Bangin’ Barbecue

Ono, You Know

September 23, 2018

Story By: Ellise Kakazu | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Dining Out editor Ellise Kakazu believes Kau Kau Grill’s Barbecue Baby Back Ribs ($12) is a sure hit.

Locals love to eat meat slathered in teriyaki sauce, shoyu and brown gravy. While these tried-and-true sauces are island staples, I want to suggest a delicious alternative — barbecue sauce.

The decadent red-hued sauce typically is found on the tables of Southern-style restaurants and is most popular on the U.S. mainland, making some kamaaina believe it is hard to find here on the islands. But in actuality, there are many places in Hawaii pouring out streams of the glistening sauce, which can range from sweet and tangy to spicy.

In fact, Hawaii has its own take on the meat dressing, bringing pineapples into the mix. Some other barbecue sauce styles that can be found are St. Louis, Texas and Kansas City.

My mouth is watering just thinking about all the finger-licking good sauces out there to explore. So let’s saddle up and begin this saucy expedition!


The trail to tasty barbecue sauce leads us to Kau Kau Grill on Mapunapuna Street. This local favorite herds in visitors from near and far, as the hot spot serves some of the best plates of meat and seafood around.

Kau Kau Grill’s Barbecue Baby Rack Ribs ($12) (shown with Krazy Rice, $1 per scoop)

Starting as a food truck in 2013, Kau Kau Grill’s popularity quickly grew and led to the opening of its storefront. According to co-owner Miles Oyasato, the eatery’s success was built upon its Barbecue Baby Back Ribs ($12 regular, $9 mini).

“That’s what we are known for,” explains Oyasato. “Ribs made the company.”

Digging into Kau Kau’s sensational Barbecue Baby Back Ribs, you will find that the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. The desirable texture is achieved by slow cooking the ribs for about four to five hours before it is finished off on the grill, says Oyasato.

Once the meat is cooked to pure perfection, it is topped with a nice helping of the restaurant’s house-made barbecue sauce, which Oyasato describes as a “local, sweet barbecue sauce.”

The sweet sauce definitely acts as the icing on the cake, as it creates a shiny coating on the ribs and complements the meat’s smoky flavor.

If you can’t get enough of Kau Kau Grill’s mouthwatering meat icing, substitute white rice for a scoop of Krazy Rice ($1 per scoop with a plate purchase, $3 a la carte). The rice is flavored with Kau Kau’s beloved barbecue sauce, a blend of spices and shreds of baby back ribs.

“(Krazy Rice) gives you a kick after you eat it,” notes Oyasato.

In addition to ribs and rice, a plate of Barbecue Baby Back Ribs comes with a scoop of spaghetti noodles mac salad, which is made in-house.

“Everything on our menu is made in-house (with the exception of salad dressing),” says Oyasato.

Kau Kau Grill’s menu includes Garlic Shrimp, Smoked Meat, Poke Bowl, Pulehu Beef Short Ribs and more.

No matter what you choose to fill your stomach with, I know your taste buds will go buck-wild!


Continuing this scrumptious journey, we arrive at Yellow Cab Pizza Co., a popular eatery known for its pizzas, pastas and wings.

Yellow Cab Pizza Co.’s Barbeque Chicken pizza ($12.95 14-inch) PHOTO BY LAWRENCE TABUDLO

First-time visitors may step into Yellow Cab expecting typical pizza joint offerings, but general manager Maly San Luis explains the restaurant offers classic and out-of-the-box items, such as Four Seasons pizza, a pie featuring a quartet of flavors including barbecue.

Yellow Cab Pizza Co.’s barbecue sauce is “hickory smoked flavored,” notes San Luis.

“It’s a Yellow Cab recipe,” she adds, which can’t be revealed.

The restaurant uses its special sauce in a number of items, and one of them is Barbeque Chicken pizza ($8.95 10-inch, $12.95 14-inch, $16.95 18-inch), which consists of mozzarella cheese, chicken (marinated in lime juice and barbecue sauce), red onions and cilantro atop Yellow Cab’s hickory smoked barbecue sauce.

Oftentimes barbecue-based pizzas can be a bit overpowering — that is not the case here. Yellow Cab Pizza Co.’s Barbeque Chicken pizza contains just the right amount of kick, tang and sweetness. According to San Luis, the restaurant’s recipe is fashioned like a “traditional barbecue sauce.”

“It’s actually the same sauce that we use for the (Barbeque) Wings,” notes San Luis. “It’s one of our top wing flavors.”

Those looking for lighter fare still can enjoy Yellow Cab’s barbecue sauce, as it is found within the restaurant’s BBQ Chicken Salad, a mix of black beans, corn, tomato, jicama, white cheddar cheese, cilantro, fresh tortilla chips and chicken marinated in the same barbecue sauce used in the aforementioned menu items.

So when you have a hankering for all things barbecue, you know where to go — Yellow Cab Pizza Co.

Well, partner, this is where we say goodbye. But don’t you worry. We will meet again next week. Until then, keep on expanding your culinary horizons — yee-haw!

Honolulu, HI 96817

Honolulu, HI 96819

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best