Honolulu and Oahu Restaurants

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Honolulu and Oahu Restaurant Reviews

Hawaii is a kid-friendly destination in many regards, and many restaurants welcome the little ones. That said, there are probably a few places in Waikiki where you're better off dining sans kids and taking advantage of your hotel's child care.

People dine early here—the most sought-after dinner reservations are between 6 and 7, but you can usually have your pick of tables by 8. Exceptions: sushi bars and Japanese taverns, a few 24-hour diners, and some younger-spinning restaurants. Takeout places still open at dawn and close shortly after midday. Standard tipping for good service is 20%.

Smoking is prohibited except in places where liquor revenues exceed food sales.

Lunch wagons, or "food trucks" as they are now known around the country, have been an island staple for plate lunches for decades. With the taco-truck craze and the emergence of social media, Oahu’s fleet is growing, but many don’t have a very long half-life.

Oahu is undergoing something of a renaissance at both ends of the dining spectrum. You can splurge on world-class contemporary cuisine at destination restaurants and explore local flavors at popular, very affordable holes in the wall. Whatever your taste and budget, you’ll find places that pique your interest and palate.

In Waikiki, walk or take a cab; it's cheaper than parking or valet rates. Elsewhere on Oahu, free, validated, and reasonably priced parking is widely available. Exceptions: parking downtown during the day is expensive—take the trolley or TheBus; Chinatown at night is somewhat dicey—use valet parking or park in one of the many marked municipal lots.

If you expect to dine at Alan Wong's, Chef Mavro, Roy's, or Vintage Cave Honolulu, book your table from home weeks in advance. As in any other city, new restaurants tend to be jammed during their first few months. Otherwise, reserve when you get into town.

Where should we eat? With dozens of eateries competing for your attention, it may seem like a daunting question. But our writers and editors have done most of the legwork—the selections here represent the best dining Oahu has to offer. Search "Best Bets" for picks by price, cuisine, and experience. Or find a restaurant quickly—reviews are ordered alphabetically within their geographic area.

While people on Oahu dress up for dinner more than on any other Hawaiian island, casual still reigns supreme; most top restaurants abide by the "dressy casual" standard, where dark jeans are acceptable as long as they're not worn with sneakers.

You can check the trucks’ locations and daily menus on Twitter or Instagram, or try a sampling from more than two dozen vendors at the monthly Eat the Street food-truck rally. Visit www.eatthestreethawaii.com for details.

Here are some of our favorite lunch wagons:

Camille’s on Wheels (Twitter.com/Camillesonwheel) mixes and matches global flavors to create addictive tacos like beef chimichurri and mahimahi with mirin aioli. Camille also bakes a hell of a pie—her dulce de leche and mango versions have cult followings.

Elena’s (Twitter.com/ElenasFilipino) is an extension of the popular, family-run Filipino restaurant in Waipahu. There are three trucks, in Campbell, Mililani, and the airport area. Try the AFRO, an adobo–fried rice omelet, or the famous lechón (roast pork with onions and tomatoes) special.

Momo Burger (Twitter.com/momoburgerhi) serves up hearty burgers made with grass-fed, locally raised beef. Contemporary twists come in the form of green onion aioli on the teriyaki burger, and special "Momo sauce" and smoked Gouda on the bacon cheeseburger.

Taco Kabana (Instagram.com/TacoKabana) has a regular spot on in a big parking lot on Kapiolani Boulevard, right near Ala Moana Center. It’s open Monday through Saturday from noon to 8 pm serving classic soft tacos filled with things like carne asada and grilled chicken.

You may wish to budget for a pricey dining experience at the very top of the restaurant food chain, where chefs Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi, George Mavrothalassitis, Chris Kajioka, and others you've seen on the Food Network and Travel Channel put a sophisticated spin on local foods and flavors. Savor dishes that take cues from Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, the United States, and Europe, then are filtered through an Islands sensibility. Take advantage of the location and order the superb local fish—mahimahi, opakaka, ono, and opa.

Spend the rest of your food dollars where budget-conscious locals do: in plate-lunch places and small ethnic eateries, at roadside stands and lunch wagons, or at window-in-the-wall delis. Snack on a musubi (a handheld rice ball wrapped with seaweed and often topped with Spam), slurp shave ice with red-bean paste, or order up Filipino pork adobo with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad.

In Waikiki, where most visitors stay, you can find choices from upscale dining rooms with a view to Japanese noodle shops. When you’re ready to explore, hop in the car, or on the trolley or bus—by going just a few miles in any direction, you can save money and eat like a local.

Kaimuki's Waialae Avenue, for example, is a critical mass of good eats and drinks. There you’ll find an espresso bar, a Chinese bakery, a patisserie, an Italian bistro, a dim-sum restaurant, Mexican food, and a Hawaii regional cuisine standout (3660 on the Rise)—all in three blocks, and 10 minutes from Waikiki. Chinatown, 15 minutes in the other direction and easily reached by the Waikiki Trolley, is another dining (and shopping) treasure, not only for Chinese but also Vietnamese, Filipino, Malaysian, and Indian food, and even a chic little tea shop.

Outside Honolulu and Waikiki there are fewer dining options, but restaurants tend to be filled with locals and are cheaper and more casual. Cuisine is mainly American—great if you're traveling with kids—but there are a handful of Italian and Asian places worth trying as well.

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