I have tried both Ono's and Helena's (for the combos and coursed traditional meals) on my visits- pick one or both!
For plate lunch do Rainbow Drive-in(close to Waikiki)
For bakeries- do both Leonard's for Malasadas and Liliha Bakery for Cocoa Puffs(an island thing) or other filled desserts (you can also have a typical Hawaiian dishes like loco moco or breakfast items at the long diner style restaurant located in the bakery. I found Liliha on my second trip and will be making a repeat trip there from now on when I visit.
Puka dog is a fun place to visit- do the exotic relishes with a filled dog for a quick bite.
Diamond Head Market & Grill is a great place for traditional breakfast and lunch items on the way to the Diamond Head monument or when traveling just outside of town.
Nico's on the Pier is by the airport and very fresh fish served lunch plate style.
I did a lot of research for my trip last May and returned to places I loved this last August when I visited plus found a few more.
Maybe this will help- http://www.yelp.com/list/oahu-food-ho...
Ono's or Helenas.
Lomi Salmon, or some kind of Poke (po-kay)
Poi (at least try it, i like to dip my kalua pork in it, although that is probably "wrong")
Chicken Long rice
Squid Luau (looks really green and gross)
Salt Meat Watercress
Rice (gotta have rice, even if its not 'traditional')
Pipikaula (Hawaiian 'jerky')
Haupia (coconut pudding)
check out this website
( I know... napavalley? go figure)
Great replies and information as we are going to Honolulu (Waikiki) for the first time at the end of September. We are looking for typical Hawaiian, but also local as well in the area (saimin, poke, etc.). Any further suggestions as to places for that type of food as well? Thanks.
A very good point, and the word "typical" can be interpreted as well. Most chowhounds don't really want "typical" food, but good "representative' food. For example a hamburger steak plate from rainbow drive in, vs one of those that mc donald's tried to make for a while (they weren't good.)
So Chrissie... Local food (which is generally a fusion of asian and american, and can range from a hamburger steak plate up to a fine meal at roys or alan wongs) or something closer to traditional hawaiian including poi, raw fish, and squid cooked in taro leaves and coconut (looks gross, tastes pretty good.) Kalua pig would not have been eaten by the common people as only the ali'i (aristocracy) were allowed to eat pig.
Some things considered traditional luau foods now really aren't. Lomi Lomi salmon is an adaptation of poke, and chicken long rice really doesn't have an antecedent as far as I know.
Ono's and Helena's are the two best known Hawaiian Restaurants, and Ono's is relatively close to Waikiki (half way up Kapahulu avenue.)
Leonard's Bakery is good (also on Kapahulu), in addition to the most popular malasadas on the island they also have good sweet bread as well as a decent selection of cookies, cakes, etc. Somewhat further away is DeLite bakery, in Kalihi. DeLite is best known for its tropical chiffon cakes (guava, lilikoi.) If you are looking more for bread, St. Germaine's Bakery is probably the best. They have a couple of locations.
(edit: i tried to attach some links, but somehow that feature doesn't seem to be working)
Do a search for Ono Hawaiian foods on this board -- great place for traditional Hawaiian foods. Cheap, quick, and delicious variety. It's a small place (might be cash only?) and plan to wait in line a little bit (but the line moves and there's a nice bench outside to wait on).
Leonard's malasadas is just down the block (walkable) -- a bakery offering the delicious local treat.