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which island has the best food / cocktial (tiki) bars

  • Dapuma Jan 13, 2012 04:28 PM
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No idea which island to choose and just starting to look into a trip to hawaii and have never been there before...So figured I would base a starting point for research on looking at what some of the cool places for drinks or food would be :)

An awesome tiki beach bar would be cool and great seafood or even a place that does a great suckling pig roast etc - thanks in advance for giving me some starting points

Bill hunt if you are lurking around perhaps you can point me to a few can't miss places / ideas

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  1. Interesting question.

    Let me start by saying that I find each Island, and each side of each Island to be great, and have done most of them.

    Now, for food, O`ahu is the ultimate, and the resorts/lodges are the best - BUT, O`ahu, and especially Waikiki, can be busy. Honolulu is an international city, after all. Still, when I go to Hawai`i to dine, that is where I end up.

    That said, each Island has much to offer, whether it's Maui (some different flavors, as you travel around that Island), Kaua`i (again, the location CAN matter), or Hawai`i (Big Island), where a "tiki bar" in Hilo WILL differ greatly from one on the Kona side.

    If you have never been to Hawai`i, the island chain, I would start with O`ahu, and Honolulu/Waikiki, unless you want to "get away" from an international city, and a lot of nice tourists.

    Around Waikiki, there are many great bars, and a good place to start would be the Royal Hawai`ian, which has several. Another, and near-by spot, would be House Without a Key, at the Halekulani, where you get great drinks (food is much better upstairs at La Mer, or at Orchids), pu`pus and even a well-done show, right at the ocean-side.

    The Hilton Hawai`ian Village is changing, and I am no longer a fan of any restaurant/bar there, but a few hours of browsing in their open hallways, is well worth the time. There is much history there, and it is always worth the browse.

    Tourism in Hawai`i is a whole topic, unto itself, and one could spend a week, just experiencing that, plus the history behind it. I mean a trip to the Aloha Tower, is worth the effort, as is sitting on the porch at the Moana Surfrider, sipping a drink and rocking in the chairs. I am a history buff, so things like that might not appeal to you. Still, there is so very, very much, just a few blocks away, and O`ahu has the finest dining in the chain.

    Each Island, and then each side of each Island, is unique, and over time, I would greatly urge you to think about experiencing each side, and of each Island. Be prepared for major differences, but each is worth the effort.

    Start on O`ahu, experience Waikiki, and leave a few days to explore the North Shore, and the Windward Side. Relax, and enjoy. When you get back home, plan trips to Maui, Kaua`i and Hawai`i (Big Island). Unless you have plenty of time, I do not like the idea of hitting all Islands on one trip - you will not do justice to the Island, or to yourself. Take it easy, and get on "Island Time."

    For 30 years, we have traveled to Hawai`i (the chain), and almost always plan a few days on O`ahu, and in/near Waikiki, just for the food. [Actually, that is just for my wife and me, as I go back several years before.]

    Most of all, accept a slower pace, and enjoy. Open you mind, and explore. Talk to people and listen to their tales - called "talk story" in Hawai`ian. Go slowly, and be patient. You WILL be rewarded.

    Aloha,

    Hunt

    37 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Not much one can add to Bill's excellent post other than to say the La Mariana Sailing Club is one of the last remaining tiki bars.

      http://www.lamarianasailingclub.com/

      You expect Steve McGarrett to bust in any second.

      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Hi Bill thanks for the reply

        Yes I have never been anywhere in the island chain at all so I have no place of reference to start with

        I like history, but I am probably the only one in our group that does so I will find a few historical things to check out and take pictures of whichever island we end up at because I can only sit on the beach for so long before i have to go do something :)

        Will have 10-12 days to check out Hawaii so i was thinking that might be enough time to check out two of the islands, maybe try 7 days on one of them and 3 on another - however after researching more this morning, it seems like oahu has a lot to offer and do

        On the big island Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge is supposed to be pretty awesome so perhaps if we are over there I can check out that place - maybe a good day trip to see the volcano

        What are your top 2 or 3 favorite places for dinner on Oahu, Kauai, or the Big Island (or top few for each)

        It looks like Morimoto has a restaurant there, do you know if it is much different than his main one in Philadelphia? We would really like to try his place, but not sure if we are better off waiting until we are in Philly at some point in time

        House without a Key sounds promising and they know better than to put pineapple juice in their mai tai's so that is going in the right direction :) Mai Tai's and a show at ocean side sound awesome

        Is there a traditional Luau that is worth going to? It seemed like the PCC was best show to go see, is it worth eating there or grabbing something afterwards and just seeing the show? Or is there a different one that is better? Seems like the Royal Hawaiian gets good ratings as well

        Side note it seems like the royal Hawaiian and the Mona Surfrider are owned by the same company, what is the difference between the two - if anyone has any experience with either of them

        1. re: Dapuma

          Starwood hotels owns both but their is a huge difference from their luxury collection to a Starwood hotel.
          The Moana Surfrider is a dump on the inside..rooms are horrid..staff is rude.
          Royal Hawaiian is about $600+ a night..it's where we have stayed since childhood and it is wonderful..

          But since your post only responds to Bill..I will let him post his response..
          I guess the rest of us islanders are chopped ahi..
          : (

          1. re: Beach Chick

            lol sorry about that i wrote this last night and forgot to hit send so i only read his post before that went out - i modified it a bit before then i was like oh wow lots of responsese

            Thanks for the advice beach chick and everyone else - didnt mean to aim it just at bill

            1. re: Dapuma

              It's all good Dapuma..can't say I blame you for centering all the love to the Big Kahuna..Bill Hunt..he is the MAN!

            2. re: Beach Chick

              This post is just for Beach Chick :)

              and i still want to see that picture of the gallon of mai tai's you were making for that party you did in AZ

              that sounded awesome

              1. re: Dapuma

                LOL...
                I think TMZ sold the pics..
                You AZ people are way too much fun!
                It was an awesome party and I can't look at a mai tai in the same way anymore.
                ; )

            3. re: Dapuma

              On O`ahu, my favorites, and with no particular order, and also at the higher-end of things are:

              Alan Wong's King Street
              La Mer, Halekulani
              Chef Mavro's, also on King Street

              Kaua`i:
              Merriman's
              Beach House
              Doindero's (basically Northern Italian at Grand Hyatt)

              The only lu`aus, with which I have been impressed, have been Old Lahaina (Maui), and then a special event on O`ahu, at Sea Life Park. That said, I doubt that what one could encounter at Sea Life Park would even be close, but can add that we were impressed by the chef at I`o (Maui), and he is the exec. chef at Feast of Le`le, but we have not attended.

              Aloha,

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Aloha Bill..
                Great list!

                Had a great 4 course meal at Dondero's at the Grand Hyatt Kauai a couple of years ago that was off the chain good..way better than Tidepools.
                Love love love Stevenson Library..

                I prefer drinks at app's at House without a key at the stunning Halekulani but I'm sure La Mer staff pulls out all the stops when they see the blazer guy from AZ come through the doors..

                Can we clone you?
                We need classy guys with so much Aloha spirit in the world..

                1. re: Beach Chick

                  We have done both the meals, and the pu`pus at HWAK, and the latter (plus the drinks) are better, IMHO.

                  Now, give me La Mer, overlooking the patio, with their wines and their food, and I am in heaven. Not cheap, and not really casual, but life does not get much better than that.

                  After about 10 years at La Mer, someone here, or on the Hawai`ian news groups, pointed out that La Mer also had ocean-front dining. I mean, who knew? We did it twice, and then went back to our "normal" tables, over the patio at HWAK, and never looked back.

                  For us, Dondero's was a 50-50 proposition. My meal was 100%, but they let my wife down, and on Osso Bucco, no less. Tidepools had all of the trappings, and the potential, but just missed the boat on so many points, that we were not impressed - and we were ready to be impressed on that trip.

                  Many things have probably changed over time, new GM's, new chef's, new directions from corporate? Might not be, what it once was.

                  We tried to do Stevenson's for Port, but each night, they were filled by a very loud, younger crowd, playing pool and screaming at the top of their lungs. Not where I want to sit, enjoy Port, and discuss the day, but that is just me.

                  Need to get back, as there is now more to try, like the new Jean-Marie Josselin place, that was still looking for a proper venue. Just cannot keep up with every Island nowadays.

                  Aloha,

                  Hunt

                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  Finally, a reason to hang in Hana..place to eat too.

                  www.travaasa.com/hana/

                3. re: Dapuma

                  The best hotel on Oahu is in Waikiki, Halekulani Hotel. It has two of the best restaurants on the island, Orchids and La Mer. La Mer might be the single best restaurant on Oahu merely for food, but when you throw in ambiance and service, I think that seals the deal. Halekulani is also the home of the House Without a Key.

                  My other favorite places are Alan Wong's, the Hau Tree Lani, 3660 On The Rise, Michel's, Chef Mavro, Roy's Hawaii Kai (Roy's first Roy's), Town, Salt Kitchen and Tasting Bar, Duc's Bistro, Indgo and Hy's Steakhouse for steak.

                  Instead of Nobu or Morimoto, I like Imanas Tei, Mitch's Fish Market, Sushi Izakaya Gaku and Yohei Sushi Restaurant.

                  There are other great Japanese specialty places like Okonomiyaki Chibo, Ichiriki and Jinroku that are great and like you'd find in Tokyo. There are also just ramen restaurants like Goma Ichi Ramen, Goma Tei Ramen, and Ramen Nakamura. These are real Japanese ramen houses, not that stiff you hate in college. Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin is great for tonkatsu.

                  The dinner show at the Royal is not what I would call a luau. It is a very expensive dinner show. I am glad we went once, but I'd never send anyone else to spend that kind of money ($165) until they've tried every other restaurant I've mentioned. The show is great, but it isn't a coincidence that Creation at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is dark Mondays and that the Royal has their show on a Monday. A lot of the performers are the same. So do yourself a favor, go see the Cocktail Show at the Sheraton and spend the money you save on a better meal than the Royal has to offer.

                  Not sure when BC was last at the Moana, but it is far from a dump. It was completely renovated a few years back and it is lovely. I have always found the staff great too. The hotels are not owned by Starwood, just managed. Kyo-Ya Hotels & Resorts has owned the Moana, Royal, Sheraton Princess K and the Sheraton Waikiki for almost 40 years now.

                  But I'd still stay at the Halekulani.

                  1. re: scottca075

                    Thanks for the advice on the luau

                    What are the thoughts on the PCC luau - we plan to spend a day out there looking at the villages (the spear throw sounds awesome) however the food is supposed to be pretty poor for the luau and it is expensive (165) seems like we could put that towards a better meal

                    Is it worth seeing the show out there or does the Sheraton's show rival the PCC? Having a few drinks and watching the show sounds fun to me - PCC does not allow drinking as i understand it

                    I believe we are going to stay at the Royal Hawian as they have some pretty good package deals with flights and it seems like a good location to get to alot of places with good food / drinks (and has chairs on the beach that you dont have to rent) - the Halekulani seems like it is having a renovation right now so it might be a bit noisy etc - and didnt see any flight / hotel package deals on their site

                    Are their some good beach front lunch places that wont break the bank that could be a lighter meal in the middle of the day perhaps soak up some of the mai tai / rum drinks? :)

                    Those japanese speciality places sound great...

                    The okonomiyaki is great, we are lucky to have a james beard award winning chef here that makes a good one Noobu at Teeter House (AZ) that i like and it reminds me of bun xeo (vietnamese) somewhat and he makes great pork tonkatsu (lunch)

                    Never heard of Ichiriki however it sounds kind of like Pho but japanese style?

                    Are there any great vietnamese places in chinatown aka non americanized? We get out to LA a fair amount for the real good stuff (and cheap!), wasnt sure if there was any place out there if we get the craving or if we are better served with japanese? (which we love as well)

                    1. re: Dapuma

                      Ichiriki (or Ichi Riki, I've seen it both ways) is a Japanese nabe house which is their version of hot pot. Shabu shabu is a version of nabemono cooking. The broth does the cooking, but you don't eat it as a soup like pho usually, you just cook the ingredients in it.

                      Not sure what the Halekulani is doing for renos right now, but I was there not long ago and it was quiet as can be.

                      Duke's Barefoot Bar is a fun place for lunch. I also think the Barefoot Bar at the Hale Koa is open to the general public and it is just great.

                      I like the PCC show for one reason, the performers are usually from the area that they are portraying. They are students from BYU Hawaii that runs the PCC (which explains the no alcohol) and they come from all over the South Pacific to go to college. They are not as polished as the pros at the Princess Kaiulani, but I still like the show anyway.

                      The food is good, but not great. I would still be inclined to to go to the Creation show and have a nice dinner someplace.

                      1. re: Dapuma

                        I love the PCC, BUT have never been impressed by the food. It's not a lu`au (unless things have changed dramatically), but rather a buffet dinner in a cafeteria, after the show. We have normally done the VIP tickets (more access to the various villages and the young folk, who perform there, plus we can do thing at OUR pace, and are not hustled off to another show, if we want something else), and regarding the food, it meant that we got a slightly larger buffet. Still, the food was always lacking. In recent years, we just duck out, prior to the food, and dine elsewhere, like back at Turtle Bay. Still, a day at PCC is well worth my $, but the food has always left me very, very flat.

                        Enjoy,

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Dapuma

                          Have not seen the Sheraton show, so cannot compare, but the PCC does some great shows. However, as we've done each many times, spending that time with the young folk in the village, asking about their culture, is now a much bigger draw.

                          Enjoy,

                          Hunt

                        2. re: scottca075

                          Aloha Scott..
                          Stayed at the Moana Surfrider 2 years ago in the tower and used my hard earned Starwood points and I've stayed at almost every hotel on the strip and this was by far the worst, with rude staff to boot.

                          We switched over to my beloved Royal Hawaiian and all was good with the world once again..

                          Dapuma..
                          If you've got a great deal at the stunning RH, I would go for it.
                          Sheraton Waikiki couple hotels up oceanfront is really nice and Rumfire for happy hour is a good one.

                          Halekulani is understated elegance and this is the only hotel I haven't been in and wish they'd have deals under $500..

                          House without a key is fab but only go for the drinks, apps and the music.
                          Been to La Mer awhile ago and it was wonderful but if Bill and Scott says its the best, I would go with their take.

                          International market across the street has some decent lunch plate grub..
                          We do the happy hour circuit from the Outrigger's, Hula Grill and Duke's, Sheraton Rumfire, Top of the Waikiki at the spinning restaurant and Sansei.

                          Giovanni's Shrimp food truck for da kine sticky garlic shrimp with 2 scoops is off the chain good.

                          Can't wait to hear the great deal you got!
                          Aloha and Mahalo

                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            BC, so disappointed to hear you had a bad experience at the Moana. I've had nothing but good experiences there since it stopped being the "Sheraton" Moana brand in the 2007 make-over.

                            Head to the International Market Place while it lasts.... the wrecking ball is swinging...

                            I hope the new "Diamond Head Tower" never happens at the Moana, Waikiki doesn't need a new 24 story building on the sand...

                            1. re: scottca075

                              Yeah..it was a major bummer but a couple of Hinano's from the ABC store after a long hike from our hotel to Diamond Head and back seemed to take away the stress of it all and then jumping in the gorgeous ocean for a couple of hours..

                              Wrecking ball at the International Market Place...where am I going to get my kitchy souvenirs..what's going on?

                              Diamond Head Tower..is that where it's slated to go where the old building is?

                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                It is slated to go where the old Surfrider building is, that ugly building on the left of the old original Moana Hotel.

                                Queen Emma Land Co. wants to maximize their earnings and I can't really complain since the commercial venture supports the Queen Emma charities including the QE Hospital.

                                1. re: scottca075

                                  We hung out there after swimming and that is one fugly building..great revenue stream for the Japanese weddings.

                                  Thanks for the info on the Queen Emma Land Co..can't say I blame them..
                                  It would be great to have something similar when and if they re-build..don't know how the existing numbers pencil.

                                  Scott..Have you seen what they did to the old hotel Hana ..those cottages look sweet...great dining/bar area...
                                  This might be something for you Dapuma..go and report back.. ; )

                                  www.travaasa.com/hana

                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    I'm confused as to why you keep posting a link to travaasa which is simply a rebranding of the Hotel Hana. Have you ever been? The major renovations were quite a few years ago. The main thing that has changed is the name. So to make comments like the one above that there is finally a reason to visit Hana makes no sense to me. It has always been there.

                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                      I had bar food there a couple years ago. The setting is awesome and the grounds are lovely. The admittedly very small sampling of their food I tried was okay, drinks were quite good though. I assume there has also been a change of chef now, though, so maybe the food will now match the setting?

                            2. re: Beach Chick

                              Though it's been a bit longer, I have also read several negative reviews of the Moana Surfrider. We have never stayed there, but have spent a good amount of time there - wife loves the rockers on the lanai.

                              As for the Halekulani, there are few places, that have treated us better on this globe. They have been absolutely excellent, and in every possible way. There are few resorts that best them, and not that many that equal them.

                              Join IPrefer (Prefered Hotels), and look over their "specials." We did their golf package last Autumn, and the deluxe king bed with reading room, with full ocean view, plus greens fee for two, was less than, say the Hawai`ian Village for much lesser room, and no golf.

                              Cannot recommend them too highly, and if you are there on a Friday, be sure to take the "Behind the Scenes Tour."

                              Aloha,

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                That shrimp truck looks awesome

                                Are they usually in the same spot or are they moving around every day?

                                1. re: Dapuma

                                  Same spot and have my name scrawled all over that Shrimp Truck..
                                  Sticky Garlic Shrimp with 2 scoops...out friggingstanding!

                              2. re: scottca075

                                Scott, would you (and any one else with an opinion) talk about what you like about the food at Hau Tree Lanai? The menu looks kinda classic, which can be great if the execution and ingredients are flawless, but it also seems to run the risk of resting on its laurels/being uninspired and tired.

                                Also what do chowhounds think of Michel's at the Colony in terms of food? I have similar concerns about spending my fine dining dollars (which will only allow one or two splurges on a given trip) at a place that I'm not sure is going to be very good or excellent.

                                1. re: mwest9

                                  We have dined there three times, IIRC, over the years, and the food has always been fresh, expertly prepared, and even when crushed, the service has been good to very good. There is little that would be called "innovative," and I think that your description of "classic" is a good one.

                                  I am not a fan of Michel's at the Colony Surf, but as other, trusted CH's are, I feel that I need to try it again. Food was mediocre, at best, and service was horrible. They tell me that I hit them on the one bad night, and that might be correct - hence the need to give them another go.

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    I can't really add much to what Bill said about either restaurant.

                                    We used to go to Michel's a lot when it was "Michel's at the Colony Surf" and it served all three meals because it was the restaurant for the Colony Surf Hotel. It was one of the few games in town for French food and fine dining. But something happened at some point. I want to say the founder sold the restaurant and moved on or something to that effect and about that time the new Halekulani opened and with La Mer coming in our trips to Michel's became less frequent and we are down to maybe every third trip we'll hit it.

                                    The food has made a comeback in my mind, it is better now than it was 10-12 years ago, but one thing that has never changed it the ambiance and setting. It remains an incredibly elegant and romantic place and those are reasons we still go.

                                    As to the Hau Tree Lanai, as Bill says, the food is always fresh and well prepared and the service is spot on. And for me as a history buff and someone who loves reading and loves "the good ol' days", sitting in the same place that Robert Louis Stevenson once sat, plus the fact that it was the McInerny's, an old Oahu family, porch upon which RLS sat, well it makes the place that much more special to me. Silly I know, but it takes me back to my youth in Honolulu.

                                    1. re: scottca075

                                      Ahhh...the good ol' days in the islands...when the Night Marchers roamed freely..
                                      ; )

                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                        Aloha, Beach Chick:

                                        The Night Marchers are still there. Try Kaneana and Wainae'uka. THey don't make it to Dondero's or La Mer much.

                                        Aloha,
                                        Kaleo

                                      2. re: scottca075

                                        Just doing "rough math," I think that my visit to Michel's was 8 - 10 years back. Do not think that it was much more recent, than that.

                                        Some have complained about the "tourist aspect" at Hau Tree Lanai, or the service, but we have dined there on some very, very busy nights, and have experienced a wonderful venue (heck, we were also "tourists?"), and very good to great service. We never felt rushed, nor ignored.

                                        I am not discounting the folk, who love Michel's, or pan Hau Tree Lanai, but just citing my experiences.

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Thanks for your replies, its helpful in deciding where to eat. Actually, from a dining perspective, I'm most looking forward to the 8 days in Kauai where I'll get to try Merriman's Poipu and Josselin's, both of which weren't there three years ago on my last visit. We're only on Oahu for two nights, mostly so I can surf some Waikiki breaks. We may leave the fine dining for Kauai and just do casual food/happy hours on Oahu. We are staying at the Lotus, so Hau Tree will be convenient, if we decide to go there. Thanks again for the discussion, always appreciate what the regular visitors and locals have to say!

                                          1. re: mwest9

                                            Unless my mind has become more muddled, than usual, Merriman's was there, but "up the road" and over a narrow bridge, back then. Do not have the start date handy, but that is really moot.

                                            Now, my last visit to Kaua`i was several years ago, and we did not make it to that Merriman's location, though Alan Wong urged us to do so. I did a review, then, with a title along the lines of "The Tale of Two Entrees.... " with reviews of Kaua`i, and, IIRC, O`ahu North Shore and also Honolulu, and its environs. Should still be up, but please note, it is about 5 years old now. Some of the good, might not be so now, and some of the bad, might well have improved?

                                            Most of all, enjoy!

                                            Aloha,

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Mmmmmm, no Merriman's Kauai couldn't have been there. It is in the newer/newish Kukui'ula Shopping Center at the redesigned intersection of Poipu Rd, Ala Kalanikaumaka, and Lawai Rd, which is now a traffic circle. The shops started opening in very late 2009, like Oct & Nov of 2009, so the center just had its two year anniversary.

                                              Also in the same center as Josselin's & Merriman's are two other places worth the effort, Living Foods, from the people who own Bar Acuda and Tortilla Republic Grill + Margarita Bar.

                                              Living Foods is a gourmet market and wine shop that also does a light breakfast, pizzas and artisan breads. Tortilla Republic is an upscale Mexican restaurant.

                                              Every Wednesday the center does a Culinary Market, which is a mini-farmers market. They have some great stuff including The Right Slice with their great pies, entertainment and cooking demonstrations.

                                    2. re: mwest9

                                      the setting at the hau tree lanai can not be beat - unless it rains. the food is always good to very good. the service is always pleasant, but often not especially prompt. sitting under the hau trees with the stars above and the waves breaking on the beach mere yards away, what in the world is the hurry?

                                      michel's gets mixed reviews. some people have never forgiven them for allowing michel to leave - but that was 20 some years ago. it did go through a rather sad period a decade or so ago, but has definitely come up since then. there are some very qualified chower's who think highly of it these days.

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                        Mahalo Scott and KaimukiMan, great info for my trip this summer. I guess I don't need to worry about Hau Tree not being good and there are more new options than I thought in Poipu since I was last there summer of 2009.

                              3. I'm in Maui right now and the craft cocktail scene (if that's what you seek) is not as rich as other places in the USA:
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808948

                                I would also check out Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's site for Hawaii tiki recommendations, as he is basically THE tiki historian.

                                1. I wouldn't consider any bar at the Royal Hawaiian or the Halekulani a "tiki" bar. Even Tiki's I don't consider a true tiki bar. La Mariana, now THAT'S a tiki bar!

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: rexster314

                                    LOVE La Mariana. Nearly impossible to find and well worth the search. I spent an entire afternoon there this summer on my honeymoon. Maybe it's not the BEST food or the BEST drinks on the island, but for sheer tiki bar kitsch it cannot be missed.

                                    1. re: rexster314

                                      yeah the royal hawaiian bar has orange juice and pineapple juice in their mai tai so while it may be a good drink, it certainly isnt a mai tai :)

                                      Yes looking for good craft cocktails, figured tiki would be prevalent in HI, however gin is always welcome in addition to rum

                                      Halekulani uses the right ingredients in their mai tai (although they use bacardi rum) but it is in the right direction and the show they put on sounds fun for drinks and relaxing watching the sunset

                                      1. re: Dapuma

                                        Maybe, maybe not--my hunch is a lot of bartenders are more interested in making high volume drinks for patrons who want the fruity/sugary/blended. Discerning customers as yourself are in the minority.

                                        1. re: Dapuma

                                          I would not know what constitutes an authentic mai-tai, as the only ones that I have had were in an early United flight to HNL from LAX. They were done per the Trader Vic recipe, and he was at the piano bar upstairs in the FC Lounge in the 747 BC's. They were fine, but "authentic?" Cannot say.

                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                            trader vic's recipe is the authentic recipe (he created the drink)

                                            clement vsop - appleton v/x - orange curaco - orgeat - lime - crushed ice - mint will make a fantastic Mai Tai (beachbum berry recipe)

                                            any juice other than lime is not a mai tai, now they can be good drinks but they are not a mai tai -- quite a few other tiki places popped up and they tried to copy the original tiki masters which were Don the Beachcomber and then Trader Vic - the recipes were secret and closely guarded which is why there are so many bad sugary unbalanced tiki drinks because no one new the exact recipes

                                            1. re: Dapuma

                                              Thank you for that. Way, way back when, I was more UP on my cocktails, than I am now. Still what was being poured on that early flight (think they had flown that class of ship and that route only about 3x, when I experienced it.) Similar for the UAL 777's. We flew the first flight, after that ship was certified for OW, but it was not even close. Nowadays, the 777's FC is sort of like Economy Plus +, and nothing like it once was. Have not tried a UAL Mai-Tai in 30 years, so cannot comment. Probably Hawai`ian punch w/ whatever is available?

                                              Once it was a real treat to fly from the Mainland to Hawai`i, but now everything has changed. It is now rather like a "cattle car," for the 4.5 hour flight, with no fun at all.

                                              At least I got to sample the "real stuff," and have Trader Vic "tinkle the ivories," in-flight.

                                              Hunt

                                      2. O'ahu is the best for food..rivals Paris, NYC, SF in food..imho
                                        Maui..great restaurants but more of the play a little golf, snorkel half day, and go to Mama's for lunch or dinner or Hula Grill for happy hour with feet in the sand or grill some Ahi from Costco on the patio and drink mai tais..not a bad way to go
                                        K'auai..the island has the most Aloha spirit...sleep with the chickens..love Red Salt or Keoki's and stay at the Grand Hyatt and chill from there.
                                        Big Island...whole different animal..alive and kicking.

                                        Great deals to the islands till May on Hawaiian...you'll love the islands Dapuma!

                                        1. From reading the boards the top 2 places would be La Mer and Alan Wong's it appears (third seems to be chef mavros)

                                          Which one would be considered more romantic for dinner for two? Our trip will be very near our 1 year aniv and was thinking of going French since we were in Paris on our honeymoon - will La Mer stand up to L' Ami Jean and Chez Dumonet in terms of food quality?

                                          We have not had much luck finding great French food outside of Europe, so perahps we should go with Hawaiian insprired and Alan Wong's - we both love seafood

                                          Any thoughts on that idea?

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Dapuma

                                            if you are looking for romantic, then I wouldn't pick alan wong's. while the food is good, it is always busy and can get quite noisy unless you are seated near the windows.

                                            1. re: killersmile

                                              I agree. AW's is "romantic" to us, but that is because we have been dining there, almost once per year, since he opened King Street. In normal, romantic parlance, it is not at the top of my list, but DOES have great food, and service, so maybe there IS a balance?

                                              All of that said, I would NOT miss my AW King Street dining, on any trip to O`ahu, even if I had to drive over, and stay for the night.

                                              Hunt

                                              Hunt

                                            2. re: Dapuma

                                              For "romance," it is not really close for me - La Mer. Ask, in advance, for a table overlooking House Without a Key, on the patio below, and schedule it to coincide with the show, down below. Even a private table, overlooking the Pacific, and EVEN at sunset, is not quite the same, and I have done both.

                                              That said, gentlemen should have jackets, and La Mer IS fine-dining, so the costs are in line with that.

                                              Rough count, we've been there ~ 25 times, over the years, and through several chefs, and sommeliers. For many years, I only knew of the tables overlooking HWAK, until someone here suggested an ocean-front table. Who knew? Still, with having dined in several locations in the restaurant, the tables overlooking HWAK, during the shows below, are the places to be.

                                              Enjoy,

                                              Hunt

                                            3. I would like to offer another perspective. The posts have been focusing on the best food places in Hawaii (admittedly, the purpose of this website). However, while I will concede that Oahu (particularly Honolulu) has the BEST food options in the state of Hawaii, there is good food to be found in much of the state. And we are dealing with opinions from people on this board who have already experienced Hawaii many, many, many times (some appear to live there). The OP is going to Hawaii for the FIRST TIME and may want to choose their destination(s) based on what they want their Hawaiian experience to be (waterfalls, greenery, whales, water, etc.) and THEN plan the best food they can get in that area. I love cities. I live in one. I go to Manhattan for vacation to eat at all the great restaurants. But, for me, Hawaii is tropical and relaxing; filled with beach, waterfall, whale, and palm tree visions. Honolulu is a BIG city with skyscrapers and multi-lane highways. Great food and restaurants, yes. The TRUE feel of Hawaii, no, IMO. Of your 12 day trip, I say the first 3-4 days in Honolulu for the food (and some Hawaiian vibe) and the rest of time on another island (or another part of Oahu) to really experience the islands.

                                              Also, since you are interested in cocktails, the Moana Surfrider bar on Waikiki Beach (under the Banyan Tree) has great Mai Tais. Have never stayed there, so can't comment on the hotel conditions.

                                              Happy Planning!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: cobpdx

                                                >>>I would like to offer another perspective. The posts have been focusing on the best food places in Hawaii (admittedly, the purpose of this website)<<<

                                                It was also the OP's question.

                                                While I agree that is someone stayed in Waikiki for all 12 days of a vacation, they might miss the experience of what Kauai is like and Lanai and the BI, not to mention Maui, but while Honolulu is a city (a rather small one by most measures) it also has the most to see in culture, history and entertainment. 3 or 4 days would not do it justice.

                                                1. re: scottca075

                                                  I agree it was the OP's question. My comments also might be moot if they have already been to several other tropical destinations, and therefore, the island experience is not going to be unique. There are many reasons to see Honolulu. I just remember being surprised it was such a big city and wanted to emphasize that. In general, 12 days in the state of Hawaii is not going to do it justice, which is why I offered another perspective to consider. Depends what overall vacation experience they are after.

                                                  1. re: cobpdx

                                                    Understand what you're trying to say. I stayed in Kailua, Oahu last time and thought it was the perfect location for me. Half an hour from Honolulu (where I did most of my eating), but worlds away in atmosphere. Hop, skip and jump from my favorite beaches on Oahu (Lanikai, Waimanalo -- sorry, but Waikiki and Ala Moana just don't cut it for me). And while the food in Kailua isn't as great or extensive in selection as Honolulu, it was certainly better than other areas like the Ko'olina Lagoons (where there isn't much around).

                                                2. re: cobpdx

                                                  You make some great points, and I try to incorporate much more into my Hawai`i recs., whether e-mail, or on other, more travel-related sites.

                                                  The CH Team is very focused on "food," so when here, I try to keep that as the major subject.

                                                  There is good to great food, on most sides of each Island, and with a focus on an Island, or two, that can be pretty easy. With a general question, one can really only address the food aspect.

                                                  Now, to get away from food, and with hopes that the "Chow police" won't kill it, I wish to state that each side of each Island is unique. Each has many, many things to offer. It is almost impossible to experience it all, unless one has a casual month to spend, with a lot of wonderful travel.

                                                  While there IS very good, to great food, on most Islands, when it is "all about food," I cannot get past O`ahu, and even the Honolulu Area. When spending time on other Islands, or on other sides of O`ahu, I still try to fit in several days in/around Honolulu - just for the food.

                                                  Mahalo,

                                                  Hunt

                                                3. Almost a month and i've hardly said a word. The discussion has gone around and around your original questions, but not covered some specific items.
                                                  Tiki Bars: There is only one true tiki bar left, it is not on the beach but faces a boat harbor in a quasi industrial area near sand island. La Mariana has been around forever, and you will expect Ginger and Gilligan to appear at any moment. The food has never been great, and has slipped considerably since the owner died a couple of years ago. The drinks are ok. Most of the Waikiki hotels on the water do have beachfront bars that range from so-so to excellent - and all of them are expensive.
                                                  Roast Pig: The local term is Kalua pig (pronounced like Kahlua, but no booze) or Kalua Pork. It is available in many forms as part of a pupu or even a main dish depending on the venue. If you want to see someone pulling a pig out of the ground, you have to go to one of the luau's, but the pig you see being pulled out of the ground won't be the one on your plate (some of it may be mixed in.)

                                                  There are about 1.4 million people in Hawaii, and just over 950,000 of them live on Oahu, of that almost 500,000 live in "town" (Honolulu), with another couple of hundrred thousand in the neighborhoods from Pearl Harbor to Koko Head.

                                                  In addition to the million and a half people who live here we get a little over 7 million visitors each year. Of those about 60-65 percent spend most or all of their time on Oahu, again mostly in Waikiki. But note that while 25 percent of the population is on the neighbor islands, 35-40 percent of tourism is there. And it is the combination of tourism and local buisiness that makes sucess possible for most of the better restaurants here - even those far from Waikiki.

                                                  All of this means that Honolulu proper is a fairly dense urban environment, with tourism being our largest economic engine, followed by the military. It also means there is an enormously disproportionate number of restaurants in central Honolulu, and even more disproportionate in and around Waikiki. I live just under 2 miles from the east end of Waikiki, and I could eat two meals every day for a year in a different restaurant within a 2 mile radius of my front door (if anyone wants to fund this experiment, call me.) Push it to 3 miles and i can throw in breakfast and a snack too. Of course like everyone else in the world, i end up with a few favorites, and then overlapping those with the favorites of my friends.... and i end up eating at the same places too many times.

                                                  But getting back to your first question, there are hundreds and hundreds of restaurants in Honolulu, the posts above cover many of the best and most noteworthy. And honestly, we don't have very many BAD restaurants here. There is too much competition, and too much conversation about food in this town. The bad places don't last very long. Sadly some of the good ones don't either.

                                                  1. Well a slight 2 year delay, but the trip is back on (and booked!)

                                                    Staying at the RH in Oahu in March

                                                    Is there anything new to update in this thread?
                                                    Right now we have planned Alan Wong's for an upscale meal and that is it so far...

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: Dapuma

                                                      I would honestly start a new thread since you seem to have settled on Oahu as your only island--is this right? How many nights will you be there?

                                                      See also:

                                                      What's new on Oahu?
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/930826

                                                      Looking for new off the beaten path recommendations for Oahu
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922441

                                                      Best new restaurants in Oahu?
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/909645

                                                      new places opening up all over- reports?
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922456

                                                      Where to eat what in Honolulu
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/923524

                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                        thanks, those links are great

                                                        yes that is the only island, we are only there a week and didn't want to spend a day in the airport for no reason

                                                        1. re: Dapuma

                                                          Well I predict you'll be back :) and for a longer stretch where you can see more than one island.

                                                          Please report back, particularly on the cocktails you try on Oahu. We did not make it to Pint & Jigger or L'apertif at La Mer, unfortunately.

                                                          Here's my Oahu report from about a year ago:
                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885453

                                                          We were just in Kauai and Maui a few weeks ago and cocktail-wise I'm happy to report that Todd Rungrun's Tiki Iniki was very good, and Julie Reiner's Lehua Lounge at the Andaz was also excellent. Merriman's Maui has also stepped up its game and is using some equipment devised by Aviary in Chicago.

                                                      2. re: Dapuma

                                                        backstory to the 2yr delay?

                                                        1. re: Dapuma

                                                          Aloha Dapuma. .
                                                          Glad your back on track to head to the islands.
                                                          We were at the RH in September and love the mai tai bar.

                                                          Lewers Lounge at House without a Key or L'Apertif..

                                                          Have a great time...O'ahu is awesome for food and drink.

                                                          www.halekulani.com/living/dining/lewe...