Where to Eat in Honolulu: The Best Restaurants for 2022


Saigon’s

This Vietnamese joint on Waialae Ave. is the king of the $1 price point.   Order one of their bountiful banh mi’s, a bowl of their famous pho, or go a little more adventurous with their oxtail soup.  Whatever you order, the menu will not disappoint.  Other than the stellar cuisine the main reason that this place is such a hot spot for the locals is the BYOB factor.  There is no fee for corkage so bring as many bottles as you want and feast to your hearts delight for either lunch or a casual dinner with friends.  This is a must to put on the list if you are interested in getting away from the tourist crowds and seeing where the locals come to eat and drink.    

Mud Hen Water 

Another good spot for brunch and dinner on Waialae Ave is Mud Hen Water.  This local restaurant specializes in farm to table cuisine offering local Hawaiian dishes but with innovative international twists.  If you are joining them for brunch try the pohole (fern shoots) prepared with okra yamaimo, sweet onion, nori, and shiso.  Wash that down with one of their fresh cocktails and I’d day you’re having a pretty good morning.  If you are thinking about going for dinner try the Lau Lau a classic Hawaiian soul food dish.  Just picture a steamed bouquet of taro leaves with tender pork meat waiting inside.  It’s a melt in your mouth kind of a dish.  Hen’s price point is a little higher than some of Honolulu’s other eats but it is more than worth it.  Although the food is high end the dress code is still very casual, so don’t be afraid to show up in a sundress and flip flops.     

TChin TChin 

If you are looking to get all dolled up to dine on small plates and sample the finest wines and mixed drinks you definitely need to check out TChin TChin.  Located in Chinatown, this rooftop bar delights in bringing customers together through good food and drink.  In fact the name of the bar was taken from a common Chinese phrase that would be said at parties, inviting guests to raise their glass and take a sip to life.  There are limited spots at this bar so be sure to call ahead and make a reservation.     

Lucky Belly

Honolulu’s food culture often features Asian taste palettes and cooking styles given the fact that the Hawaiian islands are extremely close to several Asian nations.  For this reason you can find some of the best Asian food you will ever taste in Honolulu, outside of their origins country of course.  Lucky Belly is one such restaurant that has turned Vietnamese soul food into upscale cuisine.  If you are a vegetarian try the fungi bowl served with maitake, shiitake, hon shimeji, porcini dust, and vegetarian broth.  For the meat eaters try the beast bowl made with brisket, short ribs, and oxtail wontons.  All soups are served with bean sprouts, wakame, sesame seeds, green onion, ginger, and a soft egg.  Lucky Belly is a little on the pricey side but given the fact that this place is always packed with customers day and night it is more than worth it.  

Livestock Tavern 

Although Chinatown is famous for its Asian fusion cuisine there are some more familiar flavours for the American tourist visiting from the mainland.  Livestock Tavern on North Hotel Street offers its patrons both upscale and simple American dishes from the staple filet mignon and seared duck breast to the classic burger.  This is a win if you are traveling with large groups because you can reserve tables and they will even host larger parties and events.  They are open for dinner Monday through Sunday and for brunch only on Saturdays and Sundays.    

Rigo

Rigo in Kapahulu is an ideal setting for lunch or dinner and will shock you with the quality of the food for the price.  Their dishes are a combination of Spanish and Italian style cuisine from paella to tagliata and everything in between like papaya gazpacho.  Definitely try one of their signature cocktails or order a bottle of wine for the table.  This is also a place where you could wear some of your more bold ensembles to dinner.        

Sweetie’s (Breakfast)

Sweet E’s cafe on Kapahulu is the place to be for early morning eats and BYOB mimosas.  Sweet E’s serves American breakfast with a few classic Hawaiian twists and tastes.  If you want something local for breakfast, definitely try the Loco Moco, white rice, a fried egg, and meat patty with gravy poured over top.  There is usually a wait time for Sweet E’s but worry not.  The wait time gives you just enough time to walk down to the Safeway gas station a half a block away to procure orange juice and champagne for your BYOB mimosas.  

Koko Head Cafe

Koko Head Cafe is one of the best pan-Asian/American brunches you will ever sample in your life.  The menu features all the home cooked classics like congee, koko moco, as well as daily fresh baked goods.  This is one of the most popular spots on the island and with celebrity top chef Lee Anne Wong it is easy to see why.  Check the hours before paying Chef Lee Anne a visit because this place usually has a line out the door.  

Koa Pancake House

Koa Pancake House in Kaimuki is referred to as The Waffle House of Hawaii.  This is not the place to go if you are looking for farm to table ingredients but the breakfast is fortifying as hell and will feed an army.  However, if pancakes are not your vibe they have several other options to satisfy any salty or sweet morning craving.  You can even build your own custom koco moco.      

Kaka’ako Mart

The best place to get a quick bite to eat or to pick up food to take to the beach is definitely Kaka’ako Mart.  This place is really a jack of all food trades with fresh produce, grab and go items, as well as delicious Japanese bento boxes.  The price point here is also super low making it one of the most popular markets on the whole island.     

Arvo Cafe

Not too far away from Kaka’ako Mart is another great place to pick up a quick bite.  Welcome to Arvo’s from the Australian slang term for afternoon. This is one of the most beautiful grab and go breakfasts in Oahu.  This place puts little edible flowers onto their avocado toast.  There is no wait staff here.  Just walk up to the window, place your order, then make your way to the beach for a nice beach breakfast picnic.

Chubbies Burgers

In the Kaka’ako area you can also find mobile meals.  The best burgers in Oahu come from Chubbie’s food truck.  You can usually spot the truck at the Ward Gateway Centre everyday except Monday.  They also have plenty of vegan and gluten free substitutes to meet any dietary requirement.  Not to mention their Chub fries are to die for, served with melted cheddar cheese, grilled onions, and their special fry sauce.  Whatever heartburn comes your way it will be worth it.   

Helena’s

Since 1946, the last word in local Hawaiian comfort food has been Helena’s in downtown Honolulu.  More than likely you will not recognize most of the food items on this menu but everything is absolutely delicious.  Try the Lomi Lomi salmon, LauLau, Kalua pork, or their house made poi. Be sure to check the hours on Google because Helena often has a line out the door.    

Tamura’s 

Owned and operated by the same family since the 1920s Tamura’s is the most famous liquor and wine store on the island.  Since their first store they have committed to providing exceptional products at low prices and have only gotten better over the years.  In addition to their wide assortment of fine alcoholic beverages they also have a delicious take out kitchen.  This is one of the best spots for a poke bowl and other local delicacies like pickled garlic, and freshly steamed edamame.  You can munch on your lunch and stock up on all your vacation libation needs.  

Tane

In Polynesian mythology, Tane is the God of the birds, plants, and flowers.  The divine being that gave humanity the source of medicine knowledge as well as sustenance.  Tane is also the name of one of the best vegan Japanese restaurants in Honolulu.  They have an entirely plant based menu of unbelievable sushi, ramen, and shared plates.  The crown jewel of their menu is the Nigiri made in several different fashions and with the freshest ingredients like enoki, mango, inari, and even okra.