As much as I strive to eat fresh, organic water-based foods, there’s always a place in my heart for the greasy spoon, that “small, cheap eatery…an American diner or coffee shop typically specializing in fried foods and/or home-cooked meals.”
Greasy spoons in Hawaii hold a special place in my heart. I loved them as a child in Hilo where I spent my summers, and I still love them now: unassuming, no frill’ cafes with cheap coffee, laminated menus and brisk service.
Despite gentrification, greasy spoons are alive and well across the islands. Here are my 4 personal favorites:
Grandma’s Coffee House, Maui
Located in upcountry Kula, “Grandma’s Coffee House” is an absolute gem along the beautiful Kula Highway — with a name that’s hard to resist.
Order at the counter, then be sure to grab a table outside on the lanai, where you’ll be shaded by trees and spoiled with a world-class view all the way down to the Pacific Ocean and West Maui mountains.
Food is tasty and filling, ranging from your typical local Hawaii breakfast of portuguese sausage, eggs and rice to burgers and daily specials like chop steak, meatloaf and lasagna. Do NOT skip the fresh pastries!
Service is ultra-friendly, too, and so are the customers. When we visited in June 2019, a Maui local behind us in line bought us a piece of cake we were eyeballing — just because.
Grandma’s Coffee House
Address: 9232 Kula Hwy, Kula, HI 96790
Hours: 7am–5pm every day
Try: the gourmet, local-grown coffee (anything but your typical greasy spoon bad coffee)
Yelpers say: “…if you’re on the Road to Hana you will love this place. And excellent start to your day…Wood floor and a screen door just like grandma’s house.”
Like Like Drive In, Oahu
You’re partying it up in the “Big City” — Honolulu. It’s midnight on Friday and your voice is hoarse from the karaoke bars. And you need food — badly.
Get yourself an Uber to the Like Like Drive In (pronounced “lee-kay lee-kay”) on Keeamoku St. Opened in 1953, this classic family-owned and operated diner continues to rescue night owls, early birds and typical daytimers in need of nourishment.
My go to meal: a hot bowl of saimin and french fries with water and coffee. Maybe a piece of pie if I think I need it.
Like Like Drive In
Address: 745 Ke’eaumoku St #100, Honolulu, HI 96814
Hours: 6am–10pm Monday thru Thursday, 6am–1am Friday and Saturday (used to be 24 hours)
Try: fried rice with fried egg on top
Yelpers say: “If you are in Honolulu and are tired of the buffets, and expensive food and just want a decent home cooked meal try the Like Like Drive Inn.”
Tip Top Motel Cafe and Bakery, Kauai
Want to experience instant immersion into Kauai’s laid-back local culture? Then drive your rental car straight from the Lihue Airport to the nearby Tip Top Cafe.
This quaint, old-school diner has been in business for over 100 years, with many of the same employees and their families working here for generations. And since Kauai’s a small, close-knit island, you’ll see most customers engaged and talking story with each other — instead quietly staring at their phones.
I honestly don’t remember what I ordered when I ate the Tip Top, but I do remember walking out feeling filled up in belly and spirit, totally excited for my neighbor island adventure.
Tip Top Motel Cafe and Bakery
Address: 3173 Akahi St, Lihue, HI 96766
Hours: 6:30am–1:45pm Tuesday thru Sunday (closed Mondays)
Try: the famous oxtail soup
Yelpers say: “I would go here all the time if I lived in Kauai. Super reasonable prices for home cooking and attentive service.”
Hawaiian Style Cafe, Hawaii Island
I confess, I’ve saved the best for last: Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea, about halfway between Hilo and Kona high up the Kohala Mountains. It was voted “Best Breakfast in Hawaii” for 2019 and “Best 25 Places to Eat Breakfast in America” by Travel and Leisure.
Before you dine here, be sure to fast for at least 5-6 hours. The portions are tasty and HUGE, especially the steering wheel-sized pancakes that come with seemingly any breakfast menu item you order.
Because Hawaiian Style Cafe is upcountry, the decor on the walls is mostly nostalgia from Waimea’s ranching and cowboy culture. What not a better way to relax in the cool country air as you sip your coffee and dig into that corned beef loco moco with fried rice…and pancakes. Cash only.
Hawaiian Style Cafe, Waimea
Address: 65-1290 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743 and Hilo: 681 Manono St, Hilo, HI 96720
Hours: 7am–1:30pm every day, Hilo: Sunday, Monday 7am–2pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 7am–2pm, 5–8:30pm; Friday, Saturday 7am–2p, 5–9pm
Try: haupia (coconut creme) pancakes
Yelpers say: “This is the greatest, little local breakfast/lunch restaurant on the island!!! Portions are huge. Meals are exceptional! Like homemade but so much better.”
Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui (chat with our in-house Concierge at extension 71).
Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at email@example.com or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo or rental home in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui.