Big Kahuna’s Pizza n Stuffs
Just before we left on our Hawaiian vacation, I received a text from my husband which asked me to look into Big Kahuna’s Pizza n Stuffs. When I later asked my husband how he had heard about this place, he told me that there was a Zagat list he saw online which named the top pizza joint in each state; 50 states, 50 pizzas. For Hawaii, the pizza joint named as the best pizza joint in the entire state was Big Kahuna’s Pizza n Stuffs in Honolulu, Hawaii. This was perfect, as it just so happened that there was a night during our trip that we were still looking for a place to enjoy dinner. We knew we would have our rental car that day and we essentially had planned to drive all over the island of Oahu. We weren’t sure what time we’d be done, so trying to make reservations for a restaurant somewhere would be difficult, but using the rental car to drive to a pizza joint to pick up some pizza to bring back and enjoy at the hotel was a perfect idea.
Opened in 1993 as the neighborhood “hole in the wall” pizza joint, Big Kahuna’s Pizza n Stuffs was a huge hit. They became known for serving “real pizza with a local flair” using the finest quality ingredients they could source. In 2006 Big Kahuna’s moved from their original location in Mapunapuna to their current location at the Airport Trade Center adjacent to Honolulu International Airport. Big Kahuna’s philosophy is to make their pizza dough fresh daily to ensure that customers receive the freshest pizza possible. They bake all of their breads right on the premises, and your order of pizza, subs, and garlic rolls are never made until you order them. Locals know that Big Kahuna’s slogan is “da buggers are loaded!” which means that their pizzas are huge! Everything about Big Kahuna’s sounded just like the type of establishment my husband and I love. Fresh food, made when you order it, from a business that cares about their customers.
The pizza joint itself is decorated on the inside like a beach hut with thatched grass roofs and a tropical, beach theme. There are old surf boards and surf memorabilia that line the walls and serve as décor. There are a few eat-in tables, which were full when we arrived at Big Kahuna’s. But no worries, we had planned all along to get our pizza to go to enjoy back at the hotel. And Big Kahuna’s isn’t kidding when they tell you that nothing is prepped in advance, they prepare everything fresh for you when you order.
While we waited for our order to be made, we decided to order a milk shake to share. Big Kahuna’s advertises that they have the “ultimate shake experience!” using the finest and freshest possible ingredients in their handmade shakes such as using Dove’s premium ice cream, Ghiradelli chocolate, pure vanilla, 100% Kona coffee and fresh strawberries and bananas. They offer flavors such as vanilla bean, chocolate, Kona coffee, caramel, chunky apple pie, peanut butter, strawberry, banana, Oreo, Reeses and Heath Toffee. And these are all flavors you can mix and match to come up with a combo milk shake flavor to match your personal tastes. My husband knows that I am much more the picky eater in the family so he let me order whatever milk shake flavor combo I wanted. I opted for a combination of 2 things I love: Kona coffee and banana. This was probably the thickest, most luxurious milk shake I’ve ever had. One sip and you instantly know that Big Kahuna’s truly does only use the finest possible ingredients. Each milk shake is topped with some whipped cream, and some of the ingredients that went into the milk shake are displayed through the lid so that you know exactly what you’re eating – here you can see a couple of coffee beans and a slice of banana. The taste of the fresh Kona coffee was so terrific, perfectly balanced and bitter, the way Kona coffee is supposed to be, but yet, not strong enough to completely over power the flavor of the fresh bananas blended into the milk shake. What I liked was that they didn’t obliterate the bananas in the milk shake, leaving it just slightly chunky so you knew exactly what you were eating, or in this case drinking. I think I’d go back to Big Kahuna’s just on the shakes alone! And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet.
One thing that sold my husband on Big Kahuna’s when we were trying to decide if we should pay them a visit was the fact that they sell what they call “World Famous Garlic Cheese Balls.” When my husband saw garlic and cheese and balls in the same description, he was automatically sold! In fact, he didn’t care if they had pizza or milk shakes or anything else, he would have been happy with just an order of garlic cheese balls. According to the sign in the store, Big Kahuna’s has sold more than 5 million cheese balls! They must be doing something right! Of course, my husband made sure that we placed a large order of the garlic cheese balls – that consists of 12 cheese balls. The menu describes these as “da Big Kahuna’s finest, baked in butter & garlic, topped with our five cheeses, gooey & delicious.” I see absolutely nothing wrong with that description at all. Butter, garlic, cheese, gooey? Yes, please. I’ll take that 10 times over. The cheese balls were certainly made to order as the container was piping hot when we received our order. The cheese was all melty and gooey all over the balls and coated them perfectly. The balls were still soft and chewy and buttery and delicious. I would have been happy for the garlic cheese balls to have a little bit more garlic flavor, but I completely understand that that is an entirely personal preference. I can certainly see why Big Kahuna’s has sold millions of these cheese balls, they are addicting.
On to the pizzas. Since my husband and I have different tastes and we obviously have trouble sharing, we each decided to order our very own 7-inch personal pan pizza. After perusing through the menu, I knew exactly what I wanted, the kanaka (pronounced kah-na0kah). The pizza came with oven roasted shredded kalua pork atop Big Kahuna’s sweet and tangy Hawaiian bbq sauce. The whole thing was then topped with green onions. Kalua pig, sweet and tangy Hawaiian bbq sauce and green onions are all ingredients I love. It’s so unique (at least to me) to see pork (that isn’t bacon) on a pig, and to have it prepared as kalua pork, a traditional Hawaiian method, while I’m in Hawaii, it was almost a no-brainer for me to order this. Verdict? It was so good! The pizza was jam-packed with kalua pork and the pork was so tasty and super tender. The Hawaiian bbq sauce was exactly as advertised – sweet and tangy and paired with the cheese and the kalua pork perfectly. And the green onions were a perfect topping, as it brought just a hint of charred onion flavor to the pizza, but without overpowering the pizza with onions. I’d go back and order this pizza 20x over. And the 7-inch personal pan was almost too big of a pizza size after having had the garlic cheese balls and the milk shake – not to mention all the other food we’d stuffed ourselves with that day!
My husband stuck with an oldie but goodie. His personal pan pizza order was for the haole (pronounced how-lee). Big Kahuna’s describes this as a “popular mainland pizza” better known as the Hawaiian pizza. Although, a “Hawaiian” pizza isn’t actually Hawaiian at all as it wasn’t invented in Hawaii and while pineapples grow on the islands, isn’t a traditional pizza topping that most Hawaiian’s choose. Big Kahuna’s version of the haole is one topped with ham, sweet pineapple and green peppers. It’s amazing how much green peppers can add to a pizza. While we were driving in the car from Big Kahuna’s back to the hotel, you could distinctly pick up the aroma off of the green peppers on this pizza. Unlike a normal Hawaiian pizza which generally includes Canadian bacon and pineapple, my husband really liked the addition of green peppers to this pizza. He thought that it added a different dimension and flavor profile to the pizza. The deep dish pizza was perfectly cooked with a crispy, butter crust on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside with the right amount of sauce and perfectly melted cheese. This pizza was a real winner.
It’s not hard to figure out why Zagat named Big Kahuna’s Pizza n Stuffs the top pizza joint in Hawaii. And it’s certainly hard to argue this honor. Big Kahuna’s makes pizza the way it was meant to be made, with their brand of “TLC” as they call it. While it make take longer to get your pizza, the fact that they make everything to order makes for a better, more delicious pizza and a better experience all around. In the pizzas, the garlic cheese balls and the milk shakes, you can really taste the fresh, quality ingredients that make Big Kahuna’s different from your normal pizza joint. And the flavors of their pizza are out of this world. The combinations of some traditional Hawaiian ingredients with some different out-of-the-box ingredients makes the combinations appealing. The garlic cheese balls and highly addictive, you could stuff yourselves full on just these little treats. And their milk shake is one of the best milk shakes I’ve ever had, and believe me, I’ve had a fair amount of milk shakes. If you ever find yourself in Honolulu and you’re looking for a little something different, don’t hesitate to give Big Kahuna’s Pizza n Stuffs a try. You won’t be sorry.