Olena's is a Honolulu gem. This takeout spot offers local dishes made with care and excellent ingredients. From fresh ahi poke bowls to pork belly baos and halo halo, it's all delicious.
Welcome To ‘Ōlena!
Oh man, we love Olena's.
‘Ōlena is the Hawaiian word for turmeric. Did you know we grow turmeric in Hawaii? Yes! (Visit our local farmers markets at KCC and Kaka'ako...you'll find a few vendors selling fresh turmeric root.)
Chef Ron and his wife Rose chose the name Olena because it embodies their goal of making delicious local food that is also clean and good for you. The food at Olena's is wonderful and I love bringing my parents and friends here.
Olena's is a grab and go spot with a core menu and daily changing specials. It's conveniently located near the airport - I've made it a tradition to stop by Olena's any time I'm coming to/from the airport.
I order a quick lunch (think ahi poke bowls, bbq pork ribs, and musubi), followed by loaves of their famous banana-poi bread (more on that below ^_^). This poi-banana bread makes a tasty gift...make sure to get one for yourself and another to share with whoever picks you up from the airport. Rose is usually at the counter and she is one of the nicest people you'll meet.
Olena is located in a Honolulu neighborhood called Kalihi. This neighborhood is a mix of offices, industrial and residential. Kalihi is neat because it mixes the old and the new, along with a lot of great food.
We'll do a Kalihi eating guide soon. In the meantime, also check out the following nearby places:
- Nisshodo Candy Store / Mochiya - My favorite mochi shop on Oahu! This place is a must-visit when you come to Hawaii. Get the chichi dango (both plain and kinako-dusted so that you can compare) and an assortment of stuffed mochi. Nisshodo is amazing.
- Ethel's Grill - A beloved local standby. The menu is full of so many gems from the famous ahi tataki sashimi to mochiko chicken and hamburger steak. Bring friends and share plenty of dishes.
- Thang’s French Coffee & Bubble Tea - For my favorite avocado smoothies! Pro tip: the owners are Vietnamese and occasionally make cups of chè (Vietnamese tapioca desserts and sweet soups). If you see it, make sure to order it ^_^
- Hawaiian Chip Company - Located directly across the street from Olena (I usually walk over after getting lunch at Olena), this place is famous for...chips! Specifically chips made from taro, purple sweet potato, and regular (orange) sweet potato. You can buy them packaged at the supermarkets, but the chips are fried to order at this location. Hot, fresh chips. So good.
What To Order
Ahi Poke Bowl
Super fresh local ahi poke served on rice. Avocado slices on top. I love how Chef Ron's version is generous with the ogo (seaweed). Simple, delicious, and quality. I get this one often and it always hits the spot.
Chef Ron makes multiple types of musubi and they are all so tasty. He does a classic teriyaki Spam musubi, prime beef brisket musubi, and pork adobo musubi! One is a snack. Two to three makes a meal.
Hot and savory! They only make a few a day. Go early for this (or call ahead to reserve a few). Chef Ron mixes turmeric into the crust and fills the empanadas with pulled pork and sweet potatoes from the Big Island.
This iced drink is must with any order. It's lemonade made with both fresh pineapple (that is caramelized) and local calamansi. Super refreshing.
Pork Belly Baos
An occasional special that is worth driving out of your way for. Steamed bao buns stuffed with pork belly (along with the crispy skin!), pickled veggies, and cilantro.
Oh man, I loooove halo halo! Assembled to order, this classic Filipino treat includes Okinawan sweet potatoes, coconut strips, jackfruit, ube ice cream, and roasted pinipig. You'll want to eat this right away before it melts. (There's no seating here so I usually eat it in the car.) Make sure to get the ube flan add-on...it is delicious.
Who would have thought Olena would also have super cupcakes? Just the right size and never too sweet. Sometimes I drive here just for cupcakes. Flavors change often and include: ube, caramel, chocolate, red velvet, banana-poi and Hayden mango-poi (when in season).
A must get! You can buy this banana-poi bread by the slice or the whole loaf. I always get a whole loaf because it is that good. Everyone loves this bread. Ok you know how we're crazy about banana bread in Hawaii? This bread goes one step further and mixes poi with the banana bread batter! Poi makes the bread extra tender and delicately sweet...I've taken down a whole loaf in a sitting.
There's a small parking lot right in front of Olena. You can usually find parking there, but if not, try wait a few minutes to see if someone is leaving. Olena's is a takeout place so people don't usually park there for long.
As with all the popular local spots, I like to avoid the lunch hour rush (11a-12:30p) and go either right before or right after lunch. Go on the earlier side if you have your heart set on a particular dish as they might sell out later in the day.
Olena's is also the perfect stop to/from the airport. It's a 5-10 minute drive from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). On the way to the airport: pick up snacks/lunch to take on the airplane (don't forget a few loves of banana-poi bread to share with friends at your destination!). From the airport: get food to take back to home/hotel when you're too tired to cook or dine out after landing.
‘Ōlena by Chef Ron Simon: Info
- ‘Ōlena by Chef Ron Simon | 1933 Republican Street, Honolulu, HI 96819 | 808-745-7777 | olena.chefronsimon.com
- Price: Entrees are $9.99-15.99, Musubi $3-4, Desserts $2.75-$9.25
- Hours: Monday-Saturday (10am-3pm), Sunday (Closed)
Thursday 30th of July 2020
I feel like those bao pork buns are a really good price, especially for Hawaii.