10 Best Restaurants to Experience on Windward Oahu
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
The windward side of any Hawaiian Island means it's lush and green, and Oahu's is exactly that. Although this is the countryside of the island, within its jungles and beaches it caresses an abundance of wonderful places to eat. Spanning from the far east town of Waimanalo and all the way to the North Shore, Windward Oahu will keep you fed well and happy for days.
At the end of the seven-mile miracle on the North Shore lies several amazing restaurants. Pa'akai inside of Turtle Bay Resort is the newest farm to table restaurant on the Windward Side. With offerings such as locally sourced fish, steaks and vegetables highlighted with jalapenos martinis, the restaurants always satisfies customers. The sea inspired ambiance set over the ocean makes an elegant place to eat.
For a true Hawaiian experience, drop by a traditional luau feast at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. Traditional Hawiian food like poi, taro, lomi salmon and kalua pig will fill you up while watching Polynesian dancing and fire knife shoes. The celebration is truly fun for the whole family.
Leilei's Bar & Grill is an upscale, yet casual place to eat that rest right on a world class golf course. Children can roam the putting green while parents sip drinks on the tiki torch lit lanai. Fish plates, steaks and salads put an elegant spin on grill food.
While exploring the valleys, waterfall laden cliffs and sandy beaches of Windward Oahu, experience the best food in the area.
9 Buzz's Original Steakhouse
Not far from beautiful Kailua Beach on Oahu's windward side, this venerable institution captures the spirit of Hawaii as it existed in years past. Rustic and comfortable, Buzz's Original Steakhouse also boasts walls full of photographs, which add a note of personality. The menu is relatively uncomplicated and more than capably done. At lunch, folks come in for juicy burgers, salads, and other light fare, while dinner is a touch more refined, with steaks, lobster, and fresh fish getting most of the attention. The bar serves refreshing drinks; the ambiance just happens. It's a good idea to make reservations for dinner at this establishment. (808-261-4661, 808-261-1738)
8 Lanikai Juice Co
This juice bar is famous with locals. You'll find a combo of treats, smoothies and juices. Lanikai Juice is located in the Kailua shopping center and is named after beautiful Lanikai Beach, a long, white sand stretch of heaven on the east side. The smoothies from Lanikai Juice are a wonderful treat on a hot Hawaiian day. They try to incorporate healthy ingredients such as the power food acai berry and many other healthy fruits and vegetables. There's several locations around the island, one in Haleiwa and one in Kahala. Hawaii has been hit hard when it comes to finding smoothies and acai bowls popular, and locals love this place. ((808) 262-2383)
7 Hukilau Cafe
A true local style hole in the wall, Hukilau Cafe is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. The small restaurant is modest, nothing fancy here and the food is served on disposable plates with plastic utensils. But it's true local food at very affordable prices. Eggs, Portuguese sausage, rice, bacon, and stews are served daily. This is the type of place where locals run into friends, and regulars are buddies with the servers. Decor is limited to football photos, many of which are dedicated to local football stars. It's often crowded in the morning, but that's a sign of how much people like it. By now you may be wondering if this is the place in the Adam Sandler movie 50 First Dates. The restaurant itself wasn't, but the movie used the name. ((808) 293-8616)
6 Serg's Mexican Kitchen Nalo
Delicious, funky and affordable is how locals describe Serg's Mexican Kitchen is Waimanalo. There food is very traditional, kind of like you'd find in Mexico. Tacos are made with two corn tortillas, with jut meat, onions and cilantro. The flautas are huge and topped with great green sauce, and they also serve burritos, fish and steak, and their rice and beans are delicious. Serg's keeps it pretty simple with no servers, just go up and order at the counter. The colorful restaurant is as festively painted as many places in Mexico, with multiple bright colors on the front. They don't serve any alcohol here. ((808) 259-7374)
5 Haleiwa Joe's at Haiku Gardens
Haleiwa Joe's is a wonderful chart house style restaurants with two locations, this one on the east side and one in Haleiwa. relax in the lush garden setting, take a pre-meal stroll around the pond and the exquisite view of the Ko'olau Mountain Range. After exploring the grounds you'll be treated to 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. Go before sunset to watch the light change over the mountains. ((808) 247-6671)
4 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)
3 Polynesian Cultural Center Luau
Many say this is hands down the best luau on Oahu. They can feed up to 1,200 guests at one time, so get ready to party down! Except of course, since the Polynesian Cultural Center is part of the Mormon Church there's no alcohol in any drinks here. The dancing, fire acts, and other entertainment is fun and at times a little over the top. They'll probably try to get a lot of people at tables to come up and participate, so if you're shy you better hope it's not you! But there's a LOT of food, lots to see, and you'll leave so stuffed you won't want to eat for the rest of your vacation. If you're looking for a luau, this is you're best bet. ((808) 293-3333)
2 Heeia Pier General Store and Deli
The Heeia Pier General Store and Deli is a classic Kaneohe eatery enjoyed by dedicated locals for three decades as it served up local classic like plate lunches and loco mocos (beef patty, egg and gravy over rice). But recently top chef Mark Noguchi took over the classic eatery and put a modern sustainable and healthier take on the local comfort food. All of the beef is from the Big Island and grass fed, the fish is caught nearby, and other vegetables are all grown locally - a locovore's dream. Located ocean front on the pier, diners can enjoy casual - but really good breakfast and lunch right on the water. (1 808.235.2192)
If you can drag yourself away from the pounding surf of the North Shore, reserve a table at this this newly revamped and renamed upscale restaurant, which prepares local cuisine with fresh ingredients. Aim for a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows for a magnificent view while you dine. Based on the theme of going "locovore," the menu changes often according to what's in season, guaranteeing new pleasures with each visit. They also use as much locally raised and grown food as possible. Innovative entrees include Thai chili-braised fish with cucumber gazpacho, and seared scallops in "faux" polenta (sweet creamed corn). A five-course tasting menu is also available. (808-293-6000)
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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