The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, July 15, 1999

Shrines to shrimp

TOURISTS driving around our island have likely discovered a phenomenon unknown to those who never venture beyond Honolulu. That is, shrimp is our new state food. It's the only way to explain the hawkers who have set up shop selling it along our two-lane highways, from Haleiwa to Kualoa.

This weekend is particularly eventful for those who want to head toward the North Shore. The Hale'iwa Arts Festival runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday throughout Haleiwa. The free event will feature art demonstrations and sales; Hawaiian craft demonstrations; and music, dance and storytelling performances.

Should you get hungry, there are the usual haunts -- Kua 'Aina, Jameson's, Cholo's, etc. -- but now you have the option of dining a la car.

Giovanni's Aloha Shrimp STARSTARSTARSTAR

In light of competition, the original shrimp truck now has a tall sign proclaiming this status. The truck, parked just south and across from Kahuku High School, simply reads "Shrimp Truck," and a real party scene has sprung up around it, with tables, tarps, umbrellas and Hawaiian music playing over speakers.

The shrimp truck was white once, but now it's covered with the graffiti scrawl of thousands who came, ate and became true believers. These days, you can barely make out the menu. It, too, is covered with graffiti. No matter. Employees push the scampi, 12 medium-sized black tiger shrimp liberally coated in garlic that's ideally crunchy. When it's busy here, the mixture gets a tad mushy. This is served on a bed of cabbage with two scoops of rice for $11.

Chile aficionados opt for shrimp with a hot sauce that won Giovanni's a Scovie Award from Fiery Foods magazine. Years ago, I could only handle one drop of the sauce. I don't know if they toned it down for weaklings or if I toughened up, but these days I can dunk the whole shrimp in the sauce and eat it without chasing it with rice or water (the wrong thing I know, wise guys).

Open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.

A second Giovanni's truck is also located at the northbound entrance to Haleiwa.

Kahuku Shrimp Wagon STARSTARSTAR1/2

In front of the old Kahuku Sugar Mill, this truck tends to appeal to those who want to avoid the crowd at Giovanni's. The Shrimp Wagon's expanded menu includes pork adobo, teriyaki beef and laulau, but here too, shrimp reigns.

As at Giovanni's, they're happy here to accommodate those who want to order a single shrimp plate ($10), half with garlic butter and half hot and spicy, with a Korean-style sauce. This is served with rice and macaroni salad.

There's also shrimp with cocktail or Western barbecue sauce, shrimp stir-fried with veggies, shrimp tempura and coconut shrimp. Avoid the latter two, which are flat and more bready than meaty.

The Shrimp Shack STARSTAR1/2

The newest competitor, Shrimp Shack, is located near the entrance to Kualoa Ranch near Chinaman's Hat.

Offered are peel-and-eat shrimp not easily compared to the versions above. I found them bland. Punch them up with cocktail sauce, garlic butter or a dash of spices. Ten shrimp with rice costs about $5.95, making this the bargain of the bunch.

Also on the menu are Kahuku corn, hot dogs, chili dogs and chili bowls, plus fruit in season.

The Shrimp Shack is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays. Call 256-5589.

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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

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