Oahu Restaurants

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.

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 Island sensibility. Take advantage of the location and order the superb local fish—mahimahi, opakaka, ono, and opah.

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 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 Hawaiian 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. Kakaako, the developing urban area between Waikiki and Chinatown, also offers a mix of local eateries, upscale restaurants, and ethnic takeout.

Outside Honolulu and Waikiki there are fewer dining options, but restaurants tend to be filled with locals and are cheaper and more casual. Windward Oahu's dining scene has improved greatly in recent years due to the visitors to Kailua and Lanikai beaches, so everything from plate lunches to Latin foods to creative regional offerings can be found there. Across the rest of the island, the 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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  • 1. Koko Head Cafe

    $ | Kaimuki | Modern Hawaiian

    When Lee Anne Wong, best known as a competitor on the first season of Bravo's "Top Chef," moved to the Islands, foodies waited with bated breath...Read More

  • 2. 100 Sails Restaurant & Bar

    $$$$ | Waikiki | Eclectic

    With the top-to-bottom renovations of the Prince Hotel, the former Prince Court (known for its buffet and views) has become the 100 Sails, a...Read More

  • 3. Cinnamon's Restaurant

    $ | American

    Known for uncommon variations on common breakfast themes (pancakes, eggs Benedict, French toast, home fries, and eggs), this neighborhood favorite...Read More

  • 4. Hoku's

    $$$$ | Kahala | Asian

    Everything about this room speaks of quality and sophistication: the wall of windows with their beach views, the avant-garde cutlery and dinnerware...Read More

  • 5. Honolulu Museum of Art Café

    $$ | Downtown | American

    The Honolulu Museum of Art's cool courtyards and galleries filled with works by masters from Monet to Hokusai are well worth a visit and, afterward...Read More

  • 6. Hula Grill

    $$$ | Waikiki | Hawaiian

    The placid younger sister of boisterous Duke's, downstairs, this restaurant and bar resemble an open-air plantation-period summer home with...Read More

  • 7. Michel's at the Colony Surf

    $$$$ | Waikiki | French

    Often called Waikiki's most romantic spot, Michel's is an old-school French favorite on Waikiki's tranquil Gold Coast, where you pay for a...Read More

  • 8. Monkeypod Kitchen

    $$ | Hawaiian

    Local farm-to-table guru Peter Merriman is known throughout Hawaii for his inventive and popular restaurants. Monkeypod at Ko Olina captures...Read More

  • 9. Mud Hen Water

    $$ | Kaimuki | Hawaiian

    The name of this restaurant perched on busy Waialae Avenue is the English translation of Waialae (meaning a gathering spot around a watering...Read More

  • 10. Orchids

    $$$$ | Waikiki | Seafood

    Perched along the seawall at historic Gray's Beach, Orchids in the luxe Halekulani resort is open all day—it's a locus of power breakfasters...Read More

  • 11. Pint + Jigger

    $ | Moiliili | Eclectic

    Dining trends like the gastro pub are typically late to arrive in Honolulu, but Pint + Jigger was worth the wait. Sit at one of the "beer garden...Read More

  • 12. Scratch Kitchen & Meatery

    $$ | Kakaako | Hawaiian

    Tucked into the chic South Shore Market in Kakaako's Ward Village, this former Chinatown spot has moved uptown with its hipster decor, open...Read More

  • 13. Tangö

    $$ | Kakaako | Eclectic

    On the ground floor of a glass-sheathed condominium, Tangö's spare contemporary setting stays humming at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Finnish...Read More

  • 14. The Willows

    $$$$ | Moiliili | Hawaiian

    Old-time locals come to this buffet-only spot to celebrate things like graduations, showers, and centennials, and it hosts its share of wedding...Read More

  • 15. Wolfgang's Steak House

    $$$$ | Waikiki | Steakhouse

    Sequestered in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, this open-air New York-style steak house brings loyalists back for beautifully aged steaks...Read More

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