Ways To Describe Tasty Food In Hawaii


Dining in Hawaii can be an exotic vacation for your taste buds. Some of the best meals that Andy and I have ever had, have been in Hawaii.

With food that’s so good, Hawaii is bound to have some unique ways to describe delicious cuisine. Those descriptions may seem like a foreign language and to some extent they are. You may hear them spoken, see them on a sign, or read them in a review. I wanted to provide you with this list of words and phrases describing tasty food in Hawaii so that you’ll be in the know.

‘Ono – The word ‘ono with the okina means delicious in the Hawaiian language. ‘Ono is not to be confused with ono without the okina which refers to type of fish from Hawaii that’s also known as a mackerel and wahoo. ‘Ono is pronounced like “oh-no”.

Onolicious – This slang word is a variation of ‘ono combined with the word delicious.

Broke the mouth – This slang phrase is my favorite. When food tastes so good that it broke the mouth, that’s got to be some darn good food, right? I liken that phrase to a common Southern saying, “Tastes so good it will make your tongue slap your brains out.”

Grinds – This word also refers to good food and you might see it spelled like grindz . I consulted with my Hawaii friend, Nathan Kam, who gave me this example and context of how grinds might be used:

"Hey Sheila, that chicken katsu was grinds, yeah?"

"My grandma’s cooking is always grinds."

Mahalo to Nathan Kam who contributed to this post. Nathan is a Hawaii Travel/Tourism PR guy talking story about living, working, and playing in paradise. He blogs about life in the islands as he and his family lives and enjoys it at Kam Family Blog.

Can you think of another way good food is described in Hawaii? If you’ve been to Hawaii, please tell me what you think is the most ‘ono food you tried.

  1. Sheila-I am convinced that the surroundings in Hawaii add to the taste of the food. Even a simple plate lunch tastes better there.
    Also, Hawaii food is unique in the way it combines so many cultures, flavors, etc. My favorite thing to do on vacation is “eat my way” around the island:=)

  2. @ Janice – I think you might be onto something there with your theory that food tastes better because of the surroundings. And your strategy of eating your way around the island is a strategy we adopted on our first visit. The only problem is that the calories follow us. 😉

    @ Kani onolicious is a good one, for sure!

  3. Hi Sheila, Ono is not only a beautiful fish in the water, It is Ono (delicious!) The only problem is that the food can be too good to you. That is why everybody in Hawaii has to do a lot of things outdoors… just .to stay in shape! regards and Hello to Andy!….jerry

  4. @ Jerry – I think what gets me in Hawaii is that I start the mornings in vacation mode. So, that’s usually a pastry or pancakes with mac nuts and coconut syrup. It takes a whole lot of outdoor time to work that off. 🙂

    I didn’t know that Ono is a pretty fish. Do you have any photos from your dives around Hawaii?

  5. Hi Sheila, I know what you mean about good food here! Maybe too good. Since Ono are a true game fish, they are very difficult to photograph. The only photos I have seen are ones by fisherman that jump into the deep blue off of fishing boats once the Ono are hooked…I have emailed you a couple of these type of photos…really good eating and nice to look at! jerry

  6. Please, if you quote local slang, spell it how they would. You can explain local pronunciation and the proper translation in the following sentence. Example: no local would ever say, “broke the mouth.” They would say, “broke da mout.” (No ‘h’ at the end of ‘mout’.) Just saying…
    Great site though, and I admire your respect and enthusiasm for our beautiful Islands. Mahalo!

    1. We have a lot of people who read our site from countries where English is not their first language. We wanted them to be able to look up the words in a translation dictionary to understand the phrase.

      We have actually seen the phrase spelled exactly as we’ve written, so while it may not be what most locals say, “broke the mouth” is used.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  7. There is the company from Hawaii that makes hot sauces called “broke da face.” I must admit that I do love their sauces so far.

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