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

38 Exciting Ways to Eat in Honolulu Right Now

Whether you need a classic malasada to get through the day or a takeout omakase to cap off your evening in, here’s where to eat in the capital of Hawai‘i

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Gau gee at 8 Fat Fat 8
| 8 Fat Fat 8 [Official Photo]

In the years leading up to COVID-19, a wave of restaurateurs from the continental U.S. and abroad were opening restaurants in Honolulu, with everyone from Japanese conglomerates to Michael Mina setting up shop. This was nothing new — outside interests have been looking to make money in Hawai‘i for centuries — but simultaneously, Honolulu’s homegrown businesses were riding that wave of excitement to expand themselves. Tiny mom-and-pop restaurants opened second locations, while established local chains expanded their reach. More and more chefs over the last decade worked harder to learn about Hawai‘i’s history and culture and respectfully incorporate aspects into their restaurants. That is to say, diners in Honolulu were a bit spoiled for choice.

COVID-19 hasn’t entirely dampened that momentum. New restaurants continue to open. Both local and foreign eateries continue to fight to stay open, even as many places close around them. The city’s famed King Street is a reflection of the times: The doors are closed forever at famed spots such as Alan Wong’s. Yet others, like M by Chef Mavro and Sushi Sasabune, are facing the challenge, repackaging their high-end fare for some of the most luxurious takeout on the island (at relatively reasonable prices, too). Elsewhere, fiercely loyal diners have helped sustain enduring icons like Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Some restaurants have found success by pivoting to weekly takeout-only menus, like the rotating prix fixe option at elegant Senia, while others have doubled down on the comforting malasadas, noodles, and stews that diners are craving, now more than ever. And if there is a silver lining in the pandemic, it might look like the new outdoor dining areas that have popped up outside restaurants. Temporary city permits have made al fresco dining an option in a city once surprisingly averse to the practice.

Pre-pandemic, there were many ways to enjoy a meal in town, from industry haunts popular with chefs to cheap eats to a full-blown eating tour through the Hawaiian islands. While the spots in those guides still very much deserve patronage, it’s worth looking at the Honolulu restaurants that are surviving and even thriving during this trying year. From stellar sushi to poke by the pound, from the Ritz-Carlton to roadside shacks, here’s where you should be eating right now.

Note: A number of Honolulu restaurants have resumed dine-in service, but their inclusion here should not be taken as an endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit One Oahu.

All the restaurants on this list offer takeout. Those with outdoor dining are indicated.

Prices per person, excluding alcohol:

$ = Less than $10

$$ = $10 - $20

$$$ = $20 - $40

$$$$ = More than $40

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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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Ken's Fresh Fish

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55-730 Kamehameha Hwy suite 102
Laie, HI 96762
(808) 888-7193

The name tells it like it is. Owner Ken Broad is a fisherman who sells fresh fish (never frozen) from this simple roadside shop on the Windward coast. You’ll find ‘ahi in poke, sashimi, sandwich, or katsu form, but you’ll also see less common fish available here, including opah or small reef fish like menpachi. Order a plate lunch from this takeout-only spot, and pick up some fish filets to cook at home on your way out. [$-$$]

2. Waiahole Poi Factory

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48-140 Kamehameha Hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808) 239-2222
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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

3. Over Easy

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418 Kuulei Rd #103
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 260-1732
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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

4. Mitsu-Ken

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2300 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 848-5573
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There’s always a good reason to stop by the takeout-only Mitsu-Ken, one of Honolulu’s remaining okazuya, or old-school Japanese delis. Its killer bento boxes are a staple among parents who pack them for school lunches, groups of friends heading to the beach, and anyone in need of a meal on the go. The garlic chicken, chopped into two-bite chunks, battered, fried until crisp, and coated in a garlic-shoyu-sugar glaze, also inspires serious cravings. There are many options on the menu, but make things easy and order the mini bento. The not-so-mini box comes with garlic chicken, rolled egg omelet, and hot dog, all served over a base of furikake rice. [$]

A takeout container with fried chicken and sides on a bed of rice
Garlic chicken
Kathy YL Chan

5. Helena’s Hawaiian Food

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1240 N School St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 845-8044
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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 squid and young taro leaves in coconut milk), along with poi or rice. Helena’s recently reopened for dine in, but also continues takeout service. [$$]

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

6. Palace Saimin

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1256 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 841-9983
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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

7. Liliha Bakery

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515 N Kuakini St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 531-1651
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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). [$]

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

8. Ethel's Grill

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232 Kalihi St
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 847-6467
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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. During the pandemic, Ethel’s has served more people through takeout than it could have possibly fit in the tiny dining room, and its pandemic bake sales have also proved popular. [$]

Ethel’s Grill
Inside Ethel’s Grill
Stefanie Tuder

9. Lam’s Kitchen LLC

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1152 Maunakea St # A
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 536-6222

It’s all about the chow fun and youtiao (fried savory crullers) at Lam’s in Chinatown. The restaurant makes both items in-house, and people drive across the island to get their fix. Pair the crisp (and super-light) youtiao with a steaming bowl of pork and century-egg jook. The chow fun shines best in a stir-fry with beef and choy sum, or bathed in a tendon noodle soup entree. Everything is available for takeout. The chow fun carries out especially well, and (pro tip) it’s also for sale by the pound. [$-$$]

10. Maguro Brothers

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1039 Kekaulike St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 259-7100
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Maguro Brothers’ two locations are hard to find: One is hidden deep inside Chinatown’s Kekaulike Market, the other in Waikiki’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

11. The Pig and the Lady

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83 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 585-8255
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The Pig and the Lady is a must-visit spot for its modern Vietnamese flavors. The dining room, which has been closed for months during the pandemic, recently reopened, but for now, the menu eschews more playful dishes in favor of comforting noodle soups, rice bowls, and sandwiches it offered through takeout. Order classics like the Laotian fried chicken, beef pho, pho French dip, and soft serve (flavors change weekly). [$$-$$$]

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

12. Senia

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75 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 200-5412
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The prix fixe dinners at Senia are some of the most elegant takeout options of the pandemic. The weekly menu might focus on fall flavors like confit duck with a chestnut tart, or tapas with Spanish tortilla and pintxos. Chef-owner Chris Kajioka recently opened modern French bistro Miro Kaimuki (currently only offering indoor dining) in partnership with San Francisco’s Mourad Lahlou, so partner Anthony Rush now runs the kitchen while Eater Young Gun Mimi Mendoza (’17) prepares stunningly beautiful pastry boxes that change weekly. [$$$$]

A takeout box with various luxe dishes including a nicoise salad and pate
Takeout from Senia
Senia [Official Photo]

13. Fête Hawaii

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2 N Hotel St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 369-1390
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Described as “equal parts Hawaiʻi and Brooklyn,” Fête can be as fancy or casual as you desire. Owned by Hawai‘i-born Robynne Maii and her husband, Chuck Bussler, who both previously worked in New York, the restaurant features a comfortable bar with great cocktails and an easy-to-love menu that works as well for a weekday work lunch as it does for a decadent celebration dinner. Especially memorable items include the Chaz burger and twice-fried chicken. Definitely get house-made rocky road ice cream (with macadamia nuts) for dessert. There are a few outdoor tables, and takeout is also available. [$$$]

A toothpick-skewered cheeseburger on a plate with a small bowl of thick-cut french fries
Chaz burger
Kathy YL Chan

14. Rangoon Burmese Kitchen

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1131 Nuuanu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 367-0645
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In 2018, when Khun Sai opened Rangoon, his second Burmese restaurant in Honolulu, it was the biggest sleeper hit of the year. It’s even better than his first restaurant, a bit more refined in flavor and ambience, though it keeps the casual-dining prices. The salads here alone are worth coming for, especially in such a salad-sad town as Honolulu. Of course, there’s a Burmese tea leaf salad, but just as thrilling are the rainbow salad and mango salad — layers of textures and flavors, with high notes of crunch and brightness. Other standouts on the extensive menu include the crisp tofu stuffed with salad (salad again!), whole fish wrapped in banana leaf, and pumpkin pork stew. [$$]

15. Morning Glass Coffee

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2955 E Manoa Rd
Honolulu, HI 96822
(808) 673-0065
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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. While the space remains closed, you can still order food, espresso drinks, and fresh-brewed Hawai‘i-grown coffee to go, though orders must be placed online in advance. [$]

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

16. Bar Leather Apron

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745 Fort Street Mall
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 524-0808
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Honolulu’s Bar Leather Apron is a tiny, six-seat bar (there are a few table seats, but the bar is best) hidden in the mezzanine floor of a downtown financial building. It’s dark and seductive, one of the few serious cocktail spots in Hawaiʻi. It is also, unfortunately, a space ill-suited for a pandemic. But with BLA’s cocktails to go, you can still taste signatures like an Old Fashioned made with fancy wasanbon sugar, or seasonal drinks like a shiso smash or garden negroni with coconut-washed Campari. Order online. [$$-$$$]

A dark cocktail in a martini glass on a small leather placemat with a side snack
Cocktail from Bar Leather Apron
Kathy YL Chan

17. 8 Fat Fat 8 Bar & Grille

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1327 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 596-2779
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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, served with a side of pepper and straight-up MSG. It recently reopened for dine-in, but takeout is still available. [$$]

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

18. Kyung’s Seafood

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1269 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 589-1144
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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

19. Sushi Izakaya Gaku

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1329 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 589-1329
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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 pared-down menu, including chirashi, sashimi, and sushi platters, is available for takeout. [$$$$]

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

20. Sushi Sasabune

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1417 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 947-3800
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When chef and owner Seiji Kumagawa opened Sushi Sasabune in the ’90s, it was Honolulu’s original sushi omakase restaurant. It fell out of the spotlight when newer omakase temples opened in the city over the past decade, but during the pandemic, it debuted an omakase bento that outshines the competition, especially for the price ($30). Each piece of nigiri is delicately seasoned. A slice of cold smoked aku may be brushed with shoyu also smoked in-house, local snapper dressed with pickled onion and shiso, and scallop brightened with yuzu kosho. Even for takeout, you can almost hear the sushi chef gently admonishing, “No shoyu!” Reservations, both for dine-in and takeout, are a must. [$$$]

Maki and nigiri in a takeout container
Takeout from Sushi Sasabune
Martha Cheng

21. Inaba Restaurant

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1610 S King St # A
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 953-2070
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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. Locals also love the simple and satisfying Japanese breakfast sets served every day but Wednesday. [$$-$$$]

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

22. Chengdu Taste

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808 Sheridan St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 589-1818

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

23. Izakaya Torae Torae

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1111 McCully St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-5959
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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. Torae recently set up a few tables in the parking lot, and takeout is still an option. [$$$]

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

24. M by Chef Mavro

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1969 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 944-4714
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In March of 2020, Jeremy Shigekane, Mavro’s executive chef, bought the restaurant from his boss, one of the original founders of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine. And then the pandemic hit. Luckily, he had already been planning to expand upon the tasting menu, once the restaurant’s only offering, with more casual options. Now, in the recently reopened dining room, you’ll find elegantly rendered French-American bistro fare, from a steak tartare with sunchoke and warabi, or fiddlehead fern, to beef stroganoff lightened with tiny cremini mushrooms and local vegetables. The to-go menu offers dishes designed to hold up to reheating, such as a lightly brined catch of the day accompanied by a vibrant green ginger scallion sauce. If you’re going the takeout route, be sure to add on the ‘ulu (breadfruit) cacao nib cookies for dessert. [$$-$$$]

A meaty entree in a takeout container with side salad
Takeout from M by Mavro
Martha Cheng

25. MW Restaurant

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1538 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 955-6505
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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) manage to convey both warmth and fine dining attention to detail through their takeout menu (the only option during the pandemic). A market section offers locally grown produce and other staples, along with comforting stews frozen to eat later. Weekly menus feature different themes, such as riffs on favorite dishes from Honolulu’s mom-and-pop businesses. Karr-Ueoka’s desserts, from a carefully assembled dessert box to a la carte liliko‘i broken-glass Jell-O chiffon cake, have been especially gratifying during the pandemic. [$$$-$$$$]

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

26. Beer Lab HI

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1010 University Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 888-0913
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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

27. Waiola Shave Ice

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2135 Waiola St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-2269
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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

28. The Lanai at Ala Moana Center

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1450 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 955-9517
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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

29. Breadshop

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3408 Waialae Ave #104
Honolulu, HI 96816

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 during the pandemic, all orders must be placed in advance online. [$-$$]

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

30. Mud Hen Water

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3452 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-6000
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Mud Hen Water offers Hawaiʻi-born chef Ed Kenney’s modern interpretation of traditional Hawaiian food. Known for his work at Town Restaurant and Mahina & Sun’s, Kenney manages to appeal to dining trends while fully respecting the traditions of Hawaiian ingredients. Standouts include the Yaki o Pa’i ‘ai (a multicultural treatment of pa‘i ‘ai, or steamed, pounded taro), local Kualoa Ranch oysters, baked Moloka‘i bananas with curry butter, and grilled he’e (octopus) with lūʻau leaves. Brunch is one of the best meals, including a biscuit with mapo gravy and the seaboard, which is like a charcuterie and cheese plate, but with an assortment of cured, locally caught fish. 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

31. Roy’s Hawaii Kai (The Original)

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6600 Kalanianaole Hwy
Honolulu, HI 96825
(808) 396-7697
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There are over 20 locations of Roy’s across the U.S., but Roy Yamaguchi’s original location in the residential neighborhood of Hawai‘i Kai is still the most special. The service makes guests feel like family, and the food is always reliable and comforting. Look out for Roy’s classic seared misoyaki butterfish and meatloaf with tempura onion rings. And for dessert? The chocolate souffle, always. The outdoor seating offers one of Honolulu’s most picturesque settings, with a sunset view of Maunalua Bay. [$$$-$$$$]

A patio lit by string lights and surrounded by palm trees
Outside Roy’s Hawaii Kai
Roy’s Hawaii Kai [Official Photo]

32. Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery

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3632 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 738-8200
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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

33. Sushi Sho

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383 Kalaimoku St
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 729-9717
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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 (though discounted during the pandemic). 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

34. Koko Head Cafe

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1145 12th Ave C
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-8920
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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. [$$]

35. Ono Seafood

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747 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-4806

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

36. Zippy’s

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4134 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 733-3730
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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

37. Tonkatsu Tamafuji

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449 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 922-1212
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You have to overcome a lot of skepticism to get locals to pay $20 for katsu when you can get it in a plate lunch for less than $10. But as the line outside Tamafuji attests (pre-pandemic, waits of two hours were not uncommon), a lot of people have bashed through that psychological hurdle. The 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 fresh at the table and then spoon into a plummy tonkatsu sauce. While Tamafuji is currently closed for dine-in service, the tonkatsu holds up remarkably well for takeout. Just don’t dilly dally before digging in. [$$$]

A takeout container with tonkatsu pork with rice and pickles
Takeout tonkatsu
Martha Cheng

38. Diamond Head Market & Grill

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3158 Monsarrat Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 732-0077
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Diamond Head Market & Grill is the place to stop before hiking Diamond Head or for picnic supplies before spending the day at the beach in Waikiki. Head to the market and bakery half of the operation for local favorites like lemon crunch cake and blueberry cream cheese scones. Or visit the grill and takeout window for the mix plate with teriyaki chicken, char siu pork, and a hamburger patty with gravy. [$-$$]

A takeout container filled with loco moco
Loco Moco at Diamond Head Market & Grill
Meghan McCarron

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1. Ken's Fresh Fish

55-730 Kamehameha Hwy suite 102, Laie, HI 96762

The name tells it like it is. Owner Ken Broad is a fisherman who sells fresh fish (never frozen) from this simple roadside shop on the Windward coast. You’ll find ‘ahi in poke, sashimi, sandwich, or katsu form, but you’ll also see less common fish available here, including opah or small reef fish like menpachi. Order a plate lunch from this takeout-only spot, and pick up some fish filets to cook at home on your way out. [$-$$]

55-730 Kamehameha Hwy suite 102
Laie, HI 96762

2. Waiahole Poi Factory

48-140 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
A takeout container with a variety of dishes
Takeout from Waiahole Poi Factory
Martha Cheng

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. [$-$$]

48-140 Kamehameha Hwy
Kaneohe, HI 96744

3. Over Easy

418 Kuulei Rd #103, Kailua, HI 96734
From above, a table with pancakes, a bacon-topped breakfast bowl, and other dishes
Full spread at Over Easy
Martha Cheng

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. [$$]

418 Kuulei Rd #103
Kailua, HI 96734

4. Mitsu-Ken

2300 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96819
A takeout container with fried chicken and sides on a bed of rice
Garlic chicken
Kathy YL Chan

There’s always a good reason to stop by the takeout-only Mitsu-Ken, one of Honolulu’s remaining okazuya, or old-school Japanese delis. Its killer bento boxes are a staple among parents who pack them for school lunches, groups of friends heading to the beach, and anyone in need of a meal on the go. The garlic chicken, chopped into two-bite chunks, battered, fried until crisp, and coated in a garlic-shoyu-sugar glaze, also inspires serious cravings. There are many options on the menu, but make things easy and order the mini bento. The not-so-mini box comes with garlic chicken, rolled egg omelet, and hot dog, all served over a base of furikake rice. [$]

2300 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96819

5. Helena’s Hawaiian Food

1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817
From above, a table filled with small dishes
Set menu at Helena’s
Kathy YL Chan

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 squid and young taro leaves in coconut milk), along with poi or rice. Helena’s recently reopened for dine in, but also continues takeout service. [$$]

1240 N School St
Honolulu, HI 96817

6. Palace Saimin

1256 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817
A bowl of saimin with noodles, dumplings, and meat
Saimin
Mark Noguchi

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. [$]

1256 N King St
Honolulu, HI 96817

7. Liliha Bakery

515 N Kuakini St, Honolulu, HI 96817