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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

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    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