No drive to the North Shore is complete without a shrimp stop. Shrimp stands dot Kamehameha Highway from Kahaluu to Kahuku. For about $12, you can get a shrimp plate lunch or a snack of chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, served from a rough hut or converted van (many permanently parked), with picnic-table seating.
The shrimp-shack phenomenon began with a lost lease and a determined restaurateur. In 1994, when Giovanni and Connie Aragona couldn't renew the lease on their Haleiwa deli, they began hawking their best-selling dish—an Italian-style scampi preparation involving lemon, butter, and lots of garlic—from a truck alongside the road. About the same time, aquaculture was gaining a foothold in nearby Kahuku, with farmers raising sweet, white shrimp and huge, orange-whiskered prawns in shallow freshwater ponds. The ready supply and the success of the first shrimp truck led to many imitators.
Though it's changed hands, that first business lives on as Giovanni's Original Shrimp Truck, parked in Kahuku town. Signature dishes include the garlic shrimp and a spicy shrimp sauté, both worth a stop.
But there's plenty of competition—at least a dozen stands, trucks, or stalls are operating at any given time, with varying menus (and quality).
Don't be fooled that all of the shrimp comes fresh from the ponds; much of it is imported. The only way you can be sure you're buying local farm-raised shrimp is if the shrimp is still kicking. Romy's Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp Hut (Kamehameha Hwy., near Kahuku) is an arm of one of the longest-running aquaculture farms in the area; they sell live shrimp and prawns and farm-raised fish along with excellent plate lunches. The award-winning Mackey's serves some of the juiciest, tastiest plates on the North Shore; if you're lucky, you will be greeted by the gregarious Mackey Chan himself.