Best Kalihi plate lunch: My Top 5

Part 1 of our father-daughter series spotlights Kelli Shiroma's faves. Tomorrow: Kelli's dad's Top 5
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Kelli Shiroma's dad owns a welding shop in Kalihi. When Kelli worked on nearby Sand Island Access Road, the two swapped plate lunch notes all the time. Not surprisingly, they had completely different favorites — so voila! Here's part one of Frolic's first-ever father-daughter Top 5. Up next: Kelli's dad's Top 5.

When it comes to plate lunches, I’m always looking for a yummy deal that'll give me the most bang for my buck. Since this is Kalihi we're talking about, finding go-to plate lunch spots with parking can be a hassle, but these grinds are worth hunting for limited street parking. Here are My Top 5 Kalihi plate lunches.

See all Our Top 5 rankings

No. 5: Combo 1, Pongo's Kitchen, $9.50

This combo features Pongo's popular guava chicken and baked ahi. 

Pongo’s Kitchen's combos let you mix and match — a great option for indecisive eaters like me who want a little of everything. Combo 1 with baked ahi and chicken is my fave, and it's one of Pongo’s best sellers. The baked ahi is flavorful and moist, and there are almost no words to adequately describe the guava chicken. It’s similar to mochiko chicken in texture — crispy on the outside, tender on the inside — but it’s the subtly sweet guava sauce that stays on my brain. 

Added perk: Most plates at Pongo’s are under $10.

Pongo's Kitchen • 414 Mokauea St. • 847-2291

No. 4: Nori-wrapped crabmeat-stuffed ahi, Monarch Seafoods, $11.50

If you're going to Monarch Seafoods for the first time, get the nori-wrapped crabmeat-stuffed ahi.

Monarch Seafoods’ famous plate has six small pieces of ahi, each piece stuffed with a hybrid of real and imitation crab meat. It’s wrapped with nori like a makisushi roll, then lightly battered and deep-fried. You can’t go wrong with fresh crab meat, and Monarch's potato mac side has lots of hearty potato chunks and is lighter on the mayo than most.

Monarch Seafoods • 515 Kalihi St. • 841-7877

No. 3: Furikake salmon, Island Style BBQ, $12.50

Furikake salmon plate has three moist pieces of salmon topped with sweet chili aioli.

I’m so enamored with this salmon that while I'm always tempted to instead try Island Style BBQ's garlic chicken or chicken katsu, my usual go-to plate lunch orders, I never do. The fish is tender, with a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Sweet chili aioli takes it to the next level with a hint of spice, but not beyond what I can bear.

Island Style BBQ • 2011 N. King St. • 945-3962

No. 2: Signature ahi steak plate with bomb sauce, Diners by Upscale Hawaii, $12.45

Upscale’s ahi steak is loaded with bomb sauce and roasted garlic cloves.

Upscale is known for its $20 surf-and-turf plates, but the signature ahi steak is my fave at this food truck-turned-brick-and-mortar. The ahi slab is dense but not tough, and super delicious thanks to the aioli-based “bomb sauce” it’s covered with. 

Note: There’s a generous helping of garlic in every plate, no matter what you order, so don’t inhale one before an important meeting. 

Diners by Upscale Hawaii • 1333 N. King St. • 842-0344 

No. 1: Two-choice combo plate, Alicia's Market, prices vary

Before the fire: Two-choice regular plate lunch combo with poke: roast pork, furikake salmon, wasabi masago ahi poke, mac salad.

Alicia’s closed after a fire last summer but recently opened a small counter in the same building with a selection of poke, char siu pork and roast beef. That means I can still get almost all the items on my favorite customized combo plate: Furikake salmon baked with mayo on top, Alicia's signature wasabi masago ahi poke, and mac salad. The only missing thing is my fave roast pork, with delightfully tender meat and a crispy pork skin, which is unavailable until they reopen in their old spot later this year. No problem: I swap out for their tasty char siu or char siu ribs, which are fall-off-the-bone.

For now, the customized plate is actually a customized bowl, and mac salad comes on the side for $2.50. Poke bowls are $10.95, meat bowls are $9.95 and meat-and-poke bowls are $11.95. If you order the meat-and-poke bowl combo like I do, you can add a second meat choice (including baked furikake salmon) for $3.75 a quarter-pound and $14.95 a pound. It all depends on how 'extra' you're feeling. 

What I get now: Meat-and-poke bowl with char siu and wasabi masago ahi poke, extra meat choice of baked furikake salmon, mac salad on the side.

The poke is the same as ever and the char siu is thick-cut, soft and satisfies my craving for something meaty. Alicia's Market may have been through the literal and figurative fire, but it's still my number 1.

Alicia's Market Poke Express • 267 Mokauea St. • 841-1921


Want to see what Kelli's dad's picks? Here's Carl Shiroma's Top 5 Kalihi plate lunches.

Hungry for more rankings? Check out Our Top 5 page.