There are three essential aspects to every Helena’s Hawaiian Food experience: 1) pipikaula ribs, 2) ordering in alphabet (Menu A through Menu D), and 3) waiting in line in the blazing sun. That is, until this week: Depending on what time you go, there’s a good chance of zero lines now that Helena’s has taken over the space next door, which more than doubles the restaurant’s seating capacity.
Craig Katsuyoshi, second-generation owner and grandson of founder Helen Chock, said the crew worked day and night Saturday through Monday, when they’re normally closed, to finish the expansion by Tuesday, Aug. 8. I passed by Wednesday morning at 11:30 and was surprised to see no lines and many open tables — which changed once noon rolled around. By comparison, before this week you could show up for lunch at 10:30 and still wait in line.
Fresh from a week of whirlwind eating in New York City, I found comfort in Helena’s glistening pipikaula cut into perfect handheld riblets, a steaming bowl of chicken long rice and smoky kalua pig doused with chili peppah watah. (Thanks to Toby Tamaye for the suggestion.) If fate had called me to my grave after lunch, I would’ve been happy with my last meal.
With the loss of Ono Hawaiian Foods on Kapahulu Avenue in July, the extra seats at Helena’s are a welcome improvement to an already perfect recipe. So what are you waiting for?
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
1240 N. School St.
Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.