Side Street Inn Feature

Side Street Inn

Where do all of the chefs go after they’ve completed their cooking shifts??  Side Street Inn.  A beloved but total dive on a ‘side street’ near Ala Moana Shopping Center, Side Street Inn simply rocks.  It’s been included in countless Food Network shows, like ones from Anthony Bourdain and Guy Fieri.  I remember guiding my friends here in their taxi prior to the 2005 Honolulu Marathon.  It was pouring down rain.  They stepped out onto the street and at least 6 inches of water, looked at Side Street Inn, and were sorely tempted to step right back into their cab and go back to their hotel.  To this day, they talk about their wonderful experience at Side Street Inn.  A few years back, Side Street Inn on da Strip opened on Kapahulu, and its decor is refined and modern.  Yet, I still prefer its predecessor.  (You’ll see that I give Side Street Inn above average for ambiance because, simply, it takes work to be a good dive.)

Another story – I flew to Honolulu to meet my husband many years ago for my birthday.  He promised me a dinner at Alan Wong’s, an upscale fine dining establishment that is a special treat to go to.  When he picked me up at the airport, he advised that he forgot to make reservations, and Alan Wong was completely booked, so he was going to take me to Side Street.  I have to say that, as much as I love Side Street, I was truly disappointed.  We arrived to the chants of my surprise birthday guests, including chef/owner Colin’s wife, Mel, who celebrates my same birthday.  It was a treat of all treats.  It was then that I learned I may have as many friends in Honolulu as I do in the bay area.

The employees at Side Street Inn have been there forever.  Kris is very frequently our waitress, and she is so nice and efficient.  There are pages and pages of menu selections, but I have to admit that order just about the same thing every time.  It’s better to go to Side Street Inn with a large group.  That way, you can share more dishes with your group.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken Salad



Chinese Chicken Salad is the starting course along with poke.  I like how Side Street Inn evenly grates the cabbage, lettuce and accompanying ingredients, like carrot and chicken, so that every bite has a bit of all of the ingredients.  The dressing is sweet and tangy and not over-powering like so many of these Asian salads.  The poke is one of my favorites.  Traditionally, poke is cubed raw ahi with roasted sesame seeds, seaweed, sesame oil, green onions and cilantro.  But, everyone has their own take, and for Side Street Inn, it’s poke with sesame oil and sliced white onion with bits of the green side of green onion.  The textures of crisp raw onion and soft ahi are really nice.


Grilled Steak

Grilled Steak

Pork Chops

Pork Chops

Since everything served is eminently shareable, the rib-eye steak comes out on a sizzling plate, sliced into strips.  It’s always perfectly cooked to our preferred medium rare and oh so tender.

My favorite is the pork chops at Side Street Inn.  Colin tells us that they are so tender and delicious as they are sourced locally.  There are three pork chops to a plate, and they are lightly breaded and deep fried, then sliced to share.  (Mel once took me back to her office behind the kitchen where I witness the huge vats of oil ready to receive a myriad of dishes.)  You won’t believe how tender these pork chops are, although this particular night, I found them to be a little dry from possible over cooking.  Still, the flavor is incomparable.

Side Street Inn has a wide selection of beers on tap and in bottles. Heineken Light is quickly becoming a top seller in Hawaii.  Hawaiians like to drink light lagers, like Miller or Coors over ice.  It waters it down a bit for endurance drinking and keeps the beer cold.  Not for me, but you won’t believe how many people you’ll see practicing this habit.  Also, there are big flat screens everywhere, so Side Street Inn is a great location to watch your favorite teams play.  Remember, though, that the time difference is three hours, so Monday Night Football starts at 3pm.

You will amaze and thrill your friends when you take them down this dilapidated back alley to Side Street Inn.  You’re in for a special, special treat.

Side Street Inn Wrap-Up

Price: $$

Really Good

Good Things

  • Hard to find the Piikoi restaurant
  • Excellent service
  • Pork chop are amazing!

Bad Things

  • Parking is difficult at Piikoi
  • You gotta like dives at Piikoi

The Breakdown


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