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Sep 30, 2010 08:21 PM

Waikiki (Hotel) Restaurants That Locals Enjoy

Bill Hunt's love of La Mer inspired me to start this thread. I've never been to La Mer (or Halekulani for a long time), but I've been to several restaurants that are in Waikiki hotels, and, for the most part, I found them disappointing. The food wasn't bad, but the meals seemed overpriced. Also, some of the places (like Matteo's or Longhi's) seem like 70's restaurants (i.e. menu locked in the 70s, not very creative).

Here are some other places I've been to:

Sarento's (OK, but seemed overpriced.)
Top of Waikiki (when Sean Priester(?) was there)
Ciao Mein (good, but really small portions and pricey)
Both buffet places at the Hawai'i Prince Hotel (The Japanese one has a solid Thursday special deal.)
Kai Market (good seafood buffet on Friday)
Michel's (nice view, but menu kinda boring; food just OK)
The restaurant at the top of Ala Moana Hotel. Food was good, but, again, seemed a little too expensive.

There may be other places...Oh, I went to the Indian restaurant across from the Ilikai (OK; I prefer Maharani's).

Honestly, I like the chain restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and Red Lobster (the latter would do great business with locals if it weren't in Waikiki).

So what are some places that are worth checking out? Are there places that other locals like to visit often?

La Mer
2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

Top of Waikiki
2270 Kalakaua Ave Ste 1800, Honolulu, HI 96815

Red Lobster Restaurants
1765 Ala Moana Blvd Spc 7, Honolulu, HI 96815

888 Front St Ste H, Lahaina, HI 96761

Cheesecake Factory
2301 Kalakaua Ave Ste 113, Honolulu, HI 96815

1777 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96815

2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

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  1. Over the years there have been any number of restaurants in Waikiki Hotels that were among the better in Honolulu, or were popular with locals. I think you came up with a good starting list, my only disagreement is Red Lobster, but maybe I need to give it another chance.

    Currently others that stand out in my mind include (more or less working from east (DH) to west (Ewa):

    Hau Tree Lanai: Still hard to beat the setting anywhere, and the food is really good and not outrageously priced for what you get.

    Tiki's, better than decent food, great sunset view, good drinks, moderate prices.

    Hy's Steakhouse: A real classic. And yes, it is in a hotel. I still prefer it to Ruth's Chris or Morton's, but it could be a sentimental attachment.

    Mac 24/7: I won't be back any time soon, but it has a devoted following

    Duke's: Not as good as when it opened, and dinner there has gotten pricey. But its still a great place on the beach.

    Chucks: Right above Dukes, a pretty good "70's" steakhouse.

    Fatty's Chinese Kitchen: OK this barely qualifies as a hotel restaurant (but neither does the top of waikiki), but its good local kine chinese.

    Rumfire at the Sheraton: OK, i wasn't all that impressed, but other people I were with thought it was the bomb.

    Nobu's: what the heck is the name of that hotel across the Halekulani? Anyhow that's where it is. It may not be a local hangout, but it sure has a good rep among locals.

    Roy's: Now located in the Trump tower (bah).

    Keo's: Hardly your typical hotel restaurant, and still really good thai food in waikiki.

    Chart House: Definitely not what it used to be, and the prices have gotten high, but it's sure a longtime local favorite

    Red Lobster Restaurants
    1765 Ala Moana Blvd Spc 7, Honolulu, HI 96815

    Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
    2863 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

    10 Replies
    1. re: KaimukiMan

      K-Man you are wrong about Roy's location. BLT is there at Trump. Roy's remains in the Beachwalk location of adjacent to the Embassy Suites , Halekulani is across the street as well. The hotel across where Nobu is is the Waikiki Parc Hotel sister of the Halekulani hotel.

      Waikiki Parc Hotel
      , Honolulu, HI 96813

      2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

      1. re: KaimukiMan

        Hau Tree has never let us down.

        Keo's (several locations over the years), has always been nice, but the Ward Center location, less so.

        Hy's Steakhouse did not impress, but that was a one-time visit. Same for Nick's Fishmarket (check exact name).

        Roy's (some O`ahu locations), OK, but that chain has done better by me. Note: there are at least two different restaurant groups, under the Roy Yamaguchi umbrella.

        Chart House - dined at many, in different locations. Only the one in Kane`ohe has ever impressed. Not a location that we normally check out.


        Nick's Fishmarket
        2070 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          The Ward Keo's has been closed for some time now, only the Ambassador Hotel location, altough there is some tie between Keoni's and Keos, or maybe that is old news now too.

          One thing about Hy's is you need to sit in the 'front', not the area in the back that was expanded into during the Japanese tourist boom of the 90s

          The chart house is definitely not what it was 20 years ago, which is a sad thing. Still a popular place among the die hard sailing crowd, not much else near the harbor there.

          1. re: KaimukiMan

            You are correct. We dined there some years ago, and things were not up to the old location on Kapahulu. I have seen a new location on Kuhio, but have not dined there.

            I fear that things might have changed too much from the "good old days," especially having done the Ward Center location, when they were in operation.


            1. re: KaimukiMan

              I'm thinking of going to Hy's. Why do you have to sit in the front?

              1. re: Jazzaloha

                It has character. the back is sort of grey and nebulous. all the charm of a hotel ballroom.

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    The wife and I went to Hy's last night. I didn't get to see the back section, but the front section was very elegant, in an old school steak house sort of way. This is definitely one of those upscale 70's restaurants--waiters in tuxes, pre-Pac Rim/New American Bistro menu, etc.

                    I had a 14oz Delmonico steak ($43 and the wife had a streak in black truffle sauce ($28). I enjoyed the steak and the ambiance. Thanks, K.

            2. re: KaimukiMan

              We just returned from Waikiki yesterday and had some good meals. The best by far was Alan Wong's but that does not fit the hotel criteria. We also ate at Roy's, Duke's, Chuck's Steaks and the Yardhouse. We had good meals at all with the weakest being Duke's. If you are into good wine, Roy's had the better wine list. I was on a mission to eat fresh local fish so it wasn't too much of a stretch to find something to my liking at any place we tried.

              Can't speak to the food at Rumfire since we only had drinks but the location is fabulous for sunset viewing.

              Alan Wong's was outstanding from start to finish. I had heard that it was quite pricey but honestly, it was cheaper than Ruth's Chris and a thousand times better and I like Ruth's Chris.

              Alan Wong's Restaurant
              1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

            3. Jazzaloha,
              Red Lobster? Really? I swear to god, you are the first person I've ever seen who indicated that they liked it. And you were the one who told me about Ming's weren't you? (More about Ming's later.)
              Of the rests. listed above, I've only been to a couple:
              1. La Mer. Hunt and I operate at very different price points, but I KNOW that the choucroute was not good b/c we lived in Strasbourg for 9 months and had it there many times.
              2. Nobu. Good and quite expensive, but, now that I can make his mizoyaki butterfish myself, I would only go if I wanted to pretend to someone that I was a la mode.
              RE: Ming's; We've been there twice and I really like it. Does any other place on Oahu offer soup dumplings? And $14.95 for half of a real Peking Duck with six buns? One of the best deals on the island! Also liked the Shanghai-style smoked fish a lot. But the sizzling oysters were better at Golden Wheel in Aeia. Still, we'll be back repeatedly.

              La Mer
              2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

              Red Lobster Restaurants
              1765 Ala Moana Blvd Spc 7, Honolulu, HI 96815

              7 Replies
              1. re: Joebob

                I guess I have to defend my liking *Red Lobster*. :)
                Seriously, the quality may not be exceptional, and people who don't like American seafood restaurants probably won't enjoy this place. But I like it for several reasons: 1.) little things like all you can eat garlic cheese biscuits and the ability to make various combinations in your meal (basically, you can make any kind of modification to the menu, but you pay a little more for it. You can make an American version of teishoku--i.e. many different small dishes in one meal; 2.) It's better than Sizzler's. :) I'm half joking, but the first time I went here, I expected quality on the level of a Sizzler. It's not (which is probably damning it with faint praise). It's actually significantly better. The rock lobster tails that you can add on to any meal are solid. They have some decent fresh fish (opakapaka), too. If you like American seafood (which, I know some people may not care for), this is a good place to go, imo.

                Re: MIng's

                Yeah, I believe I mentioned them on the board. There are two other items that my Chinese friends really like over there. One is a noodle dish that uses mochi (round flat slivers I think) instead of noodles and a gin-dui dessert that comes in a soup. (I'll try to get details.) I haven't tried them, though. There are some really funky things on the menu, and some of the things weren't very good. But the shanghai (soup) dumplings are awesome.

                I know that Mei Sum also serves them, but they're not as good. I'll try the smoked fish and the sizzling oysters at Golden Wheel (one of the decent Chinese places on the Leeward side).

                1. re: Jazzaloha

                  I would be happy to learn of any recommendations for Ming's that your friends would care to make. Ming's seems to be Shanghai Chinese, NOT Hawaiian Chinese: no mention of cake noodle on any of the several menus.
                  The cake noodle at Golden Wheel is good too, though maybe not quite as good as Hoy Tin. Near to GW, a real Mexican Rest. has just opened: El Charro, next to Aiea Bowl.
                  RE: Aiea Bowl. Have you or anyone else out there had the prix fixe , 5-course meal there?

                  1. re: Joebob

                    Ming's doesn't seem local. There are some hardcore items on the menu, too. (grubs anyone?). I'll get back to you about the recommendations.

                    Have you been to El Charro? The state of Mexican restaurants in Hawai'i depresses me.

                    I haven't tried the prix fixe at Aiea Bowl. (I know they're going for a slightly upscale diner vibe, but prix fixe?)

                    1. re: Jazzaloha

                      Is this the same El Charro that closed on Sand Island Access Road? It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        Funny, my friend owned the Sand Island restaurant and for a short while also El Charro 2. He always made off the menu things for us and we enjoyed the regular menu as well. My favorite was that pork dish of his.
                        His assistant Lettie took over keeping the same name. Maybe that's her
                        by the Aiea bowl.

                        1. re: manomin

                          Maybe that was the problem. His off-the-menu items should have been on the menu.

                        2. re: KaimukiMan

                          Not the same, definitely. The mole sauce was a little sweet IMO but was home-made, as were the frijolles (though the rice was meh). The chille relleno was good too. Anyone tried the other new Mex. rest. on 11th Ave?

                2. As you know, I am anything but "local," though when the sun is right, the mountains in Phoenix, with the palms and the architecture can convince me that I am on O`ahu.

                  Still, here are a few of my observations on some of your mentioned locations:

                  Sarento's - very old-school and tired. Over-priced for the fare, but not regarding total bill in Waikiki. Would not go back, though I have fond memories, decades ago.

                  Michel's - we did not get this restaurant. Food and service were lacking, but some really like it. Would not return, even if that was a "bad day."

                  Top of the Ala Moana Hotel - we were impressed. Food, service and value were very good. Some have not found the food quite the value, that we did. It has been some years.

                  La Mer - we have had wonderful meals there. With one glaring exception, all have been wonderful and considered a value to us. The meals have not been cheap, by even Michelin 3-star standards, but have been great. The one bad experience was a "one-off," or that is what I am hoping. We're back next month, so I will report. My fingers are X'ed, in hopes that things will be like the "good old days."

                  Longi's was so very long ago, that I cannot comment, though at that time, we were underwhelmed.

                  Good thread, and I hope to see posts from a lot of "real" locals. For me, it is the same as with the New Orleans board - it's those locals, who help us casual tourists, regardless of how many times we might have traveled to the location. We get there 1 - 2 times per year, so cannot be up to date anywhere.

                  Mahalo for posting,


                  La Mer
                  2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                  1777 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96815

                  1. I love Orchids Sunday brunch.
                    The Chinese restauarnt in the Ala Moana Hotel is pretty good.
                    Sansei sushi is also pretty good - we did the line up and wait for 50% happy hour and it was really fun. Pretty much the whole line was local.
                    I also like the Moana's Sunday brunch and their afternoon tea is pretty nice, too.
                    I really miss the Golden Dragon - used to be a favorite of ours for special meals with the grandparents.

                    The food at Dukes is horrendous, but the location and some of the live music is killer. Better fruity drinks at the Moana bar, though.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: akq

                      I'm not a big fan of Sansei, but it's worth going to when they have the 50% special. I've enjoyed the wine I've had there, too.

                      1. re: akq

                        Over the years, Orchid's Sunday Brunch has been great for us. It is one of the last Sunday Brunches, that has continued over the decades, and has never failed to thrill us. Too many others have been the victims of the economy.


                      2. We just got back from Waikiki for a week of food, wine and lots of mai tais and we loved Hula Grill at the Outrigger Waikiki for the mai tai's at Happy Hour for $4 that were excellent and the calamari was cooked perfect everytime...we got out of there for around $35-40 a night with drinks and full belly of fish.
                        Sansei, for 25% off sushi rolls were quite good for HH..
                        Top of Waikiki and Royal Hawaiian all had great drinks and saw a lot of locals with their tourists friends enjoying the sites.
                        We had one hell of a meal at Roy's and I have to give major props to Diva and Roy for taking good care of me!
                        Rumfire at the Sheraton Waikiki has only one food special for happy hour that changes daily but its ok..some people really rave about it and we liked it but we didn't see what all the fuss was about.

                        I saw too many locals and tourists at Cheesecake Factory..what's up with that?

                        I forgot how much I love the vibe in Waikiki and its fun to swim for hours and drink Hinano's and mai tai's and throw on a sarong and go eat at all the great restaurants within walking distances from the resorts on the strip.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          Its the only cheesecake factory in the state. it has huge portions, and not huge prices. i remember when the longest lines in waikiki... of locals and tourists... was at sizzler.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            Aloha K..
                            Sometimes the wait was over 2 hours...did you go to the block party on Sept. 18th?
                            Lots of fun and loved seeing the band, ten feet..I think they need a chick drummer!

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              Ah, Sizzler. Going back to when most folk here were just pups, if that, the Sizzler at Ala Moana had a great breakfast. Think that that spot became some sort of "island burger" joint, and that might be long gone, though not fondly remembered by me. I believe that was the only Sizzler that I have eaten at in 30 years, and I'm not likely to eat at another one - still, for a brief moment in time, their breakfasts were quite good, and a steal.