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NYC visiting Oahu: Critique my chow-list please!

Okay, 'Hounds, have at it (if you dare!) I compiled a ginormous list of places to potentially check out. My trip kicks off on Thursday! My plan is to have a few definite dining destinations (like Alan Wong's -- do I need a reservation?), but then also to travel with my go-to list for when I'm out and about.

I'm thinking about ditching some of the more Japanese focused restaurants (not my most favorite) and I'm also wondering if dim sum is do-able as a solo traveler. I'm a brave girl and dine out alone a lot, but I'd never go to one of the big NYC dim sum houses solo.

So, dear hounds, please tell me what's missing, tell me what to skip, remind me of the things that I cannot get in NYC and please steer me away from any tourist traps.

I'm in Waimanalo/Kailua for 3 nights, then 1 night in Waikiki and the final 3 nights on the North Shore in the Sunset beach area. Will have a car, will drive for chow!

Enlighten me!

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  1. Well your list would help us help you.

    6 Replies
    1. re: curiousgeo

      yeah, no kidding. can you tell I need a vacation?

      Here's the list:

      North Shore
      Matsumoto's - 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy.
      Aoki's north shore for shave ice
      Ted's Bakery north shore - chocolate, haupia pie!
      There's a good Thai restaurant in Haleiwa, very yummy Padang.
      Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, 83 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, HI 96731
      Romy's Shrimp Shack, 56-781 Kamehameha Highway
      Hukilau Cafe in Laie... stop here for breakfast. Pancakes are good, good atmosphere.

      In Kailua
      Boots and Kimo's on Hekili - 131 Hekili St.
      pulehu (grilled short ribs)

      Fine Dining

      Alan Wong's Restaurant
      1857 S King St 3rd Fl
      Honolulu, HI 96826
      (808) 949-2526

      New Wave Lu`au is taking place. It's usually at his Pineapple Room in the Ala Moana Center in Macy's.

      House Without A Key
      2199 Kalia Rd
      Honolulu, HI 96815
      (808) 923-2311
      Sunset cocktails with live Hawaiian music and hula dancing on a waterfront lawn.

      3660 On the Rise
      3660 Waialae Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96816
      (808) 737-1177

      3435 Wai'alae Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96816
      (808) 735-5900

      Casual Dining
      Le Bistro
      5730 Kalanianaole Hwy
      Honolulu, HI 96821
      (808) 373-7990

      Hawaii State Art Museum
      250 S Hotel St
      Honolulu, HI 96813
      (808) 536-5900

      Nico's Pier 38
      1133 N Nimitz Hwy
      Honolulu, HI 96817
      (808) 540-1377

      Kakaako Kitchen
      1200 Ala Moana Blvd
      Honolulu, HI 96814
      (808) 596-7488
      casual but good local fare

      Ono Hawaiian Foods
      726 Kapahulu Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96816
      (808) 737-2275
      Chicken or pork laulau plate.

      Helena's Hawaiian Food
      1240 N School St
      Honolulu, HI 96817
      (808) 845-8044

      Shiro's Saimin Haven & Family Restaurant
      98-020 Kamehameha Hwy
      Aiea, HI 96701
      (808) 488-4834

      Poke Stop
      Waipahu Town Center
      94 050 Farrington Highway, E4
      Waipahu, HI 96797
      (808) 676-8100

      Side Street Inn
      1225 Hopaka St
      Honolulu, HI 96814
      (808) 591-0253

      The Willows
      901 Hausten St
      Honolulu, HI 96826
      (808) 952-9200

      Monarch Seafoods
      515 Kalihi St
      Honolulu, HI 96819
      (808) 841-7877
      excellent, but no place to sit down and eat.

      Rainbow Drive-In
      3308 Kanaina Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96815
      (808) 737-0177
      boneless chicken plate lunch

      Bogart's Cafe
      3045 Monsarrat Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96815
      (808) 739-0999
      Diamond Head area. Nice place for breakfast or lunch.

      Royal Kitchen
      Chinatown Cultural P
      Royal Kitchen - 100 N Beretania St #175
      Honolulu, HI 96813
      (808) 524-2843
      baked maunapua, their specialty.

      Char Hung Sut Restaurant
      64 N Pauahi St
      Honolulu, HI 96817
      (808) 538-3335
      manapua (Hawaiian steamed buns)

      Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory Inc
      Waimalu Shopping Cnt
      Honolulu, HI 96813
      (808) 485-1107
      ~ OR ~
      Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory Inc
      505 Kalihi St
      Honolulu, HI 96819
      (808) 841-5303
      dim sum

      Palace Saimin Stand
      1256 North King St
      Honolulu, HI 96817
      (808) 841-9983

      Ba-Le Sandwich Shops
      150 North King Street
      banh mi

      Gina's Barbeque
      2919 Kapiolani Blvd
      Honolulu, HI 96826
      (808) 735-7964

      2710 S King St
      Honolulu, HI 96826
      (808) 946-2073

      Gulick Delicatessen & Coffee Shop
      1512 Gulick Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96819
      (808) 847-1461

      Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop
      66-160 Kamehameha Hwy
      Haleiwa, HI 96712
      (808) 637-6067
      ~ OR ~
      Kua 'Aina
      Ward Village Shops
      1116 Auahi St
      Honolulu, HI 96814
      (808) 591-9133

      Mei Sum Chinese Dim Sum Restaurant Inc
      65 N Pauahi St Ste A
      Honolulu, HI 96817
      (808) 531-3268
      dim sum

      Bakeries / Breakfast
      Liliha Bakery
      515 N Kuakini St
      Honolulu, HI 96817
      (808) 531-1651
      coco puffs

      Champion Malasadas
      1926 S Beretania St
      Honolulu, HI 96826
      (808) 947-8778

      Leonard's Bakery
      933 Kapahulu Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96816
      (808) 737-5591

      Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts
      1010 University Ave
      Honolulu, HI 96826
      (808) 949-8984

      Food Shopping

      Wholesale Unlimited Express
      960 Ahua St
      Honolulu, HI 96819
      (808) 834-2900
      This is the place for every kind of cracked seed or sembei or local cookie or dried squid, you could think of. 960 Ahua St. is their main distribution center across from an L&L Drive-In…in the midst of an industrial area.

      1. re: MB fka MB

        Given that you are coming from Brooklyn.. I would plug the Shrimp & Fish Tacos at Just Tacos... as they are better than most in San Diego (and I know NYers are always asking on the California board about Baja Style Fish Tacos)... they are in a Corporate Building Food Court... has no atmosphere... and its Hawaii.. yes they are that good.

        Just Tacos Mexican Grill
        1111 Bishop St, Honolulu, HI 96813

        1. re: MB fka MB

          Some really good spots there. Thanks for the list.

          If you can score the New Wave Lu`au (correct that it is usually at the Pineapple Room) do it. You will be dining on some of the best Hawaiian cusine (most traditional from someone's ohana recipies and unlike most of what you will find outside of some Auntie's kitchen). Be prepared as some will not be at all homoginezed by Mainland standards - just great and interesting. This was a highlight of a fairly recent trip of ours. Now, we did not totally enjoy everything, but were so thankful for the opportunity to try so very much. The atmosphere is great, albeit a touch crowded. However, it's crowded with Allan's friends and family and folk, who just love good food. Taste it all. Do not miss anything. Then go back for seconds on your favs.

          Saw you listed HWAK for drinks and such. That is what it is about. The food and the wine are very weak. All other venues at the Halekulani have better food, but the drinks (skip the wine) and the pupus with the setting and music are special.

          If you can also get the Chef's Counter at AW's King St., go for it. It's a tad busy, but also such a treat. We always do the full tasting plus the sommelier's pairings and just sit back. Somehow a 9-course menu expands to 12-13 courses, and I don't know how. Only problem will be that you will want everything passing in front of you, whether it's on the tasting menu, or not. Just resist, 'cause you'll get enough. Wines are always very good and expertly paired. AW's is not the broadest, or deepest list on O`ahu, but it's well-suited for his fare. The pairings have always been 100%, which is much more than I can say for some of the places with the "better" lists.

          Enjoy, and please report back. You are covering a lot of territory, and I've not seen reviews of many of these. Look forward to your reports.


          1. re: MB fka MB

            Excellent list in all respects.

            I would concur with those who say that Agnes' Malassadas in Kailua are the best, but Champion and Leonard's are also great (I prefer Leondard's between the two).

            I would also concur with Waiola for shave ice.

            Rainbow Drive Inn is good for nostalgia and authentic dive-feel, but not so much for food. If you want plate lunch and will be out windward, stop at Keneke's plate lunch in Waimanolo and get the pork adobo and a shave ice. I go every trip.

          2. For almost any fine-dining destination, a reservation would really help, and might be a must. Though late Sept is not the "high season," there are often a lot of conventions in town. I always make my reservations about 5-6 mos. out, especially for the high-end spots.

            Call AW's NOW. Do not delay.

            Here's a fairly recent review that hits some of the places that you will be visiting:

            I'm with curiousgeo, as I missed the list also.


            1. In Kailua, you might like Formaggio Grill. If you feel like driving to Kaneohe for dim sum, Joyful Garden is good and would not be intimidating to a solo diner. Pake's in Kaneohe can be either straight out Cantonese, or you can get some pretty imaginative dishes by asking Raymond Siu, the owner, what he would recommend. The spinach salad with Kau oranges is an example. Raymond's desserts are all fabulous and not of the type expected to be found in a Chinese restaurant; I'm particularly partial to his soy panna cotta with fresh fruits.

              1. yep, thats a ginormous list. the only thing that i noticed as a glaring omission is Leonards (or Champion if you prefer) for malasadas.

                For DimSum you might want to add Legends in the Cultural Plaza as an option, or Happy Days in Kaimuki.. depending on where you are.

                2 Replies
                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  No kidding... i think I am going to use that list to inform my dining choices over the next year =)

                  BTW... Leonards... really? I had Agnes malasadas at the Portugese festival over the weekend and thought they were a bit better than Leonard's. Given she is planning on a meal in Kailua... it make sense for her to hit it?

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    yes, agnes' is always good, being a "townie" I often forget about it. I go back and forth between Leonards and Champion, but if you hit Leonards on a good day, especially if there is no line (rare), they really are good. Wait till Feb and try the ones at the Punahou Carnival.

                2. You really did a lot of research for your visit. I do the same thing whenever I travel and am lucky to hit even a quarter of the places on my list. The great thing with a list like yours is you can pick and choose depending where you are and what you might be hungry for at the time.

                  For your nice dinner either Alan Wong's or 3660 On the Rise, but make a reservation as Bill Hunt suggests. Town is also a pretty good option. House without a Key is a great spot for sunset drinks and entertainment on the lawn right off the ocean, there is also Hawaiian music at the Hilton Hawaiian Village as well.

                  Le Bistro is casual and nice, but quite pricey and you can get much better in NYC so I would skip it.

                  Nico's, Helena's and Ono's are all great choices for local, casual food. Ono's and Helena's are truly places only found in Hawaii if you are willing to give Hawaiian food a try.

                  As KaimukiMan suggests, Legends in the Chinese Cultural Plaza is good for dim sum, as is Royal Garden at the Ala Moana Hotel. Both are much better than Mei Sum which is really a third rate place although cheaper in cost. But dim sum on the whole is relatively inexpensive dining even in the nicer places. Places like Royal Kitchen and Chun Wah Kam are good stops if you are on the run and need a quick pick up.

                  Boots and Kimo is a popular breakfast place in Kailua known for their macadamia nut pancakes, usually a line to get in. Definitely stop at Matsumoto's for shave ice, a real treat on a hot day on the North Shore. Ditto Kua Aina in Haleiwa, great burgers and fries (get the fries well done otherwise they come out limp). Have a great visit.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: curiousgeo

                    CG got me thinking, in addition to Dim Sum is good old hawaiian maunapua, and yes I love royal kitchen too. Don't forget the more traditional steamed maunapua at CharHungSut on Pauahi, or Libby Maunapua on Kalihi St.

                    1. re: curiousgeo

                      That's the plan with a big list - have all the options on hand so I won't waste one meal with a bad choice.

                      How does dim sum differ from NYC - will the be big banquet rooms with carts? Will I feel like a leper if I go by myself?

                      1. re: MB fka MB

                        Dim sum is pretty much what you are used to. Both Legend and Royal Garden have carts where you pick and choose. Both restaurants have smaller tables for 4 and maybe for 2 if I remember correctly. Sitting alone? I don't think anyone will give you a second look.

                        One more thing about Matsumoto's that I just thought of, shave ice alone is really refreshing on a hot day. If you want a more substantial treat, have the shave ice with ice cream and sweet azuki beans. In town there is a shave ice place not far from Waikiki, Waiola Store just off Kapahulu Ave., not far from Rainbow Drive In.

                        1. re: MB fka MB

                          You will not feel like a leper! I've been to Mei Sum by myself several times. Last time, I ordered four dishes plus a vegetable (granted, there were leftovers), and there was another single woman seated near me. And Mei Sum serves dim sum till 8:45pm, I think. I'm sure there are carts during normal dim sum hours, but if you go during the week/later in the day, you just place an order for what you want. I highly recommend both the chive and spinach dumplings.

                          Not sure whether it's available in NYC, but I'd definitely try misoyaki butterfish while you're here. I like the butterfish at Yanagi Sushi and California Rock'n Sushi in town, but I'm sure there are many other good options. Happy eating!

                      2. Take The Willows off your list. Went there last Sunday just to see if it was any good any more. It isn't.

                        Will write more if I can get my computer working right.

                        1. Never been to the location in town, but on North Shore, Kua 'Aina had great mahi burger sandwiches to die for, but it's been 15-18 years since I lived there. Also had to mind our p's and q's about parking. Used to be that if you parked in front of the photo shop next door, you were likely to find the bumper of your car chained to a log or cement-filled barrel. But maybe things have changed about that ...

                          Definitely stop by Matsumoto's for shave ice.

                          Past Kuilima (Turtle Bay) to Kahuku, there was a roadside shrimp shack on the makai side with a couple of picnic tables outside. If it's still there, they had the best fried shrimp.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: AntarcticWidow

                            Kua Aina has moved down the street, new (old looking) building with a parking lot in the back. Its still not big enough, but at least it is there. The shrimp truck you are thinking of is Giovanni's I believe, still doing a land office business, often a 20-40 minute wait.

                            1. re: AntarcticWidow

                              Speaking of Matsumoto's.... I was struck that Mercado de la Raza was selling Ice Graters... has anybody seen a Raspado vendor on the island?


                            2. And an Alan Wong question - how much is it? Sheesh I really hate when restaurants do that...

                              Any must have dishes? How big is the tasting menu?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: MB fka MB

                                I like the tasting menu - they have a 4 course and a 7 course option (I think) with or without wine pairings. Last month two of us did the 7 course with wine pairings and a supplement for kobe beef and it ended up around $400. That's probably the high end, though.

                                I like their soup and sandwich app (it comes with both tasting menus, I think), and they do fish really well.

                                As for the rest of your list - I like a lot of what you've got on there. Some notes -

                                For Kailua: boots & kimos - try the pancakes with with the mac nut sauce (OMG), and visit Island Snow for shave ice that's better (imo) than Matsumotos (also, get a snowcap). Times coffee shop (around the corner from boots & kimos on the canal) has good fried rice.

                                I'd skip Town (although many on this board will disagree). Their menu changes daily and you aren't guaranteed to get anything particularly interesting.
                                Hawaiian food - in addition to lau lau, try poi and kalua pig.

                                Also, if you like fancy Sunday Brunch (well, resort casual, with excellent food) check out Orchids at Halekulani (same hotel as house without a key).

                                Be careful with the Side Street Inn - their food comes on huge platters. One person would be extremely hard pressed to finish anything there. On our last trip four of us (each a big eater) ordered fried rice, chinese chicken salad (it's a mound stacked on a big dinner plate about 7 inches high!) and pork chops (these were excellent) and took home leftovers. I felt bad for the couple at the next table who had ordered four dishes and had boxes upon boxes of leftovers.

                                1. re: MB fka MB

                                  In our last case, "The bill was $406.26 and included additional wine." This was for the full tasting menu with sommelier's pairings plus about 4 extra glasses of wine. Also, there were probably four additional courses, not actually on the menu. This was two, including taxes and generous gratuity.

                                  Over the years, we've possibly had everything on the mains menu, at least once, either on the tasting menu, or a la carte. Everything has been excellent. In about 20 trips to O`ahu, we have only missed AW's once and that was because of illness.

                                  Depending on what sort of time you have on the North Shore, you might want to add Ola to your list. We had one little SNAFU, but it was handled instantly and perfectly. The rest of the meal was very good to excellent.

                                  I am also a big fan of 3660 on the Rise, and wish that I always had enough time to do it on each visit. They have never disappointed.

                                  Both Nico's & Uncle's (almost next door to each other) have been getting good reviews, for what they are - commercial fishing pier diners. We've done Nico's (review on this board), but Uncle's had the right look, so we'd probably do it next trip, just to compare.

                                  For reservations, I'd do, and in this order:
                                  New Wave Lu`au
                                  AW's King St
                                  3660 on the Rise

                                  Remember, you MUST do reviews.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    There is no upcoming New Wave Luau.

                                    1. re: manomin

                                      Really, I thought that the OP had mentioned that he/she had secured an invitation to it. Maybe I misread the initial post.

                                      Thanks for the correction,


                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Not a worry, I will do reviews. You'll see that I'm a pretty active 'hound from the old school days (which I still miss, truth be told!)

                                      My reservation at AW is at 8:30 on sunday night at the chef's counter. Will do the tasting, not sure about courses. I'm hitting up a reggae club afterwards, so I need to be able to dance a bit. :-)

                                  2. AWESOME! Thanks 'hounds! I'm wrapping it up and printing my list, guides, etc. I'll report back in October!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MB fka MB

                                      You might want to try Hannk's Haute Dogs in Kakaako on Coral Street, really
                                      great stuff - cash only though. There is also one in Waikiki in IMP which has some different items. www.hankshautedogs.com

                                      Kailua has a nice place for coffee and a snack called Brew Moon, I go there a lot and always enjoy the atmosphere and the food the menu has greatly expanded and I had a great lunch last week by myself.