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. Livestock Tavern

    $$ | Chinatown | American

    Livestock scores big with its seasonal menu of comfort foods, craft cocktails, and cowboy-minimalist decor. Although meat commands the menu...Read More

  • 2. 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

  • 3. The Pig and the Lady

    $$ | Chinatown | Asian

    Chef Andrew Le's casual noodle house attracts downtown office workers by day, but by night it becomes a creative contemporary restaurant, pulling...Read More

  • 4. Town

    $$ | Kaimuki | International

    Town remains a hot spot for Honolulu's creative class and farm-to-table diners, where chef-owner Ed Kenney and his partner Dave Caldiero offer...Read More

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 53 by the Sea

    $$$$ | Kakaako | Contemporary

    Housed in a McVilla aimed at attracting a Japanese wedding clientele, this restaurant serves contemporary Continental food that focuses primarily...Read More

  • 7. Akasaka

    $$ | Ala Moana | Japanese

    Step inside this tiny sushi bar tucked between the strip clubs behind the Ala Moana Hotel, and you'll swear you're in an out-of-the-way Edo...Read More

  • 8. Ama Ama

    $$$$ | Modern Hawaiian

    There's nothing "Mickey Mouse" about the food at the fine-dining restaurant of this Disney resort. Add to that the views of the Ko Olina lagoons...Read More

  • 9. Bac Nam

    $ | Ala Moana | Vietnamese

    Tam and Kimmy Huynh's menu is much more extensive than most, ranging far beyond the usual pho and bun (cold noodle dishes) found at many Vietnamese...Read More

  • 10. Big City Diner

    $ | American

    This outlet of the popular retro diner chain has outdoor lanai seating, a bar, and is across the street from a small bird sanctuary. It's a...Read More

  • 11. Big City Diner

    $ | Ala Moana | American

    Part of a local chain of retro diners, Big City offers Hawaii-style comfort favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the morning you get...Read More

  • 12. Boots & Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen

    $ | American

    Sometimes you wait an hour for a table here since the restaurant's fervent followers come back again and again for the banana pancakes topped...Read More

  • 13. Buzz's Lanikai

    $$$ | Steakhouse

    Virtually unchanged since owners Bobby Lou and Buzz opened it in 1967, this neighborhood institution opposite Kailua Beach Park is filled with...Read More

  • 14. Cactus Bistro

    $$ | Latin American

    This casual Pan-Latin spot brings much-needed and creative flavors to Kailua's beach soul. Check out maple leaf Muscovy duck carnitas, smoked...Read More

  • 15. Chiang Mai

    $$ | Moiliili | Thai

    Long beloved for its Thai classics based on family recipes, such as spicy curries and stir-fries and sticky rice in woven-grass baskets, Chiang...Read More

  • 16. Cholo's Homestyle Mexican

    $ | Mexican

    There are a few institutions on the North Shore that are the area's great gathering places. Foodland (the great grocery store) is one, and the...Read More

  • 17. 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

  • 18. Diamond Head Market & Grill

    $ | Diamond Head | American

    Just five minutes from Waikiki hotels is Kelvin Ro's one-stop food shop—indispensable if you have accommodations with a kitchen or if you want...Read More

  • 19. Doraku Sushi

    $$ | Waikiki | Japanese

    From entrepreneur Kevin Aoki, son of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, comes this low-lit bells-and-whistles sushi-roll chain (Miami and Atlanta...Read More

  • 20. Duke's Waikiki

    $$$ | Waikiki | American

    Locals often take visiting friends and family from the mainland to this popular open-air hotel restaurant for the beachfront setting—it's right...Read More

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