As a seasoned food blogger, I really should be a more adventurous diner. Case-in-point here at Pioneer Saloon — a now well-established eatery with a 4-star rating by 264 Yelpers — where I’ve been driving past it just about every weekend all these years, yet never stepped a foot inside.
Well, after reader and former Kapahulu native KeithF recently suggested I check it out, that’s exactly what I finally did this past Sunday. Granted, it is an easy place to miss, as there aren’t any flashy signs to catch your attention as you drive past here and the other handful of eateries that line this portion of Monsarrat Avenue at the foot of Diamond Head.
As the name Pioneer Saloon suggests, the decor inside has a rustic old western theme, and the day of our visit, it was PACKED. Partially I think because of the south swell that was rolling in on the south shore that day, so all the surfers and friends were out on this side of island. In fact, several large groups of beach going folks had just got up and left at the time I took the following shots in the dining area.
Let’s check out the menu…
As you can see, the menu is mostly Japanese-inspired local plate fare. Which is A-OK with me, as you know how much I love Japanese grindz.
Like the SUGOI! Your Kitchen in Palolo Valley, Pioneer Saloon also features Shave Ice made with all natural ingredients.
Pioneer Saloon has comfy open air dining room seating, however no waitstaff. You place your order at the front counter, then wait for your receipt number to be called, which took only about 10 minutes for our order of 2 plates.
Diner K decided to try Pioneer Saloon’s Tonkatsu, which includes a massive, perfectly panko-crusted pork cutlet that’s cut into bite-size strips, served with a heapin’ scoop of white rice, this funky pasta salad and your choice of Tonkatsu, Miso Katsu or Ponzu sauce. Which Diner K requested both the Tonkatsu and Ponzu Sauce with her order. Not bad for $9!
I went with what lots of Yelpers rave about and ordered Pioneer Saloon’s Pork Hamburger Katsu, also served with the same sides. Again, not bad for $9!
Zoomed in on the Pork Hamburger Katsu, evidently there’s “stuff” mixed in with the ground pork. Let’s try it…
And? There’s definitely onion in there, and maybe panko, as it had this sort of “mushiness” to it, in a good way. The panko crust was deep-fried perfectly “GBD”. Only thing, it was more like a Japanese Croquette than what they’ve named it as “Pork Hamburger Katsu”.
It’s definitely “different”, but I wouldn’t order it again. I mean don’t get me wrong, it was delicious in and of itself, especially with the excellent Tonkatsu sauce they serve it with. However it paled in comparison to the real deal, which I’m getting to next.
OK, now Pioneer Saloon’s Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet) kicks serious okole. Don’t let the white foam takeout container fool you, this is some seriously slammin’ Tonkatsu that’s easily comparable to Tokyo Ginza Bairin at a fraction of the price. The only thing they’re doing wrong is serving it on lettuce, when Tonkatsu should ALWAYS be served on a bed of finely sliced cabbage.
The Tonkatsu sauce they serve it with is Kikkoman brand, which either they really improved the recipe, or the Tonkatsu was so good, it made the sauce even better, because those two together were rockin’ it!
Their funky pasta salad was actually really good! Better than how it appears, that’s for sure. And the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. It’s dressed with flavored mayonnaise, however I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was in it. Miso perhaps? All I know is I made quick work of it!
Summing it up, we really enjoyed our first time sampling of Pioneer Saloon, and WILL return again for more of what’s on that fantastic lookin’ menu!
3046 Monsarrat Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel. (808) 732-4001
The Tasty Island rating:
(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)
P.S. Last Sunday, the day I visited Pioneer Saloon, Oahu’s south shore summer swells were rollin’ in at nearby Waikiki Beach. Here’s some shots I took…