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.
Part of the Eater Guide to Hawai‘iRead More