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A restaurant entrance, decorated with string lights and Japanese signs, with a turquoise alleyway leading away to one side
Outside Pau Hana Base izakaya
Martha Cheng

13 Hidden Restaurants to Try in Waikiki

From Russian roulette spicy takoyaki at an alleyway izakaya to grocery-store bento boxes from an elite sushi chef, here’s where to eat without crowds in touristy Waikiki

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Outside Pau Hana Base izakaya
| Martha Cheng

Waikīkī has long fed O‘ahu. The area was once fertile with rice paddies, taro patches, and fish ponds, until territorial governor Lucius Pinkham organized an effort to drain the wetlands in the 1920s, controlling mosquitoes and laying the literal groundwork for a century of resort and hotel development. Today the area is home to a California Pizza Kitchen and a Cheesecake Factory that was the highest-grossing location in the country at one point, and it has become a no-go zone for many locals who avoid the crowds of tourists and parking hassles.

But Waikīkī is still one of the best neighborhoods for eating in Hawai‘i if you know where to look. Even in one of the most touristed places in the world, there are still hidden corners among the highrises and hotels to discover, thanks in part to a slew of Japanese restaurateurs who operate everything from imported Tokyo chains to steakhouse franchises to surf shack cafes.

Many of the area’s best hidden restaurants are reminiscent of a different era in Waikīkī’s history or a different country entirely. Others offer a uniquely Hawai‘i experience, offering tastes and ambiance you can’t find anywhere else. From an alleyway izakaya serving DIY cotton candy to a takeout-only counter making incredibly fresh poke, here are Waikīkī’s best eating experiences off the beaten path.

(Then check out our list of top dining destinations in Waikīkī, which includes many tucked-away spots.)

Prices per person, excluding alcohol:

$ = Less than $15

$$ = $15 - $40

$$$ = $40 - $65

$$$$ = More than $65

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. Goofy Cafe & Dine

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1831 Ala Moana Blvd #201
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 943-0077
Visit Website

You can’t go wrong with any of Zetton’s restaurants, which include Aloha Table, Heavenly, Aloha Steak House, izakaya Zigu, and Paris.Hawaii (another restaurant on this list). But Goofy Cafe + Dine, tucked away on the top floor of a two-story building on the edge of Waikīkī, is a favorite for its stylish surf shack vibe and all-day breakfast. Try one of the island’s best acai bowls or the stellar loco moco. [$$]

From above, a barrel-like table topped with a dish of eggs benedict with salad, french toast covered in fruit, and loco moco
Loco moco, eggs benedict, and french toast at Goofy Cafe
Goofy Cafe & Dine / Facebook

2. Sushi Sho Bento at Dean & DeLuca

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383 Kalaimoku St
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 729-9720
Visit Website

There are only two Dean & DeLucas left in the country, and they’re both in Hawai‘i. Head to the one at the Ritz-Carlton, which offers bento boxes made to order by Sushi Sho, the 10-seat restaurant a few floors up, where sushi master Keiji Nakazawa presides. An omakase there starts at $300, but you can taste a bit of the chef’s exquisite precision with the bento box ($16), which includes oversized but meticulously crafted maki rolls. The exact contents rotate, but you might find rolls stuffed with unagi, shrimp, and tamago as fluffy as sponge cake, accompanied by hearts of palm grown in Hawai‘i. [$$]

From above, a long rectangular segmented box with two large cut maki rolls and other dishes
The Sushi Sho bento box
Martha Cheng

3. Sweet Home Cafe

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407-413 Seaside Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 922-7894
Visit Website

Even when it’s warm out, locals say bring it on to hot pot. Just look at the consistently packed Sweet Home Cafe, which feels like a sauna with all the roiling pots. Compose your pot in three steps, beginning with a choice of broths that range from sour cabbage, tinged with tamarind, to healthy herbs, reminiscent of Chinese medicine but actually delicious. Serve yourself from the fridge, where a plethora of ingredients include spinach-tofu and roe-filled fish balls, then face excruciating decisions at the sauce bar (you can only carry so many tiny dishes at once). Finally, dive in — but eat quickly. After an hour, a bowl of free shave ice, packed as joyfully as an unbridled hot pot, is plunked in front of you. It’s the sweetest way for the servers to tell guests to chill out and move on. [$$]

From above, a segmented hot pot overloaded with vegetables, seafood, and meat, with a hand adding more ingredients with tongs, and other condiments and ingredients spread out on the table
A well-packed hot pot at Sweet Home Cafe
Sweet Home Cafe / official

4. Paris.Hawaii

Copy Link
413 Seaside Ave #2f
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 212-9282
Visit Website

The Zetton group has a knack for tucking cozy, well-designed spaces into forgotten corners of Waikīkī. The group renovated one of Waikīkī’s few remaining buildings from the 1930s, restoring the original wooden beams, which had been plastered over when the building housed scooter rentals and a nail salon. On the ground floor they installed Zigu, an izakaya that combines locally grown ingredients with modern Japanese flavors, but head upstairs to the top floor to find Paris.Hawaii. The restaurant offers a more formal space with just eight counter seats fronting the kitchen. Yuya Yamanaka, previously the sous chef at Clown Bar in Paris, offers a quarterly tasting menu that fuses French techniques with local classic dishes, from poke to poi. Reservations are required. [$$$$]

A single long shrimp on a plate with a dollop of bright sauce garnished with a flower
Coconut shrimp at Paris.Hawaii
Paris.Hawaii / official

5. Pau Hana Base

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407 Seaside Ave #107
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 492-1280
Visit Website

Tokyo meets the tropics at Pau Hana Base. Follow paper lanterns down a seafoam alleyway to find this izakaya reminiscent of those in Tokyo’s yokochos. A specials menu is pinned to wooden beer caddies plunked down in front of guests, advertising morsels like soft, simmered beef tendon; chewy, almost candied ray; and squid served from beak to forehead (likely the only time you’ll see “forehead” on a menu). The regular menu offers more familiar items, from ramen to tonkatsu, as well as imo mochi (potato-based cakes, crisp on the outside and chewy inside), a must for mochi lovers. Approach the “Russian” takoyaki with caution — one ball in each order is loaded with a spicy surprise — but you’ll forgive the servers for any trickery when they hand you a tiny cup of sugar to spin your own cotton candy on your way out. [$$]

A restaurant entrance, decorated with string lights and Japanese signs, with a turquoise alleyway leading away to one side
In the colorful alley outside Pau Hana Base
Martha Cheng

6. Arancino on Beachwalk

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255 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 923-5557
Visit Website

In the spectrum of Italian-American cuisine, there’s restrained California-Italian, red-sauced New York-Italian, and then there’s Hawai‘i-Italian, which at Arancino means a lot of seafood pastas. The sea urchin spaghetti is a must, but the menu also includes spaghetti with tobiko and calamari, squid ink pasta, and penne with shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce. There are two other Arancino locations — a high-end version at Kahala and a casual cafe-style restaurant on the other side of Waikīkī — but the Beachwalk location falls perfectly in the middle of the two extremes. [$$]

A pile of spaghetti with thick sea urchin sauce and a small basil leaf for garnish
Spaghetti ai ricci di mare at Arancino
Arancino on Beachwalk / official

7. Punchbowl Coffee

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234 Beach Walk unit f
Honolulu, HI 96815

You’ll find the Punchbowl Coffee truck sitting between a rental car parking lot and walk-up apartment building. Owner Eric De Mendonca, known for his role on Terrace House: Aloha State, serves siphon coffee brewed exclusively from Hawai‘i-grown beans. Other menu items include milk tea with coffee jelly and a take on affogato, featuring loads of whipped cream atop a vanilla ice cream pop plunged into coffee. Pop into the boutique next door to pick up beans to brew at home. [$]

A food truck viewed from inside a cafe, with a long table and seats perched facing out a large window
The Punchbowl Coffee truck outside the cafe
Martha Cheng

8. Maguro Brothers Hawaii

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415 Nāhua St
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 230-3470
Visit Website

During the day, Junichiro and Ryojiro Tsuchiya, who used to buy fish at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, serve food out of a stall in Chinatown. At night they operate this tiny takeout counter, where you’ll find impeccably fresh fish in poke and donburi, with most items under $15. Feeling flush? Add a topping of uni for the most decadent poke you’ve ever had. [$]

A dish with three types of seasoned seafood spread in thirds
Poke platter at Maguro Brothers
Maguro Brothers Hawaii / Facebook

9. Matcha Cafe Maiko

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2310 Kuhio Ave #143
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 369-8031
Visit Website

This barebones counter, located next to a grungy night club, specializes in soft serve and drinks made with matcha from Kyoto. You can order matcha soft serve literally draped in gold leaf, but the real golden item is the matcha parfait, which consists of mochi, azuki beans, chestnuts, matcha chiffon cake, cornflakes, and matcha soft serve all jammed into a plastic cup. [$]

A plastic cup filled with mochi, cake, and other fillings, topped with a large sculpted dollop of matcha soft serve with a plastic spoon sticking out
Matcha parfait
Martha Cheng

10. Magnolia Ice Cream & Treats

Copy Link
2330 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 489-9355
Visit Website

It’s hard to find a more maximalist shave ice than halo halo from Magnolia, a chain from California known for its Filipino flavors. Here, the icy treat includes eight different ingredients, including banana, sweet red bean, jackfruit, and coconut, all topped with a vibrant purple scoop of ube ice cream. [$]

A plastic cup filled with layers of flavored ice, fruit and nuts, topped with a scoop of purple ube ice cream skewered with a popsicle stick in front of the ocean
Halo halo from Magnolia
Martha Cheng

11. Island Vintage Wine Bar

Copy Link
2301 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 923-3383
Visit Website

In a kiosk adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, Island Vintage serves some of the best shave ice on the island, with servers dousing cups in pulpy syrups made of real fruits. Island Vintage applies the same level of detail to its casual, second-floor wine bar, where guests can serve themselves from 40 bottles in one-, three-, or five-ounce pours. The food menu includes an excellent poke bowl as well as Hawai‘i Island clams steamed in white wine. [$$]

A six-top wooden table with small plates beside a railing and thick trees beyond
Patio tables at Island Vintage Wine Bar
Martha Cheng

12. Hy's Steak House

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2440 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 922-5555
Visit Website

Splurging on steak dinner for two at Hy’s approaches the price of a flight to the West Coast, but it’s worth it for one of Honolulu’s best blowout meals. The bowtied servers have been keeping the flambee flame alive for more than four decades. Steaks are grilled over kiawe wood, and after all these years, the cherries are still having their jubilee. [$$$$]

Thick-cut steaks, already singed with grill marks, sit on a grill over an open flame
Steaks on the grill
Hy’s Steak House / official

13. Yoshitsune

Copy Link
2586 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 926-5616

Many of the Japanese restaurants in Waikīkī are new outposts of chains from Japan, but Yoshitsune is an old-school, independent holdout tucked into the back of Park Shore hotel. In the early mornings, the restaurant serves a traditional Japanese breakfast teishoku (set meal) of broiled fish, rice, pickles, and natto. At lunch and dinner, many tables order kamameshi, iron pots of rice simmered with seafood such as crab or abalone (and in the fall, matsutake mushrooms). Also stunning is the two-tier chirashi, presented like a box of jewels. [$$$]

From above, a table filled with large bowls, some filled with sliced fish over rice, others segmented with sliced fish and other ingredients separate
Chriashi bowls and set meals at Yoshitsune
Martha Cheng

1. Goofy Cafe & Dine

1831 Ala Moana Blvd #201, Honolulu, HI 96815
From above, a barrel-like table topped with a dish of eggs benedict with salad, french toast covered in fruit, and loco moco
Loco moco, eggs benedict, and french toast at Goofy Cafe
Goofy Cafe & Dine / Facebook

You can’t go wrong with any of Zetton’s restaurants, which include Aloha Table, Heavenly, Aloha Steak House, izakaya Zigu, and Paris.Hawaii (another restaurant on this list). But Goofy Cafe + Dine, tucked away on the top floor of a two-story building on the edge of Waikīkī, is a favorite for its stylish surf shack vibe and all-day breakfast. Try one of the island’s best acai bowls or the stellar loco moco. [$$]

1831 Ala Moana Blvd #201
Honolulu, HI 96815

2. Sushi Sho Bento at Dean & DeLuca

383 Kalaimoku St, Honolulu, HI 96815
From above, a long rectangular segmented box with two large cut maki rolls and other dishes
The Sushi Sho bento box
Martha Cheng

There are only two Dean & DeLucas left in the country, and they’re both in Hawai‘i. Head to the one at the Ritz-Carlton, which offers bento boxes made to order by Sushi Sho, the 10-seat restaurant a few floors up, where sushi master Keiji Nakazawa presides. An omakase there starts at $300, but you can taste a bit of the chef’s exquisite precision with the bento box ($16), which includes oversized but meticulously crafted maki rolls. The exact contents rotate, but you might find rolls stuffed with unagi, shrimp, and tamago as fluffy as sponge cake, accompanied by hearts of palm grown in Hawai‘i. [$$]

383 Kalaimoku St
Honolulu, HI 96815

3. Sweet Home Cafe

407-413 Seaside Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
From above, a segmented hot pot overloaded with vegetables, seafood, and meat, with a hand adding more ingredients with tongs, and other condiments and ingredients spread out on the table
A well-packed hot pot at Sweet Home Cafe
Sweet Home Cafe / official

Even when it’s warm out, locals say bring it on to hot pot. Just look at the consistently packed Sweet Home Cafe, which feels like a sauna with all the roiling pots. Compose your pot in three steps, beginning with a choice of broths that range from sour cabbage, tinged with tamarind, to healthy herbs, reminiscent of Chinese medicine but actually delicious. Serve yourself from the fridge, where a plethora of ingredients include spinach-tofu and roe-filled fish balls, then face excruciating decisions at the sauce bar (you can only carry so many tiny dishes at once). Finally, dive in — but eat quickly. After an hour, a bowl of free shave ice, packed as joyfully as an unbridled hot pot, is plunked in front of you. It’s the sweetest way for the servers to tell guests to chill out and move on. [$$]

407-413 Seaside Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

4. Paris.Hawaii

413 Seaside Ave #2f, Honolulu, HI 96815
A single long shrimp on a plate with a dollop of bright sauce garnished with a flower
Coconut shrimp at Paris.Hawaii
Paris.Hawaii / official

The Zetton group has a knack for tucking cozy, well-designed spaces into forgotten corners of Waikīkī. The group renovated one of Waikīkī’s few remaining buildings from the 1930s, restoring the original wooden beams, which had been plastered over when the building housed scooter rentals and a nail salon. On the ground floor they installed Zigu, an izakaya that combines locally grown ingredients with modern Japanese flavors, but head upstairs to the top floor to find Paris.Hawaii. The restaurant offers a more formal space with just eight counter seats fronting the kitchen. Yuya Yamanaka, previously the sous chef at Clown Bar in Paris, offers a quarterly tasting menu that fuses French techniques with local classic dishes, from poke to poi. Reservations are required. [$$$$]

413 Seaside Ave #2f
Honolulu, HI 96815

5. Pau Hana Base

407 Seaside Ave #107, Honolulu, HI 96815
A restaurant entrance, decorated with string lights and Japanese signs, with a turquoise alleyway leading away to one side
In the colorful alley outside Pau Hana Base
Martha Cheng

Tokyo meets the tropics at Pau Hana Base. Follow paper lanterns down a seafoam alleyway to find this izakaya reminiscent of those in Tokyo’s yokochos. A specials menu is pinned to wooden beer caddies plunked down in front of guests, advertising morsels like soft, simmered beef tendon; chewy, almost candied ray; and squid served from beak to forehead (likely the only time you’ll see “forehead” on a menu). The regular menu offers more familiar items, from ramen to tonkatsu, as well as imo mochi (potato-based cakes, crisp on the outside and chewy inside), a must for mochi lovers. Approach the “Russian” takoyaki with caution — one ball in each order is loaded with a spicy surprise — but you’ll forgive the servers for any trickery when they hand you a tiny cup of sugar to spin your own cotton candy on your way out. [$$]

407 Seaside Ave #107
Honolulu, HI 96815

6. Arancino on Beachwalk

255 Beach Walk, Honolulu, HI 96815
A pile of spaghetti with thick sea urchin sauce and a small basil leaf for garnish
Spaghetti ai ricci di mare at Arancino
Arancino on Beachwalk / official

In the spectrum of Italian-American cuisine, there’s restrained California-Italian, red-sauced New York-Italian, and then there’s Hawai‘i-Italian, which at Arancino means a lot of seafood pastas. The sea urchin spaghetti is a must, but the menu also includes spaghetti with tobiko and calamari, squid ink pasta, and penne with shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce. There are two other Arancino locations — a high-end version at Kahala and a casual cafe-style restaurant on the other side of Waikīkī — but the Beachwalk location falls perfectly in the middle of the two extremes. [$$]

255 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815

7. Punchbowl Coffee

234 Beach Walk unit f, Honolulu, HI 96815
A food truck viewed from inside a cafe, with a long table and seats perched facing out a large window
The Punchbowl Coffee truck outside the cafe
Martha Cheng

You’ll find the Punchbowl Coffee truck sitting between a rental car parking lot and walk-up apartment building. Owner Eric De Mendonca, known for his role on Terrace House: Aloha State, serves siphon coffee brewed exclusively from Hawai‘i-grown beans. Other menu items include milk tea with coffee jelly and a take on affogato, featuring loads of whipped cream atop a vanilla ice cream pop plunged into coffee. Pop into the boutique next door to pick up beans to brew at home. [$]

234 Beach Walk unit f
Honolulu, HI 96815

8. Maguro Brothers Hawaii

415 Nāhua St, Honolulu, HI 96815
A dish with three types of seasoned seafood spread in thirds
Poke platter at Maguro Brothers
Maguro Brothers Hawaii / Facebook

During the day, Junichiro and Ryojiro Tsuchiya, who used to buy fish at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, serve food out of a stall in Chinatown. At night they operate this tiny takeout counter, where you’ll find impeccably fresh fish in poke and donburi, with most items under $15. Feeling flush? Add a topping of uni for the most decadent poke you’ve ever had. [$]

415 Nāhua St
Honolulu, HI 96815

9. Matcha Cafe Maiko

2310 Kuhio Ave #143, Honolulu, HI 96815
A plastic cup filled with mochi, cake, and other fillings, topped with a large sculpted dollop of matcha soft serve with a plastic spoon sticking out
Matcha parfait
Martha Cheng

This barebones counter, located next to a grungy night club, specializes in soft serve and drinks made with matcha from Kyoto. You can order matcha soft serve literally draped in gold leaf, but the real golden item is the matcha parfait, which consists of mochi, azuki beans, chestnuts, matcha chiffon cake, cornflakes, and matcha soft serve all jammed into a plastic cup. [$]

2310 Kuhio Ave #143
Honolulu, HI 96815

10. Magnolia Ice Cream & Treats

2330 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
A plastic cup filled with layers of flavored ice, fruit and nuts, topped with a scoop of purple ube ice cream skewered with a popsicle stick in front of the ocean
Halo halo from Magnolia
Martha Cheng

It’s hard to find a more maximalist shave ice than halo halo from Magnolia, a chain from California known for its Filipino flavors. Here, the icy treat includes eight different ingredients, including banana, sweet red bean, jackfruit, and coconut, all topped with a vibrant purple scoop of ube ice cream. [$]

2330 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

11. Island Vintage Wine Bar

2301 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
A six-top wooden table with small plates beside a railing and thick trees beyond
Patio tables at Island Vintage Wine Bar
Martha Cheng

In a kiosk adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, Island Vintage serves some of the best shave ice on the island, with servers dousing cups in pulpy syrups made of real fruits. Island Vintage applies the same level of detail to its casual, second-floor wine bar, where guests can serve themselves from 40 bottles in one-, three-, or five-ounce pours. The food menu includes an excellent poke bowl as well as Hawai‘i Island clams steamed in white wine. [$$]

2301 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

12. Hy's Steak House

2440 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Thick-cut steaks, already singed with grill marks, sit on a grill over an open flame
Steaks on the grill
Hy’s Steak House / official

Splurging on steak dinner for two at Hy’s approaches the price of a flight to the West Coast, but it’s worth it for one of Honolulu’s best blowout meals. The bowtied servers have been keeping the flambee flame alive for more than four decades. Steaks are grilled over kiawe wood, and after all these years, the cherries are still having their jubilee. [$$$$]

2440 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

13. Yoshitsune

2586 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
From above, a table filled with large bowls, some filled with sliced fish over rice, others segmented with sliced fish and other ingredients separate
Chriashi bowls and set meals at Yoshitsune
Martha Cheng

Many of the Japanese restaurants in Waikīkī are new outposts of chains from Japan, but Yoshitsune is an old-school, independent holdout tucked into the back of Park Shore hotel. In the early mornings, the restaurant serves a traditional Japanese breakfast teishoku (set meal) of broiled fish, rice, pickles, and natto. At lunch and dinner, many tables order kamameshi, iron pots of rice simmered with seafood such as crab or abalone (and in the fall, matsutake mushrooms). Also stunning is the two-tier chirashi, presented like a box of jewels. [$$$]

2586 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

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