Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Hawaii >
Sep 29, 2011 08:59 AM

Non-touristry restaraunts in Oahu and Kauai?

My fiancee and I are going to Oahu and Kauai for our honeymoon. Can anyone recommend any good local eats? It can be casual or more upscale. We're trying to stay away from touristy type of places since the food tends to be mediocre and overpriced.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are hundreds of local places that might be recommended, but your post is so vague that it makes it hard to respond. Much more helpful if you say where you will be staying, and be more specific on what you like and dislike. The Canadian post just put up is a good example of what makes it easier to provide appropriate suggestions.

    1. Alternatively, you could look at the titles of the last hundred threads and see if any might be appropriate.

      1. hawaii is a bit different. a number of our best restaurants tend to be in Waikiki, and cater to both the local and tourist market. But a very brief answer here is a starting point:

        at the upper end are Alan Wongs, Chef Mavro, Roy's, Nobu's
        the next tier are places like 3660, Duc's, Chai's, Vino, Azure, Hau Tree Lanai, Town, Salt
        from there is Kakaako Kitchen, Big City Diner, Side Street Inn, Aiea Bowl, Sam Choy, Murphy's
        and then the plate lunch group, Graces, Rainbow, Sugoi, L&L(ugh), Zippy's, Bob's, Tsukenjo's
        then the ethnic restaurants Gyotaku, Choi's Garden, Mini Garden, Thelma's, Ono's, Keo's
        and local specialties Leonards, Char Hung Sut, Waiola, Palace Saimin, Mana Bu's, Poke Stop

        I haven't been to Kauai in way too long (boo-hoo) hopefully someone else can get you going there. Just put Hamamura's saimin on the list.

        25 Replies
        1. re: KaimukiMan

          I think you forgot La Mer and Orchids at the Halekulani and I might place 3660 On the Rise in that top tier as well.

          If you mention Nobu you should throw in Morimoto's as well, although I think they definitely fall in the touristy category. For more interesting, less touristy Japanese/Sushi I'd look at Ichiriki, Jinroku, Imanas Tei, Mitch's Fish Market, Sushi Izakaya Gaku and Yohei Sushi Restaurant. For just ramen you have Ezogiku, Yotteko-ya Kyoto Ramen and Ramen Nakamura and for just tonkatsu, Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin.

          I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at Azure, but if I am staying at the Royal Hawaiian I do go at least one night. I would go out of my way to eat at the Hau Tree Lani.

          For steak there is Hy's or the usual mainland high end places.

          For more local food I'd look at Helena's Hawaiian Food, check out some of the Vietnamese places like Green Papaya, Hale Vietnam and Pho97.

          In Kauai it is going to depend on where you are staying, most of the really great places are in the South, but Hamura Saimin is a definite good one. Mark's Place is a great place to get local plate lunch.

          La Mer
          2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

          3660 On the Rise
          3660 Waialae Ave Unit Frnt, Honolulu, HI 96816

          Mitch's Fish Market
          524 Ohohia St, Honolulu, HI

          Royal Hawaiian
          2259 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

          Yohei Sushi Restaurant
          1111 Dillingham Blvd Ste E1A, Honolulu, HI 96817

          Imanas Tei Restaurant
          2626 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96826

          Hale Vietnam Restaurant
          1140 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

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

          Mark's Place
          1610 Haleukana St Ste A, Lihue, HI 96766

          Green Papaya
          1518 Makaloa St Ste A, Honolulu, HI 96814

          Ramen Nakamura
          2141 Kalakaua Ave # 1, Honolulu, HI 96815

          Sushi Izakaya Gaku
          1329 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96814

          Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
          255 Beach Walk Spc 1, Honolulu, HI 96815

          2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

          1. re: scottca075

            I wouldn't disagree with any of your comments, except moving 3660 up. I just don't think it is the same level of service or 'elegance' as the others, although the food there is always excellent. I agree about adding LaMer, and I also could have included Hoku's, but i think it too belongs on level 2. And yes, some of that is based on snob/chic appeal.

            It was a short list, only one line of places per category, missing many many places, more and more were left out as you descend in price. So many good places to eat on Oahu, at all price levels.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Why Mini Garden over Ming's or Dew Drop Inn or Suntory? (Is the New Management really that great?) En garde! (Edit note: Dammit, it's not Suntory. It is the old Chinese on far North Beretania.)

              Dew Drop Inn
              1088 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96814

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

              1. re: Joebob

                You don't mean the old Wo Fat building do you?

                1. re: scottca075

                  no, wo fat was on hotel, not beretania.

                  i know that joebob has not had the best experience at Mini Garden. I consistently run into people i know who know chinese food when i go there. I happened to mention mini garden, i could have said OnOn, or Little Village, or Golden Duck, or yes, Dew Drop. All are 'non touristy'.

                  Golden Duck
                  1221 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96814

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    If you're ever near the Ala Moana Center, try the food court on the top floor of the Shirokiya Department Store - an amazing array of interesting treats!

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

                    1. re: janeh

                      Went to have Hakata Ramen there last night (Friday) and it was jammed. They are offering happy hour prices on beer that has the place packed from 5-10pm. Draft Bud $1, Kirin $2 for a large glass. The ramen festival is featuring well known (in Japan) ramen styles from different parts of the country. The Hakata ramen from Fukuoka was offered in 12 different versions, @ $10 each bowl, but not speaking Japanese, it was hard to distinguish the slight variations, except that half had a garlic oil topping and the other half had a red miso topping. Both were delicious, the noodles thin, straight, and very white. There were tourists there, but they were Japanese tourists; more locals partying up on cheap beer and lots of choices from the food stalls other than the ramen.

                      As to Chinese, I always put in a plug for Kirin on Beretania near the University. K Man - are you recommending the Mini Garden in Chinatown or the one on Beretania? We went there after they first opened and were very disappointed, but I think they have new owners. Any reports?

                      1. re: macaraca

                        I've been going to the Beretania location practically since my college days, one of the few places open after a late night study session. Recently I have been going to the Beretania location. I remember not being impressed the first time I went, but a year or so ago some friends wanted to go, so I went along, and it was good. I will admit that I wasn't overwhelmed by the Singapore style noodles the one time I ordered those (i think royal kitchen at the ala moana hotel does those best), but aside from that I've been happy. As I mentioned I have seen people I know who are really into chinese food eating there as well.

                        I also like Kirin, but haven't been for a while. I do know it is popular among those who grew up in Hong Kong and live here now. The one I've never been impressed by but other people really seem to like is Asia Manoa. I think of it as chinese food for Manoa Valley residents who don't like chinese food, but perhaps I am being uncharitable. It is certainly popular.

                        There is a lot of good Chinese food in this city, even if it isn't Monterey Park or San Francisco.

                        I thought Hakata had closed, I must have been glancing on the wrong block, or maybe they moved. Glad to hear that it is still going strong.

                        Thanks macaraca

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          Yes, "Hakata Ramen" Restaurant is long gone...I was referring to the Shirokiya food court at Ala Moana Shopping Ctr which is having a months long ramen festival...the Hakata version ends today or tomorrow and then they switch to one from Hokkaido for several weeks.

                          Will have to give the Beretania Mini G another try. Of course Singapore noodles are unknown in Singapore, like French Fries in Paris...but they are awfully popular in the States.

                          1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814

                          1. re: macaraca

                            Have you seen the first issue of "Lucky Peach", the new magazine from David Chang et al? The whole issue is devoted to ramen!

                          2. re: KaimukiMan

                            Aloha K man..
                            Did you hook up with our beloved Bill Hunt?

                            Hamura Saimin in Kauai is fab..
                            O'ahu...some of the tourist places are great but gotta say that Giovanni's Shrimp truck in North Shore has some of the best garlic shrimp over 2 scoops of the chain good..

                            1. re: Beach Chick

                              Yes BC, i was able to have dinner with Bill and his wonderful wife. A very nice evening.

                              One of two of the shrimp trucks in Honolulu aren't that bad either, the blue water over by the convention center comes to mind. They moved the ones away from the kaiolu parking lot in waikiki, apparently some of the residents in the area had problems with them, heaven knows what kind of permitting issues there were. But yes, Giovanni's is very good, especially at non peak hours.

                              1. re: Beach Chick


                                Yes, while K'Man might have gotten the best of the situation (as he got to dine with my wife), he paid more than his "dues," as I was in the mix... [Frown]

                                Now, it was truly ME, who probably had the best of the night, as I had her, plus him!!!! But who's counting?

                                We ran out of time, as I had hoped to try most of the shrimp trucks, both old and then some new to me. Just did not happen, but then golf was excellent, so all was not lost.


                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  So glad you hooked up...where did you dine?
                                  Usually, I'm in the islands in Sept..would of loved to have joined the fun.
                                  Did you fly out and play Kapalua in Maui or just hang at Turtle bay?

                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    That's what I want to know! What did you eat and where?

                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                      We met up at Alan Wong's, and all did the Chef's Tasting menu, but at a table, for the first time in many years.

                                      With the exception of one poke prep in an app., for me at least, all else was very good to great. Last trip over, AW's poke dish was the "tops" IMHO, but this one was just OK. Not sure how it fared with my lovely wife and with K'Man, but it was the one "weak link" for me.

                                      As for golf, we played 3 rounds at Turtle Bay, and then Kapolei. None was Kapalua, but each round was very good. Wife beat me on the first Palmer Course round, and shot her all-time best, so she deserved to win. The other rounds were not THAT good for her, but I had a few good ones.

                                      This was a one-Island (though two sides) trip.

                                      Though golf WAS part of the mix, relaxing and dining was the main thrust of the trip. Wife really needed to chill a bit, especially as we had to cancel two Hawai`i trips, due to emergencies at the hospital. For one, I had just checked our bags to HNL, including the golf clubs, when the call came, and the skycap had to dive into the machine, to reroute our luggage back to PHX. We also had to cancel a trip to Sydney, because of the same issues! Those cost me about US $ 13,000, in cancellation fees, though some of the airline costs did get used elsewhere.

                                      Dining was good to great.

                                      Great was:
                                      La Mer
                                      Alan Wong's (one weak course)
                                      Chef Mavro's (his "classics," but also one weak dish)
                                      Mariposa (not up to the above, but really quite good, and with the Hilton Hawaiian Village fireworks, who can complain, especially as they have added back a white Burg to their wine list).

                                      Turtle Bay had two highlights, one nice spot, and then one poor performance, but we had not expected too much from that one, so it was not a surprise.

                                      Hope to do a full review, before we head to DC and London. Though I have reviewed most in the past, there were enough differences, plus enough passage of time, that they might be useful to others.



                                      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

                                      1450 Ala Moana Blvd # 2101, Honolulu, HI

                            2. re: janeh

                              +1 on Shirokia.

                              I think I meant Kirin. The one that always brags about its high Zagat rating.

                            3. re: KaimukiMan

                              >>>no, wo fat was on hotel, not beretania. <<<

                              Yeah, but I thought maybe he was off a block or so :)

                    2. re: KaimukiMan

                      To the OP,

                      I have dined at about 60% of K'Man's recs., and with the exceptions noted by Scottca075, have zero qualms. Though I have nothing against smaller, more casual spots, our time is so very limited, that we tend to the higher-end spots, with white table clothes, so those are the restaurants, that I usually review.



                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I just got a $150.00 gift certificate to Michel's. I hear they have changed the menu. I saw chef Hardy in lederhosen on Saturday at the farmer's market at KCC it was hilarious!

                        1. re: manomin

                          Michel's is one of our regular hangouts. If you know how and what to order it's pretty good with a killer view.

                          Michel's At the Colony Surf
                          2895 Kalakaua Ave Ste A, Honolulu, HI 96815

                          1. re: russkar

                            As I trust your comments, we need to go back, and keep an open mind. Maybe things were just not working on our one visit?

                            I do agree about the venue, and a walk through the park is great for both ways.


                            1. re: russkar

                              Hmm... What do you recommend there?

                            2. re: manomin

                              Though our foray there was less than stellar, Russkar (and others) really likes them. We need to give them another go. Maybe we hit them on a bad evening?

                              With that $ 150 gift certificate, you have a bottle of nice Montrachet waiting for you!

                              Please give us a review, as I would love an update.



                          2. re: KaimukiMan


                            I agree with the "tourist" comments completely. As we are obviously "tourists," we seldom give too much thought to that aspect, but then there are the "tourist traps," that we do try to avoid, in favor of the best food available.


                          3. one of my favorite meals in kauai was at The Shrimp Station in Wimea. 9652 Kaumaualii Hwy. the shrimp was flavorful, spicy, and cooked well, and it was not touristy. just some park benches and a window to order from. was a good place to stop before hiking the canyon.

                            Kalaheo cafe and coffee co in kalaheo was good as well. quick, good food, good prices, and some baked goods to match!

                            the meal i was most surprised that i really enjoyed in kauai was at living market cafe in poipu. its mostly just a market and produce store but they make some really good pizzas and sandwiches there as well! was a great place for a quick, cheap breakfast thats def not touristy

                            Shrimp Station
                            9652 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea, HI 96796

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mattstolz

                              Mahalo for those recs. When last there, we did mostly breakfasts, then golf, and finally dinner. Some of the "usual suspects" were good to great, and only a few got a "pan" from us. Did not get that "local," though we probably should have.


                            2. Though I have commented in this thread, I have not really addressed your question, and for that, I apologize.

                              As K'Man states, some of the "best" will have a mix of locals and tourists, but are great.

                              Were it MY honeymoon, here would be my list, though mostly "fine dining."

                              La Mer - great, high-end dining with a French take on local fare in one of the most romantic settings on O`ahu.
                              Alan Wong's - one of the masters of New Hawaiian Cuisine, in a more relaxed setting.
                              Chef Mavro's - classical French meets Hawai`i. Last visit was to dine on his "Classics," and they are not to be missed.

                              Dondero's at Hyatt Poipu - yes, it's in a resort, but they do a great job with some Italian fare (one of the top-five beef tenderloins that I have ever had).
                              Tidepools at Hyatt poipu - while good, they did not quite live up to their potential, IMHO.
                              Beach House, Poipu - this restaurant gets very divided reviews. Some love it, some hate it. We loved it, and with good reason - everything was excellent, plus a "killer sunset."

                              Though it's a bit old now, I covered each in a review titled "The Tale of Two Entrees." For some, I have done updated reviews.

                              Most of all, enjoy the honeymoon, and be sure to see the other recs. for some great, local cuisine, that does not require a coat for gentlemen, or have linen table clothes.


                              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

                              Beach House Restaurant
                              5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756