Hawaii is not the most likely place to host a slew of traditional New York or Chicago-style delicatessens, but there are still some worthy options to satisfy your cravings for a pastrami, Reuben, or classic sub style sandwich. Whether you are looking to tuck into a sub while watching your favorite football game, or grab a chicken salad sandwich to go on your way to your next adventure, here are the best places in Hawaii to indulge.
Voted “Best Sandwiches on Maui” several years in a row by readers of the Maui Time Weekly, paninis here include The Porkie (Hawaiian pork, mango salsa, pepper jack cheese, and sweet chili dipping sauce) and the Red Rooster (turkey, bacon, sriracha aioli, cheddar, provolone and onion). There are also gourmet hot dogs with a quarter pound of beef and ingredients like kimchee and pepperoni, but the crowd favorite is the Southern Squealer with pulled park, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and coleslaw. Located right across a beautiful beach in Kihei, grab some sandwiches to go and enjoy the sunshine while you eat!
No New York-style deli would be complete without a Reuben, a club and lots of pastrami, and CJ’s serves it all. Add in all-day breakfast and a list of burgers and pastas and you get the feel of a diner and a deli in one. Not the mom-and-pop feel of some of our top picks, as CJ’s is located in the Hilton Waikoloa Village, this is a good option to try if you find yourself in the midst of Waikiki with a craving for a Big Apple inspired sandwich.
Part burger shack, part deli, this spot, voted “Best of Honolulu” last year, uses 100 percent local island range-fed beef and showcases the best of local Hawaiian produce. Opt for a more traditional deli-style sandwich like the Philly Dip with horseradish cream or the pastrami sandwich on a French roll. If you find yourself craving a burger, you’ve got endless options to choose from, including the Mocha Java Burger, with organic Kona coffee rub, Latin mole sauce, fresh avocado and sliced red onion, or Teri-Kim Burger with teriyaki sauce and kimchee.
One reason to visit this deli located south of Kona on Mamalahoa Highway is the epic view from the back patio of beautiful Kealakekua Bay. Before heading down to the bay for a swim, kayak or paddle boarding session, you’ll find all your favorite deli standbys here, including a club, chicken salad, roast beef, corned beef Reuben, BLT and hot pastrami. Rounding out the menu are plentiful breakfast items, along with pizzas, salads and pastries.
This family-run business has been operating since 1977 and is a local favorite due in part to the friendly atmosphere and personal touches. Bread is baked in-house daily and Andy’s is also famous for its homemade Ahi spread, similar to a tuna salad but even better. Try it on the Ahi Spread Sandwich, with lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar and mashed avocado. Sandwiches range from the simple, like the avocado and tomato or roast beef, tomato and cheese, to options like the Manoa Delight with avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, melted cheese, sunflower seeds and papaya seed dressing. The shop is tiny and bustling, but you can take any sandwich to go and have a picnic at nearby Manoa Falls.
Hanalei Gourmet has an extensive menu that goes beyond deli items and includes full lunch and dinner menus with entrees and local delicacies. However, the extensive sandwich menu belies a solid deli presence, with smoked ham, turkey, salami, roast beef, pastrami, corned beef, chicken salad, tuna and choices of breads, cheeses and sides. All sandwiches are served with “The Works” (lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion, sprouts, mayo, and Dijon mustard). Specialty options include the Hanalei Sailor, a Reuben grilled with double corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on dark rye and the Oregon Bay Shrimp Sandwich, served open-face with bay shrimp, jack cheese, tomato, lettuce, sprouts, red onion and New Orleans style remoulade.
Island Naturals is a deli and market with several locations on the big island of Hawaii (Hilo, Pahoa and Kailua-Kona). The focus is on natural, whole organic foods and the market carries many brands that you will not find in other groceries on the island. The deli is a wonderful place to stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with customized smoothies, sandwiches and juices, as well as a hot bar that is always stocked with a variety of dishes. The grab-and-go section has delicious salads, spreads, tuna and chicken dishes, and tons of gluten-free and vegan options as well. For those who are health and organic minded, Island Naturals is the go to spot.
Serving up a variety of sandwiches, burgers and salads, Kua Aina has outposts in Hawaii as well as Tokyo and London. Sandwich proteins include Mahi Mahi, Ahi tuna, and teriyaki chicken alongside standbys like pastrami, roast beef, turkey and BLTs. Although there is usually a long line, the staff moves quickly, so don’t be off put by the large crowds.
Giovanni Pastrami is in the heart of busy and tourist-packed Waikiki, but offers legitimate deli favorites in a sports bar type of atmosphere. The corned beef and pastrami hail from the Vienna Beef Company and the other staples (hot dogs, burgers, Reubens, brisket and clubs) are all there too. Some of the other delis on this list are exclusively breakfast and lunch, but Giovanni Pastrami is open until midnight for those looking for a late-night bite. With pastrami in the title, it should come as no surprise that they consider their pastrami Reuben to be the best in town.
With an original location in quaint Haleiwa on the North Shore and a newer outpost in downtown Honolulu, Storto’s specializes in submarine sandwiches prepared with fresh, local ingredients. Storto’s offers daily specials like the Pipeline (ham, pepperoni, bologna) and the Rocky Point (roast beef, pastrami, and ham). The sandwiches are simple but well made and Storto’s also offers traditional ice cream floats, all at reasonable prices.