Adrift Tiki Bar
218 South Broadway
Nearly every culture has its own take on doughnuts, something that proves true in Hawaii too, where the local doughnut is called a malasada. While these fried beauties pop up all over, they are actually a Portuguese specialty that made a splash on the islands in the late 1800s, when laborers from Madeira and Azores came to Hawaii to work on plantations. Today you can find these sugar-coated, fried dough balls flavored with all sorts of sweet stuff, such as the lilikoi (or passion fruit) caramel that sweetens the brioche doughnut holes at this Broadway tiki bar and restaurant. The malasadas here also get a dose of coconut sugar and macerated strawberries. Pair them with one of many classic tiki drinks, another beach specialty not to be missed.
Aloha Hawaiian Barbecue
8623 Washington Street, Thornton
This Thornton joint has plenty of meaty choices, but one of the more unusual Hawaiian offerings is the manapua, a toothsome white pork bun that speaks to the Chinese influence on the islands. A manapua is similar to a char siu bao, the steamed barbecue pork bun you might see on a dim sum cart. When the snack first came to Hawaii, it was peddled by the manapua men, the nineteenth-century version of today's food trucks. The name manapua loosely translates to "delicious pork thing," something you can't deny with each bite.
The Corner Office
1401 Curtis Street
Each month this downtown restaurant offers a “Where in the World Is Chef” theme, and for September it's all about Hawaii. While you can fill up on pork belly pani popo, sesame wahoo with ginger cashew shrimp, sweet potato and ham hash and tiki drinks, it's the chocolate haupia pie that has us salivating for dessert. Traditional haupia is kind of like flan or a French blancmange, only it's made out of coconut milk and served during luaus. This dish takes the dessert one step further and adds chocolate and a macadamia-nut shortbread for the crust, creating a Pacific Rim take on Boston cream or French silk pie.
10195 East 29th Drive
Sometimes teenagers do really great things, like coming up with the killer combination of hamburger, rice, gravy and eggs, which in Hawaii is lovingly referred to as "loco moco." As the story goes, the dish came to be in 1949, when Richard and Nancy Inouye, who owned the Lincoln Grill in Hilo, were asked by a group of teens for a new and different platter; over time it became a staple on the islands. At chef Troy Guard's new brunch and breakfast spot in Stapleton, slices of TAG's signature meatloaf are placed on top of kimchi fried rice. Then the dish gets a ladle full of rich mushroom gravy and is crowned with two fried eggs.
L & L Hawaiian Barbecue
14221 East Cedar Avenue, Aurora
Traditionally lau lau consists of roasted pork wrapped in a luau leaf, also known as taro or kalo, that native Hawaiians harvest and use in cooking. The big green leaves really make this particular dish; like banana-leaf-wrapped foods in other tropical regions, the luau leaf helps keep moisture and flavor in the bundle, and in this case makes for some succulent, aromatic pork. L&L Hawaiian BBQ is a mini-chain that started in Honolulu and has since branched out to the mainland and more than a decade ago came to Aurora. Here you can get a simple version of the dish à la carte as a side or part of the kalua pork combination platter (as pictured above).