Kaimuki Eats: Hog Island

Now that has got to be one of the coolest pigs on the planet. And one of the coolest names as well: Hog Island.  Love it!

Which brings us here to this relatively new BBQ joint, located in a rather inconspicuous space in the 11th Avenue Atrium, a backside complex within a city block and public parking lot that boasts such now-famous names as Big City Diner, Kim Chee Restaurant and Collector Maniacs.

Speaking of landmark Big City Diner, this gives you a scope of where exactly Hog Island is located in proximity to them…

See that black pipe along the wall to the left? That’s the chimney that leads out of Hog Island’s smoker…

Witness the smoke profusely billowing out. Believe me, you can SMELL IT as soon as you approach within range. Truly magnetic for a BBQ fan such as myself.

It doesn’t get any more hole-in-wall than this very tiny corner spot where Hog Island calls home…

Other than some shared seating upstairs, consider Hog Island strictly take-out. All you’ll find inside is a small space to order your food…

No frills, strictly chalkboards…

and of course that famous painting you seen in the first photo…

Most importantly is the menu…

Occupying one corner of this hole-in-wall on the customer-side of it is their W’ham Smoker…

That black duct on top leads to the pipe outside billowing smoke as shown in the previous photo. While it says “HOT” on the sign, it didn’t come across to me as being an “oven”, causing the place to be an oven as well. Which is appreciated for already-steamy Kaimuki.

Marcy, wife/co-owner of the business, was so gracious to me on my first visit, even greeting me by saying, “hello handsome!”.  Well, I got a kick out of it anyway. lol Her husband Wayne is the chef who runs the kitchen in back. Nice guy as well.

Getting down to business, I requested a mixed plate of just about everything they’ve got, save for the ribs.

While I waited for my order, this plate of Beef Brisket left the counter to a happy camper…

and also this Pulled Pork Sandwich…

Lookin’ good!

Finally, my order, a combo plate of just about everything Hog Island has to offer,  including (left to right) Pulled Pork, Chicken and Beef Brisket…

Hog Island – Combo Plate of BBQ Pork, Chicken and Beef Brisket, with side of Cole Slaw and Scalloped Potatoes, $10.25

Also on there is Chef’s Scallop Potatoes and Fresh Classsic Cole Slaw with Cranberries. Plus, of course, their famous BBQ sauce smack in the center.

Not leaving anything behind (no pun intended), I also got a side (side) of Pitmaster’s Baked Beans…

Hog Island – side order of Pitmaster’s Baked Beans, $1.75

So how is it? THE BEEF BRISKET. No question this is the star of the show. Oh yeah. The chicken was rather dry (which I tend to expect), the pulled pork pretty darned  good, but the beef brisket is where it’s at here. It’s almost “porky” believe it or not, perhaps because they place it below the pork as it sits in the smoker to catch the drippinz’. I know of this trick from watching BBQ competitions on the Food Network. It’s something I’d do myself if given the task.

Hog Island’s Beef Brisket and their signature sauce

As for the level of smokiness, it’s actually rather subtle. You don’t get smacked in the head upon first bite thinking “this is smoked meat”. It’s more of a flavor enhancer than flavor provider if you will. The smoke they impart on their meats are provided by Oak pellets, which admittedly doesn’t have the Hawaiian romance of the sound “Kiawe-smoked”, but I’ll go with it, as after all, they’re doin’ a Memphis (Tennessee) thang here.

They claim to use “29 well-blended spices” in their dry rub, but that didn’t come across to me as being dominant factor in the end result. Yet whatever the complexities of those herbs and spices are, the sum of its part results in some darned fine barbecue meat.

As Nadine Kam pointed out in her recent write-up about this joint, Hawaii folks love sauces (Teriyaki), and with that, Hog Island’s BBQ sauce is fantastic…

It’s got a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, along with just the right amount of spices to make it robust with that “zing” factor. A dip of the pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken absolutely smacks it out the ball park.

Then you have that delicious Cole Slaw with a generous helping of cranberries in it…

Common, cranberries + cole slaw = hello! Koo-koo, koo-koo. Awesome! No but seriously, good stuff. The dressing has a nice balance of sweet and acidic as well, and I like how they cut the cabbage. Slaw is always my number one choice with barbecue, and this one delivers big time.

My other top side dish choice with barbecue is always baked beans, to which Hog Island’s works for me, although not as zesty and robust as I had expected. Marcy said they use their barbecue sauce in it, but I added even more to kick it up, and that really made it rock. They also add “bark”, which are shreds of pulled pork and beef into the beans, which you could feel in texture, but not so much in flavor, yet does give it that “backyard” character. Overall, this is a great complimentary side along with the savory smoked meats.

Finally in this dish are the scalloped potatoes…

Yeah, diggin’ this. Fork-tender. Buttery. Mildly cheesy, but hardly. A combination of spices I can’t pinpoint, but it works. While the butteryness is a bit much along with the heavier meat entrees, the “meat” of it – the potato – comes through and makes it somehow work in unison with it all. Certainly much more interesting of a side dish than rice.

Rounding up the sides, definitely get the cole slaw. Between the other options of baked beans, scalloped potatoes and rice, simply go with what you’re most in the mood for at the moment and you should be a happy barbecue camper.

Finally Marcy hooked me up with one of her house-made Chocolate Chip Cookies…

Hog Island – Chocolate Chip Cookie, $1.00 (compliments of the house on my visit!)

Yum! Sweet ‘n buttery, moist ‘n chewy. Great way to finish off some BBQ.

There you have it from Hog Island. Based on my first impression with what I tried, I’d say if in doubt, order the Beef Brisket plate with a side order of Cole Slaw and Baked Beans. That’s a winner combo right there, and easily alone wins a 4 SPAM Musubi rating from me. Oh, and take it to the beach and eat it. Nothin’ like good barbecue and the beach. Just look at that surfin’ Hog.

Hog Island
1137 11th Ave. (turn right off Waialae into the public parking lot behind Big City Diner in Kaimuki; parking is free for the first half hour, after of which is 75 cents plus)
Tel. 388-7784

Take-out Menu <click to download PDF (1 page)

The Tasty Island Rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related links:
Taekout offers made-to-order holiday – Honolulu Star Bulletin
Hog Island – Yelp user reviews

P.S. While the chicken was too dry for my liking, there’s still salvation! I ended up shredding it…

…then mixed it thoroughly with (Best Foods) Mayonnaise for a most excellent smoked chicken salad sandwich!

The smoke flavor in the chicken carries through beautifully throughout the mayo’. Money.


10 thoughts on “Kaimuki Eats: Hog Island

  1. Pomai, boy that some awesome food. Guys who are meat and potatoes eaters will love this place. Enjoy a good scalloped potatoe very much.

  2. Pomai, this is only bar b q place that serve scallop potatoes. In San Francisco Memphis Minnie serve regular potatoe salad, baked bean and cornbread, cole slaw with their meats. I think they got sweet potatoe pie or cream pies too.

    I think you gotten Reid’s recipe for Guri Guri Ice cream from his web already but I email you anyway just in case. Reserching on sherbets with jello right now. Boy if Hog Island made cream pies with their meals it would be great.

  3. Pomai, I would make that chicken into Chinese Chicken Salad since it already seasoned. or serve it in pita bread for a sandwich also.

  4. Pomai,

    Another great review, my wife and I tried it couple weeks ago when the reviews came out, the beans were great, the scalloped potatoes were great, the brisket and pork were pretty good but it’s probably my taste buds are dead from too much tabasco but I did get the smokey taste but not to much of the dry rub but the bbq sauce was great to enhance the flavor.

    At least now I don’t have to drive down to Molly’s Smoke house.

    Still need to try the ribs! They need to add sausages, hush puppies or at least corn bread to the menu.

    Love reading your reviews. Keep up the good work.

  5. I had a good laugh when I saw jasmine rice listed as a side to the BBQ. Only in Hawaii, yeah?

    More than a dozen years ago, a good friend from Hawaii came up to visit relatives (and friends like moi) here in Seattle. My husband and I took him to a local BBQ joint that had awesome food and a lot of characters. My friend ordered one of the BBQ meats and jokingly asked for rice on the side. The server stopped, stared at him, and started laughing hysterically. Then we heard him going back to the kitchen with our order and saying, “This guy asked for rice!” We heard of a lot of laughing. I think it made their night. 🙂

  6. Pomai,

    I think you should try to brine the chicken first if planning to bar b q at home.
    Added bar b q sauce after brine and let it set into chicken. I try it with your turkey brine mix and best chicken and ribs yes ribs ever. Thinking of trying on beef and pork also.

  7. Kelike, good point about the brining. Absolutely imperative for a moist ‘n tender bird. You could even see the difference in pictures.

    Jenny, I was a bit taken aback by the fact that they use Jasmine rice as well. On the flip side of your friend’s request for rice at a BBQ joint in Seattle, imagine someone from, say Texas, visiting Hawaii, going to a plate lunch stand here and asking if they can substitute mash or baked potato for the two scoops white rice. The reaction by the staff here would probably be similar. lol Me, I’m a happy camper with any starch, but I do prefer potatoes with certain dishes, including barbecue, especially if it’s this here Memphis style

    Gnasape, indeed the baby back ribs are on my must-try list on my next visit there as well. Good suggestion about the sausages. Perhaps also some good ‘ole mac ‘n cheese. Bottling their sauce for sale would be a good idea as well. Marcy did mention they were still tweaking the menu based on customer demand and feedback, so we’ll see.

    Amy, then perhaps it could on the menu as “Memphis Smoked Oriental Chicken Salad”. Sounds quite interesting.

    Raph, I like the way you put that.

    Sawyer, I was thinkin’ perhaps they should throw a cookie into each meal by default. This would be a great “bonus” selling point that would make them stand out from the crowd (well, besides them being a BBQ joint). How many eateries do you know of that includes “dessert” with every meal? Not many, right? And a cookie is a minimal cost item. Perhaps just increase the price of each plate around 25 to 50 cents (or whatever it is) to compensate the cost. But I think the marketing aspect would pay off in doing this. “Eh, go check out Hog Island. They get ono barbecue grinds and even it even includes one ono cookie!” The more folks who try it and like it, the more they’ll sell of it on the side.

    Betty, I went over a few online menus from various BBQ joints in Memphis, and ran across a couple that included scalloped potatoes, but it wasn’t something “standard”. Also, instead of cornbread, many of them served rolls, though personally I’d rather have cornbread.

    John Book, as Gnasape pointed out, this place is certainly a welcome convenience for those craving BBQ on the east side of Honolulu.

    Michael, well, until they offer a “fully loaded” Baked Potato on the side, only then will I say this is a fully-fledged “meat ‘n potatoes’ establishment. lol

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