Hawaii is a picturesque paradise of beaches, mountains, sun kissed skin, world class shopping, and, fortunately for me, outstanding vegan cuisine.
I have been lucky enough to try some gorgeous meals on my travels, but none quite live up to the pure, unadulterated flavours I enjoyed recently at Vegan Hills.
Located on Waialae Ave, Honolulu, Vegan Hills caters to “the discriminating connoisseur with higher taste” with a menu that shows off the best in Asian and Western cuisine. Using primarily local and organic ingredients, their fantastic chefs operate without the use of garlic and onions, a practice which honours certain spiritual traditions with the added benefit of allowing other flavours and spices to shine.
I fancy myself a bit of a minimalist in certain areas of my life, so I was pleased by the open, bright, and uncluttered aesthetic of the cafe. Being located in a quiet area, it felt like the perfect place to collect myself after navigating the hustle and bustle of Waikiki beach.
Confession time: I loved this place so much I paid them a visit four times (and I was only on holiday for eight days). Leaving my friends by the hotel pool, I ventured off every other day for a power walk to this dreamy space, enjoying at least three courses during every visit. Let’s just say I lived up to the hungry piggy title. So desperate I was to return after my first visit, I ventured through a literal storm to get there (I looked like I swam there—that’s how soaked I was).
Now onto the cuisine.
Despite its name, Vegan Hills’ Mocha Cream drink doesn’t actually include any coffee, and is instead a mix of almond milk (you can choose soy if you’d prefer), banana, dates, cacao, and whipped coconut cream. I loved every single sip of this smooth and sultry option, and it was even better the second time! Another plus? Vegan Hills favours reusable metal straws, making it a totally guilt-free experience.
Vegan Hills offers an expansive menu of salads, sandwiches, noodles, soups, and more, and while you may think those sound like pretty standard cafe options, their flavours are anything but.
Their Why Not Chos, for example, could kick the butt of any meat-based nacho dish. Using organic corn chips, the generous plate is topped with black chili beans, tomato, coriander/cilantro, cashew sauce, jalapenos, avocado, hot sauce, and a soy-based sour cream.
I warn you now: once you start eating the Why Not Chos, you won’t be able to stop. I polished off the pictured plate by myself since it makes a great main, though it’s also perfect for sharing as a starter. The highlight of the dish was quite a surprise to me, since I hadn’t yet found a vegan sour cream I was happy with, but Vegan Hills have nailed their recipe.
When I make Mexican, onions or garlic are a staple, but to be honest, I didn’t even notice the lack of these ingredients. In fact, I think they’re really onto something in terms of the omission, allowing other flavours to come to life. Every mouthful offered so much in terms of flavour, there’s literally nothing I’d change about the dish.
On my third visit I decided to branch out (every so slightly) to try their Red Hot Chili Bowl, which employs a spicy chili on brown rice with salad, and the same sour cream they use on the Why Not Chos. For an added kick and to curb my curiosity, I ordered a side of tempeh bacon (pictured on the left).
You can probably guess by my enthusiasm for this place that I loved loved loved the tempeh too. Smokey and flavourful, there’s a definite meaty texture to the “bacon” and it really complimented the Mexican flavours. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be working on my own tempeh bacon recipe now (though I’m all but certain it will fail to compare to Vegan Hills).
I don’t often indulge in desserts (or at least I try) but I couldn’t resist the daily offerings at Vegan Hills. Every day there’s a new dessert on the menu, made fresh and loaded with the good stuff.
My absolute faves were their coconut cream pies, particularly the cacao and strawberry option (pictured below). Topped with the silkiest coconut cream I’ve had in my life plus some tasty bits of dark chocolate, this dessert was a winner in every sense of the word. You’ll find it’s not too sweet (something I was thankful for), and the chunks of strawberry in the pie filling was a delightful surprise.
On my third visit their ever attentive team offered me a different dessert straight out of the oven: a poppy seed and lemon cake with coconut cream. It was an utter sensation and incredibly soft and moist, and the subtle hints of lemon zest in the accompanying coconut cream made the dessert that much more tasty.
Vegan Hills is exactly the kind of place that proves vegan cuisine is the future. The flavours, variety, and sheer goodness of their menu make it a must visit for any vegan who finds themselves in Honolulu. My only wish is that they would open up a cafe in NZ—though I’d surely bankrupt myself eating there morning, noon, and night.
3585 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA