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. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. Arancino di Mare

    $$ | Waikiki | Italian

    Three locations in town offer fresh seafood, hand-trimmed beef, pastas cooked to order, handmade pizza dough and bread, house-made desserts...Read More

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Formaggio Wine Bar

    $$ | Kaimuki | Wine Bar

    All but invisible on the back side of a strip mall, this neighborhood wine bar goes for an Italian-catacomb feel, with dim lighting and soft...Read More

  • 11. Hale Vietnam

    $$ | Kaimuki | Vietnamese

    One of Oahu's first Vietnamese restaurants, this neighborhood spot, initially popular with budget-minded college kids, expresses its friendly...Read More

  • 12. Haleiwa Beach House

    $$ | American

    The newest restaurant on the North Shore, Haleiwa Beach House takes full advantage of its epic views of the water and the glorious building...Read More

  • 13. Haleiwa Joe's Haiku Gardens

    $$ | American

    The Haleiwa location may be the namesake and claim the surf, but this Windward-side spot offers all the same friendly vibe and grilled seafood...Read More

  • 14. HASR Bistro

    $$ | Chinatown | French

    This country-style European bistro in the middle of bustling Chinatown brings a fun, playful attitude to fine dining ("HASR" stands for Highly...Read More

  • 15. Himalayan Kitchen

    $$ | Kaimuki | Asian

    Owned by a Nepalese chef, Himalayan Kitchen aims to serve all the cuisines of that high-altitude region, and the menu tries to stretch a bit...Read More

  • 16. 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

  • 17. Kalapawai Cafe & Deli

    $$ | Eclectic

    This one-stop Mediterranean-leaning café, wine bar, bakery, and gourmet deli is the creation of the Dymond family, two generations of restaurateurs...Read More

  • 18. La Mariana Restaurant & Sailing Club

    $$ | Iwilei | American

    The last of Honolulu's old-school tiki bars is tucked away in the industrial area of Sand Island. A mix of salty-dog sailors (the place looks...Read More

  • 19. Little Village Noodle House

    $$ | Chinatown | Chinese

    Unassuming and budget-friendly, Little Village is so popular with locals that it expanded to the space next door. The extensive Pan-Asian menu...Read More

  • 20. Lucky Belly

    $$ | Chinatown | Asian

    A hip local crowd sips cocktails and slurps familiar noodle dishes with a modern twist at this popular fusion ramen bar. Try the Belly Bowl...Read More

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