1225 Hopaka St. 591-0253
Side Street Inn is one those hidden gems you’d assume only a seasoned Honolulu city slicker would know about. Tucked off the beaten path in an industrial area near, but not in sight of Ala Moana Shopping Center, their name truly implies what it is.
The crowd is mostly a mixture of white and blue collar working class locals. Yet among them, you’ll find a few adventurous tourists “in” on this “Side Street” secret (no pun intended). In fact, I hadn’t even heard of this place just a few years ago until we met a group of commercial airline pilots (from the mainland) at another restaurant in Ala Moana Shopping Center who asked about it. “Side Street where?” I asked them. Not even our waitress at the time had heard of it. Eventually some publicity in the newspapers and tv covered them and word spread, which explains the driving crowds that now flood in. Celebrity chefs such as Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi are known to frequent here due to the low-key location and ono ‘kine grinds.
As you can see in that photo above, the outside is quite unassuming. Blink and you just might miss it driving by. Composed of several rooms with separate entrances, once you enter, you’re reminded just how popular this place is; especially during the 4-8pm pauhana (finished work) hours.
Being as much sports bar as they are restaurant, there’s massive LCD wide screen TVs throughout, with smaller CRT monitors filling the void in each corner. We were there during Monday night NFL football, which was broadcasted live by satellite. Reception and sound was crystal clear, yet not so loud as to drown out our conversation. One look at the setup and you can tell this was formerly a hostess bar; in fact, several of their neighbors are that.
The food at SSI is local all the way. The menu is designed “family style” for the whole table to dig in pupu (finger food) style. One of their most popular dishes is the Pork Chops…
Pork Chops $9.50 (half-order)
Notice how it’s served simply with ketchup. Now ‘das local to da’ max! They’re simply seasoned with salt and pepper and rolled in corn starch and pan fried to juicy perfection (well that’s how my girlfriend assumes they make it). They then cut the meat part of the bone into bite size slices with the bones on the side to nibble on later (dibs on that!). We thought they were a bit salty, but it was bearable and much better than bland. Overall moist, tender and delicious.
Our table of three (girlfriend, gf’s friend and yours truly) also ordered the Chinese Chicken Salad….
Chinese Chicken Salad $7.50
The basics with everything you’d expect on this type of salad, including the crispy wonton strips. Everything was fresh and well balanced. There’s easily enough here as a side dish to serve about 4 people. As an entree you might get away serving two.
Crispy Wontons $8.50
These wontons were our favorite dish of the night. Generously stuffed with pork mixture that had a slightly different twist than your normal Chinese type, but I can’t pinpoint what it was. I’ll just say they’re ONO. Order that and you won’t be disappointed. It’s served with a generous dollup of Coleman’s Mustard in a container, which you mix in shoyu to your own degree of heat. We like it “clear the sinus” hot! In fact, that mustard-shoyu also tasted supah ono with the pork chops dipped in it!
Furikake Rice $2.75
Of course gotta’ have da’ rice. Plain white with Furikake (seaweed, sesame seed and bonito seasoning) on top. It seemed bowls of these were being handed out among patrons every other minute. Only in Hawaii. lol
That’s all we ordered for the night, which was more than enough to accompany a few cold ones that we also enjoyed. Of course this is just scratching the surface as far as the menu is concerned. There are so many other great items to order here, from their ever-popular sizzling ribeye steak, to poke, to saimin. Really, something for everyone. During happy hour, bottled import beers are $4.00 (IIRC), and they also have a full-service bar.
Parking is limited on the street, but they do offer ($3 + tip) valet service after 5pm. There’s also a paybox lot next to them that costs $5 flat nightly fee. Certainly arrive early (before 5 for best seating), come hungry and thirsty, because da ono pupus and fun crowd is what it’s all about at Side Street Inn.
Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka St. (turn off Piikoi or Kapiolani
Tasty Island Rating:
Note: Sorry about the photos, as the lighting and seating situation wasn’t ideal, and my flash overexposed them.