Oahu Trip Report (sort of)
A friend of my brother is going to be staying in Waikiki next month sometime. For some odd reason my brother asked me to come up with a list of things to do and places to consider eating. Below is the food related part of the message i sent back. Certainly not comprehensive, certainly biased, but not a bad starting point for discussion.
FOOD IN WAIKIKI
La Mer: Probably the best classic French Haute Cuisine in Honolulu. And the only restaurant in Hawaii that still requires Gentlemen wear a coat and tie (or does it?) but casual would stick out like a sore thumb.
Morimoto’s: The new hot-spot. Fusion sushi, equisitely prepared. Everyone raves.
Nobu: The last hot spot, still some of the best Japanese/Sushi here
Roy’s: The originator of Hawai’i’s pacific fusion cuisine. Very good dining.
Hau Tree Lanai: arguably the most romantic spot to eat in Honolulu, on the terrace a scant few feet from the beach under the Hau trees with great food. Friendly but inefficient service. Don’t be in a hurry here.
House Without a Key: Very close to a must do. Skip dinner, have heavy pupus a cocktail or two, watch the sunset. listen to the Steel Guitar band, and see some amazingly graceful Hula - the real thing, no grass skirts or coconut bras.
Michel’s at the Colony Surf: The Spot for dinner in the 70’s, still a good choice for ocean front dining.
Dukes: I think it’s better for lunch. Right in the heart of Waikiki with the beach right in front of you. Or go early for sunset pupus (appetizers).
Hy’s Steakhouse: Probably the oldest steakhouse in Waikiki. Insist on a seat in the front dining room. The back feels like a convention dining room.
Tiki’s: Better than average food, good view, turns into an evening hotspot/lounge later in the evening
Mac 24/7: I’ve never been that impressed, but everyone thinks its great. Sort of a local cheesecake factory. And yes, it is open 24/7
Chuck’s Steakhouse: Right above Dukes, less expensive than Hy’s. Good steaks, decent view depending on your table.
Chuck’s Cellar: The original chucks, more local, no view, pretty good food, good prices.
Keo’s Thai Cuisine: Some of the best Thai food here, been around since the 70’s. It is geared towards American tastes, if you like it more authentic just let your server know and they can do a good job on that too.
Mainland Chains: Need I say more?
california pizza kitchen
Wailana Coffee Shop: For all I know its the oldest business in Waikiki. A throwback to the 60’s. It’s open 24/7, best known for breakfast, which is probably served all day.
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers: Not only is it in Waikiki (across from the zoo) it has really good burgers.
Moose McGillicuddy’s: Upstairs is the bar, downstairs a family style (denny’s) restaurant with pretty good food at pretty good (for waikiki) prices.
Eggs n Things: This place used to be amazing with crazy hours. Then they got insanely popular... etc. Still a good place for breakfast kine food, a little overpriced but really good omelets.
Food Court, International Marketplace: In the back of International marketplace a fairly decent food court. The normal assortment of food stalls.
Puka Dog: A hot dog stuck thru a bun with some wild and sassy condiments.
Fatty’s Chinese Kitchen: Nothing fancy, and only like 6 stools no table, mostly take out but cheap and good. Best known for their noodle dishes.
FOOD IN HONOLULU
Alan Wong’s; The best Honolulu has to offer. Fusion cuisine at it’s best on an international scale. But you will pay for it. If you are really into food, and want to splurge, this is the place to go.
Chef Mavro: The other guy, and it shows. I really should be fair. The food was pretty close to amazing. I found the service to be overbearing and unctious. It has an excellent reputation.
3660 on the Rise: Also pacific fusion. Large menu selection all of it done very well.
Mariposa: In Neiman Marcus, a great view of Ala Moana Park and the ocean beyond. Better for lunch or early dinner. Make reservations at peak hours. You can get a 12-16 dollar burger, but most things are more.
12th Avenue Grill: A very happening spot a few years ago, but still good food at somewhat inflated but not outrageous prices. Upscale coffee shop. Gourmet meatloaf and kal-bi.
Duc’s Bistro: Viet-Franco-Pacific fusion. One of Honolulu’s most underappreciated restaurants, mostly due to it’s location at the seedier edge of chinatown. Very good food for prices that should be higher.
Town: Fusion seems to be a thread in Honolulu restaurants, and this is another that does a really good job on it. On the lower end of the $$$ scale, its pretty affordable.
Kakaako Kitchen: Plate lunch done nicely. Very popular.
Side Street Inn: Pupu kine food galore. A local favorite.
Bangkok Chef: Really good Thai Food, new location near costco just opened.
Nico’s: Some of the best fresh seafood in Honolulu, they close mid afternoon so go early. Crazy busy from 11-1.
La Mariana Sailing Club: You will need to use GPS, and need to ignore your better judgement, even the signage is a bit confusing. The food here is not the best. The service is not the greatest. But if you are looking for The Professor and Maryanne, they are sure to appear at any minute along with the Howels. I swear this place was funished with cast-offs from those famous castaways. If you want a for-real tiki-bar experience, forget Waikiki, this is where the 3 hour tour begins.
Rainbow Drive Inn; The classic plate lunch. Two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and some kind of protien, likely drowned in brown gravy. Not healthy, not gourmet, but very satisfying. Plate lunch is a cultural icon here. Rainbow is one of the best.
Sugoi’s: Another plate lunch place. Famous for their Garlic Chicken plate. D’ese guy’s give real planny food brah.
Grace’s: More Plate Lunch. Go for the chicken katsu (japanese cutlet) or if on friday the Kalua Pork plate. Ono!
Leonard’s Bakery: The best Malasadas, which is sort of a large donut hole rolled in sugar. They also have filled malasadas, but i prefer the original.
Waiola Shave Ice: i won’t say best. it gets contoversial. This is not a snow cone. And please don’t say Shaved Ice... ShaveIce, one word, no D. Great home made fruit syrups. Very refreshing. Wanna be more local, get it with azuki bean and ice cream under the ice.
W&M Burgers: Old time hamburger stand in its 3rd or 4th location. Go for the Teri Burger or the Hanks Special. These are the old kine thin cheap patties. Get a double.
Zippy’s: Sort of a local Denny’s. Most locations have both a dining room and counter service (except the one on Kapahulu, near Waikiki) Plate lunch, sandwiches, burgers.
FOOD OUTSIDE HONOLULU
Haleiwa: The gateway to the north shore and worth a detour. The highway bypasses it now, but you shouldn’t. This is still a surf based country town that has blended tourists in, somehow avoiding becoming another Sausalito or Lahiana, or Key West.
Jameson’s: Been there forever and a year. Good food, great view across the highway of the ocean. sit on the lanai if possible.
Haleiwa Joe’s: More recent. Food is good, not Jameson’s, but the line is usually shorter. Less expensive.
LuiBuenos: Mexican Seafood. Very good reputation.
Kua Aina: Best Hamburgers on the North Shore. Packed on the weekends.
Opal’s Thai: A food truck with much praised Thai food.
Matsumoto’s: An old general store that probably hasn’t sold a bar of soap or box of corn flake since 1962. This is THE place to get Shave Ice on the north shore.
Shrimp Trucks: Down near Kahuku town there are some aquaculture ponds that raise some excellent shrimp. There are a number of places selling shrimp plates, the 3 most popular are listed below. There are endless discussions on which is the best.
Giovani’s: Oldest and best known. Long lines.
Fumi’s: Generally conceeded to be the best tasting
Romy’s: The contender
Fiji Market and Curry Shop: Fairly new, in the old sugar mill “mall” (uh yeah... ok) This place is beginning to attract a lot of attention. Which is amazing since Kahuku is almost as far from anywhere else as you can get on this island.
Kaneohe: Kaneohe is sort of on the way to someplace, and it is a large bedroom community, but there isn’t much there in the way of really good food.
PaKe’s Chinese: An exception. Very good chinese. Not worth a special trip to Kaneohe, but if you happen to be there and gotta eat now....
Haleiwa Joe’s: Wonderful setting in Haiku gardens. Food is quite acceptable, cousin restaurant to the one in Haleiwa.
Kailua: Another bedroom community, this one at the end of the road. Kailua has a great beach, lots of haoles (white people), and not much else. Oh, spectacular mountain backdrop views.
Cinnamon’s: Best known for their breakfast and brunch items (red velvet pancakes, etc) Hard as anything to find, but good food, good prices. A local favorite.
Boot’s and Kimo’s: A great pancake house that is suffering from overappreciation.
Buzz’s Original Steak House: Almost a grass shack across from the beach. Good food to boot.
Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826
Chef Mavro restaurant
1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826
2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815
1627 Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96817
1200 Ala Moana Blvd # 135, Honolulu, HI
Side Street Inn
1225 Hopaka St, Honolulu, HI
Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
2863 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
La Mariana Restaurant & Bar
50 Sand Island Access Rd, Honolulu, HI 96819
62-540 Kamehameha Hwy Ste 1, Haleiwa, HI 96712
1450 Ala Moana Blvd Ste 2101, Honolulu, HI 96814
Great list, K Man! I would add Le Bistro in Niu Valley to the $$$ list, and Downtown in the State Art Museum for breakfast/lunch eat in or take out.
Also suggest adding a Chinese category for Honolulu. Here is a start:
Legends for lunchtime Dim Sum
Little Village for all-round delicious
Kirin near UH, always very good
Mings, in Kalihi, for Xiao Long Bao and their exceptionally tasty Beef Tenderloin w Black Pepper
5730 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96821
thanks macaraca, I actually have a one-sheet/two-sided list i keep with me for when friends start the "i don't know, where do you want to go" conversation. Legends and Little Village are on it. Can't remember why Kirin isn't, and I'm not (yet) familiar with Mings. It's been a couple of months, time to update the list....
(and in keeping with Joebob's comments above, i should probably add a poke section, or does that go under Hawaiian?)
No list can include every great spot, no matter how much one tries. Then, it cannot be "evergreen," at least not for very long.
Things change and little stays the same. I have had my ups and downs, with just my short list of Honolulu dining.
Still, a great job, IMHO, and you added a few new spots, to my next trip. Gotta' lay off the golf, and do three meals per day!
Yeah. In my youth, I could do better. This stupid limit really cuts into my "fun time," both in Hawai`i, and in New Orleans. Guess that I need to get into serious training. Maybe hire Chef Alan Wong as my "personal trainer?"
Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826
Hey KM, great brother to give out so much dining information, good job!
After quite a few years I tried W&M Burgers again. I was really turned off on my last visit being served lukewarm burgers from a holding pan, which were cold by the time we ate them a few minutes later. This time the burgers were fresh off the grill, nice and hot and were delicious. Had a plain and one with cheese, both very tasty. The fries were just ok, but a good contrast to the bbq burgers. I'll be going again.
A co-worker just had dinner at Hy's and he and his family enjoyed their meal immensely. Food and service were excellent, great steaks and prime rib. They said the restaurant was packed at dinner with a nice mix of tourists and locals. Good to hear that an old time Waikiki standby is still holding its own.
Whatr a great list! I was just in Honolulu and could have used it.
I second the recommendation for Morimoto. We had a really great meal there. the presentation of each dish is absolutely exquisite.
We mostly sat by the beach and ate at various Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Waikiki hotel restaurants. All are just fine, none are special or worth a trip. Azure, the seafood restaurant at the Royal, is recommended on this board but we didn't think it was anything special at all.
2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815
K-Man you've done an amazing job. I've not much time as it's so late but one thing I will say is the food has been undergoing a great change at Tiki's Grill & Bar with the new executive chef Ronnie Nasuti formerly from Roy's Hawaii Kai. He's incredibly talented and making his mark there. More tomorrow! :-)
Tiki's Grill & Bar
2570 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815