When it comes to the back-to-basics, simple-is-best approach to Okazuya-style grindz, St. Louis Delicatessen is where it’s at.
This classic Okazuya shop, located at the corner of Waialae and 3rd avenue, across the St. Louis-Chaminade campus, has been here for decades and is still owned and operated by the same local Okinawan family.
Their signature Chowfun noodles are the foundation to their keep-it-simple approach, and above (or more often underneath) everything else, is THE item to order here.
Full serving Chowfun noodles, $2.00
The simplest execution of ever-so-slightly flavored Chowfun noodles (Hula brand we think), julienned carrots and string beans. That’s it. The flavoring is difficult to detect what exactly they’ve got in there. It doesn’t taste like oyster sauce, but perhaps a combination of chicken stock and/or dashi, and maybe perhaps just dash of shoyu. It’s just on the verge of tasting outright plain, yet there’s “something” in it that’s their secret. That verge-of-being-plain flavor is what makes them the perfect compliment with all the savory items that go with it.
Continuing this simple-is-best approach are all the “goodies” to complete the meal…
Here above on this custom order of mine we have: (top to bottom) vegetable tempura, shrimp tempura, potato tempura, nori musubi, nishime, fried chicken, potato hash and luncheon meat, over a bed of their signature chowfun noodles.
Diner “E”‘s order…
Diner “E”‘s custom “oda”, $6.70
Shown above on Diner “E”‘s plate is: (top to bottom) vegetable tempura, nishime, long rice, cone sushi (aburage), potato hash and fried chicken, over a half serving of chowfun noodles.
Diner “A”‘s order…
Diner “A”‘s order shown above includes: (top to bottom) cone sushi (aburage), musubi (plain), potato tempura, fried chicken, luncheon meat, shrimp tempura, over a half serving of their signature chowfun noodles.
Just look at how much Okazuya grindz you get for under $7! Unless you’re really, really hungry, I swear any one of these plates could easily feed two, possibly even three adults. My eyes were certainly bigger than my stomach on my particular order, as it kept me busy nibbling away at that over a four hour period just to rebuild my appetite and finish it.
I already explained their signature chowfun noodles, so now let’s into detail on the rest of the items here.
First we must clarify on the tempura selections here. As you notice the, the batter isn’t your traditional Japanese style that’s delicate and flaky, but more “local style”, having a more glutenous and chewy texture to it. This applies to the vegetable and shrimp tempura.
Going back to simple again, the vegetable tempura is just carrots and string beans; the same thing used in the chowfun. But the combination works beautifully. I love this tempura! The shrimp size in that tempura is kinda’ small, but the flavor of it sure does permeate throughout the thick, glutenous batter its encapsulated in.
The potato “tempura” is the most interesting here, as it’s essentially a traditional Okinawan Andagi, with a thin sliver of sweet potato (not the purple Okinawan type) in the middle of it…
Potato “Andagi” Tempura
What’s interesting is how the flavor of this thin piece of sweet potato really punches through in that slightly sweet, chewy, nicely crusted Andagi “shell”.
The fried chicken is pretty much just your basic recipe, very crisp and crunchy on the outside, tender and moist inside. Simple. This goes great with that nori musubi.
Speaking of musubi, this is also another basic that St. Louis Okazuya excels at. The musubi has great integrity, and doesn’t fall apart like some other places’ musubi have a tendency of doing. The nori version (compared to the plain) has a piece of seedless Ume inside. That alone is worth the extra 10 cents.
The Nishime is another winner here. The broth has a deeply simmered dashi flavor, and the daikon, kombu and carrots are all tender and just soaking in the “onoliciousness” of that broth (hey, new word!).
The luncheon meat is the “institutional type” (not SPAM) found in that white square can, simply fried up. This also goes great with the nori musubi.
The potato hash is more potato than corned beef, and a bit loose (falls apart), so there’s better out there, but still, it works.
Diner “E” loves their long rice (a regular item for him), which is he says is also a simple recipe (he’s guessing) of shoyu, sugar, with the noodles cooked in chicken stock. Sounds good to me.
That pretty much covers our favorites at St. Louis Deli. I’d say the ultimate way to enjoy this type of food is to go buy your plates, then head on over to a beach park, either Ala Moana or up Diamond Head-Kahala side. Go for a swim to build up your hunger, then head back on the sand and dig into your St. Louis Okazuya lunch plate. The filling starch and salty, savory meats just hits da’ spot, along with the ambience of salty air and blue ocean just hits da’ spot. Das’ da’ best’est’est’est!
Here’s the menu*…
*Current as of this writing.
The front of the shop…
St. Louis Delicatessen shop front
Truly a hidden gem! The inside of the shop is very cramped, with only enough standing space for about 6 people max.. I arrived to pick up this order at around 10:30am, which when I walked in, there were only 2 people inside. Within minutes of me standing there, a line had already built leading out the door. Folks, as hidden as this place is, they are very popular, so don’t underestimate anything! And with most Okazuya shops, when food items run out, it’s out. That’s it. No more. Arimasen. So I’d recommend going early for best selection. At least before noon.
Located next door (to the left) of St. Louis Drive In on the corner of Waialae and 3rd avenue…
Remember, don’t get confused with St. Louis Drive In, or that sign. St. Louis Delicatessen is an unaffiliated business that’s NEXT DOOR!
So if you want Okazuya style grindz that’s fundamentally simple, yet absolutely delicious, at an unbeatable value, check out St. Louis Delicatessen.
St. Louis Delicatessen
3147 Waialae avenue
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 8am – 1:30pm (closed Sundays and Mondays)
The Tasty Island Rating:
(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)