Honolulu Recommendations

I will be in Honolulu & possibly Kona the first & second week of February.
Looking for some fun & upscale places for food & drinks.
Not interested in food trucks or any place Guy Fieri recommends.
Thanks in advance & Mahalo.


100% go to the downstairs food court in the Ala Moana Center (shopping mall). This is probably the most entertaining food experience you will have in HNL, and there is GREAT food there. Go hungry, and don’t order too much at any one place, because there are so many you’ll want to try.


I liked the chicken long rice at Haili’s. https://www.hailishawaiianfood.com/

At the International Center in Waikiki , I enjoyed some mochi donuts at the Japanese store upstairs, Mitsuwa Marketplace

Also enjoyed trying Sago Sago at Eating House 1849. https://www.royyamaguchi.com/eatinghouse1849-waikiki#menu-eating-house-1849-waikiki

I was on a mission to try every Hawaiian specialty I could while I visited Waikiki, Honolulu, Kauai and Maui. I was there in May 2019.

Some places I enjoyed, Bill’s for an Australian breakfast, and Alan Wong’s for its tasting menu, closed permanently over the course of this pandemic.

Recent list


A mall food court? Really? I am kinda skeptical .
Thanks though.

Thanks appreciate your help.

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The BBQ place is just what I am looking for & O’Kims sounds great too👍

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Your loss. It is the farthest thing from a typical mall food court. Look it up.


Ok thanks

You really make me want to just fly to Honolulu right now! :heartbeat: :heartbeat: :heartbeat:

Those curried rice rolls from Singma Tei looked exactly like something we’d get here in Singapore.


Thanks the article is very informative. I appreciate your help.

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My modus operandi (since my Chowhound days) when I travel is to get dining tips from the local taxi drivers - i.e. where they eat, not where they think visitors should eat. You’re bound to come across some local dining gems.


From my experience with taxi drivers I can get a “feel” for a city.
However many many years ago I was a nyc cab driver & worked many hustles with restaurants & bars so I am quite skeptical to this day about Cab driver recommendations. I found this to be very true in the Caribbean not so much in Europe & Asia.
Loved following Anthony Bourdain’s foot steps, he was just my style. Alas, I am left with Guy Fieri and I am not a fan of his tastes.

Yes, it depends on where you are. We did encounter a bad one in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 3 years back - he seemed to regard us as some sort of “cash cows” and brought us to a place featured by Bourdain. Everything there costed 4 times what we’d pay elsewhere in Colombo - of course Bourdain didn’t have that problem as he was accompanied by a local food personality, with a camera crew in tow (and maybe with local tourist officials watching).

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Not knowing where you’ll be based in Honolulu makes it hard to recommend stuff, but I’ll assume its near downtown or Waikiki Beach. Its a reasonably big island so if you’re on the North Shore or the newer Disney-fied west side, these won’t be convenient:

Sidestreet Inn is probably still a “fun” place for local food https://sidestreetinn.com/about-us/, especially in the original location. And, yes, Bourdain was there and, yes, tourists know about it. And, yes, my last visit was before the pandemic by a couple of years. But I fondly remember the garlic fried chicken and the Kim Chee rice. And the environment – large, informal uptempo bar w/food scene &, whenever I’ve been there, tourists were outnumbered…

“House Without a Key” https://www.halekulani.com/dining/house-without-a-key/ is an outdoor area attached to the Halekulani in Waikiki. For the price of a drink and maybe a small plate, you can watch the live entertainment while overlooking the waterfront sunset. Upscale, yet totally accessible. We’ve been there at least a dozen times over the years & it never disappoints. You can order a reasonable (food’s okay+, prices high) dinner there or just drinks, then go to any of the area’s restaurants or walk along the beach.

Duke’s in Waikiki https://www.dukeswaikiki.com is a big, sprawling bar/restaurant on the waterfront and is usually crowded with both locals and tourists. Its like a big Houlihan’s & may be a fun place to drink and hang out if you’re in the area. Definitely not upscale but I like nachos with my mai tai.


Where are you @kaleokahu ?:hibiscus:

We were in Honolulu in July. Here are some avoids. Avoid all Roys and generally, Duke’s. Both are boosted by massive popular followings, but each in their own way overpromise and underdeliver. Pretty much every time. I don’t have recs - sorry. Due to Covid, we decided not to make food the focus (which is unusual) and instead did a lot of grab and go to avoid indoor dining. We did both of the above places (should’ve known better from prior experiences) on their outdoor patios.

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These are always on our list in Honolulu.

  • Sidestreet Inn. 2nd what SteveR said. Cat is out of the bag but the food is still good. Portions are very large so good for groups. Go to the OG location

  • Koko Head Cafe. Our favorite place for brunch. It gets very crowded but a very ecclectic and fun mix of traditional, Hawaiian and Asian items. Something for everybody and all the food we’ve had is great.

  • Leonards. The best malasadas. They are generally making them all throughout the morning so you should get fresh hot ones. We go traditional with just sugar or cinammon/sugar. Coffee could be better so we usually grab coffee from somewhere else.

  • Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Bourdain and Beard blessed. Nothing fancy here but delicious traditional local food.

  • Kona Coffee Purveyors. This is at Ala Moana mall and there is a patisserie attached. They open early which is important since the first few days you’re still on mainland time. The coffee and pastries were very good.

  • Maguro Brothers. Down the block from Ala Moana. It’s to go only. The best sashimi and poke in the downtown area. Great fresh seafood.


Great thanks

Great thanks, sounds like It’s going to be a fun time.

I’m a great fan of Roy Yamaguchi, but like @Sasha, I’m inclined to take a pass. I dined at the Ko’Alina location several years ago, and I was quite disappointed with the food. However, had a lovely passion fruit martini, which the bartender kindly shared the recipe. I do have several Roy cookbooks, which I cook out of, if I want those tastes. I only had just the one experience, so I hate and hesitate to slam it. Perhaps his other locations are better - don’t know. ?
I like Dukes! Not for the food especially, but the atmosphere & the fact it’s become a sentimental favorite I think. We like happy hours there, good drinks and serviceable to great appetizers. Have wonderful memories of Dukes on the various islands, good and happy times with family. Oh and the Hula Pie is incredible & easily made at home too. Haven’t been to the islands since October 2019 however. I will mention Sam Choy’s - not on Waikiki, but down by the old Dole Cannery and the International grocery stores - think Costco is near thereabouts too. Anyway, good, solid food, we had breakfast or lunch & really enjoyed. Seemed more local then touristy. Would definitely go back. On the big island, we also enjoyed HH at a Sam Choy’s, excellent for both drinks and appetizers. Again, off the tourist strip, and buzzing with a lot of locals. Think there’s a lot of great food, not too hard to find, lots of menus posted outside too. Sorry, can’t remember the names of some other places that were great - little hole in the wall places. Just go up a couple blocks off Waikiki, lots of indie places. At least before Covid anyway.