On Oahu, there’s no shortage of high-carb, high-caloric food. Take the island’s standard dish, the plate lunch, for instance. The meal consists of two massive scoops of white rice, a generous dollop of mayo-packed macaroni salad and some kind of meat entrée that’s usually fried or, worse, battered and deep-fried.
But there’s so much more to the island’s cuisine. Here are four Honolulu spots that serve up healthy options that are delicious — and will make you feel better about the extra-large shave ice (with ice cream) you just had:
What started as a raw-foods and vegan caterer with a booth at local farmers markets has turned into a brick-and-mortar restaurant that’s become a destination for healthy eaters. So you don’t have to fight the crowds at the farmers market to get your fix of its “not tuna” (sunflower seeds, macadamia nut “mayonnaise,” coconut water, dill, dulse, green onions, celery and date mustard) on onion bread (sunflower seeds, brown flax, yellow onions, extra-virgin olive oil and wheat-free tamari) or kaffir-miso pad Thai with sea kelp noodles. Opened in October 2012, Greens & Vines offers dine-in and grab-and-go options, as well as serves as the pick-up location for its popular individual meal plans. Its desserts are worth trying, too, such as the wicked chocolate tart made with 100 percent organic raw cacao powder and coconut oil or the house special “cheese” cake.
Must Try: Order the Living Lasagna, which features layers of seasoned zucchini (instead of pasta), basil pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, macadamia nut “ricotta,” spinach and sliced tomatoes. And Syl’s Garden Burger is a favorite, too, with Kula-grown butter lettuce, date mustard and cashew mayonnaise.
909 Kapiolani Boulevard, Kakaako
Right next to Stadium Park on North King Street is a charming little café that has earned a loyal following with its simple and tasty vegan dishes. Some frequently ordered menu items are the curry egg-less salad sandwich with hefty amounts of vegetables and sprouts and a housemade vegan aioli spread, the barbecue tempeh with a sweet-and-sour sauce and coleslaw, and an Italian sandwich with marinated vegetables and an olive tapenade. The casual place isn’t stuffy or pretentious. It even has coffee and ice cream on the menu.
Must Try: The Heart & Seoul is Peace Café’s take on the Korean dish bibimbap with a choice between fresh tofu or TVP (textured vegetable protein). It comes with marinated shaved carrots, sesame kale and miso paste that rounds out the flavors on the plate.
2239 North King Street, Moiliili
This hipster spot in the heart of Chinatown serves up classic diner grub. Yes, every item on its extensive menu — which includes tasty bites such as chili-cheese fries, club sandwiches and hefty burgers — can be transformed into a vegetarian or even vegan dish. Even the diner’s hot wings and milkshakes can be turned into vegan versions. Plus, there’s dessert, such as cheesecakes by local bakery Otto Cake and a decadent vegan dark chocolate brownie. It has a real old-school diner feel with booth seating and a small bar with street-facing glass windows perfect for people-watching. Breakfast is served all day, too. Another bonus: Downbeat is open late, closing midnight on Monday, 3 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Must Try: One of the most popular menu items is the chicken sandwich, done in buffalo, pesto or barbecue style. All of them can be prepared vegan as well.
42 North Hotel Street, Chinatown
In the back of this beloved locally owned natural foods shop in a busy East Honolulu shopping center is a must-visit deli that serves a variety of healthy breakfast meals, sandwiches and entrées, many of which are vegetarian or vegan and feature organic and natural ingredients. The deli staff is creative in its offerings, too, with coconut-taro rice bowls with organic brown rice and quinoa, a house beet-and-black-bean veggie burger served with walnut-pesto aioli, and sweet-and-sour tempeh with roasted kabocha squash. The shop itself is worth a look as well, offering high-quality organic produce and meats, vitamins, supplements, homeopathic and herbal remedies, and natural pet foods.
Must Try: Two local favorites are the steamed lemongrass plate with a vegetable medley in a lemongrass-ginger broth with Thai basil, and the polenta with sautéed kale and vegan apple-beet sausage.
Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, 377 Keahole Street #A-1, Hawaii Kai
Photo Courtesy of istock-Drazen Vukelic