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Foodie's first time in Oahu

  • m

I am visiting Oahu for the first time next month.

I like to plan my days and journeys around places to eat .

I will be renting a car for part of my trip

I would like to eat like the locals do and prefer to skip any chain restaurants or things I might find in NY.... I am open to chains but there has to be something worth while.

I am into the good , greasy , gritty places that everyday people go to...

Any suggestions or areas ? Thanks for every and any tips !!

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  1. What we especially like about these places are that they are so unique to Hawaii and Chow we can not readily get in Los Angeles. Here are the restaurants we love on Oahu:

    Helena's Hawaiian Food for everything but especially their PIPIKAULA and chicken long rice. Been to Ono's and Highway Inn and they did not compare to Helena's. IMO Ono's is way overrated.

    Nico's at Pier 38 for their seafood specials and Loco Moco. 5* food for 1* prices.

    Rainbow Drive In for their cheap and tasty plate lunches. Try the mix plate.

    Halekulani HWAK for their hula/entertainment with appetizers overlooking the beach and ocean watching the sunset.

    Diamond Head Market & Grill for their plate lunches and Blueberry Cream Cheese Scones. Really miss their blueberry cream scones, and on the weekends they have a few special scones that are also delish.

    KCC Farmers Market for the variety of produce, number of vendors and excellent selection of food made to order.

    Shirmp Trucks - prefer Romy's over Giovanni's on the north shore. Romys is right in front of their shrimp pond. Giovannis IMO tastes like frozen shrimp pan fried over pasty rice, meh. Romys otoh are gigantic fresh tasting shrimp with a nice sauce to dip in.

    Matsumoto for their Rainbow with azuki beans.

    Bubbies for Ice Cream and their many varieties of mochi ice cream which we prefer over Lapperts, although Lapperts is a close 2nd.

    Nico's At Pier 38
    1133 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96817 Remove
    Helena's Hawaiian Food
    1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817 Remove
    Rainbow Drive-In
    3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815 Remove
    House Without a Key: Halekulani
    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815 Remove
    Diamond Head Grill
    2885 Kalakaua Ave Fl 2, Honolulu, HI 96815 Remove
    Kapiolani Community College Farmer's Market
    Honolulu, HI, Honolulu, HI Remove
    Giovanni's Aloha Shrimp
    59-618 Kawoa Pl, Haleiwa, HI 96712 Remove
    Matsumoto Shave Ice
    66 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712 Remove
    Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts
    1010 University Ave, Honolulu, HI 96826 Remove
    Lappert's Hawaii
    2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815 Remove
    Halekulani
    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815 Remove
    Highway Inn
    94-226 Leoku St, Waipahu, HI 96797 Remove
    Ono Hawaiian Foods
    726 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816 Remove

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

    Matsumoto Shave Ice
    66 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

    Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream
    99 1267 Waiua Pl, B Aiea, HI

    Ono Hawaiian Foods
    726 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

    Rainbow Drive-In
    3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

    Diamond Head Grill
    2885 Kalakaua Ave Fl 2, Honolulu, HI 96815

    Highway Inn
    94-226 Leoku St, Waipahu, HI 96797

    Helena's Hawaiian Food
    1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817

    Matsumoto Shave Ice
    66-087 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

    Giovanni's Aloha Shrimp
    56-505 kamehameha highway, kahuku, HI 96731

    Halekulani
    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

    5 Replies
    1. re: HNL

      These are great drilled down recommendations! I have visited and lived in HI so I know... Might add= Liliha Bakery for breakfast and coco puffs, Roy's for upscale hawaiian, Town for local inspired/sourced cuisine, the original Side Street Inn for hole in the wall greatness, Macky's Shrimp Truck in Haleiwa, and

      -----
      Side Street Inn
      1225 Hopaka St, Honolulu, HI

      1. re: natalie.warner

        We went to Liliha Bakery for their coco puffs and did not like them at all. That is probably just us, but I have read here that many do enjoy them. They seem to sweet for our tastes and we like sweets.

        We were also not that impressed with Leonards Malasadas, although we usually do stop by to have a few just because, when in HI ... do as the Hawaiians do (although every time we stopped by it was packed with tour buses full of Japanese tourist, lol). Warning, only eat them fresh, we purchased some to eat about an hour later in our room and they were greasy balls of dough and totally inedible.

        We have eaten at Roy's several times at the Beachwalk (before we discovered the local places listed above) and it is good and fairly consistent but we have several Roys on the mainland that taste exactly the same to us. So if you have a Roys near your hometown, I would take the chance to try one of the other places I listed above. However if someone comes from an area without a local Roy's and has never been, would not hesitate recommending it. They give you wonderfully seasoned edename (sp?) when you sit down.

        Been to Side Street Inn and definitely would also recommend it for everyone but families with small children. We travel with two small children so it is hard to fully enjoy the experience there due to the size of the portions and the general feeling that they don't care much for children there. It is after all a bar that just happens to have great food. Their chicken gizzards were surprisingly tasty and "gizzards" are not something we would ever imagine eating. They also have an amazing pork chop plate and fried rice.

        Never been to Town but will have to give it a try when we get back to HNL in April. What is not to be missed at Town? Also where is Macky's relative to the location of Romy's and Giovannis and how are they different from the other shrimp trucks.

        -----
        Side Street Inn
        1225 Hopaka St, Honolulu, HI

        1. re: HNL

          Great !! Thanks so much! @HNL

          1. re: HNL

            Liliha you need to order the data bars - yum!

            1. re: HNL

              Didn't the original owner's son of Lenard Bakery sell the business.
              Last time I went it tasted different. Ate them fresh and also nuked them in the micro
              for 20 seconds the next day.

        2. I'm curious where you are traveling from, and what kinds of food you might not get there. Hawaii has a lot of asian and asian influenced food, but if you are coming from an area with a significant asian population then that might not be as interesting as it might be to others.

          In general I would be hard pressed to improve on HNL's shortlist. There are some very good threads on the Hawaii board about sushi, chinese food, etc. Do a quick search and see what you come up with.

          I might add OnOn, or Little Village, for Chinese, and Legends, Mei Sum or Happy Day for dim sum. You might consider Char Hung Sut or Libby for Manapua (a hawaii variation of char siu bao.) Nobu's, Mitche's or....? for sushi/sashimi. And most grocery stores have pretty good poke (hawaiian style raw fish) if you cant make it to Tamura's, Poke Stop, etc. Hale Vietnam, Cuu Long, or Pho Thinn have good vietnamese, while Keo's has long been the local standard for Thai.

          Im getting hungry.

          -----
          Char Hung Sut Restaurant
          64 N Pauahi St, Honolulu, HI 96817

          Happy Day
          3553 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

          1 Reply
          1. As we do much more "fine-dining" in Hawai`i and especially on O`ahu, my recs. will be for those "splurge" meals:

            Alan Wong's King Street - reserve the Chef's Counter for some real fun
            Chef Mavro's - just up King St. and go for the full Chef's tasting menu, plus the sommelier's wine pairings. We do one of the regular, and one of the "reserve" pairings, and sample.
            La Mer - one of the most romantic places on Earth, especially if you get a table overlooking HWAK, in the area below.
            3660 on the Rise - a little drive from Waikiki, but great meals, at a lower price-point, and well worth the effort.

            Enjoy,

            Hunt

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

            Chef Mavro restaurant
            1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

            La Mer
            2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Funny to think about 3660, I like that place but haven't been in so long. However, the former exec. chef is the chef at our church and he puts out some great food there!

              1. re: manomin

                Unfortunately, it's been several trips, since we could fit them in. We've probably dined there a half-dozen times, and all have been great. Wish that we could do a solid month, just on O`ahu. Too many great restaurants, that we love, and too many new ones, that we want to try. Never enough time.

                Hunt

            2. Shoyu Chicken and BBQ Beef at Rainbow Drive-in is a fun spot, Hot Molasadas down the street at Leonards is a must...............Have fun...........

               
               
               
              1. As NYawkers ourselves (well, Brooklyn) who've been there a number of times, I can say that HNL's list is excellent. The 3 that I most highly second are Helena's for lunch... it doesnt get any better than this on Oahu... real old time home cooking, low prices & great "atmosphere", "House Without a Key" at the Halekulani (on the other end of the "classy" spectrum) ... not for dinner, but for happy hour live entertainment and a drink or two at sunset & the KCC Farmers Market (puts Union Sq. to shame). And natalie's suggestions of Side Street Inn (was on Bourdain... portion sizes are one plate for 2-3 people) and Town (a very modest restaurant) that reminds us of Hearth in Manhattan, with locally driven excellently prepared moderately priced dinners. 3660 is a slightly upscale more boisterous version (and quite good) but we prefer Town. For high end, sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen at Alan Wong's and get the tasting menu... they encourage interaction with the chefs but you have to break the ice a little to get things going. Excellent food. If you dont mind spending $100pp or so and have a day to kill, we really got a kick out of the "hole in the wall" food tour (Matthew Gray...http://www.hawaiifoodtours.com/ ). We went to many off the beaten path dives, groceries, neighborhoods and spent time in C'town getting kitchen tours and samples. He and his wife are really into it and it's like hitting up NYC with Dave Cook (only pricier). Renting a car is a great idea. And, if you dont know about it already, be sure to eat poke. It's the Hawaiian version of ceviche and is better. I recommend Tamishiro's market on King but its available in many other groceries as well. Have a great time.

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

                Side Street Inn
                1225 Hopaka St, Honolulu, HI

                Halekulani
                2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                4 Replies
                1. re: Steve R

                  The "Hole in the Wall" food tour sounds great but do you think we could do it with our two kids in tow, ages 6 and 4? Is there enough to keep them entertained?

                  We have never been to Town or 3660 but next time we go in April we will definitely give them a try. Anything in particular to get at Town and 3660 that should not be missed?

                  1. re: HNL

                    There's lots of "yucky" stuff to look at (and smell) in Chinatown

                    1. re: HNL

                      I think you should ask Matthew if it's good for your 2 young 'uns. Although there were lots of attention getters along the way that kids would love, its a long day and lots of in & out of a van. And lots of listening to Matthew and his wife talk about things that would not hold their attention and divert you from hearing it. If I had to make a call on it, I'd say no. But, his tours only have 6-8 in the van and, if he had another family of 4, he could combine and revise his itinerary. Worth checking out.

                      Both 3660 and Town are the type of places you find all around in big cities like NY, Chicago, SF, etc. Town is more a place that sources locally and is ingredient driven, with a changing menu of simply prepared but very tasty food... we went twice on our last trip and really liked it enough to recommend. 3660 on the Rise is more upscale in ambience and presentation, with some inventive tasty dishes & a more lively vibe. Both are at moderate price points.

                      If a tourist has time to hit all the sights and "cant find it anywhere else" places (like Helena's or Alan Wong's or HWAK) & still have evenings left for good solid dinners, these are the places. Way better than anything on the Waikiki strip and close enough to get there easily. But I wouldnt go to Hawaii to be able to eat at either.

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

                      1. re: HNL

                        I haven't been to Town in a while, but I liked their roast chicken and torn bread (I believe they're somewhat known for this dish). I've also enjoyed the risotto when its on the menu. Green goddess salad is also ono.

                        I've been to 3660 once several years ago, and I didn't really care for it. I prefer Alan Wong's or Roy's. Also, have you ever tried Le Bistro? I really like that place.

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

                        Le Bistro
                        5730 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96821

                    2. Great list to get you started. Shave Ice is a unique Hawaiian treat you're not going to find in New York. Matsumoto's has already been mentioned, but there are probably 5 places in Honolulu that do it better. My personal favorite is Ailana's near Ala Moana Shopping Center.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/730671
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/706340

                      Since you're from New York, you will have good Chinese and Japanese restaurants. But one novel Chinese food would be cake noodles, a unique take on chow mein.

                      I would second:
                      Plate lunch at Rainbow Drive Inn
                      Bubbie's Ice Cream
                      Leonard's Malasadas
                      Helena or Ono for real Hawaiian food
                      Liliha Bakery for coco puffs
                      Dole Whip frozen dessert
                      The Shrimp trucks on the North Shore. Giovanni's is most popular.

                      Some like Boots and Kimo for their macadamia nut pancakes. It wasn't for me. But it is Hawaiian and you might love it.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Ogawak

                        There's a crazy/amazing food court on the top floor of the Shirokiya department store at the Ala Moana Center. An incredible variety of freshly prepared, traditional Japanese treats.,,,reasonably priced too.

                        -----
                        Ala Moana Center
                        1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814

                        1. re: janeh

                          Thanks for the reminder, Shirokiya Department Store would be a trip. Japanese street food galore. You would not find that in New York.

                          -----
                          Shirokiya
                          1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814

                          1. re: janeh

                            Dang! We are at Ala Moana quite a bit, though obviously usually focused on getting what we need, and then leaving. I did not even know about this food court. Gotta' hang out at the mall more often?

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Hi Bill
                              Are you on the Arizona or San Diego board?? AS I think our paths have crossed on rec's on another holiday for foodie recs from chowhound :O)..

                              1. re: palmtree38

                                I spend a good deal of time on the PHX Board, but as we do get to SD fairly often, have been known to lurk there too. Same for the NOLA Board, the SF Board and the UK Board. It all depends on our travel schedule. Recently, I've been lurking on the Atlanta Board, plus some of the South Boards, plus Washington, DC.

                                Hunt

                        2. The food court at Don Quixote in Waipahu will let you hit yummy Korean, Vietnamese BaLe, chinese, and Dave's Ice Cream all in one meal, not to mention the sushi takeout in their impressive grocery section. Haven't tried Donkey in town yet so dont know if it has as good a food court. A nice stopping place before you head to the North Shore. true local grit!

                          -----
                          Dave's Ice Cream
                          1602 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96826

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: feastygirl

                            DonQ in town does have a 'food court' (food row) out front. there is also a greek place and a couple more i think. its been a while. none of it is great food, but it wont kill you either. I like BaLe, won't eat at Yummy (having lived in Korea) and the chinese is iffy.

                          2. HNL's first post has some good selections, but I want to add/comment on some of them.

                            Re: Hawaiian food

                            Helena's is excellent overall, although, imo, I think they are a bit pricey for the amount of food you get. If quantity is not an issue (if you're not a big eater), then Helena's is a good place to go. The quality is probably slightly better than Ono's (although I haven't been to the latter in years.)

                            The thing about Ono's is that you get really good value. The portions are quite large and the quality is solid.

                            I agree that Highway Inn is overrated, and I wouldn't make drive out there.

                            Also, I'd like to mention Young's Fishmarket and Yama's Fishmarket. These are places that locals like to go to. I would also say that they make two of the best lau-laus, imo. (I really like Yama's haupia, too.) But if you had to choose one Hawaiian restaurant, I'd probably choose Helena's (especially if the caveats I mentioned don't concern you). Definitely try the pipikaula. Also, I believe they make the best squid luau I've had.

                            Re: Plate Lunch (e.g. Rainbow's Drive-Inn)

                            They're fast and cheap and you get great value. Plus, it's close to Waikiki. The mix-plate is good to try. They're local moco is solid, too. (They have a bit of chilli powder in it.)

                            But I prefer *Grace's Inn*--particularly their chicken katsu plate. (I also like getting this mixed with roast pork.) Also, I love *HK"s*, particuarly for their flame-broiled teri chicken (although I believe K-man had bad experiences there). I haven't been there in a while, but I've been going for over thirty years, and they make my favorite teri bbq.

                            Some other places:

                            KJ's in Kaneohe, which has a good fried chicken, but you should probably try something else.
                            Kakaako Kitchen, which is owned by the same person that runs 3660. This is upscale plate lunch. You should also try the bread pudding here (ask them to heat it up).
                            Zippy's. OK, perhaps not outstanding, but this is the ultimate local diner. I wouldn't go out of your way to eat her, but it is the place that all locals eat at.

                            Re: Shave Ice (Matsumoto's)

                            If you're going out to the N. Shore, then it can't hurt to go to this place, but there are probably other shave ice spots to try:

                            Ailana: Get the strawberry milk and haupia. These are homemade sauces, rather than the ultra sweet premade syrup shave ice places normally use.

                            Ice Garden: They have some unusual toppings like custard (flan), oatmeal and some other stuff.

                            Hula Boba: I believe they use a block of ice milk instead of water and then also use fruit preserves instead of syrup.

                            Re: Ice Cream

                            In addition to Bubbie's, try Dave's. (I generally prefer Dave's over Bubbies).

                            Re: Upscale fare

                            I like Alan Wong's the best.

                            Re: Sushi Japanese

                            Sansei may not be the greatest in terms of quality, but they have a good 50% of deal (either at 10 or at 6 PM; check the days and times).

                            Hiroshi: also has a 50% of deal from 5:30-6:30 (I think) on most days.

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

                            Kakaako Kitchen
                            1200 Ala Moana Blvd # 135, Honolulu, HI

                            Ice Gardens
                            Aiea Shopping Ctr, Aiea, HI 96701

                            Highway Inn
                            94-226 Leoku St, Waipahu, HI 96797

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Jazzaloha

                              Jazzaloha - my guess is that you live on Oahu and so, when you talk about prices (& portion size) at Helena's, you're doing so from a different perspective from someone like me, who's a tourist from NYC, or many of the other posters. My solution to the portion sizes there was not to cut back on appetite but to over-order... obviously, as a tourist, I'm not going to have the opportunity to come back very often, so doing this gives me the opportunity to taste more of the menu. My wife and I were laughed at by the waitress but it was worth it. Secondly, compared to the prices in the tourist areas in Waikiki, even double orders at Helena's come out cheaper than what's generally available & most of us tourists dont have the option of comparing it to cooking at home, since we dont have the facilities (or talent). I envy you that you can get the quality of Helena's at the prices she charges... come to NYC and you'll see me say the same thing as you said about Helena's when I talk about the best pizza place (DFara's) and Egyptian food (Ali's Kebab Cafe). But it doesnt (& shouldnt) stop those coming in from going there, since there's nothing like it elsewhere &, damn, is it good.

                              1. re: Steve R

                                Yeah, I'm on O'ahu. Basically, the food is "expensive" relative to plate lunch type of places--which is sort of the type of food your getting (not upscale or fine dining). But yes, it's cheaper and a better value than most places in Waikiki. The smaller portion size is also relative to other plate lunch (diner type of food) place and relative to the price you're paying.

                                Ono Hawaiian is also more expensive than the typical plate lunch place (although Hawaiian food in general is more expensive than plate lunch), but their portion size is very good, especially compared to most other Hawaiian food places. They might not have the best quality, but it's still solid. So if you factor in quantity, quality and price, they really come out well (especially if larger portion sizes are important).

                                This is the type of information I like knowing when I travel, so I thought I'd throw this out there and let people decide what they will.

                              2. re: Jazzaloha

                                great posting Jazz, and yeah I had a bad experience once at HK's... but that was a long time ago.. I've forgiven them.

                                Is Dave's Ice Cream still open? The one in Kapahulu disappeared over a year ago, I heard the others closed too, but that may have been a false rumor.

                                Manomin has commented that both Hiroshi and Vino have an early bird special if you sit at the bar.

                                And I would still put Waiola Shave Ice on the list, especially the original location on Waiola street.

                                -----
                                Dave's Ice Cream
                                1602 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  Yeah, there's three at least three Dave's Ice Cream: one in Waipio and two in Pearl City. There might still be one in Wai'anae, too.

                                  -----
                                  Dave's Ice Cream
                                  1602 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                2. re: Jazzaloha

                                  For sushi, how does Restaurant Suntory stand up to Sansei and Hiroshi? I at at Rest Suntory my last visit and loved it.

                                  -----
                                  Suntory Restaurant
                                  2233 Kalakaua Ave Ste 307, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                  1. re: alexa52

                                    Never been to Suntory, so I can't really say.

                                    -----
                                    Suntory Restaurant
                                    2233 Kalakaua Ave Ste 307, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                    1. re: alexa52

                                      SUNTORY is VERY GOOD. I like the $36.00 Chef's Lunch combo of high quality ingredients (including Filet Mignon. Really good quality for a decent price.

                                      Yakiniku Hiroshi just a block from Suntory is the Benchmark for Teppan Style Dining in Waikiki (not to be confused with Hiroshi In Restaurant Row related to Sansei)
                                      If you can afford Sasabune Sushi you will be fine at Yakatory Hiroshi

                                      -----
                                      Yakiniku Hiroshi
                                      339 Royal Hawaiian Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                      Suntory Restaurant
                                      2233 Kalakaua Ave Ste 307, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                      Restaurant Row
                                      , Honolulu, HI 96813

                                      1. re: russkar

                                        Suntory, eh?

                                        New one for me.

                                        Mahalo,

                                        Hunt

                                        -----
                                        Suntory Restaurant
                                        2233 Kalakaua Ave Ste 307, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                  2. I'm going at the end of Feb and this has been really helpful. So excited!