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
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
Oahu is undergoing something of a renaissance at both ends of the dining spectrum. You can splurge on world-class contem

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. Honolulu Burger Co.

    $ | Makiki Heights | Burger

    Owner Ken Takahashi retired as a nightclub impresario on the Big Island to become a real-life burger king. This modest storefront is the home...Read More

  • 2. 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

  • 3. Fukuya Delicatessen

    $ | Moiliili | Japanese

    Get a taste of local Japanese culture at this family operation on the main thoroughfare in local-style Moiliili, a mile or so mauka out of...Read More

  • 4. Hank's Haute Dogs

    $ | Kakaako | Hot Dog

    Owner Hank Adaniya's idea of a hot dog involves things like wild boar sausage with cran-apple relish. Originally a true hole-in-the-wall, the...Read More

  • 5. Island Snow

    $ | American

    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

  • 6. Izakaya Nonbei

    $$$ | Kapahulu | Japanese

    Teruaki Mori designed this pub, one of the most traditional of Honolulu's izakayas, to make you feel that you're in a northern inn during winter...Read More

  • 7. Kakaako Kitchen

    $ | Kakaako | American

    Kakaako has grown up around Russell Siu's masterpiece kitchen, where he serves high-quality plate lunches utilizing local, farm-to-table ingredients...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. Kalapawai Market

    $ | Deli

    Generations of children have purchased their beach snacks and sodas at Kalapawai Market, near Kailua Beach. A Windward Oahu landmark since 1932...Read More

  • 10. Kokonuts Shave Ice and Snacks

    $ | Café

    Stop for shave ice on the South Shore? President Barack Obama did while visiting the island after the 2008 election. Kokonuts Shave Ice and...Read More

  • 11. Kua Aina Sandwich

    $ | Burger

    This North Shore spot has gone from funky burger shack (it first opened in 1975) to institution, with crowds of tourists and locals standing...Read More

  • 12. Legend Seafood Restaurant

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    Use your best cab-hailing technique and sign language to make the cart ladies stop at your table and show you their fare at this large, loud...Read More

  • 13. Matsumoto Shave Ice

    $ | Café

    For a real slice of Haleiwa life, stop at Matsumoto Shave Ice, a family-run business in a building dating to 1910, for shave ice in every flavor...Read More

  • 14. Mei Sum Chinese Dim Sum Restaurant

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    In contrast to the sprawling, noisy halls in which dim sum is generally served, Mei Sum is compact and shiny bright, not to mention a favorite...Read More

  • 15. Mitsu-Ken

    $ | Kalihi | American

    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

  • 16. Peace Café

    $ | Moiliili | Vegetarian

    This tranquil little storefront with a rustic country communal table is a nurturing sanctuary on a fast-food-loving island. Place your order...Read More

  • 17. 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

  • 18. Sugoi Bento & Catering

    $ | Iwilei | American

    This breakfast-and-lunch spot was among the first of a new wave of plate-lunch places to take particular care with quality and nutrition, offering...Read More

  • 19. Ted's Bakery

    $ | American

    No North Shore trek is complete without a stop at a shrimp truck and a slice of Ted's pie. Sunburned tourists and salty surfers rub shoulders...Read More

  • 20. Teddy's Bigger Burgers

    $ | Waikiki | Burger

    Modeled after 1950s diners, this local franchise serves classic moist and messy burgers, along with turkey and veggie burgers, as well as chicken...Read More

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