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. MW Restaurant

    $$$ | Ala Moana | Hawaiian

    The "M" and "W" team of husband-and-wife chefs Michelle Karr-Ueko and Wade Ueko bring together their collective experience (20 years alongside...Read More

  • 2. Fete Hawaii

    $$ | Chinatown | Hawaiian

    Fete slipped into its cozy brick-walled space amid the Chinatown culinary boom in 2016, and it's been packing in regulars ever since. Folks...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Island Snow

    $ | Hawaiian

    This hole in the wall has been creating shave ice perfection in its tiny original spot since 1979, but when two young girls named Obama discovered...Read More

  • 5. Kaahaaina Cafe

    $ | Hawaiian

    Hidden behind the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, this café offers what most every other hospital café in the world doesn't: good...Read More

  • 6. Makahiki—The Bounty of the Islands

    $$$$ | Hawaiian

    The buffet restaurant at Disney's Aulani resort offers a wide variety of locally produced items, as well as familiar dishes from stateside and...Read More

  • 7. Mitsu-Ken

    $ | Kalihi | Hawaiian

    Mitsu-Ken's garlic chicken may haunt your dreams, which makes it worth the trek to a downscale neighborhood to find the joint. Line up and order...Read More

  • 8. Moku Kitchen

    $$ | Kakaako | Hawaiian

    In the hip SALT complex, Moku's draws locals, including both foodies and families, as well as visitors looking for authentic farm-to-table cuisine...Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha

    $ | Hawaiian

    Located in a strip mall in the residential neighborhood of Aina Haina, Uncle Clay’s is a happy place. This shave-ice stand specializes in house...Read More

  • 14. Ono Hawaiian Foods

    $ | Kapahulu | Hawaiian

    The adventurous in search of traditional Hawaiian food (teriyaki chicken with two scoops of rice is not traditional Hawaiian food) should head...Read More

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