An afternoon cruise on the Windward side is not complete without a plate lunch at this local icon.
One of my favorite things to do with my husband on a day off, is pack a couple beach towels and a cooler and drive up the windward coast. After living here almost two years we finally made it to Waiahole Poi Factory last week.
Originally a poi factory in 1905, this institution has since turned into an art gallery, incubator kitchen and, about 10 years ago, back to a poi factory with a counter service restaurant serving some of the best traditional luau fare on island.
The historic building charms you the minute you drive up. A rusty, aluminum overhang wraps around the weathered wood façade that boasts their iconic sign. The vibe is laid back––vacationers and locals in bathing suits fresh from the beach. There are a dozen tables, mostly out front under umbrellas, but some inside sharing the space that houses local art and T-shirts for sale.
The line to order stays steady, but moves quickly. The friendly staff navigates tourists efficiently through the menu, so they won’t accidently order too much. You can order staples like Chinese long rice and Beef Luau as large or small combo plates, or as a side dish so you can mix and match.
My husband eagerly ran back to our cooler, to grab a couple beers, when the cashier gave him the green light. She said the only reason they don’t serve alcohol is because half the staff is too young to sell it.
The lau lau is addictive. Succulent chunks of pork shoulder, salty butterfish and creamy kalo steamed to perfection. I recommend adding a splash of house-made chile water to every bite. Side dishes like lomi salmon, with its bright acidity reminiscent of pico de gallo, and crunchy ho’io salad–– quickly blanched and chilled fiddlehead ferns tossed with sweet onion, dried shrimp, tomato and shoyu dressing––balance out the richness of the main dishes.
The only dish that wasn’t as bold as the others was the kalua pig, but I still happily scooped up several bites of it with steamed rice dunking it in the chile water. Our meal was so satisfying; I’m already planning my next visit back.
Waiahole Poi Factory, 48-140 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 239-2222, waiaholepoifactory.com.
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.