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In Oahu with car - good eats, good value?

We'll be in Turtle Bay for four days and in Waikiki for three.

Sounds from this forum like Waikiki is slim pickings for food. We are definitely willing to drive for good food, particularly if it's a good value. We're looking for mostly moderately priced stuff or lower with maybe one expensive night out. We''re fine with hole-in-the-wall too.

Besides the shrimp stands in the North Shore (we'll go there for husband--I don't like shrimp), where else should we go? And if we're stuck in Waikiki one night, what's our best best for decent food?


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  1. We were at Turtle Bay last summer. Lei Lei's in the golf clubhouse serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had both lunch and dinner. They were both good but I thought the lunch was better. We had a very good dinner at Ola at the resort. We were going to try 21 Degrees North for dinner but they were closed on Sunday and Monday. Very strange for a restaurant at a resort during the high season. We tried several of the shrimp trucks at Kahuku but the one we preferred was close to Turtle Bay. When you exit Turtle Bay, turn right on Kamehameha Hwy. The shrimp truck will be on your left a short distance down the highway. I believe it only operates on weekends. Continue west on the highway until you reach Haleiwa town. Get a shaved ice at Matsumoto's Grocery Store on the main drag. Just look for the line out the door. It's worth the wait.

    Honolulu has some great food. For low to moderate excellent food in funky surroundings try Helena's Hawaiian Restaurant and the Side Street Inn. The Pineapple Room in the Macy's at the Ala Moana Center is excellent for lunch and early dinner. If they have them, try the crab cakes. The moderately priced Pineapple room is owned and operated by Alan Wong, whose main restaurant, Alan Wong's, is one of the best restaurants in Hawaii. For an expensive splurge dinner, I highly recommend both Alan Wong's and Chef Mavro. We had an outstanding dinner at Chef Mavro last summer.

    Enjoy your trip.

    1. For the North Shore (mostly on the TBR property), take a look at my reviews from last Oct. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334698
      The North Shore stuff is in the middle, with Kaua`i first, and O`ahu last. Most of the spots are not what I would call bargin spots. There are tons of posts on smaller, down-scale spots on the North Shore, that you should be able to find with a search. Same goes for dining in, or very near, to Waikiki. Yes, there are a lot of chains and tourist-oriented restaurants with less than great food, but there are many smaller spots, where the food is to die for.

      With an auto, look at restaurants like Indigo (China Town), and 3660 on the Rise, to the DH side, and slightly inland, from Waikiki.


      1. I'm sure you have read the recent postings about hole in the wall places as well as cheap eats. they reference some pretty good websites as well. for a stuck-in-waikiki night, how much do you want to spend? you can run the gamut from teddy's bigger burgers to Bali By the Sea and La Mer. Consider the Chart House in the Ilikai annex, or maybe chucks (above Dukes). Dukes is virtually on the beach, not the greatest food, but there isn't anything wrong with it. Just expensive for what you are getting. I have heard mixed reviews on Tiki's. Initial comments were great, been falling off over time. Hy's still has some of the best steaks in Honolulu, but not really an "island" experience. In spite of the city putting up a nasty plywood barricade at the natatorium, the view from the Hau Tree Lanai is still spectacular, especially just at sunset. Lousy service, good (not great but very good) food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: KaimukiMan

          Sounds like the service has declined at Hau Tree Lanai, since I was last there. We've always had good service with up-down food, but the sunset (prior to your referenced construction) view, while dining usually helped on the down nights. Only real complaint that I've had is that the tables seem to get closer together on each visit, so it began to feel really, really crowded. Maybe we'll give it a go, on our next trip over, just for "old time's sake."

          Thanks for the update,

        2. i love the food in hawaii.. but then again i've lived there and go back frequently... there's soo many places to eat.. but i can understand where you are coming from = but you're on the right track by posting =) besides stuff that has been mentioned already, there's a new place that's a wine bistro in honolulu that looked really appetizing, i saw it on the cheap eats posting (mahalo again KM!).. but it doesn't appear that it's cheap eats... hahaha i'm definitely checking it out during my upcoming annual trip =)

          oh and since you have a car, you really won't be stuck in waikiki =) every place is really easy to get to =)

          1. I always forget that one of our premiere Thai restaurants is in Waikiki... Keo's. At the ewa end of Kuhio Avenue, home of the famous "evil jungle prince" and some of the best curry I've ever had. Yes for the most part it is "toned down" for American Tastes, but I have ordered it hot, and (to me) it was. Perhaps not Thai hot, but then I didn't order it that way.

            1 Reply
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              We loved Keo's, back when it was on Kapahulu (original location?), but were mildly disappointed, when we tried the newer one in Ward Center (IIRC). It was OK, but lacked the kitchen's work of the older one. It seems that that location is now gone, and that the main restaurant relocated to Kuhio. I have read some negative reviews here, but have not sampled this iteration. We really enjoyed the old place and the food was always top-notch to our palates, though we may have only sampled a small piece of their, then extensive, menu.

              I'm glad to see a positive post for an old favorite, even if the address is now different. I'll make it a point to try the Kuhio location next trip.


            2. We always stop by Sam Chow's Breakfast, Lunch and Crab when we go to the islands! Also get some malasadas at Leonard's! yumm! I want some!

              3 Replies
              1. re: calisummer

                small correction: Sam Choi's. (on nimitz highway just west of downtown)

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  ops--it is Sam Choy's! I thought I fixed that typo!

                  1. re: calisummer

                    lol...finally got it right, can't believe i put that i in there. where else do you like to go here calisummer?

              2. Hey there,
                see my posting on my recent (in Feb) trip to Oahu. We drove all over for local and good value food


                Have a great time.

                1. Thanks so much to everyone for responding! We just got back and followed a number of people's recommendations, which (of course) turned out to be excellent.

                  We loved Alan Wong's, which we saved for our last night. We sat at the counter (only seating available) and thus got a chance to see the amazing presentation on all the dishes. And we got some piping hot malasadas at Leonard's, which were yummy. The Tiki Grill and Bar in Waikiki had excellent salmon, although service was about the slowest I've ever seen (luckily, we weren't in a rush.) Even Zippy's for a quick meal was fine.

                  In North Shore, we ate mostly at burger shacks and shrimp trucks. I liked the burgers and coconut shrimp at the Sugar Mill restaurant in Kahuku. The Palm Terrace was adequate for a hotel restaurant. My sister had her rehearsal dinner at Ola's and was extremely disappointed with the service that night, although the food was good.

                  Overall, a wonderful and yummy trip.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gracie92108

                    Glad that you had a good time.

                    Re: Palm Terrace - we had a surprisingly "great" meal there, but did order from the menu, not the buffet. I think they were so happy to have someone NOT do the buffet, that they all came to the table and spent the evening talking with us. Wine list was OK, but needed to be kicked up to the extent of their higher-end spot.

                    Ola was an up n' down for us with one BAD dish, but it was replaced and not charged. Otherwise, all was good.

                    Have not done the Sugar Mill Restaurant, but will look into it on the next visit. Other than the trucks (same general area), and the old Ono's, also nearby, we've only done some light shopping there. Things have probably changed. Do not think we even stopped in on the last trip.

                    Thanks for the post and the update. Sorry that your sister had a poor experience at Ola. Based on my reviews from Oct., '06, there were plenty of good, but almost as many bads on two islands.


                  2. For a good variety of Korean food, consider Sorabol, on Keeaumoku Street, only couple miles outside of Waikiki. It has the advantage of being open 24/7.

                    Sorabol Korean Restaurant
                    805 Keeaumoku St, Honolulu, HI 96814

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MobyRichard

                      mobyrichard definitely knows what he's talking about. i lived there my whole life (recently moved to cali) so i consider myself an expert. aoki's is better than matsumotos because you can get many different flavors of ice cream at the bottom, not just vanilla (and the line is always shorter).

                      i really would like to encourage a night of sushi, if you like raw fish. it is far better quality and more authentic than anything i've had here, though it would be pricey. if you get a chance, try tokyo tokyo at The Kahala - the best sushi i've ever had - but VERY expensive. try tokuritei on kapahulu - that's really good too. uncle bo's - a new spot, is great and the drinks are cheap for all premium stuff too. i think Duke's is an very good spot - the food is good, really moderately priced, and on sundays, it is quite a scene. you should definitely swoop by. if you have a chance, grab a drink at the halekulani - they have a lovely jazz bar and outside lanai lounge. the restaurant there is Orchids - one of the best in scenery, decent food. one place i will be hitting up when i get home is Phuket Thai - awesome thai food at the mccullly shopping center.

                      good luck!

                    2. I just got back from 11 days of eating my way across Kauai and Oahu and found the pickings to be anything but slim. (And gained 10 pounds as proof!) Waikiki proper isn't a great foodie destination, but there are plenty of great places mere minutes away in Honolulu. I had excellent dinners at Chef Mavro, 'Elua, Hiroshi's, Town and Okonomiyaki Chibo (the latter is smack-dab in Waikiki in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center). If I lived there, I think Town would become a weekly destination. The prices are reasonable given the high quality of the mostly local/organic ingredients. Honest food and honestly good.

                      But bite for bite, I enjoyed Hiroshi's most of all. Our party of four ordered about 10-12 tapas-sized plates and a couple entrees and every single dish was delicious. Maybe a tad pricey given the size of the small plates, but worth it.

                      Mavro's definitely fits the bill for an expensive night out...our meal there was three times as expensive as the other places (each of which, strangely, ended up being $63/person). My partner and I thought it would have been a great $100 meal...but since it was nearly $200 we expected to be a bit more wowed by the experience. It was good...just quite not at the level as the best you'd encounter in Chicago, NYC, SF or LA. But in this stratosphere it needs to be resolutely excellent without having to add "for Hawaii" to that description.

                      Okonomiyaki Chibo was something of a "discovery" for us. It caters to an almost exclusively Japanese clientele. I'd never had "fancy" okonomiyaki or yakisoba before (mostly just the cheap stuff from a food stall in a big Asian market). They also have an extensive teppanyaki menu (including splurge items like abalone). I will definitely return there on my next visit.

                      Other Oahu highlights from this trip (lunch and snacks): Hank's Haute Dogs, Dim Sum at Legends and Won Kee in Chinatown (we thought Legends was the better of the two), Kua Aina Sandwich in Haleiwa for good burgers, Jimbo's for great Japanese noodles and tempura, the North Shore shrimp trucks (of course), Beard Papa for the world's best cream puffs--dangerously good, and really good shave ice at Aoki's (better--this time at least--than their more famous neighbor, Matsumoto's). We ate shave ice almost every day for 11 days...the best of the bunch was Wishing Well in Hanalei, Kauai.

                      I can elaborate more on specific meals, dishes, etc., if anyone is interested.

                      1. i just returned this morning after ten days on oahu. highlights:

                        nico's fish (pier 38, off the nimitz) was fantastic. i ate the furikake ahi (rare) four times for lunch. at a mind blowing $8.15, i have never encountered a better cost:quality ratio in hnl. the fish was pristinely fresh, and it came with a wickedly addictive allegedly garlic-cilantro (could taste neither, but no matter) mayo. there was also a daily special that the s.o. got each time (varied daily, ~$8) that was excellent every time. once was a grilled opah, once a panko-crusted mahimahi, and i forget the third, but it was all great. each came with a sauce, one was chipotle something, once sun dried tomato something, etc. there is outdoor seating with plastic chairs and tables, so this isn't by any means a fancy place, but that was great because we could show up with muddy hiking boots. i cannot stress enough what an amazing value this place is.

                        another major winner was little village noodle house on smith. we got the green onion pancake (excellent, lots of green onions, nice knife work), the "house special" and allegedly spicy schezuan chicken (fabulous wok char, perfectly cooked, interesting sauce, but NOT spicy. i think they dumbed it down because we're haoles (white), but it had the potential to be really great), and a hu nan (space intentional) fish off the chalkboard (AMAZING. steamed basa fillet with soy ginger peppers cilantro and i'm not sure what else. it was so good we were dripping the last bit of sauce on to our rice. i'm from san francisco, so i have had really great chinese -koi palace- and this was absolutely on par or better). total plus two bowls of rice was $32, so another great value there. it also looked like there was low/no corkage, based on the table next to us. it was very busy when we were there around 8pm sunday evening, including a very large private party in a nearby room. the next table had the tea duck that you eat with the soft buns, plum sauce, and scallions also looked amazing, with an impressive waiter that assembled all the buns for the diners. i also found the hostess to be extremely friendly; she didn't bat an eye when we asked to be reseated when another couple with very bad, very strong cologne was seated next to us.

                        north shore shrimp at tumi's (?) east of turtle bay. there's a bunch of trucks all clustered together, and we ate at the most eastern one, which has its own picnic table area. $11/plate for garlic butter, hot and spicy, and coconut. while we were on a major coconut shrimp kick from cocktails at the halekulani, and were thus predisposed to love the coconut ones, the real standout was the hot and spicy. the coconut were delicious, and the garlic butter were fine because the shrimp was good, but the sauce wasn't too exciting. as for why we ate there than the other trucks a few feet away, fumi's just smelled fresher, better. that was good enough for us.

                        leonard's for malasadas, of course, both plain and haupia. while i used to be an advocate for champion, i found theirs inferior on this trip. i also found that i prefer waiola shave ice to matsumoto's. the ice at waiola is much finer, though they sadly don't offer guava flavor. the haupia and sour apple (though i did not try them together) were standout flavors at waiola, the guava and tangerine at matsumoto's.

                        had breakfast at eggs n' things twice, and found it to be pretty good. the major standout was the macadamia nut waffle. get it crispy. however, it is NOT a large portion (one waffle only) so the best would be to have one person get that and another one of the utterly giant 3-egg omelets. be aware that any substitutions will cost you $1.75. there was a tomato, turkey bacon, and cheese one on the menu, and i asked for green onions instead of cheese (lactose intolerance). only right before the waitress left with our order did i ask about whether there was an extra charge. she should have volunteered that. anyway, the omelets could feed two people with another small dish, like a waffle or a couple pancakes. be prepared for a long wait at peak times.

                        we went to the halekulani's house without a key for cocktails for four evenings in a row. the halekulani sunset cocktail ($11?) is a real winner, and the hot pupu platter is delicious (though pricey at $16 for a couple giant, luscious coconut shrimp, a couple beef satay skewers, and a couple spring rolls). the setting is gorgeous, out on the patio with the big tree, facing the ocean, with live hawaiian music and a hula dancer. be aware that there are two hula dancers, and the (only) one to see is the one on peak nights (thurs, fri, sat, maybe sun?). what makes cocktails at the halekulani is partially the entertainment.

                        i really wasn't impressed with zippy's. perhaps i am missing something. the chicken katsu is greasy, fatty, with hardly any actual meat.

                        i also found the brunch buffet at the waikiki prince (next to the ilani, near ala moana, not the other prince) to not be worth it. orchids at the halekulani was full, so we went to the prince. the omelets were good (made to order) and i'm told the prime rib was good. the ahi poke was ok (uncle's, across from nico's, looked much better), the 2-handroll per trip limit was annoying, the futomaki was good, the eggs benedict was only lukewarm, and the dessert area was far too sweet. to cap it off, the juices available with the buffet were the sweet, watery juices you can buy in a carton at any supermarket. setting was nice, food was overall of good quality, but it wasn't worth the $30++ we paid. it was also inconvenient, on the edge of waikiki, so we had to park at ala moana and then walk back.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: artemis


                          Nico's At Pier 38
                          1133 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817

                          House Without a Key: Halekulani
                          2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                          Little Village Noodle House
                          1113 Smith St, Honolulu, HI 96817

                          Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice II
                          525 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                          Matsumoto Shave Ice
                          66 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

                          Zippy's Restaurant
                          1222 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96814

                          Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki: Dining Reservations
                          100 Holomoana St, Honolulu, HI 96815

                          Eggs 'n Things
                          1911 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                          Leonard's Bakery
                          933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

                          1. re: artemis

                            wow, great report artemis. you hit the nail on each of these places... and yeah, the chicken katsu at zippys is consistently bad, not sure why. thanks for such a detailed report.

                            1. re: artemis

                              i forgot to mention that i also went to jimbo's twice. as i had remembered, it was just great. i had the cold kitsune udon for my first meal, and the hot tofu skin and green onion for my second. i also tried the spicy shrimp yakiudon. all of these dishes were excellent (and under $9), though i think that the cold udon was the best way to highlight the marvelous craftsmanship that goes into these noodles. my issei japanese great-aunt pronounced the noodles in her seaweed udon "quite excellent," which is high praise indeed, though she did also observe that the seaweed was overcooked a bit. my friend was not terribly impressed with her curry katsu. clearly, the udon is the star of jimbo's. i am continually disappointed every time i try to find something as good as jimbo's in the san francisco bay area, but it sadly just doesn't exist.

                              103 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813

                              1. re: artemis

                                From our experience at HWAK, I think that drinks on the pool deck would be the way to go. The full "dining" experience was a bit lacking, as was the wine list. I think that we'll follow your recs. (maybe not four nights running), and just go for the drinks and the show with light nibbles.

                                Thanks for the report,

                              2. Here's my report from last year.


                                Have a good time.

                                1. Agree with most of what's been said but want to second the recommendation of Nico's...also the fried poke omelet at Sam Choy's is unbeatable! Best bet there is breakfast. You might also want to try Bluwater Grill out toward Hawaii Kai...food is highly inconsistent...best bet is anything cooked on the wood grill or moi if it's on the menu...but despite its location across from a Safeway it's VERY romantic. 377 Keahole St Honolulu, HI 96825-3405 (808) 395-6224. I also LOVE the kimchi steak @ 12th Avenue Grill http://www.12thavegrill.com That's my old standby. Poke Stop all the way out in Waipahu has superlative poke but no place to sit down...however, if you're doing some shopping in Waikele it's worth a detour...they'll give you bag of ice to keep the poke fresh on the way back into town. Garlic chicken Mitsuba Delicatessen 1218 North School Street I liked it better than the more famous Mitsu Ken x the street...kind of like Pat's and Geno's in Philly...try them both...