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Hawaii must eats !

we are planning a family vacation in Honolulu and looking for some recommendations on the big island. since we are taking the little ones with us, we would like to try a bunch of hole in the wall type places esp food that is unique to Hawaii. anything is game.
also, need a rec for the best restaurant to go without the kids.

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  1. Do you want recs for Honolulu or the Big Island?

    1. Honolulu please.
      Thanks !

      1. I haven't been to Honolulu for several years...


        Alan Wong's - the "ahi cake" appetizer is incredible, layering raw ahi tuna with smokey grilled eggplant; however they really packed in the tables... I felt as though I was on honeymoon with the couple next to us.

        Roy's (Hawaii Kai area) - it's a bit out of town, but if you can time the sunset and get a view, it's very nice and most of the food is top notch; unless a special is extremely tempting, though, the tried and true items that have stuck on the menu for a decade probably are the best bet.

        Tremendous value:

        Kaka'ako Kitchen - At the Ward Center, this restaurant runs the range from Pacific Rim fusion to plate lunch; served in a polystyrene "to go" box, you can eat right outside on the patio -- and watch the cars come in and out of the parking lot -- or take it a dozen blocks to a park on the water. Excellent prices, superior execution. And afterwards you can hit the Brookstone for an electric chair massage.


        Malasadas - these Portuguese-inspired "doughnuts" come in a variety of styles and people fiercely defend their favorites. To me, most of them are boring fried bread puffs, but the ones at Champion Malasada are more hearty, a bit like the heft of a buttermilk doughnut in an ocean of raised ones.

        Manapua - these supersized char siu bao can be found at any number of places, but for quality of filling, Char Hung Sut in Chinatown beats all the others that I've tried. You might want to map it in advance between traffic and parking can be a bit unpredictable. Also, as you might expect of a carry-out dim sum operation, freshness and selection are best early in the morning.

        1. I would definately try out Little Kitchen in Chinatown. Also, on the Windward coast, there is Buzz's Steakhouse. Cash only, no reservations. Go early and try the Articoke Surprise. I am still hungry for it...eight months later!

          1 Reply
          1. re: sarahbeth

            Is there a great place called Little Kitchen, or are you possibly referring to Little Village (545-3008)? If the latter, we really liked that, too. And couldn't endorse more heartily the reco below of Mekong (591-8842) (think they deliver takeout to Boston?).

          2. For local food at cheap hole-in-the-walls, try Ono Hawaiian and Helen's Chinese on Kapahulu. Gina's Korean BBQ in the Foodland strip mall off Harding; there is also a decent ramen place, Sumo, in that mall. For a beach picnic, stop by an Okazuya (Hawaiian Deli) for savory snacks...try Ebisu on King or Caryn's on, I think, Beretania. All of these are within a 10 minute drive of Waikiki, if you are staying in West Honolulu, there is a whole other world of options.

            For a bit more money, try some of the best Thai food you will find anywhere in the US at Mekong, with branches on King and Beretania.

            If you are there on a Tuesday, check out Keiki (kid's) night at Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch and Crab. They have all kinds of kids activities and Choy has many dishes that have become Hawaii standards.

            1. Helen's Chinese closed recently, the couple retired. Too bad, it was a great cheap eats place, classic mom and pop operation.

              1. Nico's at Pier 38 is a must if you love fresh fish, very casual, no table service. On Jin's Cafe in the Ward Entertainment area is also very good.

                1. thanks chowhounds for all the recs !

                  1. Pineapple Room by Alan Wong in the mall serves lunch and dinner and is less expensive than the main restaurant. The main restuarant is great as well but you can't bean the prices in the Pineapple Room for the quality.

                    Eggs and Things: Banana Macadamia Nut pancakes w/coconut syrup.

                    Also between Alan Wongs and Roy's if your torn go for Alan Wong's. Roys has other locations in the U.S. including Chicago so if you travel you can get your fix for them on the mainland no such luck for Alan Wong's.

                    If you go to the main A.W. get the "da bomb" kaula pig appetizer.

                    1. Just wanted to say thanks again for all the recs.
                      We just came back from Hawaii last week and had a great time along with great food.

                      Breakfast usually starting with a trek to either Zippy's, Rainbows, or L & L for a nice hearty breakfast as well as a stop over at Leonards for some malasadas.

                      Lunch was take out from Kaka'ako Kitchen and eaten at a variety of beachparks.

                      For dinner, we splurged and ate at Alan Wong's twice including the 7 course dinner at the Chef's Counter....awesome ! We also had tasty Thai food at Mekong where spicy really means spicy.

                      Mahalo !

                      1. Sounds like you had a good time!!

                        1. I love Cholo's in Haliewa. When I was living in Hawaii (from NM) this was where I would get my Mexican fix. Fresh food, great service and value. Delicious margaritas! It is in a shopping center with some other restaurants, galleries and surf shops.

                          1. The kids will love the Shore Bird. It's at a hotel on Waikiki Beach, near the Halakulani. You grill your own fish, meat with a decent salad bar. Reasonably priced.

                            1. A few thoughts on the above. Avoid Cholo's Buzz, the Shore Bird, and Sam Choy's BLC. They simply aren't any good. For a romantic dinner on the water (there actually remarkably few restaurants on the water) Orchid;s at the Halekulani s awesome. Chef Darryl Fujita trained with Chef Mavro and is doing amazing things. Mavro's is another awesome place -- very refined, kinda like El Bulli meets Hawaii Regional. One thing to keep in mind about Roy's is it's really, really LOUD. Food is good but be prepared to yell. A great hidden find -- Jay at the Willows. Jay Matsukawa is turning out great plates and tourists never go there. A really solid blog, www.hawaiirama.com, interviews local chefs and asks them (http://hawaiirama.com/2006/07/off-the... they eat when they're not cooking. Really cool insider stuff.

                              1. Side Street Inn. The area to the far left is suitable for kids (it's a sports bar). Just had dinner there with family (family are locals; DH and I were visiting from CA) and had pupu's for dinner. Everything was great! We shared the saimin (really just chow mein with the saimin noodles), poke, deep fried chicken gizzards (yum!), buffalo tenders, lilikoi creme brulee, fried pound cake, and maybe more but I can't remember...

                                Side Street Inn
                                1225 Hopaka St
                                Honolulu, HI 96814
                                (808) 596-8282