10 Best Restaurants Not to Be Missed in Honolulu
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
Honolulu's best restaurants are as diverse as the cultures in the islands. In Honolulu the best meal doesn't mean it's the most elegant, as there's many family run hole-in-the-walls that fit under the "best" category. Yet for those high end dinners, there's beautiful selection of exquisite meals to be had. From dressing up for ocean front meals, to keeping it casual at locals style eateries, these are the ten best restaurants in Honolulu.
For an amazing casual breakfast at a true hole-in-the-wall, Bogart's Cafe delivers simple yet delicious takes on breakfast dishes and espresso. As a local favorite it's teeming with customers each morning, vying for their famous breakfast bagel sandwiches and lattes.
A low key and homey feeling meal, make a reservation at Irifune. Serving up home style Japanese food, this is another local favorite. Popularity is obvious with the crowds each night hungry for curries, katsus and tempura.
On the other end of the spectrum, Alan Wong's is possibly Hawaii's most famous and sought after restaurant. Serving Pacific Rim fusion in an elegant atmosphere, this is the ideal place for a special dinner or date night. Michel's on the ocean near Diamond Head is another high end restaurant, serving the most traditional French food in Honolulu. With a dress code and traditionally elegant atmosphere, Michel's almost feels like a restaurant not in the islands.
Once you've identified your craving or occasion, explore our list of the top ten restaurants in Honolulu, and experiences the island's best flavors.
10 Lei Lei's Bar and Grill
Lei Lei's Bar and Grill sits right on the golf course at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu. Like a bar and grill would be, it's laid back and casual, yet somewhat upscale and classy. There's a putting green out front where the kids can hang out (in full view) if they get restless, and views of the golf course and the mountain range offer gorgeous sights. Unlike the other restaurants at Turtle Bay, this one isn't right in the resort. The full bar can serve up anything you'd like, but their famous for mai tais and Lei Lei's lemonades. The menu has a broad spectrum of great food - burgers, pastas, salads, local fish specials with sides of mashed potatoes, ribs, and the list goes on. ((808) 293-2662)
Fabulous French cuisine tempts diners at this elegant ocean side restaurant, making for potent sensory stimulation. While you revel in beautiful views and romantic sunsets, feast from a menu of mouthwatering dishes, such as lobster bisque, tender salmon filet, or satisfying beef tenderloin. Salads make the most of Oahu's fresh produce -- all things, in short, are good. Service is excellent as well, adding to the appeal of a delightful meal at the base of Diamond Head. This is the most traditional French food to be found in Honolulu. Dinner reservations are a must, and the dress code requires resort wear. (808-923-6552)
8 Haleiwa Joe's
Take in the North Shore's relaxed lifestyle at this fantastic eatery. Kick back on the lanai, take in the incredible island scenery, and revel in the moment. While you do, make sure to sample terrific seafood and steak entrees. Prime rib is always popular, and coconut shrimp maintain a faithful following as well. You'll also find grilled fish, fresh soups and salads, and tempting desserts. In the bar, a wonderful selection of appetizers makes for great nibbling. This is a great place for lunch before exploring the North Shore, or dinner after. Dinner reservations are a must, and dress up a bit or go in with sandy feet. (808-637-8005, 831-479-7564)
So ono (delicious), as the locals would say! At Irifune you'll find perhaps the best Japanese food a person can find in Honolulu, and it's decently priced, low key, a home style. The hole in the wall restaurant hides it great food behind a very modest exterior wall with a very homey feel inside. On any given night there's the chance of a short wait in the small waiting room with a fish tank, but it's very worth it and you can pass the time by enjoying a drink you brought or checking out all of the celebrity photos taken in the eatery. If anyone in your party is celebrating a birthday, you can give the management a heads up (without the birthday person knowing) and they'll surprise everyone with a lights-out birthday song and their signature ice cream crepe. The food is simply great. It's Japanese but not sushi. Notice the unique bathroom wallpaper of tattooed people. All of the food is good and there's several vegetarian options. ((808) 737-1141)
6 Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab
Housed in a former warehouse, complete with a grounded cabin cruiser, this fun family restaurant has a reputation for large portions and terrific local cuisine. For a special Hawaiian-style breakfast, enjoy the catch of the day with eggs or banana macadamia nut pancakes. For a more traditional morning meal, wake up with a round of French toast, bacon and Portuguese sausage. Dinner is composed of a huge seafood buffet, offering an extensive selection of crab, fish, sashimi, vegetables and just about any type of seafood you could crave. The heave seafarer decor includes boats and nets hanging from the ceiling, and it's overall casual, but wear an aloha shirt. (808-545-7979)
5 Chef Mavro
Some of the island's most accomplished cuisine is served at this small, intimate restaurant in Honolulu. Under the masterful command of Chef Mavro, French technique pairs with Hawaiian ingredients to create culinary magic. Dishes include Maitake Mushroom Indochine sautéed with green papaya, mushroom broth, sumida watercress galangal and kaffir lime and Keahole Lobster Paella with roasted red bell peppers, green olives, fried cilantro, lobster, chorizo, and saffron puff rice. Prix fixe menus with three, four, and six courses are terrific values and can be coupled with wine selections as well. Give yourself over to this expensive, incomparable experience. Reservations are a must. (808-944-4714)
4 3660 on the Rise
Lauded for its spectacular island cuisine, this perennial favorite attracts a regular contingent of high-profile folks. They come to soak in the chic, comfortable atmosphere and partake of incredible, creative fare. Starters include foie gras-stuffed scallops and ahi katsu, while main courses range from seafood with saffron-scented linguine to macadamia-crusted rack of lamb, pan-seared NY steak, and tempura catfish. A nightly vegetarian entree is available, and some dishes come in two sizes, depending on your appetite. In addition, the 3660 Medley combines portions of three entrees for sampling, and desserts are practically requisite, rife with cream, chocolate, and fresh fruit. (808-737-1177)
Under the masterful tutelage of chef Roy Yamaguchi, who skillfully fuses European and Asian cuisines, this establishment has earned a reputation for lively ambiance, attentive service, and incredible food. A devotion to impeccably fresh ingredients and a penchant for artistic presentation characterizes the menu, whose temptations include steamed Hawaiian onaga, tri-peppercorn-crusted ahi, and ginger-steamed Chinese chicken. There's also steak, lamb, pasta, pork, and duck. Nightly specials make an appearance too, and the signature chocolate souffle -- is absolutely sinful. Roy's can be found throughout the islands, so if you're island hopping you can enjoy it again and again. Dress up or go casual but nice. (808-396-7697)
2 Alan Wong's
A beautiful, pale room, accented with gleaming wood and sprinkled with flowers and artwork, welcomes guests to this exceptional place. The overall all culinary theme is Pacific Fusion, and it's known as the best in Hawaii. The exhibition kitchen makes the most of fresh, regional ingredients, crafting such delicacies as kiawe wood-grilled mahimahi, ginger-crusted onaga, and roast duck prepared three ways. You'll also find grilled beef and lamb chops, along with "da bag," a foil packet of seafood, kalua pork, and vegetables that's dramatically deflated tableside. If you make it to dessert, don't miss the sorbets or crème brûlées, infused with tropical fruits. (808-949-2526)
1 Bogart's Cafe
Bogart's is one of those hole-in-the-wall places that is a tried and true reliable joint for locals in search of that perfect breakfast. Whether taken to eat on the go or eaten at one of their small sidewalk or indoor tables, Bogart's is a not to miss place for anyone vising Honolulu. The tiny cafe has an extensive hand written menu on the wall, and although it's quite varied and long, everything is really good. The coffees are also great and they have every type of espresso you could want. A real hit is the breakfast bagel sandwich, can't go wrong with that. (Honolulu, HI 96815)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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