Top Restaurants in Hawaii
His flagship on Oahu over 15 years ago - eons in restaurant time - but Alan Wong keeps winning awards and gathering the kind of giddy reviews usually heaped on the young guns. One of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, the farm-to-table revolution that encouraged local farmers to grow high-quality produce, Wong invents riffs on the comfort foods of the many cultures informing Hawaii's melting pot cuisine. Poke, Hawaii's version of ceviche, shows up as Poki-Pines (spiky flash-fried wontons), while loco moco (a local hamburger, rice, and egg dish) is reinterpreted as unagi meat loaf, topped with a quail egg and flavored by kabayaki sauce. President Obama chose Wong as chef for his administration's debut congressional picnic. Try to find a higher level of approval. 2009 Smart Luxury Award winner
On the North Shore (just west of Princeville in the sleepy town of Hanalei), this welcoming spot offers vintages from a short but excellent wine list to accompany seasonal tapas cooked up behind the teak bar by surfer chef Jim Moffat, such as lobster-stuffed squid or Kanuna Farms goat cheese with North Shore honeycomb.
The acclaimed CanoeHouse boasts a koa-decorated, open-air dining room right beside the ocean. Hawaii-born chef de cuisine Dee Ann Tsurumaki, whose recent tenure at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong elevated its signature restaurant Felix to one of the world's top 50, focuses her menu on Asian and Pacific Rim cuisine. Distinct offerings include Singaporean sweet-sour chilli prawns and scallops and Mongolian BBQ rack of lamb. Creatively presented, the dishes complement the restaurant's stunning location.
Chai's Island Bistro
A tasty Pacific Rim-fusion restaurant that showcases a daily turntable of top Hawaiian musicians along with a menu featuring a unique combination of tropical fare with European flare: fresh fish features (like grilled Mahi-Mahi with Thai Red Curry sauce) are pitted against stuffed quail, escargot, and frog legs - all cooked in the open-tiled kitchen under the hungry eyes of guests.
A 2003 James Beard winner, Chef George Mavrothalassitis put Oahu on the international dining map thanks to his innovative takes on island specialties, commitment to seasonality, and passion for pairing food and wine. Expect his Provençal influences and dead-on palate to shine through every dish.
Diamond Head Market and Grill
For one of the best grilled ahi sandwiches around, drive around the base of Diamond Head, order from the window of this casual restaurant, and bite into it at a nearby picnic table. Homemade ice cream, pies, cheese selection, wines, and other picnic fare make it a great stop for any outing.
Created by Kevin Aoki, son of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, Doraku adds an exotic touch to well-prepared Pan Asian favorites and turns out plate after gorgeous plate of jewel-like sushi. Artisanal sakes, many of which aren't available anywhere else in the U.S., are expertly paired by one of the state's few sake sommeliers.
Homemade pizza gets socially responsible at this laidback eatery in Paia. The dough, made with nothing more than spring water, organic flour, kosher salt, and cake yeast, is baked in a wood-fired clay oven, while organic tomatoes, fresh herbs, and other natural ingredients jazz up the sauce. Toppings include free-range chicken and nitrate-free pepperoni.
Giovanni’s White Shrimp Truck
Not quite white from the layers of affectionate graffiti scribbled across its hull over the years, it's still an essential North Shore stop in Kahuku for grilled, fresh-from-the-sea shrimp served with rice.
Grandma's Coffee House
Organically grown in the fertile, volcanic soil on the slopes of Haleakala, a cup of Grandma's Maui Coffee - roasted on site - is a must for java aficionados. The bright, cheerful eatery also offers rotating lunch specials like beef stew and chicken curry. Sandwiches, loaded with fresh Kula vegetables, are perfect to pack for a hike.
Ramen is a local comfort food, and this beloved institution has been serving up the island’s best for 40-plus years. Pull up a seat at the counter and order some teriyaki sticks on the side.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Since 1946, Helen Kwock Chock has been serving hungry Hawaiians a menu featuring the likes of tripe stew, luau squid, and fried butterfish that, in 2000, snagged the petite chef a James Beard Award. Menu items (combination and ala-carte) are all priced from $1-$18. Open Tuesdays through Fridays only.
Unassuming Helena's Hawaiian Food, on Oahu, serves outstanding local fare
that's garnered plaudits from the James Beard Foundation. See more Smart Luxury Award winners
Hilo Bay Café
It may be located in a nondescript mini mall, but self-taught chef Joshua Kettner’s café is worth seeking out for scrumptious standards like slow-cooked pork ribs, lobster salad and molton chocolate lava cake.
Huggo's on the Rocks
Few Kona restaurants have a waterfront view as appealing as that of this open-air eatery, the light version of the more upscale Huggo's restaurant next door. Lunch fare includes juicy burgers made with Angus beef and generously stacked sandwiches. If you're looking for a casual place to watch the sunset over cocktails and appetizers, this is it.
Nab a porchside seat at this oceanfront restaurant for some of the best sightlines of Waikiki without getting sand in your shoes. Breakfasts of banana-and-macadamia-nut pancakes and dinners of ribs or grilled ono with pineapple salsa have made it a local favorite.
Brilliant sunset views add to the romantic ambiance of this resort standout (named after the state fish) that serves beautifully plated Polynesian and Hawaiian-inspired cuisine to diners in thatched huts over a saltwater lagoon. The seafood is excellent and fresh-you can even select your own lobster straight out of the lagoon.
This downtown Honolulu hotspot serves eclectic Eurasian fare - think goat cheese wontons with four-fruit sauce and sweet-and-sour baby back ribs with ginger soy sauce - and pairs it with a fun cocktail menu.
Joe’s Simply Delicious Food
Celebrity Chef Beverly Gannon's famous flagship restaurant is a tribute to comfort food (seafood pot pie is a staple) and her rock n' roll stage-designing hubby, Joe. The airy, deck-like interior is clothed in wooden planks and features panoramic views of the Pacific and Haleakala, as well as a 43-foot-long copper bar handcrafted by a local Maui artist. The meat loaf, pork chop, and ribs, when paired with a dirty martini, are as fantastic as the fresh fish special. Don't miss the chocolate bread pudding for dessert.
Kilauea Fish Market
As the name suggests, fresh fish, prepared any way you want it, is the specialty at this affordable, laidback eatery known for its tasty homemade sauces. Dine outside under the avocado tree.
The sushi bar alone is worth the stop at this fine Japanese restaurant, a standout on the islands. Tempura, sukiyaki, soba and teriyaki, all elegantly plated, are delicious.
Ko is the Hawaiian word for sugarcane, the emblem for this inspired
restaurant that celebrates Hawaii's unique, multi-ethnic culinary tradition - a
blend of Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese, Hawaiian, Chinese, and Korean
influences. Chef Tylun Pang, a Hawaiian native with experience working around
the globe, finds harmony in these diverse cuisines with savory offerings like
shichimi with an orange-ginger miso sauce and a zesty tofu stir-fry featuring
vegetables grown in Kula.
At the Halekulani hotel, locals and tourists alike splurge on chef Yves Garnier's French specialties made with fresh island ingredients. Dinner begins with a glass of champagne, a fitting way to start an evening to be filled with some of the most elegant food on Oahu: where else can you find foie gras prepared two ways on the same menu, or fresh truffles simply adorned so their earthy flavor can be appreciated?
Lahaina Grill is a permanent fixture on lists of "Best Maui Restaurants," and for good reason. Inventive offerings like Maui onion-crusted seared ahi and Kona-coffee-roasted lamb paired with fine wines (choose from 350 vintages) please sophisticated palettes. Chef-owner Jurg Munch likes to use fresh, locally grown produce to create the bistro's specials. Don't skip the from-scratch triple berry pie.
Legends Seafood House
Dim Sum at the boisterous Legends Seafood House in Chinatown is an after-church tradition for many local families - follow their lead and try to nab a seat near the kitchen so you can have first pick of plump and slightly sticky shrimp dumplings, tender pork buns, and comforting cheong fun, the toothsome rice noodle rolls that arrive piping hot and blanketed with sweet soy sauce.
Mala Ocean Tavern
Spectacular oceanfront views and light Mediterranean-influenced plates like seared tombo bruschetta and beet and Kula goat cheese salad are the highlights of this Lahaina eatery. True to their menu concept - small plates, organic whenever possible, whole grains, no preservatives, and no hydrogenated oils - the food is tasty and healthy to boot.
Mama's Fish House
This local hideaway set in a coconut grove on a white-sand beach near Pa'ia town is hands-down one of the island's best seafood restaurants. Old Polynesia lives in the décor, warm service, and especially in the cuisine: Try the opakapaka marinated in coconut milk and lime, Tahitian-style, served in a Maui coconut.
There's a good chance you'll dine with students from the Buddhist school down the block at this tiny, quiet Dim Sum restaurant where there's no need to wait for the cart - if the restaurant isn't crowded, you're welcome to inspect the day's offerings yourself.
Located in the upcountry near Parker Ranch, this well-appointed dining room opened by Peter Merriman, a pioneer of Hawaii Regional cuisine, offers delectable entrees from the turf as well as the surf. The restaurant prides itself on using high-quality, fresh, locally grown ingredients, so the menu changes with the farmers' growing seasons. The gourmet vegetarian dishes are as popular as the prime rib and fresh seafood - you can expect a full dining room at lunch and dinner.
Famed chef Peter Merriman helped pioneer Hawaii Regional Cuisine, an approach to food that honors the connection between the farmer, the cook, the community, and the earth. The Maui outpost of Merriman's renowned Big Island eatery presents a candle-lit terrace and largely organic offerings such as Hirabara Farm greens, Kama'aina clams, and fresh-caught ahi sashimi.
Overlooking the Waiakea river, this humble, family-run Japanese restaurant, with its wooden tables and sliding rice paper doors, serves simple, delicious dishes like grilled salmon over salad, tonkatsu, and miso butter fish.
Nori's Saimin and Snacks
This hidden treasure of a noodle shop is located down a non-descript driveway across from the Hilo Lanes bowling alley. Many consider it to serve the island's best saimin, a local food staple of noodles in a flavorful broth. Besides more than a dozen noodle soup options, Nori's also prepares every variety of plate lunch, a great opportunity to sample island favorites from teri beef to kalbi ribs to grilled ahi. Save room for haupia and chocolate mochi cookies.
Opal Thai food
Some of Oahu's best food is served out of mobile lunchwagons and while many
visitors focus on sampling the highly publicized shrimp trucks, they
unfortunately overlook the island's most delicious Thai cuisine. Opal Thai,
located in a circle of lunchwagons across from a McDonald's in Haleiwa, is a
favorite among locals for its fresh tofu rolls, fiery papaya salad, rich
curries and innovative noodle dishes—try the garlicky noodles or the
drunken noodles. Sitting under a tree on the picnic bench with a cold Thai iced
tea is truly a pleasure after a hot morning at the beach.
Paia Fish Market
If you're in the town of Paia, don't miss the chance to taste a perfectly grilled fish sandwich topped with coleslaw. A casual atmosphere belies the culinary excellence of this laidback establishment, a longtime favorite of residents and visitors alike. Patrons can chow down while marveling at the beautiful gyotaku prints (an ancient oriental artwork) of the fish you'll be eating.
Mouth-watering aromas waft from the exhibition kitchen at this fabulously designed resort restaurant overlooking lovely golf greens. Fusion dishes such as lobster coconut Thai bisque and furikake-crusted calamari characterize the menu, and the chef strives to incorporate Maui-grown ingredients like poha berries from Kula and pohole ferns from Hana.
This open-air café, a local favorite, serves up delicious Mediterranean fare like kebabs, falafel, lamb gyros with ziziki sauce, and Italian pasta with jumbo shrimp. The owner catches fresh fish for the daily specials, and the homemade hummus is a must-try. Still have room? Try the baklava ice cream cake.
Their motto is “gourmet food on paper plates,” and the offerings are certainly worthy of fine china. Try the macadamia nut-and-herb-crusted ahi. They also serve breakfast.
Fresh fish and vegetarian entrees are the highlight at this excellent gourmet natural food restaurant located in a 100-year-old plantation home listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Romano's Macaroni Grill
The latest addition to the Queens' MarketPlace at Waikoloa Beach Resort is Romano's Macaroni Grill. The Tuscan-inspired, family-friendly chain restaurant wins over diners with its exhibition-style kitchen and extensive array of menu options. Tasty Italian food is hard to come by in the islands, which is why residents flock here to enjoy classic pasta dishes, brick oven pizzas, and flavorful antipasti. The food is fresh and affordable, and take-out is also available.
Romy's Shrimp and Prawn Shack
There are dozens of shrimp shacks on the North Shore, but there's always a line at bright-red Romy's because it's the only shack that raises its own shrimp. Place your order for shrimp or gigantic prawns (locals eat them drenched in garlic butter) and in a few minutes you'll be called to pick up the piping-hot crustaceans at the window.
Roy's Poipu Bar and Grill
Roy’s Hawaiian fusion, showcasing fresh island seafood like the signature basil-seared ono with Thai red curry and lobster sauce, is consistently rated among Hawaii’s top restaurants. Watch the talented chefs cook east-meets-west specialties in the open kitchen.
Roy's Waikaloa Bar and Grill
Hawaii’s most famous chef opened a new location of his namesake chain when, and it doesn’t disappoint. Favorites such as his signature Blackened Island Ahi (tuna) and Ahi Poke are served in a casual, open-air venue.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
One of Kapalua's most noteworthy restaurants, Sansei features D.K. Kodama's imaginative sushi using ingredients such as foie gras and roe aioli. After 10 pm on Thursday and Friday nights, the extravagant sushi rolls and appetizers are half-price - truly an unbelievable bargain. Other island outposts can be found on Oahu and the Big Island.
A welcome stop on the way to or from Waipio Valley, this natural foods deli makes delicious smoothies and sandwiches with fresh, healthy ingredients. Customer favorites include the homemade baked goods, egg salad sandwiches (made with organic, free-range eggs), turkey melts (made with organic, free-range turkey), taro-banana pancakes, and organic iced chai tea. The small seating area has grown to accommodate 47, and there is live music on the first, second, and fourth Friday of the month.
South Shore Tiki Lounge
Sold as pies or by the slice, the pizza menu is extensive, but the winner at this kitschy joint is the grilled sausage sandwich. Choose from bratwurst, kielbasa, Portuguese sausage, and more. Wash it down with a cold beer at the bar, and stay to watch Kihei's late night scene unfold on the dance floor after 10 pm.
Driving along the Hamakua Coast? Stop here to refuel with Tex’s famous supersized malasadas (Portugese donuts) infused with Guava jam, chocolate pudding and chantilly cream. Also recommended: their plate lunches (salty meat served with a scoop of rice and macaroni salad).
The Beach House
On the waterfront in Poipu, chef Todd Barrett serves his take on local line-caught fish (like a Wasabi-encrusted snapper) and island produce including Kilauea tomatoes and Omao baby greens - plus a sublime molten chocolate tart.
The Coffee Shack
A hole-in-the-wall local favorite, come for the Kona coffee and casual fare on a cliff-top lanai with smashing views of Kealakekua Bay below.
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