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Kalihi Eats: Lili’s “Ono” BBQ

“Da’ Tree Monkeys”, a.k.a. Diner A, Diner E and Diner P (Yours Truly), ventured out for lunch this past week into the “deep” part of Kalihi, right across where what was once Kalihi Shopping Center, to this relatively new place named Lili’s “Ono” BBQ.

Oh, and for the record again, always remember “Kalihi is the center of Hawaii’s Food Universe, a.k.a. God’s Country”.

What’s interesting is, the owners are a husband and wife team, whom he’s originally from Western Samoa, while his wife his from South Korea. Where with that, the menu is predominantly Korean, with a flair on Southern American BBQ.

Lili’s is set-up like your typical plate lunch joint, while being very clean and well, new!

I snapped that shot of Lili’s BBQ dining room right after the lunch hour rush this past Thursday, when prior to this, just about every single seat was taken.

I actually wish they would do some sort of Korean-Samoan fusion dishes, which would REALLY be interesting! Such as say, Kim Chee Palusami, Ulu Sundubu Jiigae, Kalbi Paifala and Bibimbap Panipopo (<–I know, right?!!!).

A Samoan style Budae-Jiigae party with ulu, corned beef and coconut (currently not available at Lili’s)

Or better yet, have a Samoan style Budae-Jiigae party! “Eh Cush, I c’oing chrow shum Ulu, an’ den shum konn beef, an ‘den shum kokonut inshide da Budae-Jiigae, CHEEEE-HOOOOO!!!!” LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyways, getting straight to business, Diner E sampled one of Lili’s most popular dishes — as was evident by everyone else in the joint — The Smoke Brisket with Corn Bread plate…

Angle B…

Angle C… oh wait, there is no “Angle C”. lol

Diner A decided to sample Lili’s Bento, opting for the Smoke Brisket Fried Rice “upgrade”…

Next to the Smoke Brisket and Corn Bread plate, also what looked popular based on what everyone in the crowded joint was ordering, was Lili’s Bento.

Which isn’t a surprise being it’s a bargain basement $6, that includes a huge heapin’ pile of Korean style meat and rice.

Meat being three key Korean varieties, including Kalbi, Fish Jun and Meat Jun, piled over a generous helping of white rice, or as Diner A opted for just $1.50 more, their Smoke Brisket Fried Rice. BUYA!

Finally, here’s my version of Lili’s Bento, sticking with the quintessential white rice…

What’s interesting is, I initially wasn’t that hungry when we arrived, however once this bento sat in front of me, my appetite suddenly kicked into “Dude, let’s GRIND!” mode. lol

And? Ono, indeed! I mean, come on now, Meat Jun, Fish Jun and Kalbi, fresh-made, done perfectly, all in one bento box for just $6? Are you kidding me? I POUNDED THAT BOX!

Actually, looking back at the photos, there was an “Angle C” of the Smoke Brisket…

There you see, the BBQ trade terms “Bark”, “Rings”, “Crustification”, “Layers”, “Gristle”, “Buttah'”, “GTFO”, and “Get err’ done,  ya’ all!” come to mind. LOL!!!

And an “Angle D”…

You know what would be totally funny is, if I showed you so many different angles of just this one Smoke Brisket plate from Lili’s, that I used up every alphabet and number, having to resort to alpha-numeric sequences of camera angles. You’d be like, “Dude, Pomai, what? You have OCD or what? We’re on “Lili’s Smoke Brisket Plate: angle 10D-20X, OK? I get the point! OK?!” LOL!!!!

Serously though, WOW! Lili’s “Ono” BBQ Smoke Brisket is BROKE DA’ MOUT’ WINNAHZ!  After sampling a bite from Diner E’s plate, I was so “J” I didn’t order that myself! And the only reason I didn’t is because A: I had smoked brisket from Whole Foods Kahala just the night prior, and B: as said before, when I initially arrived at Lili’s, I wasn’t really hungry. Yet after sampling it, OMG, I so wanted  that whole plate for myself!

The BBQ sauce served with Lili’s BBQ Smoke Brisket pretty much tastes like cheap store-bought bottled stuff, yet it totally works in complimenting the fork-tender, perfectly smoked, fatty, beefy-flavored brisket.

Anyone who reads this blog, knows I know Hawaii style plate lunches. From the main entree, down to the two scoops white rice, down to the one scoop of Mac’ Salad, right on down to the type of plate it’s served on.

Where reverse one notch about the Mac’ Salad, Lili’s is pretty much on point, being perfectly al dente, cool, creamy and  very fresh tasting, with no funky sour “action” goin’ on. However, the only thing it could use is seasoning, which it tasted like none was added at all; neither salt nor pepper. Which of course easily remedied at the table.

As important to great Southern American style BBQ meat, is a great side of Corn Bread. And I’m going to say straight-up, this one was totally lacking. It was “dough-ee”, stale, and had as much butter in it as a person in the waiting room at a Jenny Craig clinic, if you catch my drift. So dry and “loose”, no gravy in the WORLD could have saved this Corn Bread. Yet that was part of the charm! Ha!

And with that, if you ever hit Lili’s “Ono” BBQ in Kalihi, do the Smoke Brisket with Corn Bread, Mac Salad, Kim Chee and Rice plate. For just $9.75? Are you kidding me? This plate is EASILY worth $15 or more. Easily.

Oh snap, hang on, I actually do have an “Angle 12-B: 4XD”…

As noted previously, Lili’s “Ono” BBQ is located next door to Mitsu-Ken Okazuya, who recently moved from School Street, way ovah he’ah to North-NORTH King Street…

Mitsu-Ken must also be winnahz, as there was a long line pretty much the entire time we were there (my OCD mind kept going outside to check lol).

Also as noted previously, Lili’s is located right across New City Nissan, formerly Kalihi Shopping Center (where used to stay get Foodland and Kalihi Bowl)…

Lili’s “Ono” BBQ
2300 N. King Street (across New City Nissan; next to Mitsu-Ken Okazuya and First Hawaiian Bank in the adjoining parking lot)
Honolulu, Hawaii  96819

Tel. (808) 842-9100
Fax (808) 842-9110

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Related links:
Lili’s BBQ – Yelp user reviews

19 thoughts on “Kalihi Eats: Lili’s “Ono” BBQ

  • July 25, 2015 at 11:08 am


    Love your Samoan translation skills.  Simply awesome.  Food looks good.  How about a review of Mitsuken?   Never been there due to the lack of parking at the old location.

    • July 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm


      Glad you enjoyed my take on a Samoan style Budae-Jiigae Party. Chee-hoooo!!! LOL

      OK, you got it. Next week when I return to work I’ll drop by Mitsu-Ken. Plenty of parking at their new location at the end of N. King Street. Actually, Mitsu-Ken is the only old school Okazuya in Honolulu I’ve never been to yet, so it’s due time! No, actually, while I’ve tried their stuff (Mahalos to Diner “Uchinanchu” E), I’ve never personally been to Toshi’s either (further up King Street, across the Kalihi Post Office), so I gotta’ hit there, too.

      • July 25, 2015 at 4:45 pm


        Thanks for taking one for the team.   Looking forward to the review and curious how it compares to Sugoi’s garlic chicken.

  • July 25, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    This is a first for me to know now of Lilis.  I will head there to try their bento.

    At that price can’t go wrong . Wonder if they would make a meat jue

    sandwich with sauce?  Just an ideal.

  • July 25, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Lili, I’m falling you right now, put that brisket in a large sweet Hawaian style bun, get some food wrap paper and a bunch of small paper bags and get ready for those to walk out the door by the bag full.,

    • July 25, 2015 at 8:28 pm

      Tell. Apple auto spell is the Devil.

  • July 25, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    @ Pat – Buttery-tender Beef Brisket (as this was!) served in a “Hawaiian” (I’m guessing like Portuguese Sweetbread) style bun would totally work. I’d definitely add a slaw on top of that, including sparse small dices of fresh cold pineapple for the “cut”.

    @ Amy – Hmmm? A “Meat Jun Sandwich with (dippin’) Sauce”, aye? That actually sounds mighty intriguing and promising! I LOVE your train of thought!

  • July 30, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Pomai –

    Literally LOL’d when I read this post – I could really hear that Samoan accent.  And then your comments about OCD and multiple photo iterations – loved it!  Keep up the great writing!  :-)


    Sunny (I ran into you at Costco a couple of months ago)

    • July 30, 2015 at 2:39 pm


      Talofa’s to you, cush, I make’sh noo one. Goo one. Grind’sh uff’sh dih day!

      I don’t recall running into you at Costco. Was it at the Iwilei or the Hawaii Kai location?

  • July 30, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Pomai –

    It was at Iwilei Costco, just before Mothers’ Day.  You had just taken some pics of the chocolate-dipped strawberries.  I rarely comment, which is why you didn’t (and don’t) remember me…. I like to lurk, LOL, so it was a big deal for me to approach you in person!

    Have a great weekend!



    • July 31, 2015 at 5:55 am


      Oh, OK, I think I remember meeting you now. That was way back in February when Costco offered those for Valentine’s Day.

      Yep, as always, a busy work week, and I will! You too!

  • July 31, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Had to try the smoked brisket at this place so I went the day this review got posted.  It’s everything you said it was, but I was kind of surprised at how large the portions are, even after seeing your pictures.  I’m a big eater and I had a hard time finishing it all.  Going back tomorrow!

    • July 31, 2015 at 12:08 pm


      Glad to hear Lili’s Smoke Brisket was as good for you as it was for me. It upsets me when I highly recommend and praise a restaurant, then a reader goes there and are sadly disappointed. I HATE when that happens! Ya’ know?


      • July 31, 2015 at 3:57 pm

        I forgot to post a comment earlier, but I also got to try Your Kitchen in Palolo a while back.  Their Pork Bowl is DA BOMB!  Didn’t they win an Ilima award this year? I ordered the regular size bowl, but next time I’ll get the small one and have shave ice for dessert.

        • August 2, 2015 at 11:33 am


          IIRC, Your Kitchen did have a Honolulu Magazine Ilima Award plaque up on the wall in front. Your Kitchen was also one of the most popular places in the NATION based based on hits and reviews according to a reports earlier this year.

          The Shave Ice is equally awesome, and surprisingly, I see more people eating that there than the Pork Bowl, probably because it’s so freackin’ HOT!

          • August 3, 2015 at 12:03 pm

            Hey Pomai,

            Okay, I went back to Lili’s on Saturday and tried Lili’s Bento with the brisket fried rice.  Man, I love this place!  Oh, and Mitsuken had the usual long line out the door.

  • October 26, 2015 at 11:50 am

    This place has closed.  Bummer!  I really liked it.

    • October 27, 2015 at 5:08 am


      Awe man, that is a bummer! Surprising as well, being how busy it was on our visit. Looked like Lili’s developed a good following. Couldn’t find any news story online about why they closed (or if they moved). I really wanted to return for an order myself of Lili’s awesome smoked brisket southern style BBQ combo’!

      Speaking of this area, I still need to visit and do a review of Mitsuken next door for Kobi.


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