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The 38 Essential Hawai‘i Restaurants

From plate lunch drive-ins to tasting menu destinations, these are the most exciting places to dine across the 50th state

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No catchphrase can encapsulate the culinary scope of Hawai‘i: It encompasses carb-tastic plate lunches doused in gravy, bundles of steamed taro leaves packed with tender pork or other treasures, noodle soups, delicate mochi, and ever-new creations from relentlessly innovative chefs looking both to the islands and around the globe for inspiration. The islands’ original Polynesian residents; generations of immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, Portugal, the Philippines and other regions; and American cultural influence have resulted in cuisine like nothing else on earth.

This list of 38 essential restaurants, for a state that comprises eight major islands, is the work of many minds and palates. Four Eater editors descended on Hawai‘i, gorging throughout Honolulu and then scattering to Maui, Kaua‘i, and Hawai‘i Island for more research. Seven local experts add their picks, lending their authoritative, on-the-ground knowledge of the state’s finest eating. Given that Honolulu is the state’s capital and population center, it won’t surprise that 18 of its defining establishments appear here, including the latest fine-dining sensation, the standard bearer for golden malassadas, and the one chain that embodies Hawai‘i’s local food culture.

But we pinpoint vital stops beyond Honolulu and O‘ahu as well: the seafood star of Maui, the old-school neighborhood tiki bar on Kaua‘i, and the late-night bakery of Moloka‘i among them. The one thing locals know and visitors should learn: Truly experiencing Hawai‘i’s food culture requires venturing out from the hotel districts and visiting the state’s eclectic, welcoming communities.

Eater Guide to Hawaii

Part of the Eater Guide to Hawai‘i

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Tahiti Nui Restaurant

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5-5134 Kuhio Hwy
Hanalei, HI 96714
(808) 826-6277
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In the heart of Hanalei, where waterfalls rush down the spines of evergreen mountain peaks, a 1960s restaurant and tiki bar endures, preserving its longtime standing as this surf town's official spot to imbibe and unwind. Serving up Tahitian-style poisson cru and the stiffest mai tai in town, Tahiti Nui is the quintessential thatched-wall escapist bar, right down to the outrigger canoe paddlers and fishermen who fill the bar stools. —Brittany Lyte

Inside Tahiti Nui Restaurant
PF Bentley

2. Wailua Shave Ice

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4-1306 Kuhio Hwy
Kapaa, HI 96746
(808) 634-7183
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All over Hawai‘i, new-school shave ice purveyors are using local fruit and natural flavors, but none more inventively than this wildly popular trailer smack in the tourist center of Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i. Co-founders Brandon Baptiste and Josh Tamoaka — both Kaua‘i natives, while Baptiste is an alum of the Culinary Institute of America and Per Se — inventively combine flavor and texture to create rich, fruity shave ices capped with featherlight foam. Try the hyper-popular Lava Flow, which combines pineapple juice, coconut foam, and strawberry puree. With locations in Portland and San Diego, and more projects in the works, Wailua has the makings of an empire, but for now it’s best experienced at one of their bright-red picnic tables in the tropical sunshine. —Meghan McCarron

Wailua Shave Ice
Meghan McCarron

3. JO2 Restaurant

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4-971 Kuhio Hwy
Kapaa, HI 96746
(808) 212-1627
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Some of the most creative cooking in all of Hawai‘i takes place nightly in a tiny strip mall in Kapa‘a on Kauai. For the past three years at JO2, French-born chef Jean-Marie Josselin has worked alchemy on the island’s produce and seafood. A culinary school student in Paris by the age of 15, Josselin reinvents classic dishes with a Pacific Rim twist. The carpaccio appetizer is an heirloom squash; an ono ceviche is topped with a coconut water foam; a tempura lobster tail is the star of a ramen dish. Dinner is worth the splurge of roughly $60 for appetizer, entrée, and dessert, making the three-course prix fixe menu offered from 5 to 6 p.m. a bargain at $34. —Ann Herold

Pohole Fern Salad at JO2 Restaurant
Meghan McCarron

4. Hamura Saimin

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2956 Kress St
Lihue, HI 96766
(808) 245-3271
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Saimin is a noodle soup unique to Hawai‘i and an essential part of the islands’ culture since saimin stands became commonplace in the 1930s. Honored by the James Beard Foundation as an American classic, Hamura, founded in 1951 by Aiko and Charlie Hamura, serves some of Hawai‘i’s most iconic bowls, including a popular version with the traditional Chinese-style noodles in a Japanese broth and brimming with handmade wontons, char siu pork, egg, and green onions. Inside the humble bungalow that’s been declared a state historic site, tourists and locals alike slurp at a U-shaped wood counter. A counter near the exit sells exquisite liliko‘i chiffon pie, along with manapua (pork-filled buns) and shave ice. —AH

Saimin at Hamura Saimin
Kathy YL Chan

5. Matsumoto Shave Ice

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66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605
Haleiwa, HI 96712
(808) 637-4827
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This is the place to experience classic shave ice: Order a rainbow, topped with mochi if you so desire. One of the oldest and best-known shave ice purveyors in Hawai‘i, Matsumoto began as a grocery store on O‘ahu’s North Shore in 1951. The operators added shave ice a few years later because “business was kinda slow,” current owner (and son of the founders) Stanley Matsumoto told Hawaii Magazine in 2014. During the surfing boom of the 1960s and ’70s and the tourism boom that followed, the shave ice took over. A recent redevelopment of Hale‘iwa Town has resulted in a shiny new space optimized for Matsumoto’s inevitable lines. —MMc

Shave ice at Matsumoto
Matsumoto / Official website

6. Waiahole Poi Factory

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48-140 Kamehameha Hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808) 239-2222
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Located alongside the stunning Kamehameha Highway, which meanders up O‘ahu’s windward side, Waiahole Poi Factory is one of the few places to experience freshly prepared poi — both traditionally hand-pounded and prepared onsite by a heritage mill — using taro grown in the Waiāhole valley. Current owners Calvin and Charlene Hoe, alongside their son Liko, operate a gallery focused on Hawaiian art in addition to the restaurant and poi factory. The starchy Hawaiian staple pairs perfectly with the plate lunches of kālua pig and laulau, but the truly unmissable dish is the hot kūlolo, which is taro combined with sugar and coconut milk to create a mochi-like treat, topped with vanilla ice cream. MMc

Lunch combo plate with kūlolo at Waiahole Poi Factory
Meghan McCarron

7. Soon’s Kal Bi Drive In

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898 Ala Lilikoi St
Honolulu, HI 96818
(808) 836-7665
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From a walk-up window next to a Pizza Hut, Soon’s serves some of the best Korean plate lunches on O‘ahu. Korean barbecue fare is an essential facet of the takeout plate lunch culture, adding kalbi, bulgogi, and barbecue chicken to the native Hawaiian and pan-Asian dishes available with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad or various kimchi. Soon’s delivers on all the classics, but you’re really here for their meat jhun — an only-in-Hawai‘i concoction of pan-fried egg-battered beef slices, both flaky crisp and chewy, served with an obsession-worthy sauce of shoyu, mirin, garlic, and probably just some straight-up sugar. Located a short drive from the airport, Soon’s is the perfect first stop in Hawai‘i or the place for a great last meal — and if you want to be the brave soul who brings kimchi on a plane, I say go for it. —Scotty Kan

Kalbi combo at Soon’s Kal Bi BBQ
Soon’s Kal Bi BBQ / Facebook

8. ‘Ai Love Nalo

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41-1025 Kalanianaole Hwy
Waimanalo, HI 96795
(808) 888-9102
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When a vegan restaurant tucked in a converted gas station inspires carnivores to undertake a winding, 40-minute coastal drive from Honolulu, you know the appeal is not just the health factor. In fact, Maya Merrifield’s food feels downright indulgent, whether it’s the Oh Wow Lau Lau’s steamed taro and Okinawan sweet potato nestled in lūʻau leaves, or the Poi Parfait’s jewel-like layers of pineapple, papaya, purple sweet potato, apple banana, chocolate granola and creamy poi. The side of Waimānalo ambience doesn’t hurt, either — out front, a view of the verdant Ko‘olau Mountains past busy Kalaniana‘ole Highway; out back, a “Garden of Eatin’” with papaya and breadfruit trees. —Mari Taketa

Assortment of veggie bowla at Ai Love Nalo
Thomas Obungen / Frolic Hawaii

9. Helena’s Hawaiian Food

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1240 N School St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 845-8044
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Located in a strip mall in Honolulu’s Kapālama neighborhood, the front of Helena’s is lined with benches for the many pilgrims who visit this beloved Hawaiian restaurant. Founded in 1946 by Helen Chock and currently run by her grandson, Craig Katsuyoshi, Helena’s serves a menu devoted to classics like kālua pork, squid lū‘au, and poi, the traditional Hawaiian mashed taro dish. The true speciality, however, is the pipikaula ribs, marinated in soy and hung to dry for several hours before being fried in well-seasoned cast iron skillets. Go hungry, and with a group if you can, then order a massive combination platter — the many small, delightful bowls of food that arrive will make for a hearty feast in the convivial dining room. —MMc

Inside Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Meghan McCarron

10. Liliha Bakery

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515 N Kuakini St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 531-1651
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Liliha Bakery’s coco puffs — cream puffs filled with chocolate pudding and topped with a buttery “chantilly” frosting — draw tourists and locals alike, but it’s the diner side that nurtures everyday hungers. From retirees in the morning to those restless in love and insomnia late at the night, diners find comfort here, eased along by the quietly friendly women who have worked the counter for decades and the no-frills Hawai‘i/American menu of saimin, hamburgers, country omelet, and an incomparably light and crispy thin waffle. (Note: There are two locations, but the original, opened in 1950, is open 24 hours and has a more homey feel.) —Martha Cheng

A waffle dish at Liliha Bakery
Photo: Frolic Hawaii / Official Website

11. Ethel’s Grill

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232 Kalihi St
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 847-6467
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A timeless hole-in-the-wall on the ground floor of a cinderblock walk-up near the docks, Ethel’s Grill is crowded with truck drivers, politicians, chefs, and tourists. Opened in the 1960s by its namesake, Ethel’s took off in the ’70s when Ryoko and Yoichi Ishii took over (and when people couldn’t pronounce “Ryoko,” calling her Ethel instead). Dishes are a mix of local-style comfort and exuberant mashups (think chicken liver and kimchi stir-fry) and reflect the family’s Japanese-Okinawan-Mexican-local heritage. The seared ‘ahi sashimi topped with soy-marinated garlic chips is legendary; more recently, the Ishiis’ daughter Minaka and husband Robert Urquidi have taken over and introduced the Okinawan-inspired taco rice, which layers ground beef, lettuce, and shredded cheese with rice, cracks the fried taco shell in half and plants it in the top like bunny ears. —MT

Outside Ethel’s Grill
Meghan McCarron

12. The Pig and The Lady

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83 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 585-8255
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A Chinatown gem whose Vietnamese-inspired global fare draws crowds of regulars, tourists, and celebrities alike, Pig catalyzed the transformation of a deserted-after-5 p.m. district into the city’s hottest restaurant neighborhood when it opened in 2013. Andrew Le and Keaka Lee’s dishes are outwardly bold and irreverent, but reveal subtle, sophisticated layering of soft and crunchy, sweet and sour, spicy and salty, hot and cold. Grilled betel leaf sausages stuffed with braised Spanish octopus and lemongrass minced beef, and Kauai shrimp spaghetti in shrimp-head butter with shishito peppers and preserved lemon zest are here one month, gone the next on a constantly changing menu. —MT

A variety of dishes at The Pig and The Lady
Hillary Dixler Canavan

13. Senia

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75 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 200-5412
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Arguably Honolulu’s buzziest restaurant ever, this 50-seat phenom pairs two high-wattage chefs, Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush, who met a decade ago while working at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Their joint venture (with general manager Katherine Nomura, who is married to Rush) offers two distinct menus. The main dining room serves an a la carte sweep of modern American small plates, pastas, and large-format platters like glazed pork belly with beet “char siu.” Wednesday through Sunday, Kajioka and Rush also flex their fine-dining chops by preparing a $185-per-person tasting menu replete in caviar, foie gras, and truffles. —Bill Addison

A cabbage dish at Senia
Hillary Dixler Canavan

14. Bar Leather Apron

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745 Fort St #127A
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 524-0808
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You could go all the way to Tokyo to drink immaculate cocktails made with a highly curated selection of whisky (Japanese and otherwise) in a compact bar camouflaged by an antiseptic corporate tower — or you could go to Bar Leather Apron. Tom Park, the owner of renowned shoe store Leather Soul, and bartender Justin Park (no relation) have pulled off an experience that feels both transportive and completely at home in Honolulu. Its set of intriguing drinks lean heavily on Japanese spirits, ingredients, or flavor profiles and stands up to the best of anything you’d find in New York, or, yes, Tokyo. (The prices, unfortunately, match, too.) The truest testament to Park’s palate and skill are that even the drinks that should be a disaster in a cup — the matcha old-fashioned, for instance — are totally delightful. —Matt Buchanan

A matcha cocktail at Bar Leather Apron
Matt Buchanan

15. Zippy’s

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1222 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 594-3720
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This sit-down-or-take-out restaurant chain, cherished by Hawai‘i’s kamaʻāina (longtime residents) serves up a side of Hawai‘i tourists don’t see: the multicultural, blue-collar “local food” familiar to anyone born and raised in the 50th state. Returning expats make a beeline to Zippy’s for long-simmered oxtail soup crowded with peanuts and cilantro; locally sourced beef burgers glazed with teriyaki sauce; and all-day breakfasts that make good neighbors of pancakes, spicy Portuguese sausage, local eggs, and fried rice. Founded by the Higa brothers in 1966 and still family-owned, Zippy’s retains the small-town, come-on-in feeling of the American diners that inspired it. —Lavonne Leong

Exterior at Zippy’s
Hillary Dixler Canavan

16. Kyung’s Seafood Restaurant

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1269 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 589-1144
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Does your ideal night out involve massive plates of sashimi, a kimchi pancake, and a pitcher or three of strawberry soju slushie? Then you’re not alone, because Kyung’s specializes in all three, and it’s regularly packed. Opened in 2012 by Kyung Cha, a former seafood distributor, the restaurant serves lunch, but the real draw is late nights, especially on Friday and Saturday, when hours extend until 2 a.m. Join chefs and other locals to feast on Korean classics and affordable, high-quality raw fish, including great poke. —MMc

A dish at Kyung’s Seafood
Meghan McCarron

17. Sushi Izakaya Gaku

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1329 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 589-1329
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Rare is the Japanese restaurant that can pull off flawless izakaya classics as well as excellent sushi and sashimi, but Gaku nails both. Manabu Kikuchi’s menu is roving and catholic, from the fried fish skeletons to kurobuta pork loin to piles of fresh uni to the “seafood dynamite” — a mound of sea creatures in a giant clamshell, smothered with cheese (it’s as good as it sounds). It’s possible that nothing will blow your mind at Gaku, but nothing will disappoint you, either — an under-appreciated form of excellence for restaurants. You’ll walk out realizing you had a great meal and a really good time, and how singular that simple pleasure can be. —MB

Sushi at Sushi Izakaya Gaku
Photo: Frolic Hawaii / Official Website

18. MW Restaurant

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1538 Kapiolani Blvd #107
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 955-6505
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Pioneers of 1990s-era Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine — a style that would come to be known as Pacific Rim (and, yes, the f-word: fusion) — accelerated the islands’ organic, century-long merger of Asian, Polynesian, and American flavors by quantum leaps. The culinary movement, led by chefs like Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, gave the state’s restaurant culture its first prolonged limelight. These days its spirit of creativity and local pride most successfully animates the kitchen of Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka, who both cooked at Alan Wong’s Honolulu for nearly 20 years before opening their own restaurant. Fusion chestnuts like ‘ahi nachos flaunt the kind of plucky appeal that first made them a sensation. Even better are subtle entrees like steamed opah with scallop hash and stir-fried vegetables, and MW’s secret weapon: Karr-Ueoka’s ornate but deeply gratifying desserts, including deconstructed riffs on shave ice and coconut cake. —BA

Tempura scallops at MW Restaurant
MW Restaurant / Facebook

19. Ahi Assassins Fish Co.

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2570 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 439-4045
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The only sign you’re in for some of the best fish of your life is a set of multicolored marine capture flags, stamped with images of ‘ahi, marlin, and other fish, hung over the second-floor balcony of a modest office building in Honolulu’s Mō‘ili‘ili neighborhood. Opened in 2014 by Josh Schade and Erika Luna, Ahi Assassins is a fisherman-run operation, serving local, freshly caught fish — or, as their website says, slayed, weighed, and fileted, all in-house. You’re here for the poke, available in flavors ranging from shoyu garlic to the spicy “lunatic,” all of it buttery and impeccably fresh. Don’t skip the smoked marlin dip, an endlessly scoopable umami bomb, or the daily hot specials, which change depending on what comes directly off the boat. There’s nowhere to eat inside the tiny storefront, but the Taiwanese shave ice shop, Frostcity, below will let you dig into your poke there if you order a mango ice or two. —MMc

Poke at Ahi Assassins
Photo: Frolic Hawaii / Official Website

20. Home Bar & Grill

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1683 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 942-2235
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Most sports bars aren’t known for their braised short rib loco mocos, kimchi steak on a sizzling platter, kalbi piled on noodles, or fried furikake chicken bites — but most sports bars aren’t run by chefs with a fine dining pedigree. In 2011, John Estrella, Brandon Hamada, and Neil Nakasone, who met cooking at Alan Wong’s, opened Home Bar & Grill, with heaping portions of hearty food that go great with beer. There’s killer tater tot nachos, and there’s also dishes that reveal the chefs’ fancier past, like the negitoro, a play on the raw tuna and green onion combination, which might be the best raw fish dish you’ll ever have in view of 11 TVs tuned to ESPN. —MC

Inside Home Bar & Grill
Meghan McCarron

21. Leonard’s Bakery

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933 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-5591
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Yes, it’s touristy; yes, it’s crowded — and yes, Leonard’s is absolutely the best place to get a taste of Hawai‘i's favorite fried dough creation. Malassadas, the Portuguese doughnuts found throughout Honolulu, make for an excellent breakfast or afternoon snack. The essential order is an unfilled malassada dusted in cinnamon sugar, though if you’re going for a dozen, also try some of the fillings, like coconutty haupia and rich, chocolate dobash. —Hillary Dixler Canavan

Malasadas at Leonard’s Bakery
Hillary Dixler Canavan

22. Mud Hen Water

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3452 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Among O‘ahu native Ed Kenney’s four Honolulu restaurants, Mud Hen Water is his crowning achievement — a wholehearted culinary expression of Hawai‘i whose menu honors local culture and also showcases Kenney’s inventiveness. Some dishes nod clearly to traditional Hawaiian foods, like his take on paiai (pounded taro molded into silken cakes) or squid lūʻau pureed with fresh coconut milk and garnished with grilled octopus. Others — such as the ridiculously fun baked banana, gilded with peanuts, bacon, and curry butter — draw on regionally grown ingredients to create witty novelties. The setting is neighborhood-restaurant casual: mismatched tables, central bar, sprawling patio for street-side people watching. —BA

A dish at Mud Hen Water
Hillary Dixler Canavan

23. Koko Head Cafe

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1145 12th Ave C
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-8920
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Koko Head Cafe is a laid-back Honolulu brunch destination. Chef Lee Anne Wong’s daytime-only Kaimukī restaurant pleases locals and visitors alike with ambitious takes on Hawai‘i breakfast staples, like miso-marinated fish with eggs, or “koko moko,” Wong’s take on loco moco that includes a beef patty, garlic rice, mushroom gravy, and tempura kimchi. Zero in on the breakfast congee, studded with sausage, cheddar cheese, and croutons, for a particularly soulful example of the flavor building Wong does best. —HDC

Storefront of Koko Head Cafe
Meghan McCarron

24. Ono Seafood

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747 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-4806
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Stuck to the side of an apartment building like a barnacle, this takeout-only poke spot by mother-and-daughter owners Judy Sakuma and Kim Brug lures the poke-obsessed (and those very soon to be) with fatty chunks of pristine ‘ahi seasoned to order. This is the place to experience the classics, like ‘ahi poke slicked with a slightly sweet shoyu sauce spiked with ginger or mixed with crunchy limu, coarse sea salt, and nutty, oily ‘inamona. A poke bowl here means cool fish on hot rice that’s best eaten immediately, alongside a few treasures plucked from the fridge like ruby red slices of sashimi, taegu (candied codfish), and boiled peanuts. —MC

Ono Seafood in Honolulu
Meghan McCarron

25. Diamond Head Market & Grill

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3158 Monsarrat Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 732-0077
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Opened in 2002 by chef Kelvin Ro, locals and tourists alike flock to Diamond Head Grill to grab picnic food for a day at the beach in Waikīkī or a hike up Diamond Head. The establishment is half market and bakery on one side, and grill and takeout window on the other. The market serves up desserts like an iconic lemon crunch cake and blueberry cream cheese scones that locals obsess over. From the grill, the smart move — if you’re a weightlifter, deficient in protein, or just really hungry — is the mix plate with teriyaki chicken, char siu pork, and a hamburger patty with gravy. Order brown rice and tell yourself you’re making healthy choices. —SK

Outside of Diamond Head Market & Grill
Meghan McCarron

26. Kanemitsu’s Bakery

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79 Ala Malama Ave
Kaunakakai, HI 96748
(808) 553-5855
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On the tiny island of Moloka‘i, the iconic late-night snack comes from a bakery: oven-fresh loaves of bread sliced and slathered with copious amounts of butter, cream cheese, cinnamon, and fruit jam. Open until midnight, Kanemitsu Bakery’s after-hours “hot bread” window keeps serving its pillowy treats long after the rest of the island has shut down and drifted to sleep. Any local in Kaunakakai can point the way down the unlit alley to its nondescript counter where orders are placed. —BL

Outside of Kanemitsu’s Bakery
PF Bentley

27. Mama’s Fish House

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799 Poho Pl
Paia, HI 96779
(808) 579-8488
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Maui’s most famous upscale restaurant maintains its stature by serving fish delivered to the kitchen daily by local fishermen. The menu lists the day’s catch, the fishing area, the boatman, and sometimes even the boat. Order accordingly, zeroing in on unpretentious pleasures like ‘ōpakapaka (pink snapper) perfumed with ginger and sizzling peanut oil. For something more elaborate, feast on the Traditional Hawaiian: fish and wild boar slow-cooked in a ti leaf with sides of poke, octopus lūʻau, and breadfruit. Note that entree prices can soar into the $50 to $60 range; meals include a stunning beachside location and the island’s most gracious front-of-house staff. Make reservations well in advance of your visit. —BA

A dish at Mama’s Fish House
Bill Addison

28. Sam Sato’s

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1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, HI 96793
(808) 244-7124
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A family-run locals’ haunt in business since 1933, Sam Sato’s popularized dry mein, a satisfying variation on saimin (noodle soup): Thick, wheaty strands seasoned with soy sauce come piled in a wide bowl, garnished with strips of char siu pork, bean sprouts, and scallions, and served with a cup of dashi on the side. The restaurant operates Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mornings are an especially satisfying time to take in the diner-esque vibe of the place, with servers zipping between tables delivering dry mein, saimin, and plates of teriyaki. Pick up a few turnovers filled with pineapple or coconut while paying at the register. —BA

A burger, dry mein, and ribs at Sam Sato’s
Kathy YL Chan

29. Poi By The Pound

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430 Kele St
Kahului, HI 96732
(808) 283-9381
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A five-minute drive from Kahului Airport, Poi By The Pound is Maui’s definitive immersion course into Hawaiian/local classics: loco moco, saimin, kālua pork with cabbage, and, yes, a textbook cup of smooth, glossy poi. The kitchen’s repertoire is on full display with the combination Hawaiian Plate: pork laulau (wrapped in fragrant taro leaves), chicken long rice in a gingery broth, tomato-laced lomi salmon, kālua pork, and the requisite rice, poi, and macaroni salad. This is an all-day restaurant: Pancakes and omelets join the Breakfast Moco (two hamburger patties and two eggs with gravy and rice); marinated and grilled kalbi with kimchi and sweet bread does the job at dinner. —BA

Combo plate at Poi By The Pound
Bill Addison

30. Tin Roof

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360 Papa Pl y
Kahului, HI 96732
(808) 868-0753
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Top Chef fan favorite Sheldon Simeon and his wife Janice opened this tiny spot near Kahului airport in 2016 as an ode to the old-school dishes that make Hawai‘i delicious. His short menu preserves the flavors of Hawai‘i’s soul food — fried mochiko chicken, garlic shrimp, poke — while adding cheffy/stoner touches, like kochujang aioli or crushed Funyuns on fried beets. Check the daily specials, which often feature dishes that announce Simeon’s pride in his Filipino heritage. —MC

A dish at Tin Roof
Bill Addison

31. The Mill House

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1670 Honoapiilani Hwy
Wailuku, HI 96793
(808) 270-0333
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Part of the Maui Tropical Plantation, a 60-acre facility that showcases agricultural diversity and offers zipline tours, The Mill House proves that a spectacular Hawai‘i location need not include an ocean view. Sit on the patio to gape at the rushing river mere yards away, with crop-covered plateaus and lush mountains in the near distance. Executive chef Jeff Scheer matches the setting with a New American menu whose dishes bounce around the globe (pork tacos, chicken bao buns, wide noodles served with beef ragu made using meat from cattle raised on the plantation) but can also astutely land close to home: Check out the braised taro leaf with bone marrow and rice, and also the witty musubi topped with mortadella. —BA

The Mill House in Maui
Bill Addison

32. Lanai City Bar & Grille

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828 Lanai Ave
Lanai City, HI 96763
(808) 565-7212
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This 1920s-era building tucked into a sleepy 3,000-resident-strong “city” is pure old-school Hawai‘i, but the cooking by Jimi Lasquete couldn’t be more current: expertly sourced produce from nearby Maui farms that’s incorporated into salads or roasted and served with remarkable Asian sauces. Lasquete, a chef who trained at Bay Area luminaries like Chez Panisse and Aqua and whose culinary influences include his Filipino chef father, also makes standout dishes from the island’s large population of axis deer, like the venison loin with a black cherry cabernet demi-glace. —AH

Twice cooked crispy fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy at Lanai City Bar and Grille
Lanai City Bar and Grille / Facebook

33. Leoda’s Pie House

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820 Olowalu Village Rd
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 662-3600
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The name doesn’t lie: fantastic pie awaits those who make the trek to this all-day restaurant along the island’s western limit. Think sweet pies like chocolate-haupia (coconut pudding), banana cream, and pineapple-macadamia nut; hand pies filled with apples or savories such as carnitas; and pot pies such as turkey with gravy and vegetables (basically Thanksgiving en croute). Pie is life — who needs anything more? — but there are also breakfast egg dishes, sandwiches, hot dogs, and chicken and waffles to fill out the menu. —BA

A local lilikoi cheese pie at Leoda’s Pie House
Leoda’s Pie House / Facebook

34. Ka'ana Kitchen

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3550 Wailea Alanui Dr
Wailea, HI 96753
(808) 573-1234
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The marquee dining room at the stunning Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort distinguishes itself among the island’s hundreds of hotel restaurants in so many ways. Maui native Isaac Bancaco sidesteps hotel-restaurant doldrums with modern American cooking that’s as skillfully prepared as it is fun: Sharable plates include fried chicken with mochi, a daily-changing, locally caught fish in ginger soubise with hearts of palm, and abalone with scallion fritters and sea asparagus. The restaurant overlooks a tiered terrace for prime ocean views, and the staff, including bartenders, are engaged and friendly. —BA

Grilled octopus at Ka’Ana Kitchen
Andaz Maui

35. Moon and Turtle

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51 Kalakaua St
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 961-0599
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One of the best restaurants to open on Hawai‘i Island in the last few years, Moon and Turtle embodies Hilo’s fiercely local spirit. Each day, chef-owner Mark Pomaski — a Hilo local who got his start in the kitchens of legendary Hawai‘i chef Roy Yamaguchi — hits the downtown farmers market to craft a fresh and evolving menu that changes constantly. Expect dishes like striped marlin seasoned with kiawe-smoked soy, or wild boar mac and cheese, or seafood stew made with Kona cold mussels and fresh-caught ‘ōpakapaka. What can’t be sourced from Hawai‘i Island or across the state is often done in-house: Peek in before dinner service and you might see Pomaski pulling pasta amid tables adorned with local wildflowers or, behind the big wooden bar, taste-testing cocktails made with the restaurant’s own spiced rum. —Meghan Miner Murray

Fish over couscous in a tomato parmesan broth at Moon & Turtle
Matt Buchanan

36. Two Ladies Kitchen

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274 Kilauea Ave
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 961-4766
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Even if you neglect to order the famed fresh strawberry mochi in advance, you’ll want every other seasonal fruit mochi that the family-owned and -operated Two Ladies Kitchen has on offer (white peach during the summer, for instance). Each one is a tiny flavor grenade, elegantly wrapped in fresh mochi. Because most fresh fruit can’t leave the state of Hawai‘i (womp womp), for gifts consider the butterfly (koshi-an and white chocolate), peanut butter, and butter mochi (sort of like a custardy, chewy blondie), in addition to the more classic flavors like plum flower. —MB

Assortment of mochi from Two Ladies Kitchen
Matt Buchanan

37. Teshima’s Restaurant

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79-7251 Hawaii Belt Rd
Kealakekua, HI 96750
(808) 322-9140
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Opened in 1929 as a general store by Shizuko “Mary” Teshima — known to most as Grandma, she died in 2013, at the age of 106 — and her husband, Teshima’s is a living monument to the history of the island. It evolved first into a saimin stand, and then finally a full restaurant and bar in 1957. The food, like the space, is classic, worn-in, and homey — humble takes on donburi, tempura, chazuke, omelet fried rice. The move is one of the super reasonably priced teishoku set meals, which come with sashimi, sukiyaki, tsukemono, miso soup, and rice. —MB

A teishoku set at Teshima’s
Matt Buchanan

38. Manago Hotel Restaurant

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82-6155 Mamalahoa Hwy
Captain Cook, HI 96704
(808) 323-2642
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In Kona, there’s a rumor that the Manago Hotel has the best fried pork chops anywhere because its cast iron pans are as old as the restaurant itself, which just celebrated its centennial in 2017. Attached to the inn, the restaurant serves straightforward feasts: pan-fried fish, steaks, and teriyaki chicken. Don’t worry about ordering sides; every table gets a family-style sampler of local comfort foods like chicken long rice or seaweed salad that arrive on pink melamine dishes, alongside a heaping bowl of white rice. For the main course, order a large or extra-large bone-in chop with gravy — with onions or without — and revel in an ambiance that is one part summer camp mess hall and one part grandma’s house. —MMM

Pork chops at Manago
Manago Restaurant / Facebook

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1. Tahiti Nui Restaurant

5-5134 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714
Inside Tahiti Nui Restaurant
PF Bentley

In the heart of Hanalei, where waterfalls rush down the spines of evergreen mountain peaks, a 1960s restaurant and tiki bar endures, preserving its longtime standing as this surf town's official spot to imbibe and unwind. Serving up Tahitian-style poisson cru and the stiffest mai tai in town, Tahiti Nui is the quintessential thatched-wall escapist bar, right down to the outrigger canoe paddlers and fishermen who fill the bar stools. —Brittany Lyte

5-5134 Kuhio Hwy
Hanalei, HI 96714

2. Wailua Shave Ice

4-1306 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746
Wailua Shave Ice
Meghan McCarron

All over Hawai‘i, new-school shave ice purveyors are using local fruit and natural flavors, but none more inventively than this wildly popular trailer smack in the tourist center of Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i. Co-founders Brandon Baptiste and Josh Tamoaka — both Kaua‘i natives, while Baptiste is an alum of the Culinary Institute of America and Per Se — inventively combine flavor and texture to create rich, fruity shave ices capped with featherlight foam. Try the hyper-popular Lava Flow, which combines pineapple juice, coconut foam, and strawberry puree. With locations in Portland and San Diego, and more projects in the works, Wailua has the makings of an empire, but for now it’s best experienced at one of their bright-red picnic tables in the tropical sunshine. —Meghan McCarron

4-1306 Kuhio Hwy
Kapaa, HI 96746

3. JO2 Restaurant

4-971 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746
Pohole Fern Salad at JO2 Restaurant
Meghan McCarron

Some of the most creative cooking in all of Hawai‘i takes place nightly in a tiny strip mall in Kapa‘a on Kauai. For the past three years at JO2, French-born chef Jean-Marie Josselin has worked alchemy on the island’s produce and seafood. A culinary school student in Paris by the age of 15, Josselin reinvents classic dishes with a Pacific Rim twist. The carpaccio appetizer is an heirloom squash; an ono ceviche is topped with a coconut water foam; a tempura lobster tail is the star of a ramen dish. Dinner is worth the splurge of roughly $60 for appetizer, entrée, and dessert, making the three-course prix fixe menu offered from 5 to 6 p.m. a bargain at $34. —Ann Herold

4-971 Kuhio Hwy
Kapaa, HI 96746

4. Hamura Saimin

2956 Kress St, Lihue, HI 96766