Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
56-505 Kamehameha Highway
Kahuku, HI 96731
Tel: (808) 221-1518
No trip along with windward side of Oahu up to the North Shore would be complete without a stop at one of the many shrimp trucks conveniently parked roadside for passing hungry travelers.
And probably the first one you’ll see, and the most famous, is Giovanni’s. Their prominent signage situated on the flatbed of the above white pickup truck is one you cannot miss as you drive along Kamehameha Highway.
The general eating area is a basic setup of picnic tables covered by a large tent tarp, perhaps to ward off any unexpected rainfall that can hit this part of the island, especially in the fall/winter months. As you’ll noticed when you get closer to the shrimp truck itself, graffiti is everywhere, even on the white fence surrounding the compound. I figure its a way for tourists and die hard fans to leave their mark and stake their claim to have eaten the shrimp at Giovanni’s. Without a marker handy, I had to pass on this tradition.
By the time we arrived at the truck it was already 6pm, so we just missed their cutoff of 6:30pm. Despite the end of day timing, people were still lined up and coming into the parking area behind us as we stood in line. I wondered why they didn’t stay open even later as the demand is clearly there and the sun did not set til past 8pm (which we caught later on at the amazing Sunset Beach, a short ten minute ride away).
With four of us in our party, we thought we’d try out all four types on the menu and share, including the garlic hot dog. Unfortunately, we were told that only item #1 was available this late in the day. Not sure if it was due to running out of ingredients or plain laziness. Part of me feels it was the latter.
But no matter, as I’d heard the scampi was their best offering. For a dozen shrimp, two heapings of rice, it priced out at $13, which I’d also heard had gone up from $10 in just a few years. A ten minute or so wait, and our number was called and two of us returned to the window to pick up our plates.
Our individual reactions to the shrimp scampi was a mixed bag. I was of the opinion that it was just so-so. It was heavily loaded with garlic, which I don’t mind, but was doused in lemon butter, making for a really soggy task to try and eat by picking apart the meat from the shells. The shrimp were in my opinion, a touch on the overdone side – which made me wonder if coming so late in the day I ran into a cook who was rushing through the last couple of orders on higher heat than normal.
The rice itself was very moist and I didn’t really eat any of it. Part of me wished there was a side salad instead, with a sharp, tart dressing to cut through the heaviness of the plate, as even the rice was slathered with the same oily, garlicky sauce.
As mentioned earlier, the doors to the shrimp truck closed promptly at 6:30pm, with a last call announcement from the window asking if anyone needed any napkins. This strict compliance with the recognized closing time caught me by a surprise, as its usually not the case in laid back Hawaii.
A washroom built in a structure behind the eating area provided some facilities to get the oiliness off of one’s hands, so don’t despair if you run out of paper napkins to wipe the mess and the truck is long gone.
Also, situated perpendicular to the shrimp truck was another vehicle that served up other drinks and desserts. As we waited for our order to be prepared, we got a half pineapple to act as an appetizer (seems this is the fruit of choice for pre-meal munchies, as we found out later that week at a luau).
One side of the quarter-cut pineapple was covered in a fine powder called li hing mui, which tasted like plum and had a unique sweet, sour, and salty profile. I can’t say I really liked it and would rather prefer to have the delicious, sweet Hawaiian pineapple on its own.
For the relative price, I’d say you could probably get the same shrimp scampi dish in a restaurant in the middle of Honolulu. Some places down in Waikiki are also known to have it, and you can also come across the odd street vendor selling the same. So I thought the price point was high, given it was in such a secluded place and quite the drive from the main part of the island.
I suppose the real value is the scenery you take in as you make your way up to the North Shore, and to say you had shrimp off the trucks there, thus checking off one item from the general Hawaii tourist list.