The Waikiki Trolley’s Honolulu Dining Express (Yellow Line), launched in August in partnership with International Market Place, makes it easy for foodies to savor a memorable taste of Hawaii. The company’s first new route in more than six years, it starts and ends in Waikiki at the marketplace, where 11 dining options offer everything from steak and sushi to burgers and burritos. Seven stops in neighboring Kapahulu are a short walk from several popular eateries.
Dining Express departures are on the hour from 3 to 9 p.m. daily, and you can embark and disembark at any of the stops on the 5-mile, 55-minute loop. Pay $2 each time you board or ride free if you’ve purchased a one-, four- or seven-day pass for unlimited access to all six of the Waikiki Trolley’s lines.
You can buy tickets onboard or online. Go to waikikitrolley.com for more information.
Following are fun facts about the Waikiki Trolley, International Market Place and nine of the kamaaina favorites on the Dining Express’ route.
In 1973, Oahu teachers John Brizdle and Roger Watson started E Noa Corp. as a side business that offered cultural and historical tours using a Volkswagen bus. They introduced the Waikiki Trolley as a division of E Noa in 1986 with two vehicles modeled after San Francisco’s famed cable cars and a “hop-on, hop-off” sightseeing concept that wound up being a big success. Brizdle and Watson sold E Noa in 1995, but the company continued to grow; today, as one of Hawaii’s largest tour companies, it has a fleet of more than 100 vehicles, including 70 Waikiki Trolleys.
International Market Place
2330 Kalakaua Ave. 921-0536; shopinternationalmarket place.com
Originally opened in 1957, International Market Place was demolished and completely rebuilt from 2014 to 2016 as a three-level shopping and dining complex. Its centerpiece is a magnificent banyan that dates back to the mid-1800s and is designated as an “exceptional tree” by the City and County of Honolulu. The Waikiki home of Queen Emma, wife of King Kamehameha IV, was on the eight acres where the marketplace now stands.
Market City Shopping Center 2919 Kapiolani Blvd. 732-3330; cafe-kaila-hawaii.com
Although it’s open for lunch and early dinner, Cafe Kaila is known for its breakfasts, served from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It uses about 1,000 eggs from OK Poultry in Waimanalo every day for choices such as Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict and create-your-own omelettes.
Haili’s Hawaiian Foods
760 Palani Ave. 735-8019; hailishawaiianfood.com
Their plump laulau are made in-house, wrapped in ti leaves, tied by hand, then steamed for six hours in a 60-gallon, custom-made stainless pot. The restaurant has three of those huge pots; all are more than 45 years old and can cook 200 laulau at a time.
933 Kapahulu Ave. 737-5591; leonardshawaii.com
Founded in 1952, the bakery still uses the malasada recipe created by owner Leonard Rego’s paternal grandmother. Over the years, li hing and cinnamon sugar options have been added to the original sugar coating, and there are now five regular fillings: custard, guava, macadamia nut, dobash (chocolate) and haupia (coconut). There’s also a flavor of the month; this year they included taro, kiwi, caramel and green apple.
Mitsuwa Marketplace in International Market Place 2330 Kalakaua Ave., second floor 376-5362; modohawaii.com
Chances are pretty good that once you’ve tasted MoDo Hawaii’s doughnuts, their counterparts will seem ho-hum. Mochi batter gives these treats a slightly chewy texture, and the flavors are always intriguing: black sesame, Earl Grey, Fruity Pebbles, matcha (green tea) or chocolate and churro, anyone?
3308 Kanaina Ave. 737-0177; rainbowdrivein.com
This Kapahulu landmark has been in the same location since it opened on Oct. 2, 1961. Its late founder, Seiju Ifuku, learned to cook while serving in World War II with the famed 100th Battalion, comprised largely of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. More than 1,000 plate lunches are sold daily, the most popular being the mixed plate with barbecue beef, boneless chicken and fried mahimahi.
Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen
2746 Kaimuki Ave. 732-1656; sekiyasrestaurant.com
Sekiya’s traces its beginnings to 1935, when Taisuke and Katsuko Sekiya opened School Delicatessen on School Street in Kalihi, whose shave ice, ice cream and okazu (Japanese delicatessen foods) drew droves of loyal customers. During World War II, 10-cent plate lunches were added to the offerings (you could super-size them for 50 cents). The business has moved a few times over the years, but the Sekiya family still owns and operates it, using many of Taisuke and Katsuko’s recipes. The koi pond was installed when the restaurant moved to its current site in 1957.
The Street Food Hall by Michael Mina
International Market Place 2330 Kalakaua Ave., first floor 377-4402; thestreetfoodhall.com
Among The Street’s seven globally inspired hawker stations is Adam’s Nana Lu, which sources the pinsa dough for its pizzas from Rome. Pinsa blends wheat, rice and soy flour and uses more water and less salt, which results in a crust that is lighter, airier and has less fat and fewer calories than the typical pizza dough. Nana Lu is Chef Adam Sobel’s nickname for his late maternal grandmother, Nonna Louise Ferrara. Growing up, he spent hours in the kitchen with her, and many of the recipes he now uses are hers.
Side Street Inn on Da Strip
614 Kapahulu Ave. 739-3939; sidestreetinn.com
Side Street Inn opened in 1992 on Hopaka Street, a “side street” near Ala Moana Center, essentially as a bar with just five food items on the menu. Its famous Pan-Fried Island Pork Chops weren’t added until “later” — sometime between two months and two years, depending on who you talk to. Opened in 2010, its sister restaurant in Kapahulu serves the same great food in generous portions.
Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar & Grill
559 Kapahulu Ave. 735-8310; unclebosrestaurant.com
“Uncle Bo” is Chef/Co-Owner Bo Pathammavong, who has helmed the kitchen since the restaurant opened in 2006. Among the celebrities who’ve popped in for top sellers such as Thai-Style Steamer Clams and Boca-Rota (prime rib strips, sauteed mushrooms and garlic cheese bread) are Jason Momoa, Michelle Wie, Cardi B and Max Holloway. Available from 10 to 11:45 p.m., the late-night menu staves off hunger pangs with kalua pig quesadillas, pork belly bao buns and more.
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won several Society of American Travel Writers awards.