Honolulu’s Side Street Inn is a Sports Bar. It’s a greasy spoon, a watering hole, and it’s a local landmark. This unassuming restaurant, which is literally located on the side street of Hopaka, serves up a primarily Asian menu: Korean Kal Bi finds itself at home next to Teriyaki chicken, Chinese fried rice and fried pork chops.
(Above: Side Style fried rice. Char Siu, Portuguese Sausage, Bacon, Peas, Carrots and Green Onion.)
We first heard about Side Street Inn from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation, when he met up with Colin (the owner) and a number of local chefs to dine on a feast of Asian comfort food. Side Street Inn is a bag of contradictions. The restaurant has nary a grand entrance, yet valets are jumping in and out of luxury cars and hoopty rides alike. Inside, it really does feel like a seedy sports bar: cluttered, aging, and oddly comforting.
(Above: Side Street Inn’s own Rogue Ale brew served unceremoniously in a Coors Light branded glass.)
Case and I started with a beer. Side Street has its own brew, courtesy of Oregon’s own Rogue Ale. The lightly malty nectar was unceremoniously served up in a Coors Light glass. We started the feast with Side Street Inn’s own Side Style fried rice: a mountain of rice fried up with Char Siu, Portuguese sausage, bacon, peas, carrot and green onions. This was as good a fried rice as you’ll get at any Chinese greasy spoon you’ll find back home in Vancouver.
(Above: Shrimp scampi. Black Tiger Shrimp sauteed with mushrooms, zucchini, and capers in garlic butter)
Next up, Side Street’s take on shrimp scampi. Instead of shrimp, though the cooks saw fit to replace them with perfect sauteed tiger prawns, tossed with chunks of zucchini, mushrooms, capers and drowned in garlic butter sauce. Sure, the execution felt a bit unrefined — the chunkiness can be awkward to tackle at times — but the flavours are all so tasty and satisfying.
(Above: Side Street Inn. Sports Bar. Dive. Greasy Spoon. Legend.)
Our meal clocked in at just under $40 including taxes and tips, which we felt puts Side Street Inn on the pricier end. However, they more than make up for it by the ridiculous portions and soulfully executed dishes. The decidedly unpretentious atmosphere; the humble yet skillfully cooked dishes make Side Street Inn a perfect stop for a comforting meal away from home.
Perfect for: a good, hearty meal big enough to serve a large Asian family.