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Helena’s is legendary among locals. It hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1946. It’s still a no frills, hole-in-the-wall, tucked away in a strip mall. It’s far from fancy, but they happen to serve up the best traditional Hawaiian food around. 


Their simple menu features classics like kalua pig, haupia, and poi alongside their legendary pipikaula (which are meaty short ribs that have been dried and then pan-fried). These are all old school family recipes. This is how traditional Hawaiian food is supposed to taste. 


The beloved eatery was started by Helen Kwock Chock, who won a James Beard award in 2000 for outstanding regional cuisine. Grandson Craig Katsuyoshi now runs the restaurant — still preparing the beef the same way his grandmother did, by hanging the ribs above the stove to dry and then cooking to order. 


It’s one of the oldest Hawaiian restaurants still around — opening 13 years before statehood.

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1240 N School St.

Honolulu, HI 96817

Contact Info



  • Tues - Fri  ▭  10am - 7:30pm

  • Sat - Mon  ▭  CLOSED



  • Individual dishes: ~$4 - $10

  • Meals: ~$14 - $30


  • Bishop Museum — 10 min walk (or 3 min drive)

  • Local Joe — 12 min walk (or 3 min drive)

  • Jolene’s Market — 5 min drive

  • Bar Leather Apron — 5 min drive

  • Tiger Sugar — 7 min drive

  • Kamehameha Bakery — 8 min drive

  • Thang’s French Coffee & Bubble Tea — 10 min drive

  • Natsunoya Tea House (for Happy Hearts Mochi) — 12 min drive

  • Kaka’ako Street Art — 15 min drive

  • Waikiki — 20 min drive

Where locals go for the best Hawaiian comfort food. No frills diner vibe, with a simple menu. James Beard award winner. One of the oldest Hawaiian restaurants.

Helena's Hawaiian Food


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Good to know





  • Menu D for a sampling of all their best dishes: Kalua Pig, Lomi Salmon, Pipikaula Short Ribs, Luau Squid and your choice of rice or poi. 

  • Pipikaula Short Ribs. They’re known for these. 

  • Kalua Pig.

  • Fried Butterfish Collar.

  • Lau Lau (pork steamed in taro leaves).

  • Squid Luau

  • Haupia

  • Chili Pepper Water. If you’re ordering takeout, you’ll have to ask for this. It’s basically a watered down chili sauce that you can sprinkle on just about anything.

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  • They now take credit cards. It used to be cash only. 

  • There’s barely any parking in this tiny strip mall so you may have to drive around for a while waiting for a spot to open up. You may want to let one person out to wait in line while someone else finds parking. 

  • Go early or you’ll spend a long time waiting in line and may have trouble finding parking. If you get there early, you may also be able to snag a table inside, which is hard to get. You can also try going in the late afternoon, but they may sell out of some things by then. 

  • Lines start forming before they even open. There are always lines but they move fast.

  • It gets crazy busy during the lunch rush from 11:30am - 1:30pm. Expect long waits. 

  • You can pre order food online and then pick up at the time you choose. But just FYI, it’s not uncommon to show up at the time your order’s ready and still have to wait for your food. 

  • Don’t go on the weekends. They’re closed Sat - Mon. 

The food

  • Unless you opt for one of the meals, each item is served as its own dish. You’ll want about 3 items per person. 

  • Chili Pepper Water is out on the tables, but you have to ask if you want some for take out orders. It’s like watered down hot sauce that you can pour over just about anything — especially kalua pork and laulau. 

  • You can buy the kalua pig and haupia by the pound.

  • Look behind the counter and you’ll spot fresh pipikaula (like beef jerky) hanging over the stove. They pan fry the dried pipikaula to order. 

  • Every order comes with Maui Onions sprinkled with sea salt (unless they run out for the day). You can eat them between dishes as a palate cleanser. 

  • Poi isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re new to it, but it is a staple in Hawaii. Helena’s is a good place for poi if you want to try it. 

  • Helena’s is one of the only places on the island where you can still order opihi. It’s a Hawaiian delicacy, usually eaten raw or like poke. 



  • Helena’s won a James Beard Award in 2000. It was named a Regional Classic “America’s Classics” in 2000 — an award specifically for beloved, locally owned restaurants that reflect the character of their communities. 

  • Helen Kwock Chock opened the restaurant in 1946, 13 years before Hawaii’s statehood. 

  • In the 1950’s she dropped the Chinese and breakfast items from the menu to focus on a small list of Hawaiian comfort food. It hasn’t changed much since then. 

  • Helen’s husband came up with the idea of calling it Helena’s. He said it sounded more Hawaiian than Helen’s. 

  • Helen’s grandson, Craig Katsuyoshi, took over the kitchen in 2001, but she continued to work every day (behind the stove or register) until just before she passed away in 2007, a few weeks before her 90th birthday. Her grandson still runs the restaurant today.

  • They have a “Bill Murray” table in the back of the kitchen. That’s where they sat him when he came to visit. Check out the picture of him at the checkout. 

Last Updated 11 / 9 / 21

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