It’s interesting to find out where chefs eat in great restaurant cities. After long days on the kitchen brigade, they’re sick of stuffy restaurant rigamarole, but unwilling to eat food that doesn’t meet their standards. Side Street Inn gained its reputation as that place in Honolulu. Now it is packed with all kinds of customers, delighting in everyday celebrations over family-style plates of bar food.
Portion size is a big part of the story; even for an kitchen that designs plates for the whole table, they’re enormous. Most dishes are big enough for 4-6 hungry people. Because of the heaping portions and convivial atmosphere, we don’t recommend going alone or as a couple for a meal.
The most famous dish is golden-fried pork chops. These lightly-breaded, pan-fried chops deliver a bark-like crust and juicy interior with rich, porky flavor. They come cut into neat forkfuls off the bone, like a fine porterhouse. Don’t miss out on the tender meat that hugs that pork t-bone. It’s the best part of the dish. Perversely, the chops come with ketchup for dipping. Ask for the kitchen’s chili water instead.
Fried Rice is made distinctly Hawaiian by the addition of three tasty pork products. Portuguese sausage adds a waxy funk; bacon adds smoke; and glowing red char-sui pork provides the main flavor note. This Chinese roast pork is sweet, juicy, and so good that you will search it out in the hodgepodge of rice mix-ins. In a state that eats fried rice for every meal, it’s one of the best versions we’ve had.
Side Street Inn’s on Da Strip location keeps it a reasonably priced place for off-work tourist industry folks to gather, far from frantic Waikiki Beach. For visitors, it’s close enough to beachside hotels to be a savvy escape from tourist schlock.