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Rectangular fried wedges of potato croquettes, served on a plate with a small bowl of uni, alongside a white cocktail
Croquettes and uni at Bar Māze.
Bar Māze

The 38 Essential Honolulu Restaurants

Bacon-wrapped mochi at a yakitori omakase tucked behind a jiu-jitsu school, haw flake blonde ale at a craft beer lab started by Pearl Harbor engineers, and more great bites to try now in Honolulu

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Croquettes and uni at Bar Māze.
| Bar Māze

Outside interests have made money in Hawai‘i for centuries, including in food. Waves of restaurateurs from the continental U.S. and abroad have opened restaurants in Honolulu, with everyone from Japanese conglomerates to Michael Mina setting up shop. But simultaneously, Honolulu’s homegrown businesses have been able to ride the most recent wave of excitement to expand themselves. In the last decade, tiny mom-and-pop restaurants opened second locations, while established local chains expanded their reach. More and more chefs have worked to learn about Hawai‘i’s history and culture to respectfully incorporate aspects into their restaurants. That is to say, diners in Honolulu are a bit spoiled for choice.

Updated, November 2022:

The heat has finally released its grip on Honolulu. The city’s Japanese restaurants are celebrating fall with matsutake mushrooms and fatty fishes like nodoguro, while the pastry shops are busy slipping Maui-grown persimmons into their sweets. Honolulu’s shift in seasons are subtle, though, and sunset snacks of mochi and malasadas are still a good idea year-round.

For some of the best eating these days, head to the city’s Japanese spots, from grilled skewers at the speakeasy-like Yakitori Ando to the sleek, newly renovated Restaurant Suntory, an excellent all-rounder. Honolulu also shines in the casual realm, including longtime local spots like Ethel’s Grill, as well as hip newcomers like Pizza Mamo, which has perfected the Detroit pie. Be forewarned: Around the holidays, as demand for fresh tuna increases, you may experience an uptick in poke prices.

We update this list quarterly to make sure it reflects the ever-changing Honolulu dining scene.

Martha Cheng is the food editor at Honolulu Magazine, the author of The Poke Cookbook, and a writer for national publications.

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Waiahole Poi Factory

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This is one of the few Hawaiian restaurants (see here for a definition of what Hawaiian food actually is) owned by native Hawaiians. Charlene and Calvin Hoe bought an actual poi factory in 1971, using it primarily as an art gallery, then began serving food in 2009. Today, it’s also one of the few places that serves fresh pa‘i‘ai, cooked taro pounded with a lava rock pestle on a long wooden board to a mochi-like consistency. You’ll have to call in advance to reserve some, and if you’re lucky, you might catch the Hoes’ son, Liko, pounding it near the outdoor tables. Try the kanaka nui plate, a combination of pretty much everything on the menu, add a side of ho‘io (fiddlehead fern) salad, and finish with the Sweet Lady of Waiahole, warm kulolo (a taro and coconut dessert) topped with a scoop of haupia (coconut) ice cream.

A takeout container with a variety of dishes
Takeout from Waiahole Poi Factory
Martha Cheng

Over Easy

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Honolulu loves breakfast, and few places do it better than Over Easy, a warm, happy family operation anyone would be proud to support. Delicate, golden, crispy-edged pancakes are the highlight of sweet dishes, but don’t leave without trying the pig hash with lomi tomatoes and Okinawan sweet potatoes, or the bacon-cabbage broth poured over a bowl of rice and Portuguese sausage. Outside seating and takeout are available.

From above, a table with pancakes, a bacon-topped breakfast bowl, and other dishes
Full spread at Over Easy
Martha Cheng

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

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If you’re only going to one spot for traditional Hawaiian food, make it Helena’s. Locals have been lining up since the day Helena’s opened in 1946, though a James Beard America’s Classics award in 2000 has brought in even more diners. First-timers should order set menu D, which comes with kalua pig, lomi salmon, pipikaula (air-dried, juicy short ribs, quick-fried for crunch), and squid lū’au (a savory dish of octopus and taro leaves in coconut milk), along with poi or rice.

From above, a table filled with small dishes
Set menu at Helena’s
Kathy YL Chan

Palace Saimin

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Saimin, an only-in-Hawai‘i mashup of Chinese-style noodles in a Japanese-style dashi broth, is at its best at Palace Saimin. Here, the menu consists only of saimin, wonton min, udon, and teri beef sticks. The interior, as simple and satisfying as the menu, has hardly changed since the place opened in 1946. If you’re taking out, make sure to get the soup packaged separately from the noodles so they don’t get soggy.

A bowl of saimin with noodles, dumplings, and meat
Saimin
Mark Noguchi

Liliha Bakery

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Coco Puffs, a Hawaiʻi classic, only come from Liliha Bakery. Each one is made of three parts: choux pastry, chocolate pudding, and chantilly (which in Hawaiʻi often refers to a frosting made from whipped butter, egg yolks, and sugar, as opposed to whipped cream). Liliha Bakery also happens to double as a legendary diner, serving excellent crisp waffles and butter rolls (ask for yours split and grilled). Though the business now includes five locations, a seat at the counter of the original Liliha on Kuakini Street is still the best move.

A chantilly-topped pastry, ripped open to reveal chocolate pudding inside
A Coco Puff in all its glory
Liliha Bakery / Facebook

Ethel’s Grill

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Ethel’s Grill has been serving truck drivers, politicians, chefs, and tourists near the docks for decades. Ryoko Ishii bought the restaurant in 1978 and never bothered to change the name. Today, her daughter and son-in-law serve comfort food that reflects their mixed heritage of Japanese, Okinawan, Mexican, and local culture. The seared ahi sashimi topped with soy-marinated garlic chips is a longtime classic, while the Okinawa-inspired taco rice — composed of layers of rice, ground beef, lettuce, and shredded cheese topped with a fried taco shell — is a more recent addition to the menu. Given its tiny dining room, Ethel’s continues to only offer takeout, which you can take to picnic at the nearby Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park.

Two takeout boxes, one with fried chicken and the other with slices of sashimi, served with greens and rice.
Takeout boxes from Ethel’s Grill.
Martha Cheng

Nami Kaze Hawaii

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One of Honolulu’s most exciting new restaurants, Nami Kaze serves freewheeling brunch during the day and izakaya-style small plates at night. Daytime dishes include teishoku (Japanese set breakfast), honey walnut shrimp waffles, and omelets that are really silky chawanmushi with toppings like mentaiko cream or maitake mushrooms in mornay sauce. After a decade helping other chefs open restaurants, chef/owner Jason Peel is really letting loose. At dinner that means Kona baby abalone done oysters Rockefeller style and ulu (breadfruit) tots with barbecue sauce. Mix and match; it’s all good fun.

Glazed shrimp and greens top a double stack of waffles.
Honey walnut shrimp waffles.
Martha Cheng

The Pig and the Lady

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The Pig and the Lady is a must-visit spot for its modern Vietnamese flavors. Its famous pho French dip is offered at lunch, while even more playful dishes are on the frequently updated dinner menu, which recently included clams braised with rau ram sausage and sea scallops baked with a curry sauce in their shell. You can also find the Pig and the Lady’s more traditional noodle soups, rice bowls, and sandwiches at its farmers market stalls, while sister restaurant Piggy Smalls marries Asian-American flavors with pasta, charcoal-grilled meats, and a rotating pho of the day.

A decorative bowl containing noodle soup topped with chicken, cilantro, and other fixins, beside a plate with a large stuffed puff pastry
Hu Tieu Ga Ca (rice noodle soup) with pork-stuffed pastry
The Pig and the Lady / Facebook

Anthony Rush and Katherine Nomura orchestrate one of Honolulu’s most-refined dining experiences. There are pastas like a sweet corn agnolotti dressed with crispy prosciutto and smoked trout roe, and large plates made for sharing, such as a triple-smoked king salmon, unveiled with a smoky flourish from underneath a glass cloche.

A serving board with bone marrow in the bone, long rolls, a small pot full of marmalade, a small pot of piccalilli, and various salts.
Roasted bone marrow.
Senia

Fête Hawaii

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Chef Robynne Maii was recently awarded a James Beard award — Hawai‘i’s first in almost 20 years — for her restaurant that features great cocktails and a menu that combines French, Italian, Korean, and Hawai‘i influences. Open from lunch through dinner, Fête turns out hits like carbonara with Portuguese sausage and rose veal schnitzel sauced with lilikoi. Definitely order off the specials menu, which usually showcases Hawai‘i’s seafood and the best produce in season, and don’t miss the house-made rocky road ice cream for dessert. There are a few outdoor tables, and takeout is also available.

Large slices of schnitzel served on a bed of cooked greens with a lilikoi fruit sliced beside.
Veal schnitzel.
Martha Cheng

Pizza Mamo

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On a hip corner of Chinatown, restaurateurs Danny Kaaialii and Jonny Vasquez set up the Daley, Encore Saloon, and Pizza Mamo, serving hyper-focused, platonic ideals of smash burgers, tacos, and pizza, respectively. Pizza Mamo is the newest of the trifecta, where Kaaialii and Vasquez teamed up with pizzaiolo Matthew Resich to create thin-crust Brooklyn-style pies and thick, crispy cheese-crowned Detroit pizzas that are some of the best you’ll find on or off the island.

A square slice of pepperoni pizza, held up to the camera, with the rest of the pizza in the background.
Detroit pizza.
Martha Cheng

Morning Glass Coffee

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Since Morning Glass opened in 2011, plenty of other cafes have sprung up with interiors and menus seemingly designed for the ’gram. Morning Glass has retained its rustic, no-frills look, focusing instead on its coffee and solid baked goods, including a liliko‘i honey biscuit and savory breakfast sandwiches.

A cafe counter with handwritten chalkboard menu hanging above
Inside Morning Glass
Matt Buchanan

8 Fat Fat 8 Bar & Grille

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Hawaiian-Chinese food is almost a regional cuisine of its own. At this divey karaoke and sports bar (also a genre of its own in Honolulu), you’ll find fine examples like crunchy gau gee (fried dumplings) and cake noodles (noodles pressed together and pan-fried). The menu also includes 8 Fat Fat 8’s own specialties, including salt-and-pepper fried pork chops and the crisp-skinned Fat Fat Chicken.

Fried dumplings on a decorative plate with dipping sauce
Gau gee
8 Fat Fat 8 [Official Photo]

Bar Māze

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Bar Māze is the second venture of Justin Park and Tom Park (no relation). Their first, Bar Leather Apron, is still a must-visit for some of the best cocktails in Honolulu, but the food there can be an afterthought. Not so at Bar Māze, where the Parks partnered with chef Ki Chung to create a stunning cocktail-paired tasting menu (you can also request a nonalcoholic pairing, but even the booze version is surprisingly light). Chung brings Korean and Japanese influences to dishes like donabe with wagyu, served ssam-style. The compact space is divided into two sections: downstairs — where Chung and Justin Park serve a tasting menu, no substitutions — and the mezzanine, which offers an a la carte menu of small bites. Reservations are required for either.

Rectangular fried wedges of potato croquettes, served on a plate with a small bowl of uni, alongside a white cocktail
Potato croquettes with Hokkaido uni.
Bar Māze

Kyung’s Seafood

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Kyung’s central location and casual digs make it a favorite of chefs and in-the-know locals. It’s best in the evenings, for a night of good company coupled with seafood and spicy Korean fare that demands booze. Order the large sashimi platter to share, add on a few hot dishes and a pitcher of strawberry soju slush, and call it a night. Kyung’s also makes great poke (especially the salmon-‘ahi mix).

A table topped with a large sashimi platter among other dishes
Sashimi platter
Kathy YL Chan

Sushi Izakaya Gaku

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Reservations are a must at Gaku, a classic izakaya with a cult following. The place may feel casual, but meals get expensive fast. It’s worth it. Order the negitoro tartare (with masago, ponzu, green onions, and a raw quail egg), the uni and ikura shooters topped with shoyu jelly, and the house-made tofu.

A small bowl of uni, ikura, and shoyu jelly on a bed of ice
Uni and ikura shooter
Kathy YL Chan

Hana Koa Brewing Co.

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One of Honolulu’s most popular breweries, in Kaka‘ako’s brewery corridor, Hana Koa offers an ever-changing tap list, from the staple Rooftop pale ale to the recent Snoop POGG, an imperial kettle sour ale riffing on Hawai‘i’s beloved drink of passionfruit, orange, and guava juices. The ground floor has a lively and open atmosphere, while the second floor hides a more intimate cocktail bar.

A long bar with wood bar stools and a row of taps gleaming behind
The bar at Hana Koa.
Hana Koa

Inaba Restaurant

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Homemade soba is the draw at this Japanese gem. Come for the lunch specials, which include soba topped with Hokkaido uni and ikura, and the battera set: pressed mackerel sushi with soba on the side. Then return for a dinner of hot soba with seared duck and mushrooms.

A bowl of soba topped with uni and ikura
Soba at Inaba
Inaba / Facebook

Chengdu Taste

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San Gabriel Valley import Chengdu Taste helped bring Sichuan cuisine to Honolulu. Between the boiled fish with green peppers and the chilled mung bean noodles, it’s all about Sichuan classics executed with finesse. Meanwhile, its sister restaurant downstairs, Mian, specializes in noodles and meaty wontons in pork bone broth or hot chile oil. Both restaurants offer takeout.

From above, various dishes packed on a table
A full spread at Chengdu Taste
Martha Cheng

Izakaya Torae Torae

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Torae Torae applies playful creativity to staple izakaya dishes. Take the donburi menu, which offers a standard chirashi as well as a kaisen don, upgraded with amaebi (including their fried heads) and buttery coins of ankimo, monkfish liver known as the foie of the sea. The Gluttony Bowl includes otoro and uni, topped with yamaimo (yam) and a slow-cooked egg. Natto lovers will revel in the stamina don, which combines the gooey fermented beans with equally slippery yamaimo, as well as okra and a raw quail egg.

A takeout container with fried shrimp, octopus, fish, and other ingredients
Takeout kaisen don
Noelle Chun

‘ili‘ili Cash & Carry

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Part deli and part pizza shop, ‘Ili‘ili serves stuffed hoagies on their own bread, plus Sicilian and New York-style pizzas by the slice and whole (definitely order online for the whole). Toppings range from “choke” (local slang for “a lot”) pepperoni to the Michelle Obama, a pairing of sausage and giardiniera. ‘Ili‘ili is also a production kitchen for a few other businesses, so take advantage by picking up a pint of Double Fat Ice Cream’s Hawaiian spumoni: lilikoi, macadamia, and white chocolate.

From above, two full pizzas in open boxes
Pizzas from ‘ili’ili.
Martha Cheng

Fujiya Hawaii

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This mochi shop has been around since 1953, but recently changed ownership, resulting in new flavors like a purple sweet potato daifuku and yuzu marmalade manju. The classics, such as red bean daifuku and milk-flavored chi chi dango, are still available too. Few other mochi shops anywhere are able to meld the old and new as beautifully and deliciously as Fujiya.

From above, a tin of various kinds of brightly colored mochi.
An assortment of mochi.
Martha Cheng

MW Restaurant

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MW Restaurant represents Hawai‘i regional cuisine at its best. Wife-and-husband team Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka (both formerly of Alan Wong’s) convey warmth and attention to detail in the dining room and even their takeout menu. Weekly menus feature different themes, such as riffs on favorite dishes from Honolulu’s mom-and-pop businesses. Karr-Ueoka’s desserts, including a liliko‘i broken-glass Jell-O chiffon cake and strawberry matcha cake, are stars in Honolulu’s dessert landscape.

A pastry box with various cakes arrayed in front
Michelle Karr-Ueoka’s beautiful desserts
Martha Cheng

Beer Lab HI

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On the cutting edge of Honolulu’s craft brewing scene is Beer Lab HI, started by three Pearl Harbor engineers — Kevin Teruya, Nicolas Wong, and Derek Taguchi — who like to experiment wildly. The Ko‘olauloa IPA, for example, is cloudy and tastes like a Creamsicle: slightly sweet, juicy, with little of the typical IPA bitterness. The rest of the beer menu is an ever-changing list of experiments and limited-edition releases, like a li hing starfruit gose and haw flake blonde ale. Crowlers, growlers, and four-packs are available to go.

A wall with a customizable menu of handwritten signs
The handwritten beer menu at Beer Lab HI
Beer Lab HI/Facebook

Waiola Shave Ice

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There are newer and brighter shave ice spots offering fresh-made syrups or organic options. Waiola doesn’t have any of that, but everyone still lines up at the original location on Waiola Street for the no-frills nostalgia. The shop offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to shave ice: $3 scores you a large cone or cup with up to three flavors. Plus, Waiola has an enormous selection of flavors. Don’t leave town without trying the li hing mui (salty dried plum), liliko‘i cream, and pickled mango.

A plastic cup of shaved ice with oozing chocolate topping
Shave ice with toppings
Kathy YL Chan

The Lanai at Ala Moana Center

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This new food court at Honolulu’s open-air mall houses outposts of some of the city’s favorite small eateries, including Musubi Cafe Iyasume, which offers 20-some varieties of freshly made Spam musubi — with ume, avocado, or even unagi. There’s also Ahi & Vegetable, known for its spicy ahi and poke bowls, as well as inexpensive nigiri. The Hokkaido-based chain Brug Bakery offers pillowy soft breads and sweet and savory treats, from curry pan (a doughnut filled with Japanese beef curry) to an pan (a baked bun filled with sweetened azuki paste). You’ll find tables outside, and if you need extra dessert, head around the corner to Palme D’Or Patisserie for exquisite Japanese cakes by the slice.

A pastry topped with strawberries and pineapple
Fruit-filled pastry from Brug Bakery
Brug Bakery / Facebook

Bozu Japanese Restaurant

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Honolulu has plenty of excellent izakayas, but Bozu stands apart for its creativity within the izakaya framework of grilled, fried, and raw small plates. You’ll find classic and new preparations side by side on the menu: impeccable sashimi and a raw surf and turf roll of uni, beef, shiso, and yam; a braised pork belly kakuni alongside an American-style beef stew made with tongue and topped with melted cheese. Always order off the specials menu, which might include firefly squid, barely bigger than a thumb, with mustardy miso, or fish and chips Japanese-style: fried flounder and its crispy bones.

Rolls of raw beef around shiso and yam, topped with uni, served on a slate with soy sauce dipping bowl
Uni, beef, shiso, and yam.
Martha Cheng

Breadshop

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Owner Chris Sy, who was singled out in the Alinea cookbook for his dedication and perfectionism when he worked with Grant Achatz at Trio, applies that same focus to breads and pastries at Breadshop. In addition to a classic lineup of country breads and croissants, he also subtly folds Hawai‘i flavors into some of his burnished carbs, in items like furikake focaccia, or a croissant with spinach and taegu (candied codfish). Pastries are available in boxed assortments, but all orders must be placed in advance online.

Croissants and various baked goods on a plate
Pastries from Breadshop
Martha Cheng

Mud Hen Water

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Mud Hen Water offers Hawaiʻi-born chef Ed Kenney’s modern interpretation of Hawai‘i food. Known for his work at Town Restaurant and Mahina & Sun’s, Kenney manages to appeal to dining trends while fully respecting Hawaiian ingredients. Standouts include the porchetta rolled with lūʻau and loaded baked bananas with curry butter. Brunch includes a biscuit with mapo gravy and pork sisig, the sizzling Filipino dish, but made with pig’s head. Find cheerful outdoor seating beneath string lights in the courtyard.

A garage door decorated with the word aloha behind empty patio tables
Outside Mud Hen Water
Martha Cheng

Yakitori Ando

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One of the hardest reservations to get in town is at this omakase yakitori restaurant, hidden in the corner of a parking lot behind a bank and jiu-jitsu school in the Kaimukī neighborhood. Takashi Ando helmed the grill at Honolulu’s yakitori restaurants for more than two decades before he opened his own place and did away with menus. Here, he presides over a charcoal grill, attending to skewers of chicken cartilage and hearts, bacon-wrapped mochi, and Kaua‘i shrimp. Dinner ends with motsunabe, beef intestines simmered in a clear dashi broth. It’s omakase only and BYOB. Prices average around $60 a person.

Skewers of quail on a plate.
Quail at Yakitori Ando.
Martha Cheng

Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery

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As the lines outside Pipeline can attest, people have been hitting the comfort carbs hard during the pandemic. Like the best spots, Pipeline fries its malasadas to order, and you should definitely enjoy one while hot. But Pipeline breaks away from the crowded field with superior shelf life. The malasadas actually remain delicious a day after you pick them up. They’re not too greasy, strike the perfect balance between airy and heft, and come dusted in sugar, coffee, cocoa, or puckeringly sour-sweet li hing powder.

A box of powdered, filled donuts known as malasadas
Malasadas
Martha Cheng

Sushi Sho

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Sushi Sho stands out among Honolulu’s slew of high-end omakase sushi spots, and not just for its price point — starting at $300. Sho is known for the creativity of Keiji Nakazawa, one of Japan’s most acclaimed sushi chefs, who left Tokyo to open this 10-seat restaurant in the Ritz Carlton. He combines old Edomae sushi techniques, which highlight flavor nuances through aging fish such as wild yellowtail and moi, with nods to Hawai‘i, as with a bite-size riff on laulau, a traditional Hawaiian dish of pork wrapped in taro leaves. You’ll need reservations far in advance to dine in. Sushi Sho also offers a very short takeout menu that includes a bara chirashi, diced assorted seafood, prepared in various ways and served over sushi rice. The explosion of textures and flavors might include hamachi poke, bouncy herring roe, and crisp salmon skin.

From above, a takeout box filled with rice, topped with a bright variety of fish cuts
Bara chirashi
Martha Cheng

Koko Head Cafe

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Koko Head Cafe serves some of the best brunch in Honolulu. Chef Lee Anne Wong’s daytime dining spot in charming Kaimukī attracts locals and visitors ordering ambitious riffs 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. Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan recommends the breakfast congee — tricked out with sausage, cheddar cheese, and croutons — “for a particularly soulful example of the flavor building Wong does best.” The restaurant is currently open for dine-in and takeout.

Ono Seafood

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Located on the side of a residential apartment building, the poke spot from mother-and-daughter team Judy Sakuma and Kim Brug is the place to go for classics. The ‘ahi poke comes with sweet, ginger-spiked shoyu sauce or a mixture of crunchy limu (seaweed), coarse sea salt, and nutty, oily ‘inamona (kukui nuts). Everything is packed to-go, but the fatty chunks of ahi served over hot rice are best eaten immediately at the tables just outside the shop, alongside sashimi, taegu (candied codfish), and boiled peanuts.

Photo by Meghan McCarron

Maguro Brothers

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Maguro Brothers’ two locations are hard to find: One is hidden deep inside Chinatown’s Maunakea Market, the other in Waikīkī’s back streets. At either spot, though, it’s all about sashimi platters, donburi (get the king salmon sashimi with uni over rice), and poke by the bowl or pound. The fish quality is excellent, but it’s the outstanding knife work that makes Maguro Brothers stand out. That donburi and poke might be served in a styrofoam box, but you won’t find such beautifully cut fish casually sold to go anywhere else.

A takeout container with slices of salmon sashimi, scallion, pickled ginger, and uni
Donburi with salmon sashimi and uni.
Kathy YL Chan

Zippy’s

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Have you heard the commercials? “Next stop, Zippy’s!” Hawaiʻi’s iconic family diner chain has many locations throughout the state serving many purposes. Kids grow up with Zippy’s chili (now sold frozen so parents can ship it to homesick college kids) and Apple Napples (flaky apple turnovers). It’s also a great place for late-night munchies, like the fried chicken with a side of chili-cheese fries. Proper dinner options, like the Zip Min (a deluxe bowl of saimin noodle soup) or the Zip Pac (mahi mahi, fried chicken, Spam, and teriyaki beef over furikake rice), never fail to please.

A styrofoam cup of thick chili
Side of chili
Kathy YL Chan

Restaurant Suntory

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For a good time, make it Suntory time at Restaurant Suntory in Waikīkī. The restaurant specializes in beautifully prepared teppanyaki, sushi, and washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine). Think: kamameshi that steams in its iron pot tableside and single-serving shabu shabu. Because this is a restaurant by Suntory, there are plenty of whisky highballs made with Hibiki, Yamazaki, or Hakushu (also available served neat, of course).

A square slate bowl of sliced sashimi on ice, beside accompaniments like rice, pickles, and tea
Sashimi lunch.
Restaurant Suntory

Tonkatsu Tamafuji

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You have to overcome a lot of skepticism to get locals to pay $20 for katsu when they can get it in a plate lunch for less than $10. But given how difficult it is to score a reservation at Tonkatsu Tamafuji, it appears a lot of people have bashed through that psychological hurdle. Attention to detail shows in the quality of the pork itself, the house-made panko crumbs that fry up into an ethereally crisp crust, and the accompaniments: a bowl of sesame seeds to grind at the table and then spoon into a plummy tonkatsu sauce. If you can’t get a reservation, the tonkatsu holds up surprisingly well for takeout.

Sliced pork katsu on a metal grate with a pile of cabbage
Pork katsu.
Tonkatsu Tamafuji

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Waiahole Poi Factory

This is one of the few Hawaiian restaurants (see here for a definition of what Hawaiian food actually is) owned by native Hawaiians. Charlene and Calvin Hoe bought an actual poi factory in 1971, using it primarily as an art gallery, then began serving food in 2009. Today, it’s also one of the few places that serves fresh pa‘i‘ai, cooked taro pounded with a lava rock pestle on a long wooden board to a mochi-like consistency. You’ll have to call in advance to reserve some, and if you’re lucky, you might catch the Hoes’ son, Liko, pounding it near the outdoor tables. Try the kanaka nui plate, a combination of pretty much everything on the menu, add a side of ho‘io (fiddlehead fern) salad, and finish with the Sweet Lady of Waiahole, warm kulolo (a taro and coconut dessert) topped with a scoop of haupia (coconut) ice cream.

A takeout container with a variety of dishes
Takeout from Waiahole Poi Factory
Martha Cheng

Over Easy

Honolulu loves breakfast, and few places do it better than Over Easy, a warm, happy family operation anyone would be proud to support. Delicate, golden, crispy-edged pancakes are the highlight of sweet dishes, but don’t leave without trying the pig hash with lomi tomatoes and Okinawan sweet potatoes, or the bacon-cabbage broth poured over a bowl of rice and Portuguese sausage. Outside seating and takeout are available.