Maunakea Street is one of the main veins that run through Honolulu’s Chinatown. It’s lined with grocery stores, Chinese bakeries, dim sum restaurants, famous lei stands, and houseware stores and is brimming with activity in the early morning til after lunch.

Walking down Maunakea feels like a time warp. The decorative buildings that line the street were built in the early 1900’s just after the great fire occurred in Chinatown. Buildings like the Medonca building, erected just one year after the fire in 1901 were built in a hurry because of the importance of Chinatown to the port of Honolulu and to the customers it served. Many of the businesses that fill these historic buildings today are still are family-owned and operated—like my favorite lei shop, Lin’s.

At Lin’s you’ll see at least three generations of the family working at any given time. A large table, tucked into the back of the shop, is covered in flowers and surrounded by tutus working diligently to string together beautiful lei. They’re usually talking-story, laughing and eating while doing their work, a common scene you’ll witness if you peek into any store on Maunakea-- especially in the vibrant marketplaces.

Maunakea Marketplace was built in the 1980’s with the remaining facade of an old theatre and Kekaulike Mall. The massive marketplace houses stalls selling every ingredient in the Asian culinary glossary. Bunches of malunggay leaves, giant durian, pale pink pig trotters, green mango, long bittermelon, slippery catfish, and more can all be found in the dimly lit market. Turn a corner and produce hawkers give way to prepared food stalls serving all types of cuisine from Filipino sinigang to Thai tom yum.

With our stomachs gurgling after our walk through the humid marketplace, we wanted to find a bite to eat ASAP. Seeking some relief from the weather with cold AC but the comfort of a hot bowl of soup, we headed straight to Lam’s on the corner of Maunakea and Pauahi. Lam’s is one of those divey spots you swear must’ve in operation since your childhood but in reality, the family has only had the restaurant for eight years. In less than a decade, the restaurant has become a staple for Chinatown regulars. Come at the height of the lunch hour and you’ll be greeted with a line out the door, but the wait is always worth it.

Lam’s menu is stacked--  we ordered beef with tendon noodles, plain look fun and pork with bittermelon, my standard order. Luckily for us, Riana did a little digging on Lam’s beforehand and found out you can order youtiao -- a kind of Chinese fried donut that is used to sop up all the good broth. It’s such a necessary move. Thank you Internet! Altogether this order is enough to put anyone in the most next level food coma you’ve ever experienced.

Maunakea Marketplace
1120 Maunakea St #200, Honolulu, HI 96817

Lin’s Lei Shop
1017 Maunakea St # A, Honolulu, HI 96817

Sing Cheong Yuen Chinese Bakery
1027 Maunakea St, Honolulu, HI 96817

Lam’s Kitchen
1152 Maunakea St # A, Honolulu, HI 96817