There is nothing catchphrase in the world can encapsulate the culinary scope of Hawai‘i Restaurants. It encompasses carb-tastic plate lunches doused in gravy, bundles of steamed taro leaves packed with tender pork or other treasures, noodle soups, delicate mochi, and ever-new creations from relentlessly innovative chefs looking both to the islands and around the globe for inspiration. The islands’ original Polynesian residents; generations of immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, Portugal, the Philippines, and other regions; and American cultural influence have resulted in cuisine like nothing else on earth.
The listed 25 fabulous restaurants, for a state that comprises eight major islands, is the work of many minds and palates. Four experienced Eater editors descended on Hawai‘i, gorging throughout Honolulu and then scattering to Maui, Kaua‘i, and Hawai‘i Island for more research. Seven local experts add their picks, lending their authoritative, on-the-ground knowledge of the state’s finest eating. Given that Honolulu is the state’s capital and population center, it won’t surprise that 18 of its defining establishments appear here, including the latest fine-dining sensation, the standard-bearer for golden malassadas, and the one chain that embodies Hawai‘i’s local food culture.
But we identify vital stops beyond Honolulu and O‘ahu as well: the seafood star of Maui, the old-school neighborhood tiki bar on Kaua‘i, and the late-night bakery of Moloka‘i among them. The one thing locals know and visitors should learn: Truly experiencing Hawai‘i’s food culture requires venturing out from the hotel districts and visiting the state’s eclectic, welcoming communities.
Tahiti Nui Restaurant in Hawai‘i
- Address- 5-5134 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714
- Phone- (808) 826-6277
- Visit Website- https://thenui.com/
Are you looking for unlimited and onolicious food, live music, and a warm, friendly atmosphere? Tahiti Nui in the heart of Hanalei will welcome you with warm greetings. Since opening in May 1963, Tahiti Nui has been family run and operated and continues to serve and entertain patrons with the same casual, romantic vibe found only in Hanalei.
Tahiti Nui is the Hawai‘ian Restaurant where you can go for delicious food, a fun, casual vibe, and an extensive cocktails menu. You can eat on the lanai and listen to live music nightly from 6:30-9:00 pm as well as enjoy many more events throughout the week. Take a look at our music calendar below for more fun events.
Wailua Shave Ice in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 4-1306 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746
- Phone- (808) 634-7183
- Visit Website- https://www.yelp.com/biz/wailua-shave-ice-kapaa-2
All over Hawai‘i, new-school shave ice purveyors are using local fruit and natural flavors, but none more inventively than this wildly popular trailer smack in the tourist center of Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i. Co-founders Brandon Baptiste and Josh Tamoaka — both Kaua‘i natives, while Baptiste is an alum of the Culinary Institute of America and Per Se — inventively combine flavor and meet to create rich full, fruity shave ices capped with featherlight foam. Get the hyper-popular Lava Flow, which combines pineapple juice, coconut foam, and strawberry puree. With locations in Portland and San Diego, and more projects in the works, Wailua has the makings of an empire, but for now, it’s best experienced at one of their bright-red picnic tables in the tropical sunshine.
- Address- 4-971 Kuhio Hwy Kapaa, HI 96746
- Phone- (808) 212-1627
- Visit Website- http://www.jotwo.com/
Some of the most creative cooking in all of Hawai‘i takes place nightly in a tiny strip mall in Kapa‘a on Kauai. For the past three years at JO2, French-born chef Jean-Marie Josselin has worked alchemy on the island’s produce and seafood. A culinary school student in Paris by the age of 15, Josselin reinvents classic dishes with a Pacific Rim twist. The carpaccio appetizer is an heirloom squash; an ono ceviche is topped with a coconut water foam; a tempura lobster tail is the star of a ramen dish. Dinner is worth the splurge of roughly $60 for appetizer, entrée, and dessert, making the three-course prix fixe menu offered from 5 to 6 p.m. a bargain at $34. —Ann Herold
Hamura Saimin in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 2956 Kress St, Lihue, HI 96766
- Phone- (808) 245-3271
- Visit Website- https://www.yelp.com/biz/hamura-saimin-lihue-3
Saimin is a noodle soup unique to Hawai‘i and an essential part of the islands’ culture since saimin stands became commonplace in the 1930s. It is privileged by the James Beard Foundation as an American classic, Hamura, founded in 1951 by Aiko and Charlie Hamura, serves some of Hawai‘i’s most iconic bowls, including a popular version with the traditional Chinese-style noodles in a Japanese broth and brimming with handmade wontons, char siu pork, egg, and green onions. Inside the humble bungalow that’s been declared a state historic site, tourists and locals alike slurp at a U-shaped wood counter. A counter near the exit sells exquisite liliko‘i chiffon pie, along with manapua (pork-filled buns) and shave ice. —AH
Matsumoto Shave Ice in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605, Haleiwa, HI 96712
- Phone- (808) 637-4827
- Visit Website- https://matsumotoshaveice.com/about
It is the place where you can go to experience classic shave ice: Order a rainbow, topped with mochi if you so desire. One of the oldest and best-known shave ice purveyors in Hawai‘i, Matsumoto began as a grocery store on O‘ahu’s North Shore in 1951. At the time of the surfing boom of the 1960s and ’70s and the tourism boom that followed, the shave ice took over. A recent redevelopment of Haleiwa Town has resulted in a shiny new space optimized for Matsumoto’s inevitable lines.
Waiahole Poi Factory in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 48-140 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
- Phone- (808) 239-2222
- Visit Website- https://www.waiaholepoifactory.com/
Situated alongside the stunning Kamehameha Highway, which meanders up O‘ahu’s windward side. Waiahole Poi Factory is one of the best few places to experience freshly prepared poi — both traditionally hand-pounded and prepared onsite by a heritage mill — using taro grown in the Waiāhole valley. Current owners Calvin and Charlene Hoe, alongside their son Liko, operate a gallery focused on Hawaiian art in addition to the restaurant and poi factory. The starchy Hawaiian staple pairs perfectly with the plate lunches of kālua pig and laulau, but the truly unmissable dish is the hot kūlolo, which is taro combined with sugar and coconut milk to create a mochi-like treat, topped with vanilla ice cream.
Soon’s Kal Bi Drive-In
- Address- 898 Ala Lilikoi St Honolulu, HI 96818
- Phone- (808) 836-7665
- Visit Website- https://www.yelp.com/menu/soons-kal-bi-drive-in-honolulu
From a walk-up window next to a Pizza Hut, Soon’s serves some of the best Korean plate lunches on O‘ahu. You see that the Korean barbecue fare which is an essential surface of the takeout plate lunch culture, adding kalbi, bulgogi, and barbecue chicken to the native Hawaiian and pan-Asian dishes available with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad or various kimchi. Soon’s delivers on all the classics, but you’re really here for their meat jhun — an only-in-Hawai‘i concoction of pan-fried egg-battered beef slices, both flaky crisp and chewy, served with an obsession-worthy sauce of shoyu, mirin, garlic, and probably just some straight-up sugar. Situated a short drive from the airport, Soon’s is the perfect first stop in Hawai‘i or the place for a great last meal — and if you want to be the brave soul who brings kimchi on a plane, I say go for it.
Ai Love Nalo in Hawai‘i
- Address– 41-1025 Kalanianaole Hwy Waimanalo, HI 96795
- Phone- (808) 888-9102
- Visit Website- http://order.ailovenalo.com/
When a vegan restaurant tucked in a converted gas station inspires carnivores to undertake a winding, 40-minute coastal drive from Honolulu, you know the appeal is not just the health factor. Really, Maya Merrifield’s food feels downright indulgent, whether it’s the Oh Wow Lau Lau’s steamed taro and Okinawan sweet potato nestled in lūʻau leaves, or the Poi Parfait’s jewel-like layers of pineapple, papaya, purple sweet potato, apple banana, chocolate granola, and creamy poi. The part of Waimānalo ambiance doesn’t damage, either — out front, a view of the verdant Ko‘olau Mountains past busy Kalaniana‘ole Highway; outback, a “Garden of Eatin’” with papaya and breadfruit trees.
1240 N School St in Hawai‘i
- Address- Honolulu, HI 96817
- Phone- (808) 845-8044
- Visit Website- https://www.yelp.com/biz/helenas-hawaiian-food-honolulu
Located in a strip mall in Honolulu’s Kapālama neighborhood, the front of Helena’s is lined with benches for the many pilgrims who visit this beloved Hawaiian restaurant. Founded in 1946 by Helen Chock and currently run by her grandson, Craig Katsuyoshi, Helena’s serves a menu devoted to classics like kālua pork, squid lū‘au, and poi, the traditional Hawaiian mashed taro dish. The true specialty, however, is the pipikaula ribs, marinated in soy and hung to dry for several hours before being fried in well-seasoned cast iron skillets. Go hungry, and with a group, if you can, then order a massive combination platter — the many small, delightful bowls of food that arrive will make for a hearty feast in the convivial dining room.
Liliha Bakery in Hawai‘i
- Address- 515 N Kuakini St. Honolulu, HI 96817
- Phone- (808) 531-1651
- Visit Website- http://www.lilihabakery.com/
Liliha Bakery’s coco puffs — cream puffs filled with chocolate pudding and topped with a buttery “chantilly” frosting — draw tourists and locals alike, but it’s the diner side that nurtures everyday fits of hunger.
Ethel’s Grill in Hawai‘i
- Address- 232 Kalihi St. Honolulu, HI 96819
- Phone- (808) 847-6467
- Visit Website- https://www.yelp.com/biz/ethels-grill-honolulu
A timeless hole-in-the-wall on the ground floor of a cinderblock walk-up near the docks, Ethel’s Grill is crowded with truck drivers, politicians, chefs, and tourists. Opened in the 1960s by its namesake, Ethel’s took off in the ’70s when Ryoko and Yoichi Ishii took over (and when people couldn’t pronounce “Ryoko,” calling her Ethel instead). Dishes are a mix of local-style comfort and exuberant mashups (think chicken liver and kimchi stir-fry) and reflect the family’s Japanese-Okinawan-Mexican-local heritage. The seared ‘ahi sashimi topped with soy-marinated garlic chips is legendary; more recently, the Ishii’s’ daughter Minaka and husband Robert Urquidi have taken over and introduced the Okinawan-inspired taco rice, which layers ground beef, lettuce, and shredded cheese with rice, cracks the fried taco shell in half and plants it in the top like bunny ears. —MT
The Pig and The Lady
- Address- 83 N King St. Honolulu, HI 96817
- Phone- (808) 585-8255
- Visit Website- https://thepigandthelady.com/
A Chinatown gem inspired global fare draws crowds of regulars, tourists, and celebrities alike, Pig catalyzed the transformation of a deserted-after-5 p.m. district into the city’s hottest restaurant neighborhood when it opened in 2013. The dishes of Andrew Le and Keaka Lee’s are to all appearances bold and disrespectful, but reveal subtle, sophisticated layering of soft and crunchy, sweet and sour, spicy and salty, hot and cold. Grilled betel leaf sausages stuffed with braised Spanish octopus and lemongrass minced beef, and Kauai shrimp spaghetti in shrimp-head butter with shishito peppers and preserved lemon zest are here one month, gone the next on a constantly changing menu.
Senia in Hawai‘i
- Address- 75 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817
- Phone- (808) 200-5412
- Visit Website- http://restaurantsenia.com/
Honolulu’s busiest restaurant ever, this 50-seat phenom pairs two high-wattage chefs, Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush, who met a decade ago while working at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Their joint venture (with general manager Katherine Nomura, who is married to Rush) offers two distinct menus. The main dining room serves an a la carte sweep of modern American small plates, portions of pasta, and large-format platters like glazed pork belly with beet “char siu.” Wednesday through Sunday, Kajioka, and Rush also flex their fine-dining chops by preparing a $185-per-person tasting menu replete in caviar, foie gras, and truffles.
Bar Leather Apron in Hawai‘i
- Address- 74 Fort St #127A Honolulu, HI 96813
- Phone- (808) 524-0808
- Visit Website- https://www.barleatherapron.com/
You could go all the way to Tokyo to drink immaculate cocktails made with a highly curated selection of whiskey (Japanese and otherwise) in a compact bar camouflaged by a completely clean allied tower — or you could go to Bar Leather Apron. The proprietor of the renowned shoe store Leather Soul Tom Park and bartender Justin Park (no relation) have pulled off an experience that feels both transportive and completely at home in Honolulu. Its set of intriguing drinks lean heavily on Japanese spirits, ingredients, or flavor profiles and stands up to the best of anything you’d find in New York, or, yes, Tokyo. (The prices, unfortunately, match, too.) The truest testament to Park’s palate and skill are that even the drinks that should be a disaster in a cup — the matcha old-fashioned, for instance — are totally delightful.
Kyung’s Seafood Restaurant in Hawai‘i
- Address- 1269 S King St. Honolulu, HI 96814
- Phone- (808) 589-1144
- Visit Website- https://www.yelp.com/biz/kyungs-seafood-honolulu
Does your ideal night out involve massive plates of sashimi, a kimchi pancake, and a pitcher or three of strawberry soju slushie? Then you’re not alone, because Kyung’s specializes in all three, and it’s regularly packed. After opening in 2012 by Kyung Cha, a former seafood provider, the restaurant serves lunch, but the real draw is late nights, especially on Friday and Saturday, when hours extend until 2 a.m. Join chefs and other locals to feast on Korean classics and affordable, high-quality raw fish, including great poke.
Sushi Izakaya Gaku in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 1329 S King St.Honolulu, HI 96814
- Phone- (808) 589-1329
- Visit Website- https://m.facebook.com/pages/Sushi-Izakaya-Gaku/120501924631924
Rare is the Japanese restaurant that can pull off flawless izakaya classics as well as excellent sushi and sashimi, but Gaku nails both. Manabu Kikuchi’s menu is roving and catholic, from the fried fish skeletons to kurobuta pork loin to piles of fresh uni to the “seafood dynamite” — a mound of sea creatures in a giant clamshell, smothered with cheese (it’s as good as it sounds). It’s possible that nothing will blow your mind at Gaku, but nothing will disappoint you, either — an under-appreciated form of excellence for restaurants. You’ll walk out realizing you had a great meal and a really good time, and how singular that simple pleasure can be.
MW Restaurant Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 1538 Kapiolani Blvd #107 Honolulu, HI 96814
- Phone- (808) 955-6505
- Visit Website- https://mwrestaurant.com/
Pioneers of 1990s-era Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine — a style that would come to be known as Pacific Rim (and, yes, the f-word: fusion) — accelerated the islands’ organic, century-long merger of Asian, Polynesian, and American flavors by quantum leaps. The culinary movement, led by chefs like Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, gave the state’s restaurant culture its first prolonged limelight. Now its attitude of artistry and local self-esteem most successfully animate the kitchen of Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka, who both cooked at Alan Wong’s Honolulu for nearly 20 years before opening their own restaurant. Fusion chestnuts like ‘ahi nachos flaunt the kind of plucky appeal that first made them a sensation. Even better are subtle entrees like steamed opah with scallop hash and stir-fried vegetables, and MW’s secret weapon: Karr-Ueoka’s ornate but deeply gratifying desserts, including deconstructed riffs on shave ice and coconut cake.
Ahi Assassins Fish Co.
- Address- 2570 S Beretania St. Honolulu, HI 96826
- Phone- (808) 439-4045
- Visit Website- https://www.ahi-assassins.com/
Exploring you’re in for some of the best fish of your life is a set of having various hues marine capture flags, stamped with images of ‘ahi, marlin, and other fish hung over the second-floor balcony of a modest office building in Honolulu’s Mō‘ili‘ili neighborhood. After opening in 2014 by Josh Schade and Erika Luna, Ahi Assassins is a fisherman-run operation, serving local, freshly caught fish — or, as their website says, slain, weighed, and fileted, all in-house. You’re here for the poke, available in flavors ranging from shoyu garlic to the spicy “lunatic,” all of it buttery and impeccably fresh. Don’t skip the smoked marlin dip, an endlessly scoopable umami bomb, or the daily hot specials, which change depending on what comes directly off the boat. There’s nowhere to eat inside the tiny storefront, but the Taiwanese shave ice shop, Frostcity, below will let you dig into your poke there if you order mango ice or two.
Home Bar & Grill in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 1683 Kalakaua Ave Honolulu, HI 96826
- Phone- (808) 942-2237
- Visit Website- https://web.facebook.com/pages/Home-Bar-Grill/
Every sports bar isn’t known for its braised short rib loco mocos, kimchi steak on a sizzling platter, kalbi piled on noodles, or fried furikake chicken bites — but most sports bars aren’t run by chefs with a fine-dining pedigree. In 2011, John Estrella, Brandon Hamada, and Neil Nakasone, who met cooking at Alan Wong’s, opened Home Bar & Grill, with heaping portions of hearty food that go great with beer.
Leonard’s Bakery in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 933 Kapahulu Ave Honolulu, HI 96816
- Phone- (808) 737-5591
- Visit Website- https://www.leonardshawaii.com/home/
Hmm, it’s touristy! hmm, it’s crowded! — and hmm! Leonard’s is certainly the best place to get a taste of Hawai‘i’spopular fried dough creation. Malassadas, the Portuguese doughnuts found throughout Honolulu, make for an excellent breakfast or afternoon snack. The essential order is an unfilled malassada dusted in cinnamon sugar, though if you’re going for a dozen, also try some of the fillings, like coconutty haupia and rich, chocolate dobash.
Mud Hen Water in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 3452 Waialae Ave Honolulu, HI 96816
- Phone- 808-737-6000
- Visit Website- https://www.mudhenwater.com/
Between O‘ahu native, Ed Kenney’s four Honolulu restaurants, Mud Hen Water is his crowning goal reached — a wholehearted culinary verbalization of Hawai‘i whose menu honors local culture and also showcases Kenney’s inventiveness. Most of the delicious dishes nod clearly to traditional Hawaiian foods, like his take on paiai or squid lūʻau pureed with fresh coconut milk and garnished with grilled octopus. Others — such as the ridiculously fun baked banana, gilded with peanuts, bacon, and curry butter — draw on regionally grown ingredients to create witty novelties. The setting is neighborhood-restaurant casual: mismatched tables, central bar, sprawling patio for street-side people watching.
Koko Head Cafe in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 1145 12th Ave C Honolulu, HI 96816
- Phone- (808) 732-8920
- Visit Website- http://kokoheadcafe.com/
Originally Koko Head Cafe is a laid-back Honolulu brunch destination. Chef Lee Anne Wong’s daytime-only Kaimukī restaurant pleases locals and visitors alike with ambitious takes on Hawai‘i breakfast staples, like miso-marinated fish with eggs, or “koko moko,” Wong’s take on loco moco that includes a beef patty, garlic rice, mushroom gravy, and tempura kimchi. Zero in on the breakfast congee, studded with sausage, cheddar cheese, and croutons, for a particularly soulful example of the flavor building Wong does best.
Ono Seafood in Hawai‘i Restaurants
- Address- 747 Kapahulu Ave Honolulu, HI 96816
- Phone- (808) 732-4806
- Visit Website-
Tight to the side of an apartment building like a barnacle, this takeout-only poke spot by mother-and-daughter owners Judy Sakuma and Kim Brug lures the poke-obsessed with fatty chunks of pristine ‘ahi seasoned to order. This is the place to experience the classics, like ‘ahi poke slicked with a slightly sweet shoyu sauce spiked with ginger or mixed with crunchy limu, coarse sea salt, and nutty, oily ‘inamona. A poke bowl here means cool fish on hot rice that’s best eaten immediately, alongside a few treasures plucked from the fridge like ruby red slices of sashimi, taegu (candied codfish), and boiled peanuts.
Diamond Head Market & Grill of Hawai‘ian Restaurants
- Address- 3158 Monsarrat Ave Honolulu, HI 96815
- Phone- (808) 732-0077
- Visit Website- http://www.diamondheadmarket.com/
After opening in 2002 by chef Kelvin Ro, locals and tourists alike flock to Diamond Head Grill to grab picnic food for a day at the beach in Waikīkī or a hike up Diamond Head. The establishment is half market and bakery on one side, and grill and takeout window on the other. The market serves up desserts like an iconic lemon crunch cake and blueberry cream cheese scones that locals obsess over. From the grill, the smart move — if you’re a weightlifter, deficient in protein, or just really hungry — is the mix plate with teriyaki chicken, char siu pork, and a hamburger patty with gravy.