Like many people, I can be a creature of habit. Once I find something I like, I stick with it. And since I rarely go out to eat these days, the list of tried and true favorites is short and sweet. It took me a while, but I finally have a new place to add to the list. Believe it or not, in just a few months’ time, it has a secured a spot near the very top. A new place, a fast favorite. There, I said it.
Located on the water’s edge, He’eia Pier General Store & Deli seems like an unlikely venue for an upscale, gourmet plate lunch. Away from town and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, when viewed from a distance, the tiny shack looks a bit worn and weathered. Peek inside the kitchen and you will see the chef and the rest of the staff hard at work. Moments of seriousness are punctuated with bursts of frenetic energy, this is where all the deliciousness comes from.
Open since the middle of May, He’eia Pier has brought a unique, and welcome, spin to the ubiquitous plate lunch. Here macaroni salad is made substantial with the addition of cubes of locally grown kalo (taro), while barbecue chicken is given a greater depth of flavor with a bright and slightly sweet guava marinade and glaze. Want brown rice? Check. What about tossed salad? Make that local organic greens from MA`O Organic Farms.
Guava chicken, kalo mac salad
The beef used here is sourced from Kuahiwi Ranch located in Ka’u on the island of Hawaii. Topped with housemade thousand island dressing, the burger is flavorful, juicy and satisfying. If you’re daring enough, try the “Cheekeater”. It’s not on the menu, but it’s a burger that’s topped with three different “proteins” — usually Spam, Portuguese sausage and bacon — along with an over-easy egg. It’s sinful and addicting. You won’t have another burger like it. Trust me.
“The Cheekeater”, kalo mac salad
If there is fish on the menu, you can be sure that it was caught in the waters surrounding the pier. O’io is made into fishcake and is served up on a bun or in a bowl, loco moco-style; ahi is mixed into poke and heaped atop a bowl of rice; aku is lightly seared and coated in teriyaki sauce before being tossed with sprigs of purslane; while mahi mahi is pan-roasted and garnished with a fresh cherry tomato salsa. The preparations are varied and unique. The flavors are a quiet marriage of the familiar with a twist of something new and often, unexpected.
Pan-roasted mahimahi, Ho Farms “salsa”, kalo mac salad
If you find yourself on the Windward side of the island, do yourself a favor and make it a point to stop at He’eia Pier General Store & Deli. Tasty, honest food prepared with a whole lot of heart is what you’ll find here. Fresh ingredients, interesting preparations and service with aloha are reasons that will keep you coming back.
He’eia Pier General Store & Deli
46-499 Kamehameha Highway