What's Your Favorite?
8 Fat Fat 8
8 Fat Fat 8's lup chong fried rice ($9) looks deceivingly boring, but it's got personality! This plain white mound has just the right amount of greasiness that we love in bar food, generously flecked with diced lup chong and onions. The crazy thing about this, though, is that they make it with mochi rice, so it's easy to eat with chopsticks and has a distinctive chewiness that we adore.
The interior of this dive may not have changed in over a decade, but the lup chong fried rice keeps our love fresh.
8 Fat Fat 8 Bar & Grille
1327 S. Beretania St.
Although fried rice is delicious, it can pack on the pounds if you don’t eat it in moderation. The salt, fried meats and sauces all add to the caloric intake, and finding a vegetarian option can be difficult. But that’s not to say healthier alternatives don’t exist, like Bogart’s Cafe Mama’s Fried Rice ($8.50), which includes scrambled eggs mixed with rice, mushrooms, asparagus, corn and spinach. The buttery flavor of the eggs combine seamlessly with the slight saltiness of the sauteed veggies and rice, so that even if you want to skip the meat, you won't feel left out of the fried rice experience.
3045 Monsarrat Ave.
Heard good things about Kaimuki Grill's fried rice ($9), but had never tried it. Coming from the beach, no measly portion would’ve satisfied us, so we were thrilled when the plate arrived, heaped with a hill of rice.
People around the restaurant turned their heads, straining for a look at the deliciousness. The rice, while light on vegetables, won back points when we saw the coins of lup cheong inside. When restaurants use coined slices instead of diced pieces, there's usually less meat per forkful. But Kaimuki Grill included lots of sausage, ensuring that we'd have a perfectly balanced mouthful with every bite.
1108 12th Ave.
Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab
After Sam Choy closed his Kapahulu eatery, changes were made to the menu of his more casual Nimitz location. Luckily, Sam Choy’s Famous Fried Rice ($9.95) didn’t lose its place.
Instead of just having fried rice and eggs, we chose to have fried rice in the vegetarian loco moco ($11.20), which came with sauteed spinach, tofu and garlic with one egg and gravy. You can also order the Kalua Pork Wrap ($9.95) with fried rice.
Purists may scoff at the wet texture of the rice, and some may find the rice not fried enough. (It's softer than what you'd expect from a fried rice dish) But by frying it less, Sam Choy’s keeps the big chunks of bacon and char siu from getting hard and rubbery, allowing the meats to shine through. Let’s face it, the fat on bacon gives it flavor. Keeping the meat softer and chunkier gives diners the full spectrum of seasoning and taste. Get there earlier during the weekday (7-7:30 a.m.) for the early bird special, and you'll get fried rice and two eggs for $3.99.
Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch & Crab
580 North Nimitz Highway
Big City Diner
Big City Diner’s Grandma’s Incredible Kim Chee Fried Rice ($9.99) was one of the main dishes people named when talking about the island’s best fried rice. The entree (and it's definitely an entree portion) can be ordered any time, but on weekdays until 10:30 p.m. and until 3 p.m. on weekends and holidays, you can get the popular menu item for $7.99 or $8.99 with two eggs.
Big City Diner's fried rice was a refreshing change from other versions that add too much kim chee. Big City Diner’s dish had just enough heat from the kim chee so no hot sauce was needed, yet it didn't overpower the char siu, sausage and green onion.
Big City Diner
3569 Waialae Ave.
Side Street Inn
Fried rice lovers routinely rank Side Street Inn's version as one of the best on the island. Maybe it’s the colossal size. Maybe it’s the added meats, a holy trifecta of char siu, lup cheong and Portugease sausage. Whatever it is, an order of the lup cheong fried rice ($14), stacked tall and wide always brings out exclamations of glee. Due to its size, trying to finish an order with anything less than four people is difficult. Most times, takeout containers are in order, but those leftovers usually disappear before morning, sneakily eaten in a dark kitchen as a midnight snack.
The brilliance of fried rice is its ability to stand alone, as well as provide a flavorful side dish for other entrees. In the case of Side Street’s fried rice ($11 regular and $12 for kim chee fried rice), it's the perfect complement to the eatery's other favorites, whether it’s the Big Island Smoked Pork (shown here, $10) or the sticky/sweet/salty Lilikoi BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($17).
Side Street Inn
225 Hopaka St.
Boots & Kimo's
The new Boots & Kimo's in Kailua recently opened down the street from its original location. If you were hoping that would alleviate the long weekend lines, you're in for a rough surprise. Regardless, it’s worth the wait.
The fried rice at Boots & Kimo's caters to those who prefer drier fried rice. While it has Spam and bacon bits mixed in, it doesn't taste salty. By itself, the fried rice ($6.50 a la carte) is decent, but it's really notable when it's put into the Onolicious Fried Rice Omelet ($10.95). Normally, when you have a really flavor-heavy fried rice, the combination of cheese and folded egg is too much, making it heavy and hard to eat. But because Boots & Kimo's has a lighter version, the cheese melts right into the rice, blending with the fried combination into smooth, rich bites.
Boots & Kimo's
151 Hekili St.
Lulu's Surf Club
Trying to find fried rice outside the breakfast hours is one thing; trying to find fried rice at 1 a.m. is another challenge entirely. While there are a number of restaurants that serve fried rice all day, most close by 10 p.m., so when you're leaving the bars and craving salt and meat, where do you go? For club kids who want an alternative to the typical after-hours grub, Lulu’s Surf Club in Waikiki serves a version to satiate the late-night munchies.
Lulu’s Surf Club
2589 Kalakaua Ave.
The 24-hour bar/eatery at the Prince Kuhio Hotel has become a destination for tourists and locals looking for trendy places to grind. The menu varies from breakfast fare to pastas to sandwiches at whatever hour of the day. The staff was friendly and helpful, especially with special requests. When we told them we were there for their fried rice, which isn’t on the menu, our waitress was more than willing to create a dish for us with the chef.
MAC 24/7's fried rice didn't have the buttery flavor of some other versions, but it also didn’t make us feel like napping afterwards. The crispy wedges of bacon threw us off at first — the crunch was unexpected — but then the subtle maple sweetness came through.
Eating in Waikiki isn’t cheap; even fast-food chains are jacking up prices to offset the high rent. So imagine our surprise when the bill came, and our relatively large portion of fried rice was only $6, with the addition of a sunny side up egg for only $2 more. Not bad for Waikiki... Actually, not bad for anywhere.
2500 Kuhio Ave.
Sorabol's Dol Sot Bibimbap ($13.99) isn’t technically a "fried" rice dish. Rather's it's a mixed rice dish, cooked in a sizzling stone pot, that includes beef, egg, bean sprouts, vegetables and gochujang (chili paste). The heat of the bowl cooks the raw egg, while giving the rice a nicely browned, crunchy texture. You can adjust the crunchiness of the rice by the amount of time you allow it to sit in the stone pot. Essentially, you cook your own fried rice meal right in front of you.
Although it's probably a stretch to call this "fried rice," it's become such an island favorite, that we figured it worthy to include in this gallery.
805 Keeaumoku St.
Hole in the Wall
Every place has its version of the island's super-quickie breakfast special — fried rice and eggs. Hole in the Wall does justice to this menu item, incorporating hearty portions with decent prices for the Downtown/HPU crowd. Served all day, this fried rice dish ($4 for a mini plate, $6 regular plate) doesn’t overwhelm you with shoyu; the fat cubes of Portuguese sausage more than make up for any lack of sauce. Add on an egg for 50 cents more, but it's not entirely necessary since the chopped scrambled eggs included in the fried rice make it a meal all on its own.
Hole in the Wall
1154 Fort Street Mall
The WinnersNo. 11 — Boots and Kimo's: Where it lacks in salt, it makes up for in versatility and lightness, and you won't feel like you need a nap at the table.
No. 10 — Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab: I love bacon, and I especially love big pieces of fatty bacon. Extra side of bacon? No thanks, I have all the pork yumminess I want right here.
No. 9 — MAC 24/7: Surprise find in Waikiki's late-night offerings, and it doesn't kill the wallet, especially after that last cab ride there...
No. 8 — Lulu's Surf Club: It's not always available, but that probably contributes to my cravings for it.
No. 7 — Hole in the Wall: Convenient and fast, without skimping on quality, quantity or taste.
No. 6 — Bogart's Cafe: As sad as it is to take a break from meat, there's no missing out on this vegetarian offering.
No. 5 — Kaimuki Grill: Two words. Chinese sausage. In gigantic amounts, all over the dish. Enough said.
No. 4 — Sorabol: Freshness counts, and the ability to adjust the texture and heat satisfies a variety of palates.
No. 3 — Big City Diner: Spicy, delicious and you can order it as a side with any entree instead of fries or rice.
No. 2 — 8 Fat Fat 8: The mochi rice sticks to the roof of your mouth, ensuring that you take the time to enjoy every bite.
No. 1 — Side Street Inn: It really doesn't get any better than this.
What's Your Favorite?
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