of saddle sores that made him bedridden for a week.

That’s how I felt after Firecracker and I went horseback riding at Gunstock Ranch near the North Shore. We were already sunburned from snorkeling in Waimea Bay, and earlier that day we climbed Diamond Head crater in Waikiki. My horse was named Rhett, which made me Scarlett, and he carried me upstairs and had his way with me. My balls played that saddle like it was a timpani.

Our guide was a gal named Jamie from West Virginia. Like all West Virginians she was friendlier than you could imagine. We rode for about 2 hours, and she was a wellspring of information about the local foliage and environment. For example these are century plants, so named because they are planted in front of Century 21 realty agencies.

Rhett reminded me of myself. He was stubborn and slow, but good-natured as long as he got to stop and eat every few minutes. He was also impatient, and kept trying to muscle Sarah’s horse aside to jockey forward. If he hung back too long whilst munching on grass, he’d trot to catch up, playing a timpani serenade on the back of the saddle with my scrotum. He also liked to trot uphill.

“Stand up in the saddle,” the gals said. That just gave my nutsack more distance to drop and hit the unforgiving leather of the seat. “Roll with it,” they called. I tried, looking like Yosemite Sam bouncing on his ornery burro. “Whoa mule! WHOA!”

We stopped for a brief interlude atop a crest for photos. As you can see, Rhett wouldn’t pose for the photo when there was grass to be eaten.

For your entertainment, I took some video of our ride. The second one is mostly Cloverfield on horseback with me a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ trying to hang on for dear life, but the first one isn’t so bad.

Rhett trying to kill me.
For 2 hours in the sun with a sunburn it was a lovely ride. I even managed to dismount, or as I put it, “park my horse” by the steps and get off without stumbling. I noticed Rhett was a gelding, and all became clear. He was jealous, and wanted to geld me too.

La Pizza Rina – Hawaiian Pizza


As a snobby Jersey pizza gavone, I rarely get pizza outside of New York and Jersey. Maybe Chicago, if I feel like eating a slab. After a long day of hiking and horseback riding, we collapsed at Courtney’s place and planned to go to a sushi or local place after a nap. Didn’t happen. Thankfully she had a pizza menu on the fridge, so I gave La Pizza Rina a call.

“We no deliver late Friday!” was the answer I got. I pumped the address into the Google and it was a short drive away, so I ordered a large pie with Canadian Bacon and Pineapple, what we’d call a Hawaiian-style pizza back East. Actually I think I first had that combo in California, and in Italy they claim it is a German invention. Wikipedia knows all.

In NYC, the Chinese places outside of Chinatown are run by Mexicans and the Mexican places are run by Chinese. So I was not wary when I walked in and the cooks and clientèle were all of Asian extraction. I grabbed the pizzas, a passion fruit drink and a diet coke, and a bag of breakfast rolls (danishes, cinnamon and pain chocolate, etc) for about $20. That’s a good deal anywhere.

I was surprised at how good it was. The New York water helps give it that chewy bubbly crust, but theirs was pretty damn good. They didn’t coat the pan with semolina crumbs like we do here, but the pizza folded properly and wasn’t a revolting Midwest cracker-crust, it was a good hand-tossed dough. The sauce didn’t stick out but also wasn’t overly sweet, and they were extremely generous with the mozzarella. It wasn’t fresh-made, but it was not greasy cheap cheese either. The toppings were tasty and generous as well.

I always comport myself with dignity

So you can get a good pizza in Honolulu, even if there’s not a paesano behind the counter. Try La Pizza Rina. I dunno if the old lady running the joint is Rina, or if that’s Engrish for Pizzeria, but I’d go back again. Ono Kine Grindz says they serve good lasagna too.

La Pizza Rina – Hawaiian Pizza


As a snobby Jersey pizza gavone, I rarely get pizza outside of New York and Jersey. Maybe Chicago, if I feel like eating a slab. After a long day of hiking and horseback riding, we collapsed at Courtney’s place and planned to go to a sushi or local place after a nap. Didn’t happen. Thankfully she had a pizza menu on the fridge, so I gave La Pizza Rina a call.

“We no deliver late Friday!” was the answer I got. I pumped the address into the Google and it was a short drive away, so I ordered a large pie with Canadian Bacon and Pineapple, what we’d call a Hawaiian-style pizza back East. Actually I think I first had that combo in California, and in Italy they claim it is a German invention. Wikipedia knows all.

In NYC, the Chinese places outside of Chinatown are run by Mexicans and the Mexican places are run by Chinese. So I was not wary when I walked in and the cooks and clientèle were all of Asian extraction. I grabbed the pizzas, a passion fruit drink and a diet coke, and a bag of breakfast rolls (danishes, cinnamon and pain chocolate, etc) for about $20. That’s a good deal anywhere.

I was surprised at how good it was. The New York water helps give it that chewy bubbly crust, but theirs was pretty damn good. They didn’t coat the pan with semolina crumbs like we do here, but the pizza folded properly and wasn’t a revolting Midwest cracker-crust, it was a good hand-tossed dough. The sauce didn’t stick out but also wasn’t overly sweet, and they were extremely generous with the mozzarella. It wasn’t fresh-made, but it was not greasy cheap cheese either. The toppings were tasty and generous as well.

I always comport myself with dignity

So you can get a good pizza in Honolulu, even if there’s not a paesano behind the counter. Try La Pizza Rina. I dunno if the old lady running the joint is Rina, or if that’s Engrish for Pizzeria, but I’d go back again. Ono Kine Grindz says they serve good lasagna too.

Diamond Head Crater

Firecracker and I have two hobbies that the other doesn’t enjoy much. Mine is hiking; hers is horseback riding. I like riding, I’m just not any good at it. Hiking is a lot easier, it just takes conditioning so your feet and legs can handle climbing rocky trails for hours. Riding requires a similar commitment, but usually costs $60 or more, so that’s my excuse.

The crater from near the rim.

Diamond Head is a crater visible from Waikiki and surroundings on Oahu. It’s also the “Black Mountain” on Lost. It got its name from British soldiers who mistook calcite crystals for diamonds. Mark Twain got to ride around it on horseback when he visited the islands, but since then it’s been a military installation and now a park, so no more horses. It’s a 271-step hike that gains 560 feet in elevation, which is challenging on a hot and sunny day.

Waikiki

The stairs are real concrete stairs, not stones like the “Stairway to Heaven” part of the Appalachian Trail that Darth Milk and I have climbed. It’s kind of cool, getting to climb all over an abandoned military site, but it’s less enjoyable as a hike because you’re fenced away from nature.

The tunnel to the trailhead.

The hike to the top is worth it, with spectacular views of Waikiki. At the top, you climb out of a camouflaged bunker to the viewing spot. With the Japanese tourists everywhere, it reminded me a little of clearing the bunkers in The Thin Red Line.

Abandoned bunker sites are the same everywhere- graffitized.

Cheeseburgers for Breakfast

They didn’t have to tell me twice.

Like Belushi’s Little Chocolate Donuts, they are the Breakfast of Champions. The Moco Loco is a Hawaiian breakfast worthy of the title. Like huevos rancheros, it’s a hearty morning meal. We had ours at a touristy joint called Waikiki Burger before we hiked Diamond Head crater.

Boobies for breakfast are the only thing better.

First you take some sticky rice and then you put a cooked hamburger patty on top. Then you top that with two eggs any style; I went for over easy, since nothing says “healthy breakfast” like egg yolk on ground beef. Then they smother it with a sweet onion gravy. Of course it is garnished with fresh pineapple and a little umbrella at the tourist joint. But it still energizes you for a long uphill hike.

We call it the Good Morning Burger… *drool*

Our waiter had a hula skirt on and it made me think of poor Judge Rheinhold in Fast Times with his pirate outfit. I had two glasses of pineapple juice to wash it down, since it helps inflammation, and I felt like I’d been horsewhipped after the sunburn settled in. Firecracker had some smothered hash browns- potato strings smothered in cheese and bacon. Quite good, but nothing beats a cheeseburger for breakfast. Two of my favorite meals in one.

Sometimes a tourist trap has decent fare.

Puka Dog: The Hawaiian Hot Dog

Today the real reason for our trip was fulfilled. Yes, we flew 5500 miles for a hot dog. When we decided to go to Hawaii, Firecracker said things like, “I wanna go horseback riding!” but only one thing came to my mind: Puka Dog, the Hawaiian hot dog joint that Anthony Bourdain went to on his show.

Getting a table is slightly harder than at Bourdain’s… zing!

Bourdain also liked Hiram’s, so I knew his hot dog cred was golden. Puka Dog is nestled in the Waikiki town center, at the mall entrance. They have a huge sign now announcing “as seen on the Travel Channel,” and they sell t-shirts and such. But they still serve up a unique and delicious dog.

Dog rolling off the assembly line

They do things differently here in Hawaii. For one, the pizza comes with pineapple and Canadian bacon on it, but that’s nothing new. The hot dogs at Puka are Polish sausages, and they are cooked well-done on the rolling metal cooker that they use at Nathan’s and cafeterias. The dog gets a crispy shell of burnt skin, like a weller at Rutt’s. Then there’s the bun- a long soft hollowed-out roll that gets toasted on the inside by a special skewer that looks like a violent dildo.

“Steely Dan,” the magical skewer that toasts the inside

Then there’s the choices; you can get a veggie dog if you must, and then you choose the heat level of your garlic sauce, from mild to habañero hot. I chose “spicy,” #2 on a level of 4, and it was still very mild. Next time I’ll try the hottest. Then you choose your relish- pineapple, mango, coconut, guava- I think they also have a sweet pickle relish, but why would you get something mundane if you’ve come all the way to Hawaii? Then finally, you choose your mustard, which is golden and seems mixed with mayo, actually. The lilikoi or passion fruit mustard is a lot like sweet mayo and is the perfect topper. Go hog wild. I went for a pineapple-lilikoi.

More combinations than a Rubik’s Cube

Your dog might take 5 or 10 minutes to cook this way. I had to run and feed the parking meter, since in Waikiki you get ten minutes for a quarter- like a Magic Fingers bed. I mean, come on. But by the time I got back, the dog was done, and so was the fresh lemonade they make. You know, the kind so fresh there’s half a squeezed lemon and a sediment of sugar in your cup. The best kind there is.

Was the hot dog worth the transcontinental flight? You bet your bippy. The gummy roll is the perfect pocket for the crisp and juicy dog. The toasted inside gives it a real crunch, and they squirt the relish and sauces inside. They tend to collect at the bottom, so you get a volcanic eruption of sweet sauces at the end.

Insert gross joke here

The only bad thing about Puka Dog is that the dogs are so big you might only be able to eat one. I had a cheeseburger for breakfast this morning, so I could only manage one Puka Dog. Next time I’ll have a super-hot one with coconut relish or mango. And that just may be Monday… so Mahalo, Hawaiians, for introducing me to a new hot dog unlike any I’ve had before. They may not be as decadent as Crif Dog’s bacon wrapped franks, but they are one of a kind and bursting with tropical flavor. Like my pants.

Viagra in hot dog form.