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Mar 11, 2011 11:40 PM

Looking for ideas for first and last meals of trip

I wanted to start out by thanking everyone for all the useful information on this forum. My boyfriend and I are heading to Oahu in a week and we're so excited about this vacation. We'll be staying in Kailua for 6 nights, arriving late Monday afternoon and departing Sunday afternoon (4pm from HNL).

Background: We are both grad students so money is something we have to keep in mind for meals. We are planning to cook/eat simple meals some of the time, maybe doing eggs etc for breakfasts, some picnic lunches, some farmer's market munching for brunch/dinner. We live in Chicago and love dining out when we can -- some of our favorite "fancyish" meals here have been at Boka, Mirai Sushi, Brasserie Jo, Naha, LM Restaurant, and Nacional 27. We usually take advantage of Restaurant Week to keep the total meal $80-$100 for the two of us, however we also equally love eating (typically lower-priced) ethnic foods (Ethiopian, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Mexican--especially Bayless' Xoco). Also love Restaurant August in New Orleans and Sushi Yasuda in NYC (yeah ok we didn't pay for that one).

I haven't fully figured out our Oahu itinerary yet but will be posting about that soon to see what you all think about nearby places for food. In the meantime, I was hoping to get some suggestions for the following things:

1) first meal in Hawaii -- We will have a rental car and will be driving to Kailua from HNL. Where do you recommend for a first meal in Hawaii? I'm thinking nothing particularly fancy as we'll be in traveling clothes, exhausted from the nonstop 9hr flight, and starving (it'll be 9pm Chicago time when we land). Ideally we'll be able to drive to Kailua, drop off our bags and then feed ourselves somewhere nearby.

2) 1 or 2 fancyish meals -- Aiming for $80-$100 for two people, including drinks (we are always happy to share an inexpensive bottle, get glasses, or even no wine at all, so if the food is amazing, we won't miss the wine too much). If I had infinite money, we'd definitely go to Alan Wong's (maybe we can afford a la carte?) How about 3660 on the Rise?

3) last meal in Hawaii -- We need to be at the airport by Sunday 2pm to check in for a red-eye flight. Based on the timing, I'm guessing our last meal might be brunch. I'm a bit of a romantic so I've been imagining that we might have a romantic brunch in Waikiki before heading to HNL. I see that a lot of people recommend Orchids but it's expensive. I've also seen a few posts about the Oceanarium, and brunch at the Kahala hotel (but I couldn't tell if it was for the Plumeria Beach House or Hokus). Is it "worth it" to pay $50-60/person for brunch at these places given our plans? We certainly appreciate great atmosphere/ambience, but given a choice between two restaurants with equal quality food but $20/person more for nicer atmosphere, we'd choose to save the money.

4) food for a 9hr redeye flight back to O'Hare -- we're flying good old economy class (no meals included) leaving HNL at 4pm and arriving in the morning in Chicago. Any suggestions on takeout food/meals/snacks to pack to make the flight just a little less painful?

Thanks so much!

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

5000 Kahala Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

Plumeria Beach House
5000 Kahala Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

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  1. I have lots of thoughts for you but I just got home from an amazing night at the Halekulani at the Sustainable event with Roy, Ed and Vikram and am just in awe and wonder of the vast produce wines and spirits that are abundant here. I will post more tomorrow or Sunday when I can get my space/thoughts together. I live on the Windward side and work in Kailua a few hours a week so I hope I can be of help. A hui hou.

    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

    1 Reply
    1. re: manomin

      Show off! ;) Sounds delicious.

      Any thoughts on Formaggio or what about Haleiwa Joe's in Kaneohe (esp for the pupus)?

    2. 1) I haven't tried many places in Kailua, so I can't really say. I know others have liked Formaggio, which is a brasserie type place. They also serve small plates and full entres--however, it might be a bit pricey. Other ideas:

      Assagios: Italian about $15-$25 price range. Good portions. Chicken dishes are good, imo.

      2) Some ideas for a fancy-ish meal in the $80-$100 price range

      Alan Wong's: You could get two entres, maybe one appetizer and fit this range (no drinks though). This would also apply to 3660 and many other Pacific-Rim places

      Le Bistro
      A little less than Alan Wong's, et al. More new American bistro food (with slant towards local tastes) than Pacific-Rim.

      Definitely less expensive; more casual ambiance; good quality food, but small portions if you guys are big eaters. I haven't been here in a while, but I think it's one of the more creative places. Again, we're talking bistro-ish food, with an emphasis on local ingredients. I think the cook strong point is Mediterranean dishes.

      3) Other posters will have better ideas than I do. Michel's has a nice view, but I think they only offer a brunch once a month. We had my daughter's one year old party at Pacific Beach bruch. I liked the brunch--you tempura, prime rib and bunch of other dishes including traditional breakfast fare for $30. However, the ambiance is not very romantic--although there is a giant aquarium.

      4) Try some various musubis (rice balls with some sort of meat on top). Spam musubi is the most common and, for me, they make great airplane snacks. They're about wrapped in saran wrap and are about the size of baseball. If you get out to Waipahu, check out Tanioka's: they have a good mochiko chicken musubi or fish patty musubi (ahi). Or you could buy salmon or ahi fish patties and buy some musubis without meat. (They also have various musubis without meat.) It's sort of out of the way, though. Maybe someone can give you recommendations for other places to get good musubis that are closer to the airport. Oh, there's a place on Nuuanu, I think it's called Nuuana Okazu, that has shrimp tempura musubis. I like their mayo mustard sauce, but, like a typical Okazu place, their food can be a little oily.

      Another suggestion is to take some pork hash, manapuas and other dim sum before you get on the plane. Try either Royal Kitchen for their baked manapua (and pork hash, etc.) or Char Hung Sut for their manapua (I like their bread ), etc. Both places are really close to each other and are relatively close the airport (in between Waikiki and the airport).

      You could also get a bento at Sugoi's (which is pretty convenient). Try their garlic chicken! Bento's are a little bit more cumbersome, though.

      Have fun!

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

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

      Royal Kitchen
      Chinatown Cultural Plz, Honolulu, HI 96813

      Le Bistro
      5730 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96821

      1. Last Meal/Flight Chow
        I would recommend the Hau Tree Lanai in Waikiki at the Kaimana Beach Hotel for your last meal, Sunday Brunch at you enough time to enjoy real beachfront ambiance and good food at fairly reasonable brunch prices, and still get to the airport by 2 pm.

        For an excellent and filling sandwich to take on the flight, you could call ahead and pick up take out from La Tour Cafe on Nimitz, which is directly on the way to the airport from Waikiki.

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

        1. First meal: I would head for the post office in Kailua and then decide if you want a fast meal of burgers from Teddy's Bigger Burgers (across the street from the post office) or try the $25 three course prime rib special at Formaggio (four doors down from the post office) or Thai food at Saeng's two doors down from the post office. The Prime Rib special comes with a caesar salad and a dessert platter that easily serves two, and the prime rib is excellent.