Founded in 1952, and then relocated to it’s current location in 1957, Leonard’s Bakery is one of Honolulu’s oldest bakeries. And it feels like it too. The first thing you will notice when pulling into the parking lot on Kapahulu Ave, just outside Waikiki, is the original neon signage and classic pink and white awning. You will instantly feel as if you have been transported back to the 1950s.
Of course you will be quickly pulled back to reality when you see the line of hungry visitors and locals alike wrapping around the building. Luckily, the line moves fast and before you know it you will be inside, salivating over the menu and display cases. While the coffee counter and baked goods cases are filled with delicious cakes, cookies, and pastries, it is the freshly made-to-order Malasadas that you will want to try.
Malasadas are a Portuguese dessert that is essentially deep fried dough balls. Light and fluffy on the inside, golden brown on the outside, coated in sugar, cinnamon or the local favorite, Li-Hing-Mui (a dried asian plum powder that tastes like sweet and sour). You can also opt for the Malasada Puff, which is the same dessert but injected with flavored custards such as vanilla, chocolate, macadamia nut, coconut, guava, and a flavor of the month. On this trip we ordered a "flavor of the month" lilikoi (passion fruit) custard filled malasada. It was delicious!
While this yummy stop is a must for any traveling food (or anyone for that matter) here are a few tips to make it easier:
Walk or take a taxi: The parking lot is very small and during the busy morning hours, almost impossible to get a spot. If your staying in Waikiki, consider walking or taking a taxi ride. The walk from the Diamond Head side of Waikiki is only about 20 minutes and it is a nice stroll in the morning. If your on the farther side of Waikiki, closer to Ala Moana Mall, consider a short taxi ride.
Try the original: While the puffs are tempting, and rightfully delicious, it is the original or cinnamon that made them famous. When ordering, get a variety of flavors in one box such as a few puffs, maybe a li-hing-mui if your adventurous. But always get at least one original.
After ordering, go outside: While it only takes them a few minutes to deep fry your malasadas, take a moment to step outside. The bakery is small and by going outside your making room for the next people to place their orders. Also it gives you a chance to claim an outside bench seat. There are only 3 benches so they are prime real estate.
Watch out for the birds: Last time I was there, I was sitting on the bench outside, and a bird stole my malasada right out of my hand. While you eat, beware these winged thieves.
Go after dinner: Leonard’s Bakery is open until 10:00pm. So take advantage of the late hours to avoid the crowds all together. While most people treat it as a breakfast food with their coffee, I like my malasadas as my dinner dessert. Plus its fun to see the retro neon lights shine in the dark.