Where to eat what in Honolulu
What follows is a list that has developed over time to refer to when friends start the "I dunno, what do you want to eat?" game. I do not pretend that it is complete, I do not guarantee that it is up to date. It is intended to be a conversation starter. What should not be here, what have I left out that should be here?
AMERICAN/FUSION - Hawaii’s Best
Alan Wong’s, King Street
Chef Mavro, King Street
LaMer, Halekulani, Waikiki
AMERICAN/FUSION - Finer Dining
Duc’s Bistro, Chinatown*
Hau Tree Lanai, Waikiki*
Hiroshi, Restaurant Row
Hy’s Steakhouse, Waikiki*
Le Bistro, Niu Valley
Roy’s, Various Locations
Vino, Restaurant Row
3660 On The Rise, Kaimuki
AMERICAN/FUSION - Nice Dining
Buzz’s Steakhouse, Aiea, Kailua
Mariposa, Ala Moana
Pineapple Room, Ala Moana
Plumeria Cafe, Kahala
Tiki’s, Marriot, Waikiki
12th Avenue Grill, Kaimuki
AMERICAN/FUSION - Everyday
Aiea Bowl/The Alley Restaurant, Aiea
Big City Diner*, Various
Haleiwa Joe's, Haleiwa & Kaneohe
He’eia Pier, Kaneohe
Henry Loui’s, Mapunapuna
Kakaako Kitchen, Ward*
La Mariana Sailing Club, Sand Island
Side Street Inn, Kakaako* & Kapahulu
BREAKFAST KINE PLACES
Boots n Kimo’s
Eggs ‘n Things, Waikiki
Koa Pancake House, various locations
Liliha Bakery*, Liliha/Kalihi
Original Pancake House, Ala Moana* & Kalihi
Wailana Coffee Shop, Waikiki
BURGERS, SANDWICHES, & SUCH
BaLe Sandwiches, various locations
Burgers on The Edge, Kapahulu
Da Big Kahuna, Airport* (better before 2pm)
Hank’s Haute Dogs, Kakaako
Kua Aina*, Haleiwa and Ward
La Tour, Nimitz
Moose McGilycuddy’s, Waikiki
Puka Dog, Waikiki
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers*, various locations
The Counter, Kahala Mall
W&M Burgers (wed-sun, lunch only) Kaimuki
Orchid’s (Sunday Only), Halekulani, Waikiki
Pagoda Restaurant, Keeamoku
Plumeria Beach House, The Kahala, Kahala
Prince Court, Waikiki
Dew Drop Inn, Lower Makiki
Duk Kee, Kaimuki*
Golden Duck, King Street
Happy Days, Kaimuki*
Little Village Noodle House, Chinatown*
Mini Garden, Chinatown & Beretania
Royal Garden, Ala Moana
Happy Days, Kaimuki
Legends, Chinatown (& Vegetarian)
Mei Sum, Chinatown
Royal Garden, Ala Moana
Jolibees (fast food) Waipahu & AlaMoana
Max’s of Manila, Iwilei & Waipahu
The Willows, Moiliili
Cafe Maharani, King St.
Himalayan Kitchen, Kaimuki*
Pizzarina, King St.*
Verbano Waialae.* (&maybe King St.)
Ichi Riki, Keeamoku, Aiea, Kaneohe
Utage, Kapalama* (also Okinawan)
Yamagen, King St.*
Gina’s, Market City
Sorabol, Keeamoku/Lower Makiki
Choi’s Garden, Lower Makiki
Cafe Million, Lower Makiki
LATE NIGHT PLACES
Anna Millers, Pearlridge
LikeLike Drive-inn, Keeamoku
Liliha Bakery, Liliha (closed mon) lunch counter
Sanoya, noodle/ramen, King St.
Sorabol (24/7) Korean, Keeamoku
Zippy’s (24/7) Various Locations
LUNCH ONLY PLACES (or breakfast/lunch)
Cinnamon’s, Kailua (reviews have slipped)
Honey Glazed Hams (tue-sat), Moiliili
Monarch Seafood, Lunch Take Out, Kalihi
Yama’s, Moiliili (Lunch)
Waioli Tea Room, Manoa
Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop, Kailua
Champion, Beretania St
Char Hung Sut, Chinatown
Libby Manapua, Kalihi
Royal Kitchen, Chinatown*
The Fat Greek, Kaimuki
The Greek Corner, Moiliili
Olive Tree, Kahala
Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Ward
AAA Local BBQ*, Kapiolani
Bob’s bbq, Kalihi
Da Kitchen, Moiliili
Da Spot (not quite vegetarian)
Grace’s Inn, Makiki/Beretania
Mitsu-ken, West Kalihi (closes 2pm)
Rainbow Drive-In*, Kapahulu
Sugoi’s* (closes 3pm or earlier), Kapalma
Dilligham Saimin, Liliha
Goma Ichi, Keeamoku
Goma Tei, Ward Centers
Old Saimin House, Kalihi (odd hours)
Palace Saimin, Kalihi (odd hours)
Sanoya, King St/Makiki
Shiro’s Saimin, Aiea
SEAFOOD & POKE
Alicia’s Market, Kalihi Kai
Fresh Catch, Kaimuki&Kaneohe
Poke Stop, Mililani Mauka
Tamashiro Market, Kalihi
Young’s Fish Market, Kapalama
Genki Sushi (various)
Kats Sushi, King St/Makiki
Zippy’s (Kahala & Aiea Only)
Chai’s (Thai inspired fusion), Kapiolani
Champa Thai, Various locations
Pae Thai, King St./Makiki*
Spices (Thai inspired), Moiliili
To Thai For, Kaimuki*
Cuu Long, Pearl Kai Center
Hale Vietnam, Kaimuki
Pho Mai, King St./Makiki
Super Pho, Kaimuki
Govinda’s, UH & Downtown
Legend Vegetarian, Downtown
Loving Hut (King & Pensacola)
Peace Cafe, King St.
Chili’s, various locations
CPK* (not available in the east)
Hy’s Steakhouse, Waikiki*
Kincaid’s Seafood Restaurant
Roy’s (chain started here)
The Counter Burgers
The Old Spaghetti Factory
Just got back from HNL yesterday. Tried several places we've never to like Nico's on the pier and Hale Vietnam in Kaimuki. Was not too impressed with Nico's after all of the TV hype we've seen. Hale Vietnam was pretty good. We had the "Bun" and it was quite refreshing with all of the aromatic veggies. Stopped off at Shiro's in Waimalu for the "Big Bruddah" won ton mein. I'm still looking for "good" saimin and have not found it yet. Found limu kohu at Haile's in Kapahulu. I think they sprinkle gold on it and charge you for it too! $7 for a small tiny plastic cup! Attended a birthday party at Mandalay Restaurant in the business district. Excellent service but I've had better food elsewhere. Leonard's still has the best malasadas especially if you eat it sitting on the bench outside steaming hot! LikeLike Drive In specials are still filling but I had the oxtail soup which was just OK. Couldn't finish all of the Kim Chee II dinner special. Just too much to eat. I still enjoy Kua Aina's burger and fries despite what every says about the place. We definitely got soaked at the Aiea Swap Meet on Sunday with all of the thunder and lightning going on. But we had fun...
No, spices closed, but I'm pretty sure DaKitchen is still up and running unless it closed within the last two weeks. I just have a mental block about Tsukenjo's I guess. I thought I had removed it, but nope..there it is in black and white. Thanks for the updates killersmile.
P.S. ayup, DaKitchen closed. How sad, and it was always busy when I went. Now where am I going to find deep fried spam musubi?
Da Kitchen closed and has been replaced with Agu Ramen Bistro which we tried last night. Very good, although a little pricey. Attractive setting, good service, and very happy with the bowls which are not massive.
I had the Shio Jidori, which had a chicken broth base that was tasty and not too salty. Thin noodles just the right amount of chewy. The SO had the #3 (of 5) Spicy Tonkatsu with hakata ramen which he enjoyed, although most yelpers find #3 way too spicy for their taste. Both had a perfectly cooked hard-boiled egg floating in the broth, which clinched the deal for us.
Servings are just the right size...we didn't order sides from the rather short menu, but were not ravenous, so was fine. But for $11.75, many locals used to massive portions might find it overpriced. However, we thought the quality and attractiveness of the place justified it. Should definitely go on Kman's master list for Ramen.
I think you are right it should be a separate category from Italian, even if they overlap. Be sure to try La Pizza Rina on South King just diamond head of Keeamoku.
Personally I do not like Domino's Hawaii, although in parts of LA they do a good job. I've never been sure about the difference or relationship between the various "boston" pizza places.
The difference is Tom Rossi owns the Boston's North End locations and always did. One of his employees split from the company and started Boston Style Pizza. Also forgotten from the lists are V Lounge and Prima for pizza. Both use the same dough recipe and a wood fire oven. I myself am going to Assaggio for another birthday lunch today in Kailua. I hope to have the usual civilized routine of at least a martini and the Caesar salad.
Thanks macsak! And btw, it was a lovely lunch! Caesar salad, and the most divine sausage/peppers and roasted potatoes. Also they brought me a lovely strawberry sorbet with a candle! Check out the new tablecloths. Fabulous service as well! I like that they make your martini in an individual shaker and pour every last drop!
i used to LOVE dominos and would order from nuuanu location (we live up the ave) and the pizza would always be ready for carryout in ten minutes, even when they said it'd be 15-20. i would get sausage on top. i first had dominos at a friend's house when i was 10ish (i'm 33), my parents were more into pizza hut. the nuuanu location closed maybe five or six years ago, and i was psyched when the beretania location opened (by teddy's bb) but man, the pizza sucked. i have yet to try them again.
i am skeptical of la pizza rina (i haven't tried yet) because the sister store in chinatown, rosarina, had the worst pizza i have ever had. tomato paste on cardboard.
A lot of good comments. As you can tell the roots of this list go back quite a few years. When I first compiled it I think there was a CPK someplace in Arizona that claimed to be the furthest east of the chain. And yes, those with asterisks are personal favorites. Restaurants have come and gone from the list, some gone even though they still exist. One or two even went back on the list after a few years of being off the list. And no doubt others that should be included aren't. If it is on this list I have eaten there at least once.
I don't pretend this list is comprehensive, and don't take it to mean there aren't LOTS and lots of other great places to eat here. After all despite disagreement from my scale, there really is only one of me. And if you are visiting, don't hesitate to ask people you meet where they like to eat. With our multi-cultural society and the richness it gives to local food culture, it is a rare resident who can't wax eloquent on food for quite some time.
Just don't ask the car rental person, or the checkout clerk at the supermarket if there is a line behind you. Those people probably won't be impressed by his phenomenal knowledge about poke or her ability to recite the name of every restaurant that serves fried rice as a side dish, or what places will deep fry your bacon or Portuguese Sausage.
bubbies mochi ice cream is now sold at the grocery store! they have great flavors, but too much mochi wrapping. visit the bubbies shops for a staggering array of desserts. imo, though, they don't make a good brownie sundae. great ice cream.
the mochi icecream brand i was referring to earlier is miyakawa.
Finding real mochi is a treat (even if auto-correct doesn't believe its a real word). Nothing wrong with Mochi ice cream (sort of a mochi ice cream sandwich.) But fresh soft mochi by itself . . . so smooth, soft and tender. Searching for it on Yelp won't help you much because the first 7 or 8 listings all have more than 4 stars. I've had it from Nisshodo and from Made in Hawaii foods, both were very good. MIH is only a mile from me, it's better if I forget it's there, kind of like I do with Leonards and Champion's for Malasadas. I'm told you can get good mochi at Don Quijote and at Shirokiya, but I haven't looked lately, but the smaller retailers are probably better. I haven't looked in a while, but I'm pretty sure someone sells it at the KCC farmer's market, but it sells out pretty early, or used to.
My favorite for shave ice is still the Original Waiola Store, although the Kapahulu Location on Mokihana St. is good too. I like my ice "Hawaii Style", shaved very fine. Other people prefer the more traditional "Asian Style" which is a bit coarser. Waiola is in the fine grain camp.
There are extensive threads on the Hawaii board about shave ice (and please, it is "shaveice" when pronouncing it, one word, no "d".) I know yelp types it "shaved ice", like many things they have it wrong, probably because it is more 'searchable' this way. Here are links to two of the most recent and opinion-rich links on chow.
One other thing to try is generically referred to as "crack seed." Crack seed more properly refers to on particular item of this category, a type of plum that has been cured, with the seed in the center broken or cracked. It's been a long time since we had a decent discussion on crack seed (again no "d" and the two words are more or less run together.)
A respectable crack seed store will sell various types of preserved fruit, dried seafood, rice crackers, and "jellies" like gummy bears and worms (not real worms.) There are a number of crack seed stores around, it all depends where you are.
And of course no list would be truly complete without bakeries - which I left off my list because they are generally verboten - although I did list malasada places (excluding restaurants that only serve them as dessert.) Searching for malasadas and finding out that you can get them as a dessert at a 5 star restaurant as part of your $$$$$ dinner doesn't have a lot of value to me.
Popular Bakeries in Honolulu include DeLite (guava chiffon cake) Liliha Bakery (coco puffs), Kamehameha Bakery (the afore mentioned poi donunt) Otto Cakes (a plethora of cheesecakes and other goodies) Ani's Bakery (butter cream rolls), Ted's Pies (i'd need a paragraph- long drive but sold in retail stores), and Napoleon's Bakery at Zippy's (napples - a turnover). Beard Papa, a type of cream puff, was insanely popular for a while, but I don't hear about it any more. Comments anyone?
And finally the three classic Malasada places, where you can also get other baked goods. My favorite are the original plain malasadas with sugar. The filled ones are a nice novelty item, but lack the integrity of the original. Trust me, that's definitely a minority opinion. But then I like plain donuts better than filled as well.
I can see that I need to add a bakery section. In general - except for Kamehameha - you won't find good donuts or great bread in bakeries in Hawaii, although I will no doubt be vilified for saying so. Keep in mind that I greatly dislike the wonder bread texture of "Japanese style bread." Horrible stuff to me, but many others really love it.
i'm fine with yeast/glazed doughnuts from napoleon's bakery, but i really love krispy kreme, which is on maui, and i think you can get them at costco on oahu. they remind me of when i lived in brooklyn and they were sold at gristedes next door.
a caveat for crack seed - if you go to a specialty old style crack seed stores, a lot of selections are in big glass jars. make sure there are no bugs in the jars. usually they are fine, but i have seen bugs a few times. crack seed, dried/wet fruit peels, etc. are also sold in grocery stores in plastic pouches. i like dried li hing mango, li hing gummy bears, and gummi apple rings, both li hing and regular. a real treat is li hi mui seed in a honey flavored hard candy. there are two brands, one tastes like ass, the other is heavenly... and i can never remember which is which.
My sincere thanks for all the wonderful and thoughtful suggestions. I believe the correct term of thanks is maholo but I feel it would not do justice to kindness and wealth of knowledge here.
If you see a mother and child in absolute joy enjoying the Hawaiian beach while savouring a new found favourite called malasadas, that would be me because of this post!
my 2cents: skip the fancy malasadas that have pudding/filling. if you're at leonards, try the standard sugar, possibly venture into the cinnamon territory. if you have the time, try champion malasadas, they are on beretania ave, not too far away. champion hasn't made it on the international radar yet, so they didn't raise prices like leonards. they drop them in the fryer when you order (leonards doesn't, but since they are so busy they always come out fresh now), so call ahead. they have a lighter flavor, less eggy and yeasty, and are more firm. if you venture into kailua, definitely stop at agnes' portuguese bakery and try their version. they have a hole, like a doughnut, and are even less eggy and yeasty, but have a spectacular crunch on the outside. they even retain the crunch after two hours sitting in a car while you're at the beach. (if you hit agnes', make sure to visit lanikai, often rated one of the best beaches in the world.) they are all happy choices.
back to baked goods with filling - try the coco puffs at liliha bakery, they are cream puff pasteries filled with chocolate pudding and topped with chantilly frosting. take a pass on the green tea flavor. if you dig the chantilly, have a piece of their chantilly cake - chocolate cake layered with creamy, mild custard(?) pudding and frosted with chantilly.
Shirokiya has a stand on the first floor that sells locally made mochi (Fujiya brand) that is good and fresh...I especially like the ones with fresh fruit inside. The fresh blueberry mochi was especially heavenly.
The mochi at Made in Hawaii store is really wonderful, with a lot of unusual fillings like lilikoi cheesecake and haupia. There's a vendor at the Pearlridge Farmer's Market (who is probably at other markets as well) who sells very tasty chocolate mochi. Butter mochi is indeed worth a try...you can get it at Foodland, I remember it being good there.
A shop with high end mochi from Japan opened up in Ala Moana recently, Minamoto Kitchoan. I thought it was pretty good, although pricey. Bubbies is my preferred mochi ice cream due to their broad choice of flavors and higher ice cream quality.
I like Shimazu store for shave ice. Beware, their smallest size is really quite large. They have good fine ice and a wide variety of syrups, plus azuki beans, haupia, and mochi available as add-ons. Ice Garden in Aiea is great too. Waiola was disappointing, not enough syrup.They probably do have the finest ice, but I don't like seeing a bunch of white ice at the bottom of the bowl.
Malasadas: Leonard's and Champion for sure, as others have said. Do eat them right away.
Okinawan sweet potato haupia pie and bars are delicious. I'm not sure where to get them in town though. Tanioka's in Waipahu has the bars, along with the best li hing mui pineapple I've ever had. A recent find for me has been halo halo at Dave's ice cream, with a scoop of ube ice cream on top. At some farmer's markets you can find kulolo, which is a taro and coconut milk dessert. It's homely looking, but I love it. One vendor has it with a layer of haupia on top, a very tasty combo.
Crack seed is a love it or hate it sort of thing. Li hing mui pineapple is a good gateway/starting point, along with sweet wet seed and li hing gummy candy. I don't recommend going straight for the lemon peel. My first taste of li hing mui was at the age of five and I vividly remember spitting it out, although it only took me a few short years to get sort of addicted to it. If you like things that are sweet, sour and salty all at once, definitely give it a go.
Aloha Kman, will be in HNL Thanksgiving and just noticed Haile's is now at Wards? Where at? I know they closed the one at the Ala Moana Farmer's Market several years ago and opened a new one on Kapahulu. We ate there and wasn't too impressed but it was when they first opened up. How is the one at Wards? Still haven't yet to try Helena's since the last time we got there it was closed. Ono's was OK though.
Clinton: I just saw the Highway Inn on AlaMoana that macsac reported on, it's just across the old Gold Bond building where Little George's used to be (between the former Whole-Ox-now-Cocina and Hank's Haute Dogs.) I haven't tried the Ward Haili's. Everyone tells me Ono's has gone downhill, but I haven't been in years. I do like Helena's. Has anyone been to People's recently? I heard they renovated - mind boggling in itself yeah?
Mahalo for the feedback Kman. Been a long time since we ate at Peoples probably back in the early 2000's late 90s? T'was OK. Been to Ono's about 10 years ago on one of our trips back. T'was OK too. Nothing to knock your shoes off. Went to Haile's in Kapahulu a few weeks after they opened and it was still unorganized. Was looking for limu kohu but they had hardly anything at that time. Also very little poke selections. Drove to Helena's on a weekday and it was closed. Bummer! Maybe this time we'll go when it's open and am anxious to try their fried pipikaula which I saw on Triple D. I probably can make my own but I really want to try what I saw on TV.
for poke, people have been raving about ono's seafood, which i have yet to try. really really loving it on yelp.
talking about pipikaula, the version at people's is just a small strip of fried steak. it's not bad for grocery store steak, but pipikaula is dried, right? http://archives.starbulletin.com/97/0...
Yes, pipikaula is typically dried which I remembered living in Kaimuki many years ago. We always had a "dried squid box" on top of the garage made out of a redwood frame with screen around it to keep flies out. "Dried" meant sun dried not oven dried especially for fish and meats. Best pipikaula I've had recently was from Costco which someone gave me not too long ago. It was moist and quite tasty and great for pulehu.
Great comprehensive list. But Waioli Tea Room is currently not operation; Spices has closed as is the Legends Vegetarian restaurant. I also could not in good conscience recommend Loving Hut, which the last two times I tried was temporarily not serving anything. I would add Tamura's and Foodland for poke.
Waioli Tea Room due to re-open Nov 18, but under new management, so will have to wait to see how the food is, but the wonderful old-time Hawaii ambiance shouldn't change.
Jimbo's should be somewhere on the list, maybe in the Japanese category or expand Saimin/Ramen to include other noodles;they don't do ramen or saimin, just their own wonderful udon.
i always go when they open for dinner 5:30 because parking in that shopping center SUCKS
and i hate to wait in line
if you get there after 5:45 or so, the restaurant is full and you have to wait for a table
plus the place is understaffed, so food take long and it takes a while for them to flip tables
I'm guessing I will need to figure out where to put a few new places. Lucky Belly, MW, Kan Zaman to name a few. I'm also weak on where to eat downtown, especially for lunch. That might become it's own section. I also haven't specifically covered Okazuya, a disappearing segment. There are also a few alleged "soul food" places, not something I've covered but should. Input on all this appreciated.