Liliha Bakery is a Hawaii institution famous for Coco Puffs, grilled butter rolls, and oxtail soup. It's part-bakery, part-diner, and very delicious.
Ok Liliha Bakery! Liliha Bakery is an iconic, famous, all the good things, etc. bakery/diner in Honolulu. It's an institution! The original location was opened by the Takakuwa family in 1950 and it is still thriving.
The Takakuwa family sold Liliha Bakery to Peter Kim in 2008. The new owner opened a second location (Nimitz in 2014) and then a third location (Ala Moana Center in 2019).
Each location of Liliha Bakery is made of two parts: bakery and diner. You can visit just the bakery for takeout or just the diner for dine-in. The pro move is to do both on each visit (it would be silly not to).
Liliha is most famous for one thing COCO PUFFS. We ate a lot of these growing up. While I can no longer devour three in a sitting (two is my limit), I still love them just as much.
What is a Coco Puff?
Good question! It's SO good.
A Coco Puff is like a pudding-filled cream puff, but a hundred times better. It is served chilled and made of three components:
- Choux pastry shell - softer than the classic French choux pastry but same concept.
- Chocolate pudding filling - it's a milk chocolate pudding, so creamy and lush
- Chantilly - everywhere else in the world, "chantilly" means whipped cream. But in Hawaii, "chantilly" means this crazy golden whipped mixture of sugar, butter, and egg yolks. Hawaii chantilly serves as sort of frosting for Coco Puff (it can also function as a cake filling and frosting in other cases). You either love chantilly or you hate it. I love it. It's both salty and sweet and has this slightly gritty texture, but also buttery and whipped and everything woooows.
Coco Puffs come in two flavors: Original (filled with chocolate pudding and topped with plain chantilly) and Green Tea (filled with green tea custard and topped with green tea chantilly). The Green Tea one is nice, but the Original is the one you want.
I don't know if the size of the Coco Puffs have gotten smaller over the years, or if I just got bigger so they look smaller, but the prices have gone up. They are now $1.99 each. Can you believe they sell about 7,000 Coco Puffs a day? Coco Puffs are an especially popular treat at potluck parties and family gathering. Guarantee someone is going to show up with a box of a dozen or two.
Note: Liliha Bakery also sells cream puffs. They look similar to the Coco Puff but don't get them confused. You want the Coco Puffs (not the cream puff).
You need to keep Coco Puffs and eat them straight from the refrigerator. Do not leave Coco Puffs at room temperature.
What to Order at Liliha Bakery
- Grilled Butter Rolls - The bakery section sells these butter rolls but if you dine-in, they split the butter roll in half, butter both sides (lots of butter), and then put it on the grill to get all browned and crisp. Yeah! Comes with their famous "radioactive jelly."
- Breakfast Plates - Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs, and rice is my usual trio ^_^
- Waffles and Pancakes - My sister likes the pancakes more but I think the waffles are better. You can love both! But man, the waffle is so good. It's really thin and crisp, got so, so much butter.
Both the pancakes and waffles are very popular and you can even buy containers of the batter to-go. **At the newest Ala Moana location, they make a waffle WITH chantilly (the frosting that tops the Coco Puffs). Get this if you are very into chantilly.
- Saimin - This is my grandma's go-to order. It's a classic bowl of Hawaii saimin, simple, clean and satisfying. Got kamaboko (fish cake), ham, corn, green onions, and nori. You can also add on garlic shrimp!
- Oxtail Soup - Everyone in Hawaii has their favorite oxtail soup spot. My favorite is the one we make at home. My second favorite is divided between a few places, including Liliha Bakery.
Liliha Bakery's version has lots of ginger and star anise, there are usually two big oxtail pieces and a few smaller ones in each order. Cilantro all over the top, yes.
The oxtail soup comes with two scoops of rice ($1 to replace rice with ramen). And one of the most important parts, the grated ginger!
You have to pour a little shoyu (soy sauce) over the ginger and give it a mix. This serves as the "dip" for the oxtail meat. It's really important that you do this.
- Coco Puffs - we already talked a lot about Coco Puffs at the top of this post (scroll back up all the details). They are a must order and the one item that Liliha Bakery is most famous for. If you only order one Coco Puff, get the Original. If you order two, try one Original and one Green Tea.
- Chiffon Cakes - these cakes are on the table (not in the bakery case). We eat a lot of chiffon cakes in Hawaii, it's like angel food cake, but better. Light and fluffy, no frosting or filling. Makes a great breakfast cake or snack. They make them in flavors like guava and macadamia nut.
- Poi Mochi Donuts - the donuts come in these little bubble ring shapes that are especially fun to eat.
- Pancakes and Waffle Batter - the pancake/waffle batter is sold in 32oz containers. Take it home, grease your pan, and pour in the batter. So little effort for so much reward ^_^
The Three Locations
Three are three locations of Liliha Bakery spread across Honolulu. The original is in Liliha (1950), the second is on Nimitz Hwy (2014), and the third is in Ala Moana Center (2019). Below are the pros/cons of each location.
The newest location of Liliha Bakery is my favorite location of Liliha Bakery. Some say it doesn't capture the charm of the original, and that is fair...but to the extent you can replicate the original Liliha location inside of Macy's and in a space that formerly held a much fancier restaurant (Alan Wong's Pineapple Room), they did a really good job. In fact I feel like they took the original and made it even better. By opening this location they also introduced Liliha Bakery to a whole new audience that might not have made the drive to Liliha.
The Second One
This location is convenient for larger groups (it's huge) and if you're heading to the airport. Ambiance-wise it's not my favorite because it feels darker than the other locations, but I enjoy sitting along the counter where you get a view into the kitchen.
This is the OG! The coffee shop counter seating here is iconic (you've also see it in an episode of Hawaii Five-O heheh). We don't have make classic old school diners left in Hawaii and Liliha Bakery is one of them. I always leave this location feeling a little sticky, but that's part of the charm.
Info: Liliha Bakery, lilihabakery.com, Original Location: 515 N Kuakini Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817, 808-531-1651 // Liliha Bakery, 2nd Location: 580 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817, 808-537-2488 // Liliha Bakery, 3rd Location: Ala Moana Center (3rd floor, inside Macy's) 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814, 808-944-4088
Price: Coco Puffs are $1.99, waffles are $7.95, pancakes are $10.50, oxtail soup is $17.99
Hours: 515 N Kuakini Street: Monday: Closed, Tuesday: 6am-Wednesday, Wednesday-Saturday: 24 hours, Sunday: Saturday-8pm // 580 N Nimitz Hwy: Monday-Friday: 6am-10pm, Saturday: 6am-10:30pm, Sunday: 6am-10pm // Ala Moana Center: Monday-Thursday: 6:30am-9:30pm, Friday-Saturday: 6:30am-10pm, Sunday: 6:30am-8:30pm