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Chinatown-Honolulu

So we arrive in Oahu, four weeks from tomorrow. My wife has been there several times, but surprisingly, has never visited Chinatown. We are staying on the windward side of the island, but have a day dedicated to see Pearl Harbor & Honolulu. So,,,,, where are the best places in Chinatown for,,, lunch,,, fresh produce/seafood,,,,cocktails?? Is there a best day or best time of day to visit there?? We are planning on going to Duke's that day (a must for my wife) but may go for breakfast in the morning, or apps & cocktails later in the day, so is there a "can't miss" lunch spot in CT?? How about a place for "Aloha Shirts"??? I need to update my collection!! We are soooo looking forward to this trip. Mahalo for all the help ~K

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  1. Morning is best if you want fresh produce in Chinatown, but probably not the best time for cocktails. Oahu Market, Kekaulike Market, and Maunakea Marketplace are all contiguous, and within a block of them you will have more produce and fresh seafood choices than anywhere else. Oahu market probably best for seafood. Keeping purchases fresh while pursuing lunch and or cocktails is a consideration.

    For lunch a reliable favorite is Little Village, more or less typical Cantonese menu with some spicier offerings. More hip is Lucky Belly with good bar choices and good chow.

    Chinatown is not the place for Aloha shirts. If you want vintage with sometimes astronomical prices, Baileys on Kapahulu is probably best. Best selection of contemporary shirts at various places at Ala Moana shopping center...Macy's has a wide selection, and there are shops for Reyn Spooner and Tori Richard there too. Cheap and ugly ones are more widely available.

    1. Since you're staying on the Windward side, you might check out Sears in the Windward Mall for aloha shirts in addition to Macy's in Ala Moana. Sears Windward is geared toward locals (rather than tourists), so depending on what your tastes are, it might not have you want, but they have a wide selection. Lots of shirts at Hilo Hattie's too, and they have a store on Nimitz near Chinatown.

      Little Village and Lucky Belly are good recommendations. If you want a dim sum lunch, Mei Sum is good and really close to the municipal parking garage at Smith and Beretania which is a good place to park for Chinatown exploring.

      1 Reply
      1. re: honu2

        Windward Mall also has a Macy's, so that gives you a chance to compare the shirts at Sears with the more upmarket selection, but honu is right about appealing to locals more at Windward than Ala Moana, and that may also be true of the Macy's there. I don't get over to WM very often so there may be local shops selling aloha shirts too, but I don't have personal knowledge. There is also a Macy's in Kailua, so might be worth checking that one if you are headed for the Kailua farmers market...which is held basically in the Macy's parking lot.

      2. cheap aloha shirts- ross'
        nice aloha shirts for cheap- nordstrom rack

        hopefully, i won't get deleted
        so here's a food recommendation or two
        fresh fish near chinatown- nico's
        cocktails- lots of hip bars in the area
        modern ramen and asian food- lucky belly
        dim sum- legends or mei sum

        1. on smith and pauahi in Chinatown is otto cakes, some of the best cheesecake around. they have over 86 flavors and other goodies (fudge is really good) but you should call to see what is available/hrs.

          check yelp.

          for aloha shirts try savers thrift store on Dillingham.

          14 Replies
          1. re: indelibledotink

            i'm pretty sure otto cakes moved to kaimuki

            1. re: macsak

              Yes, you are right. Otto Cakes is now on 12th Avenue somewhere between 12th Ave Grill and Sconees.

              1. re: killersmile

                meh, farther away from home. great update, his website isn't even showing the new address.

              1. re: indelibledotink

                Sad to say, the last time I checked, Otto is closing due to crimes imposed upon his store.

                For variety of Asian food -- go to Maunakea open food market. Bit hectic at lunch, but you can explore varieties of ethnic food, including durian shake ! For nice and quiet seating, Little Village is good. For dim sum, either Meisum, Golden Palace ? (next to Bank of Hawaii) or Happy Garden for reasonable price. For roast chicken/porl/charsiu -- they are all over and equally good. Explore !

                1. re: roro808

                  Like macsak mentioned, Otto has moved to Kaimuki on 12th Ave.

                  1. re: killersmile

                    mahalo killer
                    but i don't want to take the credit
                    i said kaimuki
                    you said 12th ave

                    but i i don't remember very many spaces between sconees and 12th ave grill other than koa house
                    is it in the space where the kawa bar was?

                    1. re: macsak

                      Gee, I don't even know where the kawa bar was. All I know is the address is 1127 12th Ave. If you go to street view on google maps, it's the space that's painted pink with the pay phone on the wall right outside.

                      1. re: killersmile

                        i didn't realize there was one more building in between

                        and i grew up on the east side

                        looking forward to the 12th ave grill move (oct 1 now) and for the new venture in the old space
                        chef/owner said SBA wasn't going to let him start a new restaurant at the same time he was getting the loan for the new space, but then he got an expemption

                  2. re: roro808

                    Is the Maunakea open food market more like a farmers market or a food court, or a little of both?? Looks like the cheapest parking is on 92 & Smith, or maybe Smith & N. Pauahi?? How is the whole parking situation on a weekday?? Lucky Belly was also mentioned & in the same area, what's your preference??

                    1. re: KowboyK

                      maunakea market is a little of both, like those found in asian countries

                      lucky belly is an upscale ramen shop/pan asian menu kinda place

                      two different places entirely

                      i believe the municipal lots are mandated to be the same price
                      street parking is decently available, and the meters are able to take credit cards now
                      i believe you can even use an app to feed the meter

                      1. re: macsak

                        macsak is right...they have a large section of produce, seafood, and butcher vendors, and a smaller section of about a dozen prepared food vendors. The selection is heavy on Filipino choices, one Thai, one Japanese, several varied Chinese. These are all very down-market enterprises, catering to Chinatown residents and those who shop there. There might be gems to discover if you are quite adventurous, but don't have any particulars to recommend. Cleanliness is not the highest virtue...cheap food is. As previously mentioned, Lucky Belly is very good, hip, with good bar service. Little Village very popular and always busy; Mei Sum probably best choice for dim sum.

                        City owned parking all have the same price, $0.75 per hour for first two hours, more after that. Cheaper on weekends. Almost adequate map includes non-city lots at http://chinatownhi.techmonde.net/?q=n...

                        1. re: macaraca

                          "Cleanliness is not the highest virtue..."

                          should be the summary statement of every chinatown in the world
                          but the OP has to know that, so i am sure it can be overlooked :)

                          it's like when i asked the pest control company that came to my building, "how do you eat in a restaurant knowing what you know?"
                          they said, "you just have to ignore it and enjoy"

                          1. re: macsak

                            Sounds a little like the Taco trucks here in the Central Valley, you just have to overlook certain things. It looks like there are plenty of options for both getting a little lunch & picking up some fresh vegetables & seafood to take back home for dinner. Mahalo macaraca for the link, knowing where the parking lots are & the one way streets, is a huge help!!

                2. To followup on Roro's suggestion on roast chicken/pork/charsiu, chopped up roast pork Chinese style (i.e, crispy skin) makes a great pupu for beer, cocktails, or even wine. In Chinatown, a couple of places that have it are: Nam Fong on Maunakea Street (next to the Chinese bakery with the big red lanterns) or Fong's, a stall in Oahu market on King St. that I find difficult to locate, as well as many other places. You can order a half or whole pound to take home (or eat in the car.)

                  1. there is also a café where they have british tea, like tea and finger sandwiches, if your wife is into that. my mom's been there and had a good time with her ladyfriends.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: indelibledotink

                      Our wives tend to like being a little "frou frou" from time to time, especially for country girls!! They might just enjoy a spot of tea. Of course us guys will probably wait for them at a bar down the street.

                      1. re: KowboyK

                        The tea place is called Tea at 1024 on Nuuanu Street -- a small tea café but delightful.

                    2. Of course if you want to have a fancier place to eat, there are Indigo (Asian fusion), Brassier du Vin (French bistro), Soul de Cuba (Cuban). Mucho choices in Chinatown area.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: roro808

                        I have been bored with Indigo of late. I hope however that now that Bob McGee is there things will be a bit different.

                          1. re: indelibledotink

                            Nope, they did a remodel after the fire. I find it was a good place to go and valet park to see a show at the Hawaii Theatre and not have to walk around Chinatown at night for parking.

                            1. re: indelibledotink

                              Just went to Indigo last week, and it was dead at lunch (buffet only). place looked tired and cocktails were not up to the standard they were.
                              Went to Legends for lunch, which was superb as always.

                              There is a shop in Chinatown that has great, gently worn aloha shirts for $5. if you did deep, you can find some nice vintage ones.

                              if you go to the Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium, they start at $10 and you can bargain. go early when they open beofre the crowds and the heat of the day.

                              1. re: edible complex

                                Indigo is not made for lunch... we go there only for dinner for the nice garden seating and cocktails. The dinner menu does need some shaking up a little bit.

                                1. re: roro808

                                  we happened to be there before lunch and wanted a cocktail before going to Legends. my previous experience was delightful; the courtyard and drinks were good...not so much this time.