Ono Cheese Steak
2310 Kuhio Ave
Tel: (808) 923 8080
Taking in something from far away and making it one of their own seemingly is done many times over when it comes to food on the Hawaiian Islands. I suppose it makes sense given how remotely situated the lands are geographically from just about every other society on the planet. And of course, the reach of mainland America (e.g. military) and the influx of so many immigrants the world over that have infiltrated so many aspects of Hawaiian life, especially the food scene are also to “blame”. Finding cheese steak sandwiches in Honolulu was just another example of this phenomenon.
After doing a completely touristy activity by travelin out of Waikiki to do the hike at Diamond Head and checking out some beaches further west on Oahu island, the return bus dropped me off on busy Kuhio Avenue right in front of this establishment. Having not eaten yet that day (it was already the afternoon) and discovering that “ono” means “delicious” in the Hawaiian language and not the surname of an ethnic Japanese resident proprietor, I figured it was worth checking out.
Immediately at the entrance, there was a large board hanging overhead that listed the variations available. About a dozen choices were listed, split between those based on steak or chicken as the main protein. The standard toppings such as sauteed onions, garlic, cheese, etc. and my personal favorite mushrooms were all on hand. Heck, you could even choose to drop the meat and swap in spinach and have a vegetarian version. But from my recollection, nothing particularly Hawaiian in nature or a local taste twist. I believe there were three sizes as well, of which I elected to get the smallest one (7″), knowing I was going to venture across the street to get some dessert (more on that in a future post).
Apologies for the section missing from this image of my small mushroom cheese steak, but I had a difficult time snapping a shot without one of the employees who was working directly in front of me noticing. So I waited a while until another customer came in and she was distracted, but by then I had to take a bite. The bread had been lightly toasted, and the ingredients clearly fresh and hot as it was made-to-order. I could have used more cheese in the mix and perhaps more seasoning of the meat itself. [I understand that Ono’s does have some that are pre-made and available for sale in other locations such as convenience outlets next to gasoline stands.]
I’m not sure though if it was the really hot weather or the fact that I was more dehydrated than hungry but I didn’t come away thinking that this was a fantastic representation of a philly cheese steak. Not that I’ve had the real deal in the City of Brotherly Love, but I’ve had pretty good ones in other places in continental North America.
And compared to the earlier reviewed and tasted Puka Dog, this meat in a bun was a far-back second place finisher, and had none of the unique, local taste combinations.