Other than personal recs, how do you find good restaurants?
This can be a broad topic, or feel free to help with my more specific issue:
I just moved to Kailua and I've seen so many small, mom n pop type places especially in Kaneohe. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, local, you name it. So since I don't have unlimited funds or calories to expend, any thoughts on how to pick which to try? I just know there are hidden (to me) gems just waiting to be eaten, but I don't know how to find them. I do note places that pop up in discussions here. I am hoping that Yelp isn't the answer.
I know this is heresy, but rarely is food the primary reason for a trip. I do a lot of classical concerts, small museums, architecture, and galleries. I research and walk battlefields. I gave walking tours to units at Verdun and the Hurtgen Forest when I was in the Army. My estimate of 2 hours at Vicksburg Mississippi stretched to 9. They kicked me out.
Even when married, I was never a resevation type of diner. I have done very well asking people at petrol stations. Also local butchers. I am a sucker for sausages and pate's. And if the parking lot is full, I will always poke my head in the door.
I will do exhaustive research on local specialties. And I am always a sucker for seafood I cannot identify. People are generally proud of their home and I have found they want me to have a good impression. And some of the most forgetable meals have come from tourist bureaus and concierges.
My food source of choice is Chowhounds, of course, but there are limitations, such as the sheer numbers of people on CH vs. Yelp. But the consensus recommendations here are generally very solid. Yet Yelp is also very helpful, especially the feature that pinpoints consensus favorites, not to mention being able to give you directions. Pictures are also a great help.
My wife is from Kaneohe and most of her family still lives there. We visit once a year and are able, with Chow's help, to eat well there. It also helps that my mother-in-law has great taste.
Dean's Drive Inn: a new local plate lunch favorite. I like the mini rack of lamb and the beef teri. Desserts are also good.
He'eia Pier has some interesting dishes as well, plus a nice view of Kaneohe Bay.
Koa House: The best breakfast place in Windward. Pecan or Macadamia Pancakes are the order of the day
Saigon Noodle House in Kailua. I haven't been, but my mother-in-law, whose recommendations I take very seriously, really loves the pho. My wife also liked it. There is another one in Kaneohe, but it's apparently not the same quality.
Chun's, in Kaneohe. Order the big bone kalbi. Not much else, though.
Crepes No Ka Oe in Kailua. Good savory and sweet crepes.
Yoony Soon in Kaneohe is a very good Korean plate lunch place.
KJ Grindz has a good furikake fried chicken.
For old time chop suey-style Chinese, I like Kin Wah. Also Pah Ke is on my to-do list, as recommended by several CH'ers.
Also: Teddy's Bigger Burgers and Cinnamon's.
As you explore, I hope you post and add your experiences to ours. This is what makes Chowhounds a great source.
Sometimes asking people who work in the stores is a good way of finding out. Or if you over hear other customers talking about maybe where they're going for lunch or if they mention somewhere just sort of say "I overheard_________"and ask them. Most times folks are happy to help, I see that in the store I work in all the time.
I like to check Opentable since they only use reviews from the past six months and you have to actually dine at a place to be able to write a review.
So a search for 'opentable best hawaii' turns up this list, which you can narrow down further on the site: http://www.opentable.com/best-hawaii-...
So for example narrow it to 'Big Island' and the first one listed (today) is Merriman's – Waimea – Big Island ... click on that link and then use the 'Reviews' tab to see they've had 176 reviews the past six months, with 126 giving the meal the highest rating, etc (the actual numbers change as old reviews age off and new ones are added).
You can sort the reviews different ways and read through them ... I always like to check 'lowest rating' just to see what the dissatisfied customers had to say.
So you have a lot of recent reviewers and a lot of comparative data.
Keep in mind that these restaurants have to use Opentable for their bookings so many inexpensive places won't show up and places that don't accept reservations also won't be listed.
I agree with the other posters that yelp, urban spoon, etc. can and do play a part. When I see a place that is interesting - even having lived in Honolulu for close to 40 years - a lot can get by you. So google the restaurant. See what comes up. Most of the time yelp will, often other sites (including chowhound) will appear, sometimes reviews from midweek or the star-advertiser [i still have trouble typing that] etc. I rarely pin my choices on any single review, unless it is from someone I really respect based on previous experience. But the overall sense I get from the various sites is often fairly reasonable. Even if it is just on yelp, if there is one person singing it's praises, and 5 people hating on it, then Im going to tend to believe the 5, depending on what their reasons are. And of course the same thing is true in reverse.
I refer you to the meme below, everyone reading this page has an incredibly powerful and adept device, be it in their pocket, on their desk, or at the library down the street. Use it to it's fullest, especially when in doubt.
ps: never hesitate to ask about a place in here. the worst you will get is silence.
No suggestions for the Kaneohe side, but just wanted to say I find Yelp useful at times. I usually look at the photos on Yelp to see if the food looks appealing, then combine that with reviews, personal recs and advice obtained here on CH. Works especially well when traveling for me.