I started exercising a year ago (story for another day!), and a studio I visit regularly is on Monsarrat Avenue.
It’s is one of the few areas in Honolulu that’s very walkable (which I mentioned in this post) and has a good mix of that local/tourist vibe. Monsarrat feels authentic (my mom often gets lunch on Monsarrat) and real (my cousin lives two blocks away). But it also has a nice sprinkle of tourist energy, which makes it feel special…
Monsarrat is a short street. You can walk the whole thing in 10-15 minutes. The tasty stuff is grouped in three blocks, starting at Trousseau Street and ending at Leahi Avenue. Keep walking makai (towards the ocean) and you’ll end up in Waikiki. There’s always some reason to be on Monsarrat. I’m either on my way/coming from Pilates O Ka La (Christina is the best teacher there), meeting a friend for acai bowls or tea, satisfying a cake/bread pudding craving, or ordering a smoothie for the drive home. Monsarrat feels light and carefree and all the food/drink reflects that.
I love shave ice from Monsarrat Shave Ice. The MK Special is my go-to order. Kuromitsu syrup is paired with azuki beans and mochi balls. A scoop of vanilla ice cream to top and kinako powder all over.
For the fruit flavors like strawberry, mango, acai, they use fruit purees (instead of fruit syrup), so the shave ice experience is a bit different from most places around town. The above order was acai and coconut. Don’t forget to add condensed milk drizzle.
Next door, and from the same owner, is Pioneer Saloon. This is where you get Japanese plate lunch. Japanese plate lunch is basically local plate lunch with Japanese sensibilities.
The menu is gigantic and though I have sincere intentions to one day make my way through the entirety of the menu, I keep going back to a few favorites.
Mainly the chicken katsu curry rice (they put the curry in another bowl so you can control how much/little curry you want to pour all over the katsu and rice)…
…the mochiko chicken…
…any of the fish dishes. Think miso butterfish, grilled salmon. furikake ahi, etc.
…and this natto/avocado/yamaimo/egg/poke combo. This one is for when I’m feeling healthy haha.
Across the street is a mini strip mall that houses a few food places you should know about.
First is Sunny Days which makes very good ricotta pancakes. Impossibly fluffy! Get it with bananas/caramel, a mix of berries, or pineapple/banana. There’s also granola sprinkled all over. Check out how absolutely lush that whipped cream is…I’d be happy eating just a bowl of that cream with caramel on top. Definitely not pre-surfing food. You’ll want take a (blissful, warm, long) nap right after this.
da Cove Health Bar and Cafe makes one of the best acai bowls on the island. What makes it so special? The acai is the right degree of thickness and not too sweet. They’re generous with the honey pollen, and most importantly…the Hawaiian bowl topped with poi. The poi is a big game changer. FYI, it’s cash-only.
If you’re not into poi, you can get the Mana bowl which omits the poi and subs in other toppings…
…or do the Hapa bowl which is half-acai and half-pitaya. Bogart’s Cafe is on the other end of the strip mall and has good breakfast stuff. Think taro-banana pancakes, blueberry pancakes (order them topped with haupia sauce), and satisfying sandwiches you can pick up and take to the beach, or nearby park.
Cross back onto the other side of Monsarrat Avenue and walk up a block. Now we’re at Cafe Morey. This is a new cafe, and they’re still settling in, but there’s a ton of seating so it’s a great meeting spot. Savories can be hit or miss, but I like it for a cup of coffee and slice of the loaf cake on offer that day. If it’s lilikoi, get it.
Next door is South Shore Grill. Two things to know about this place: fish tacos and fries!
Further up is ARS Cafe, home of very, very good dark chocolate gelato (though no one seems to know that they make gelato because it’s hidden towards the back of the cafe).
You can also find coffee, tea, and milk tea drinks. And of course matcha lattes and lemonade.
Keep walking up and you’ll pass the pilates studio, and a few random shops, and then there’s Diamond Head Market & Grill. I’m mainly interested in the Market part. The Market is a popular go-to place for prepared dishes, but it’s the bakery/pastry section that is very wow.
You already know about the giant cream cheese-blueberry scones, yes? They’re as good as ever.
The cakes are a dream, be it this pirie mango cream cheese square..
…or coconut banana pudding…
…or haupia cake…
…and chocolate cherry cake. FYI, if you need something savory, their hapa spam musubi rolled in furikake is always a good idea.
For a second round of dessert, the Banán truck. Papaya bowls all around. On the left, Stairway to Heaven (Greens banan with papaya, pineapple, bananas, granola, coconut, and honey). On the right, Riss Moore (Acai-banana banan, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, granola, puffed quinoa, coconut, and honey). Lucky we live Hawaii ^-^
Short List and favorite orders on Monsarrat Avenue:
- Monsarrat Shave Ice – MK special
- Pioneer Saloon – chicken katsu curry
- Sunny Days – banana-ricotta pancakes
- da Cove Health Bar and Cafe – Hawaiian bowl (acai with poi)
- Bogart’s Cafe
- Cafe Morey
- South Shore Grill – fish taco and garlic fries
- ARS Cafe – dark chocolate gelato
- Diamond Head Market & Grill – all the cakes/desserts
- Banán – lilikoi and olena banan