During a return trip to Honolulu, I had to revisit The Side Street Inn. Side Street is a local institution. It’s basically a pub, with good food. They emphasize fresh ingredients, big portions (for sharing) and a dedication to island flavors.
Just to clarify, island flavors are favored local flavors that reflect Hawaii’s cultural influences over the last two centuries. It’s a blend of Polynesian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino cuisines.
The original location of the Side Street in is the Ala Moana neighborhood, west of the shopping center, in a industrial street. From the outside, it looks like a dive. And the inside, the place still looks like a dive. But in spite of that, it has valet parking. And it gets good use…. attribute that to the food.
On this occasion, we visited the second location in the Kaimuki neighborhood, on the east edge of the Ala Wai golf course. This location is newer, more spacious, and in a nicer area.
The house was pretty crowded at the time. There was a large contingent present watching a college football game on the multiple TVs around the room. Since there were no tables available, we were seated at the bar.
We ordered the spicy korean chicken wings
I’ve never had Korean style fried chicken before, so I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a faithful interpretation of that, or if it’s a house creation inspired by the Korean dish. Either way, this is pretty good. This is a generous plate of approximately 8-9 rather large chicken wings, lightly dredged in (I think) potato starch and flash deep-fried, then tossed in a garlicky, tangy, spicy and slightly sweet chili sauce. Its’s served with a helping of kimchi, garnished with sesame seeds and scallions. The chicken wings are large, and moist, and warm and spicy.
And we had to have the side street fried rice
This dish seems to reflect island flavors in many ways. The concept of fried rice is very Chinese, but Side Street’s fried rice uses Japanese short grained rice, and it’s studded with carrots, peas, bacon, Portuguese sausage, and Chinese barbecued pork. It’s stir fried together with a little oyster sauce and hon-dashi (a japanese soup stock made from tuna and kelp) and garnished with scallions. The dish is huge and we couldn’t finish it all. I did enjoy this, but I vaguely recall that I liked this dish more when I tried it at the Ala Moana location.
The service was pretty good, quite friendly.
The room, well, it’s basically a sports pub. Meaning lots of TV screens, lots of neon beer signs, and a billiards table. And lots of rabid cheering sports fans.
Side Street Inn is a great place for a group of friends to hang out, get some sharing plates of good food, have a few drinks and watch some sports on the TV screens.