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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 31, 2001

Dining Scene
Haleiwa Joe's serves food that is fresh and tasty

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic

I flipped on the radio on my way to the North Shore. A song called "New York State of Mind" was singing the praises of the Big Apple. The lyrics suggested that no other city, anywhere, matches up on any level to almighty New York.

Maine lobster goes well with a drink called the Madam Pele. The menu features plenty of seafood items.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Haleiwa Joe's

66-011 Kamehameha Highway

Lunch: from 11:30 a.m. daily

Dinner: from 5:30 p.m. daily


I couldn't get the darn song out of my head. I hummed it all day long on my long overdue recent visit to Hale'iwa. I realized that Hale'iwa is more a lifestyle than an urban force. It's not sleepy, exactly; it's gentle, friendly, forgiving. Its existence is on the opposite side of the force field of life we call New York. If you enjoy beach towns, surfboards, boutiques, shave ice and a couple nice restaurants, Hale'iwa awaits.

Haleiwa Joe's, a casual oasis, is next to the famous Anahulu Stream Bridge, a.k.a. Rainbow Bridge, built in 1921. The bridge enjoys a place on the historical registry. The dining room looks out onto the marina, providing visual comfort whether you're seated inside or on the lanai.

The first time I visited, I sat in the bar area and enjoyed a selection of what they call small plates. The peel-and-eat fire shrimp ($8.75) are baked with spices, garlic and butter. They're cooked just right, tender and tasty. This is a fun appetizer. Three small-plate items use 'ahi as a primary ingredient. The 'ahi spring rolls ($9.50) are stuffed mostly with 'ahi, a few veggies and fried crisp. Emma's poke ($6.95) marinates chunks of 'ahi in a spiced savory soy-sesame sauce, and black & blue 'ahi ($9.95) uses seared tuna, served chilled with a creamy wasabi-ranch dressing.

Next time, I'll be sure to try the summer rolls ($6.50), consisting of crabmeat, mixed greens and herbs wrapped in rice paper and served with a peanut sauce. The smoked ono ($7.50) also sounds like a winner, served with a selection of tropical fruits and a papaya-seed dressing. Joe's tempura crab roll ($9.25) is a "killer dish," according to the head honcho himself, Joe Lazar.

Lazar told me that this original unit has been in business for three and a half years; the Haleiwa Joe's at Ha'iku Gardens is a little more than a year old and doesn't serve lunch, just dinners and a Sunday brunch. I asked him about the tourist-to-local ratio at the North Shore location. At lunch, he explains, the tourist percentage is high, in excess of 65 percent. But at dinner, the percentage flips, as more local folks settle in for an evening meal.

Definitely try the fish monger soup ($5.50), flavored with a tomato-based broth, featuring a generous portion of various fish. Not enough places here serve fish soup; this one's a good one. Salad fans will enjoy the Hale'iwa paradise ($6.75), blending mixed baby greens tossed in a ginger-orange vinaigrette, topped with mandarin orange sections and candied walnut pieces. The Sumatran grilled beef salad ($10.50) has that Southeast Asian flavoring, similar to Vietnamese or Thai salads. This one takes grilled beef, fresh basil, onion, ginger and roasted peanuts in a sweet-spicy chili vinaigrette.

The lanai area at Haleiwa Joe's, which is on the North Shore of O'ahu, offers outdoors seating.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

The big plates, as they are called, are full-sized entrees that you can get with a cup of soup or a house salad for an additional $1.50, or for an extra $2.50, you can get a caesar salad or a bowl of fish monger soup. One of the most popular items is the crunchy coconut shrimp ($19.95), split and coated with a coconut-infused tempura batter. They're fried and served with rice and sauteed vegetables. The prime rib ($19.95) is a popular item, served bone-in, au jus, with creamy horseradish sauce and garlic mashed potatoes.

I enjoyed the grilled salmon with Asian pesto ($17.50). It's served with stir-fried veggies and steamed rice. I wish they would offer another starch in place of the rice, but many restaurants here in Hawai'i do just that.

For dessert, they make a key lime pie ($4.95), which is puckery-sweet, set on a graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream. Also worth trying is the love cake ($6.25), filled with a hot cream cheese and chocolate filling, topped with raspberry sauce.

Haleiwa Joe's is a super choice when visiting the North Shore. The staff is friendly and the food is fresh and tasty.

Send comments, questions and suggestions to: ChefMatthew@LoveLife.com.