Restaurant Review
Side Street Inn

By: Kevin McQuarrie
Oahu Island News

I originally heard about the Side Street Inn while thumbing through a back issue of Bon Appetit magazine. A person had written the magazine asking for the recipe of Side Street’s spicy wings. I was intrigued by the recipe and also thought the restaurant sounded very interesting, so I had no other option but to check it out. That was 5 years ago, and I’m still a huge fan of Side Street.

During this visit to Side Street I was accompanied by two friends who recently moved to Oahu from the mainland. As we pulled up to the restaurant, I found myself apologizing for the gloomy exterior – overflowing garbage cans, air conditioners and pipes bolted to the front of the building and various businesses of questionable character – but I assured my friends that this was going to be an evening of great food and maybe some fun (Side Street has many karaoke regulars).

As we arrived, several people were milling about the street and among the parked cars directly in front the entrance – something that would appall the patrons of Alan Wong’s or Roy’s – but these people appeared content hanging out in the street awaiting their table.

We opted to stand around the bar and have a drink while awaiting our table. After a few minutes, Earl the bartender pointed out that there were some stools available at the bar and we decided to have our meal there.

Being a Side Street aficionado, my companions let me do the ordering. All the items on the menu are served family style, with many cut up pupu style for your convenience in sharing. The 12oz. New York Steak ($16.00) arrived perfectly rare on a sizzling skillet loaded with sautéed onions and mushrooms. If you’re like me and need your cow still mooing, I suggest that you order it this way and let others in your group continue cooking the slices of beef on the hot skillet – in no time the steak will be cooked to their liking.

Next came the Pan Fried Island Pork Chops ($15.00). The only thing I can say: I hope this is what pork chops taste like in heaven! Delightfully seasoned and fried to perfection, they were crisp yet moist on the inside.

The Misoyaki Chicken ($9.00) is marinated boneless chicken char-broiled in the chef’s Miso sauce. It’s as moist and tender a piece of chicken as you can imagine – the slightly salty and tangy flavor of the sauce expertly complements the char-broiled meat. This dish is accompanied by a side salad with thousand-island dressing.

As for the famous Spicy Wings… This is a total misnomer. The spicy wings ($9.00) while delicious, have no apparent spiciness at all (the magazine alluded to this as well). But for those of us who love the wings, we don’t care what they call them, as long as they keep serving them. They are heavily battered with a coating that turns perfectly crunchy and bonds with the skin of the chicken. Once cooked, they are tossed in what appears to be a shoyu based, very lightly sweet sauce and garnished with chopped green onions. These wings are loaded with flavor; and even give the traditional Buffalo Wings ($9.00) a run for your money.

Speaking of Buffalo Wings, we ordered the Buffalo Fries ($6.00). These potato wedges look like steak fries from the ‘80s, but after that, they have no similarities to those dried-out spuds. I’m at a total loss as to how the crunchiness prevails through the moist buffalo sauce – it must be some kind of culinary magic.

We also ordered the Fried Rice ($8.75), which arrived in a mountain of steaming seasoned rice brimming with vegetables, kamaboko, and smoked pork. This dish is large enough to take home leftovers. The extensive menu at the Street Side covers a wide range of culinary styles with an emphasis on fresh quality food, prepared simply and deftly.

Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka Street
Honolulu, HI
Phone: 808-591-0253

LUNCH Monday – Friday
10:30am to 1:30pm

BAR Open 7 Days
2:00pm to 2:00am
Pupus 4:00pm to 12:30am