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Mapunapuna Eats: Henry Loui's

Honolulu’s may not be the first city that comes to mind when it comes to barbecue, let alone ribs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of places to get some good ole’ lip-smackin’ backs and all that at. One of which we visited today named Henry Loui’s, which has a long-running history at this very much off-the-beaten path, semi-hidden-from-the-road location on Pa’a street in the industrial district of Mapunapuna.

Not to say Henry Loui’s can be labeled a barbecue joint, as besides their highly acclaimed baby back ribs, other than that, for the most part the menu takes several unsurprising yet very welcome and familiar detours in direction with a mix of mostly American, along with a few local favorites.

Sorry to say but we were in a rush and didn’t dine-in on this visit, which would have made for a much more thorough review, as this place has quite an interesting decor and ambiance, especially considering the area where it’s at.

The dimly-lit and rather cozy looking wood tavern theme could just as well fit in at a suburb shopping mall, or perhaps even in Waikiki; not surrounded by warehouses, heavy equipment dealers and building materials suppliers, which is where you’ll find them. Here’s the dining room side of the place…

Here’s the sports bar side of the joint…

Of course, the whole place serves as a restaurant and bar, it just depends where you’re more comfortable sitting at. Or you can order anything on the menu for takeout as we did. Since we were running a business errand in the area, we placed our order then left to take care of that, returning in about 20 minutes where our orders were all packed up and ready to go. Time management.

Without further ado, we start with Diner A’s takeout order, which he decided on trying the Broiled Hamburger Deluxe, featuring a 6 Oz. Hamburger, Onions, Lettuce, Tomato and Cheese…

Broiled Hamburger Deluxe, featuring a 6 Oz. Hamburger, Onions, Lettuce, Tomato and Cheese. $9.50

He was very pleased to find that 6 oz. beef patty had the always-tasty cross-hatch sear markings under it…

It was kinda’ funny as he held it up, showing off the grill marks to us like it was some kind of trophy he won. “Ooh, la-lah! Check it out!”. lol

Here’s the burger fully assembled and ready for a massive bite…

So what did Diner A think of Henry Loui’s Char Broiled Burger? Thumbs up. Way up. We already know about the fabulously seared patty. It was also cooked thorougly through to medium, which is how he always prefers the doneness to be…

The veggies were very fresh as was the bun, which also had a nice toast to the inside, which any burger enthusiast knows is key to greatness. The only thing he mentioned where Henry Loui’s dropped the ball is they didn’t spread mayonnaise on the insides of the bun halves. Bummer deal right there. Either they forgot or just don’t include it by default and you must request it. If so, they should have asked.  Note to self: keep bottle of Mayonnaise in lunchroom refrigerator for moments like this.

While I didn’t get to try the burger, I did try the fries…

Yumm-oh! Steak-cut thick with a lightly spicy seasoned batter on it, giving this wonderful sort of flaky crust that’s packed with flavor and texture. I think it’s safe to say these are qualified contenders for the “Best Fries in Honolulu” award (if such a thing existed).

Summing it up, Diner A gives a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi, noting it would have probably been a 4 had it had the mayo’. Better yet (I’m saying), if they had some “special sauce” (usually mayo’ mixed with either ketchup and/or mustard).

Next we have Diner E’s takeout order, where he chose the Crab Meat, Bacon and Avocado Double Decker Sandwich…

Crab Meat, Bacon and Avocado Double Decker Sandwich. $9.50

Let’s zoom in closer on that crab…

Going in for the attack…

Diner E noted the generous amount of crab salad piled on had real crab meat in it.  I actually had my sights on this sandwich, knowing the combination of the bacon, avocado and crab salad would probably be a winner, and Diner E attested to that assumption. It was a winner. So much that he’d actually order this again, even with all the other great sounding dishes on their huge menu.

With that he gives Henry Loui’s  Crab Meat, Bacon and Avocado Double Decker Sandwich a “Saimin Kaukau” approved, very solid 3 SPAM Musubi.

Last but not least we have my order, which I went with their “Specialty of the House”, a half-rack of  Henry Loui’s Renowned Barbecued Baby Back Ribs, which they call the “Best Suckin’ Ribs In Hawaii!”…

Henry Loui’s Renowned Barbecued Baby Back Ribs. $13.95

Let’s have a look from another angle…

Diggin’ the koge (burnt) edges on the rib bone tips. You know this baby’s been kissed with the flames.  The generous slathering of sauce is welcome site as well. More sauce the better as far as I’m concerned.

Cutting a rib off, look how much tender-lookin’ meat is packed on there…

Here’s another very meaty individual baby back pork rib, where you can also see how gelatinous their house-made BBQ sauce is surrounding it…

Biting away at it (in a voracious caveman kinda’ way), you can see how it easily pulls (I won’t say falls) off the bone…

The pork meat was very tender, although not as juicy as I would have liked. I think because they boil their ribs which changes the texture, as compared to if they were slow-cooked in a barbecuepit, or even simply pre-baked on low heat in an oven; the latter of which is how I make my baby backs. Not that they were dry, as they weren’t, but not quite “pass me the napkins” succulent and moist as I consistently get at Tony Roma’s Waikiki location.

Speaking of Tony Roma’s, who I’m admittedly highly biased to LOVING their original sauce (as commercial as they are), as for Henry Loui’s sauce, I really don’t know where to go with it. Henry Loui’s Chef Ronie explains it like this: “(Our sauce is) a cross between an Asian and Texas base.”  The base is more shoyu influenced and there’s a gratifying lack of the sugary sweetness that sometime comes from over use of tomato sauce. They’re sweet for sure, but there’s definitely a hint of something more- and they truly do fall off the bone.”

I think that “something more” is Chinese Plum Sauce, which along with the shoyu explains the “asian” part of it. Don’t think Teriyaki, as the shoyu part of it is very subtle. There’s probably a few other spices in it, whether that may be garlic, ginger and/or chili pepper (although it’s not spicy hot at all). It certainly has sweet going on in a fruity, plum-flavored way, while being only mildly acidic.

But nothing in and of itself stood out, sort of being one nondescript homogeneous combination all the aforementioned attributes. All I can say is the sauce is “different”, and unlike any other barbecue sauce I’ve had before. “Interesting” is the best way I can explain my reaction to it.

Moving along, lunch entrees at Henry Loui’s include your choice of soup or tossed green salad and either french fries, mashed potatoes, red boiled potatoes, rice or pasta (or baked potato for $1.50 extra). Which for the starch I chose the boiled red potatoes…

Fork-tender, with a generous coating of garlic butter with parsley smothered on it. Delicious. While I still can’t over those EXCELLENT seasoned fries at Henry Loui’s, I’m still very happy with this starch as my side.

For the other choice, I went with the soup over the salad, which for this day was Cream of Chicken and Mushroom…

Not bad. They’re heavy on thickening with cornstarch here, as just like the rib sauce, so did the soup have that gelatinous texture to it. Was good though. It had a pleasant house-made restaurant quality taste to it if you will (ya’ know?), with generous slices of mushrooms and chunks of chicken in it (click on photo to see a spoonful).

Summing up Henry Loui’s half rack baby back ribs with red potatoes, mixed veggies and cream of chicken and mushroom lunch entree, for the most part everything was cooked properly and presented well (considering its takeout), while portions were generous and an overall good value. With the ribs itself being the only thing leaving me hanging on a fence, I give it 2-1/2 SPAM Musubi (I’m working on adding a half-SPAM Musubi icon to this blog’s rating system. Stay tuned).

The place was bustling when we got there at peak lunch hour, indicating Henry Loui’s has a well-established following of local clientele including both blue and white collar workers. Which like the also popular hidden gem-in-an-industrial area Side Street Inn, can have you scratching your head like “where do all these folks come from?!”.

I for one am certainly enthusiastic to return to sample more on the menu at Henry Loui’s, making it a point to dine in next time so we can absorb the unique ambiance and “flavor” of the place itself, where by first impression on this visit for me, looks to be just as important as the food, which for the most part, was a big thumbs-up!

Henry Loui’s
2850 Pa’a street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96819
Tel. 833-3728

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related links:
Henry Loui’s Restaurant – Yelp user reviews
Henry Loui’s – Enjoy Pupu, Drinks and Ribs in a Cozy Atmosphere in Mapunapuna – HawaiiDiner.com
Henry Loui’s – Wine and Dine Hawaii


3 thoughts on “Mapunapuna Eats: Henry Loui's

  • January 26, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    I’ll gladly bite a musubi in half for you to take a photo, um you supply the musubi! lol :)

  • January 30, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Pomai, good read. They serve pretty good pupus in the bar section. Their sashimi and poke are always fresh and tasty.

  • January 30, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Paki, ever tried their Escargot? I got my eyes on that.

    Dinera (lol), we’ll see how it goes with the “biting” on a real one, otherwise I may have to render it in Illustrator so it looks clean and crisp.


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